Q: Every time I replace my computer, iTunes re-authorizes the music purchases I have made at the iTunes Music Store. I know that in the next few years I will replace my computer more than five or ten times. How can I preserve my purchased music so that I can listen to the music I bought in 2005 in the latest iPod in 2055?
A: First off, you’ve missed a very important feature of iTunes’ Digital Rights Management: you can deauthorize computers at your leisure. The five computer limit is merely a maximum number of concurrent licenses one can have activated. Before you replace your computer, simply choose “Deauthorize Computer” from iTunes’ “Advanced” menu. If you’ve forgotten to do so, iTunes allows you to deauthorize all of your computers at once from your iTunes Music Store Account Information page, although you can only perform this procedure once per year.
Despite this, the longevity of digital music is an incredibly important issue to discuss. Without careful attention, digital music is far less timeless than an old box of albums sitting in an attic or basement for years. Not only is there an enormous risk of the permanent loss of many files in a hardware failure, but files can become corrupt and codecs are sure to become obsolete over time. The maintenance of a digital collection will become an important task for long-term collectors.
What can you do to protect yourself from loss? Inevitably, the answer lies in a bulletproof backup system. Although you can copy your music from your iPod back to your computer, don’t treat your iPod as your sole music library backup method. Instead, be sure to conduct regular backups of your library to DVD or alternate hard drives. You can never choose too many methods; with backups, security lies in redundancy.
In an added tip, keep at least one backup set physically stored away from your computer. This way, you’ll have your important data and music in the event of theft or loss of your home.
For further reading, iLounge has published a Complete Guide to Backing Up iPod & iTunes Music.