Q: We have 4 computers (PC and Mac) at home, two of which have crashed at various times. After reinstalling the OS and iTunes, I authorized my iTunes Store account and it sees this as a new computer. Further, I recently used Time Machine to restore my disk on my powerMac and now iTunes sees it as a new computer also. I’m eating up my 5 computer allowance with the same machines! What can I do?
A: Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this directly in the situation where your computer becomes inaccessible and has to be reinstalled. Part of the iTunes Store authorization process is based on your actual operating system installation as well as certain hardware parameters, so when you reinstall your OS, iTunes sees your computer as a different machine from where it was previously authorized.
The best solution is to ensure that you DE-authorize your computer whenever possible before reinstalling or sending it for repair or upgrade. Reinstalling the OS or upgrading significant portions of your hardware (ie, replacing the main board) will usually result in iTunes needing to be re-authorized and using up another authorization count.
To DE-authorize your computer, simply select Deauthorize Computer from the Store menu in iTunes, and enter your iTunes Store userid and password. This will remove the authorization information from your computer and reduce the authorization count in your iTunes Store profile. You can reauthorize the same computer simply by trying to play back a purchased item (in which case iTunes will prompt you for your iTunes Store account information) or by selecting Store, Authorize Computer from the iTunes menu.
Note that there are no limits to the number of times you can deauthorize and reauthorize, so this can even be done just as a precaution in a situation where you are not sure whether or not you’ll have a problem (such as sending your computer in for repair or upgrade).
Of course, sometimes computers fail outright and it is simply not possible to deauthorize your computer before reinstalling it or replacing failed hardware. However, if you do find yourself in a situation where you have used up all of your authorizations and are at your five-computer limit, iTunes does provide a safety net: Once per year, after you have reached your five-computer limit, you can deauthorize ALL of the computers on your iTunes Store account, resetting your authorization count to zero.
To do this, log in to your iTunes Store account by selecting the iTunes Store from within iTunes, and clicking on your account name (or the “Sign-in” button) which appears at the top-right corner of the screen. Once you have signed in, you will be taken to your “Apple Account Information” page:
Your number of computer authorizations are shown in the top section below your billing address information. If you have reached your five-computer limit, a “Deauthorize all” button will appear which can be used to reset your authorization count back to zero and clear all of your computer authorizations. Again, this button will only appear after you have reached your five-computer limit.
Once you have used this option, you will need to re-visit those computers that you do want authorized and RE-authorize them manually.
Keep in mind as well that you can only use this option once within a 365-day period, although if you find yourself in a very unique situation where you have reset your authorizations within the past year and have again hit the limit due to some serious hardware disaster, you could always plead your case with the iTunes Store support group, which can of course reset the limit for you manually at any time.