Saturday, February 17, 2007

Convert DRM Protected Audio Into a Plain MP3

If you've ever bought music on iTunes,, or another legal music-downloading system, it'll be protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). Protected from you, the consumer. For example, you can probably only play your songs in the program you used to buy them. What if you want to transfer it to an unsupported MP3 player or transfer it to another of your computers? These are legal activities (provided you do not distribute the results to others, which is a violation of copyright), but the music companies want you to listen to music on their terms. Here's how to break the locks off your tunes.

Beginner's Method

1. Burn an audio CD with the protected audio tracks.
2. Rip that new audio CD to MP3's.

Direct Way with Virtual CD-RW Software

There is a software named "NoteBurner" from which can process the above two steps directly and straight forward.

The most important thing you need to do is selecting the default cd burner to "NoteBurn CD-RW", and the software will do the rest works for you automatically. Compared the medthod described below, it does all the work automatically within one software. Refer to on how to use it..

Image Burning Method

This method doesn't need a CD-R to burn on and might be a little faster. Another advantage is that you can probably burn more than 80 minutes of music at once (I never tested it, but I think it'll work). Many CD recording programs allow you to burn on a "virtual recorder", creating a CD Image file on your hard disk.

1. In Nero, do this by clicking "Recorder" > "Choose Recorder..." > "Image Recorder" and then creating a new CD as usual.

2. After clicking on "burn", you're asked where you want the file to be saved. Select a drive that has enough free space to save all the contents of the CD.

3. When Nero has finished, you need a virtual drive like CloneCD's "VirtualCloneDrive" or the virtual drive in "Alcohol 120%". You can get a 21-day trial version of VirtualCloneDrive at . A free alternative is Daemon Tools 3.47 or 4.00, both of which can be downloaded at . However, be carefull, as the latest version of Daemon tools will install spyware unless you are careful to uncheck this "option" . Microsoft also provides a free Virtual CD-ROM driver for Windows 2000 & XP at

4. A (simpler) alternative to a virtual drive is to use a good unzipping program such as Izarc (free download from which will "unzip" the "ISO" or image file into regular audio files.

5. Right-click on your virtual drive and select "open image file..." or something similar - depending on which software you use. Then open the image file you created.

6. After loading your image file, rip the CD in the virtual drive as you would do with a normal CD.

Advanced Method Using Audacity for All Protected Audio

1. Open your recording program. It should be one that can save as an MP3. If you don't have a recording program you can download Audacity, which is cool and free, but if you already have another good recording program you can use that instead. (If you download Audacity, don't forget to grab the LAME encoder.)

2. Switch your sound-recording mode. Go to your system tray (in the lower-right corner of your screen, next to the clock) and double-click on Volume Control. Pull down the Options menu and click Properties. In the "Adjust volume for" box, press Recording, check all the boxes, and click OK. Your computer is probably set to record from the microphone; check the box under "Stereo Mix". You should only need to do this once.

3. Set up your recorder. Switch back to your music-recording program and create a new file. Make sure it's in the format you want; Audacity defaults to Mono mode, so if you're using that you'll need to go to Edit -> Preferences and change the Channels drop-down box to "2 (Stereo)".

4. Do it. Once your recorder is ready, press Record. Then switch to your audio source (whether it be iTunes, Windows Media Player, or another program) and press Play. Listen to the rapturous sound of your music being freed from DRM . When the song ends, press Stop, then switch back to your recording program and press Stop there.

5. Clean up. If you're going to be using a microphone with your computer, go back to Recording Control and switch the recording mode back to Microphone. Delete any unwanted sound or silence on either end of the waveform. Amplify if necessary. Save the project (in Audacity you'll want File -> Export as MP3) and close. You're done!

Very Advanced Digital-Only Lossless Method

1. Purchase and install Virtual Audio Cable (the demo adds "trial" clips to your sounds, so you'll need to purchase).

2. Set the playback device in your player software to the Virtual Audio Cable driver's input, and the recording device in your recording software to the Virtual Audio Cable driver's output.

3. Record using the Advanced Method above. The audio you play back and record through the Virtual Audio Cable will be a perfect digital signal, since it will never be converted to and from analog on your sound card.

4. If you have a Mac you can use Audiohijack (it's fully functional demo but before purchase, noise is overlaid on all hijackings longer than 10 minutes) to record any audio going through your computer. You would follow the using the Advanced Method above.

Method Using Hymn for Songs Bought on iTunes

1. Use Hymn an open source application for converting protected iTunes songs to unprotected MP3 files under fair use. Download and run it according to the directions provided on the site.


* If you don't need MP3 specifically (say you have a player that won't take anything else), consider ripping to OGG instead, as it gives better sound at the same filesize and is completely free of any patents. Most rippers as well as the Audacity tip above can handle this, and many players work with it too nowadays.

* This technique works for ripping music from any source. Music and dialogue from DVDs, streaming radio, game sound effects--absolutely anything your computer can play, you can record. If you've got a favorite song from one of your DVDs, try turning its audio into an MP3 and dropping it in your playlist!

* This technique can only be used to transcode songs in real-time. The alternative is to simply burn all your protected songs to a CD and then rip them back onto the computer in the format of your choice. That only works if you have extra CD-R's, though. Of course if you use a CD-RW you can keep it specifically to convert protected audio and rip to MP3.

* You'll need to make sure that your computer is silent during the transcoding process except for the music playing. If an IM or email notification pops up, for example, and makes a noise, that will go into the recording. If you're good, you can go back in afterwards and clean that sort of thing out, but it's simpler just to turn off all your noisemakers before you start transcoding.

* Obviously you need to be able to play the file for this to work. If someone sends you a DRM-protected file that you can't open, this process won't help you. You can send the link for this page to your friend, though, and have him or her de-DRM it for you!

* If you are using iTunes version 6 or later, Hymn will not be able to remove the DRM on purchased songs. The development team is currently trying to find a way around the DRM, but Hymn will only run on iTunes verions 5 or earlier. In addition, you cannot switch to an earlier version of iTunes, because once you authorize your account with iTunes 6, you can't use anything but iTunes 6.


* Circumventing DRM may be illegal in and of itself within the United States -- regardless of ownership of the IP or intent after disabling the DRM method. Read up on the DMCA and then contact your congressman.

* Please don't use this technique for piracy. Transcoding a song for your own collection is fine. Making your entire collection available for the whole Internet to download is illegal.

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