How does iTunes work? iTunes is part music management program, part digital jukebox and part entertainment store. It is available as an application from the Apple Web site. Apple first introduced iTunes in 2001, and the company has been improving the features and issuing upgrades on a regular basis. iTunes is available for both Macs and PCs. On a PC, it is compatible with both Windows XP and Vista operating systems.
To use iTunes, you download it from the Apple's site and install it on your hard drive. The program itself is free.
Once it's installed, iTunes will scan your hard drive to locate any music or video files that you have. It compiles these into a library that can be searched by artist, title, year, album or other criteria. iTunes also lets you create playlists from your existing files, so that you can hear songs or watch videos in the order that you prefer. Playlists can be saved, edited, burned to CDs or DVDs (if you have an optical drive) or synced with an iPod.
Getting More Music
iTunes allows you to rip CDs into your library, as long as your computer has a CD drive. If you've got an active Internet connection, iTunes will attempt to track down the song titles and other data online when you insert a music CD. If you're offline or if that information can't be found, you can add it in yourself.
You can also buy songs, albums and video directly through the iTunes store. You'll need a credit card and an Internet connection to set up the account. Once you're up and running, getting new music is as simple as searching for artists or songs that you like and clicking a Buy Now button. Most songs cost 99 cents each; new releases sometimes cost more, and older albums may cost less. Be aware that you won't find everything in the iTunes store. Some well-known artists, notably The Beatles and Bob Seger, don't allow their music to be sold through the service.
You're not limited to iTunes and CDs as sources. Currently, iTunes supports the MP3, WAV, AIFF and AAC audio file formats, as well as the QuickTime MOV format and MPEG 4. Songs downloaded from other sites, including Amazon.com, are compatible with iTunes as long as they're in one of these formats.
Digital Rights Management
While the iTunes store has a huge variety of songs and videos, everything is protected by digital rights management (DRM). This is encoded into every file and limits the number of computers that can play the music or videos. CDs ripped into iTunes are encoded as MP4 files and also have DRM protection.
DRM is a source of controversy, because it affects how you can use the files that you buy. You can sync those files to your iPod, but you can't transfer them to another computer or an unrecognized iPod. You also can't open and manipulate the digital files with some music and video editing software.
DRM exists to protect the creators of music and video by preventing the files from being shared for free on the Internet. For most users, it presents few problems, and the majority of iTunes users experience no problems with it. If you do need to transfer files to a new computer, you can do this by first burning them onto a CD, then ripping them onto the new PC.
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