When you help someone up a hill, you get that much closer to the top yourself. -Anonymous
Question #45214 posted on 05/24/2008 3:01 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I was reading Board Question #45126, and it brought to mind a similar (actually, almost opposite) problem I've been having:

I recently got a new mp3 player. However, it is not an iPod, and so it will not recognize my .mp4e format files. I've legally acquired the music, but I am unable to play them on my iPod. Is there a program out there that I can use to automatically convert my (rather large) library of music to .mp3 format?

~Baggins, the literary audiophile

A: Dear Frodo,

Okay, your question was kind of muddled, so I'm going to make some assumptions here.

1. You are unable to play music on your iPod, which you just stated you didn't have, so I'm going to assume the second "iPod" was used generically for "non-iPod mp3 player".

2. I'm going to assume by .mp4e you mean "songs I downloaded in iTunes", since I've never heard of .mp4e, .mp4 is generally a video file, and iTunes generally uses .m4p files.

Right. Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks.

This is why you shouldn't buy music from iTunes!

Seriously. If at all possible, get MP3s from some other legal source like Amazon. Then you can do what you want with the files you bought.

The problem here is that Apple has actually been pretty successful with their DRM (Digital Rights Management) that restricts usage of that file. I'm kind of surprised it hasn't been hacked, actually, but there still isn't a good direct way (that I know of) to convert from m4p to mp3. However, it can be done and there are two main lines of attack.

The tried and true method is to burn your songs to a CD, which iTunes allows and which turns them into the unprotected CD format, then turn around and rip them back into MP3 format. Unfortunately, this gets very tedious for large amounts of files and wastes lots of CDs. That's why clever people thought to use a CD-burner emulator. This tricks iTunes into thinking it's burning to a CD, but really it's writing the CD format to your hard drive. From there, you can emulate an MP3 rip without actually using a CD. Some programs that do this are NoteBurner and CD Emulator, and one for Mac here.

The other main line of attack is to let iTunes play the song, then record the audio feed and encode it to MP3. You can find a big list of programs that do this here.

Many of these programs will cost you some money, but that's what you get for shackling yourself to Apple. And of course, it's probably technically illegal, so you've got that to worry about as well. Good luck!

-=Optimus Prime=-