Burning Purchased Tracks

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Q: I bought and downloaded an album from the iTunes Store. When I try to burn the albums to a CD, they are locked in an MPEG-4 file format. When I downloaded the music, I made sure it was setup in the preferences menu to download my music as an WAV. How do I change the format so that I can listen to it from the cd in my car?

– Jodi

A: Firstly it’s important to understand that tracks purchased from the iTunes Store are always downloaded in an MPEG-4/AAC format, regardless of your settings in your iTunes preferences. The iTunes “Import” settings only affect the format used when you import, or “rip” a CD into your iTunes library yourself or convert an existing file that is already in your library.

For burning a CD, there are two basic types of CD you may wish to burn: either a normal audio CD or an MP3 CD. Which you prefer will depend upon the capabilities of your car CD player and where else you may want to listen to these CDs.

iTunes purchased tracks can only be burned to an audio CD, which is the standard format supported by all CD players. This will only allow you to hold approximately 70 minutes of music on a single CD, but will play in any CD player.

To burn an audio CD from within iTunes, simply select “Audio CD” under iTunes’ burning preferneces (Edit, Preferences, Advanced, Burning):

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Once you’ve selected the format in your preferences, you can simply build a playlist of the tracks you would like to burn, and then burn them as you normally would.

On the other hand, as the name implies, an “MP3 CD” is comprised of MP3 files burned onto a CD as a data disc (in a similar way to copying any file to a recordable CD). Since the format for an MP3 CD consists of MP3 files, and iTunes Store purchases are in a protected MPEG-4/AAC format, it is not possible to burn these to an MP3 CD, since they cannot be converted to MP3 due to the digital rights management restrictions.

The one exception to this is the newer “iTunes Plus” tracks that are now available from certain artists on the iTunes Store. These tracks are still in an MPEG-4/AAC format, and will not burn to an MP3 CD natively, but as they are not protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM) they can be converted manually to an MP3 format from within iTunes, and then the resulting (converted) MP3 files can be burned to an MP3 CD in the same way as any other MP3 file.

To convert existing tracks to an MP3 format, ensure that your “Import” preference is set to “MP3” within your iTunes preferences:

 

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You can then select the tracks in your iTunes library that you would like to convert, and choose Convert Selection to MP3 from the iTunes Advanced menu. iTunes will convert the selected tracks to an MP3 format, creating new copies of these tracks in the process, and you can then add these resulting new tracks to a playlist and burn it to an MP3 CD. To actually burn an MP3 CD, simply ensure that you select “MP3 CD” in your iTunes “Burning” preferences tab:

 

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You can then select a playlist of MP3 tracks and burn them to an MP3 CD. Note that any tracks in your playlist that are not in the MP3 format will simply be excluded from the resulting MP3 CD, regardless of whether these are DRM protected tracks or not.