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iTunes®: How to install, use, and enjoy

The basics you need to know to get started with iTunes

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

More from Ralph Graves

iTunes® is currently the most popular (and one of the most versatile) media programs around. It can organize your digital music library — and serve as its player. It also has a built-in connection to the iTunes Store, where you can purchase music, movies, TV shows, and other videos. You can even download apps for your iPod touch®, iPhone® or iPad® through the iTunes store.

You can watch videos through iTunes on your computer, as well as subscribe to podcasts, and share your music through Ping, Apple's social network for music. When you sync your iPod®, iPhone® or iPad® to your computer, it's iTunes that updates those devices.

Sounds great — but where do you start? The following guide will walk you through the basics of setting up and using iTunes for the first time. iTunes is available for both Mac and PCs, and these instructions pretty much apply to both.

Once you've conquered the basics, check out our other articles on how to do even more with iTunes, and iTunes-compatible devices.

Installing iTunes

Navigating the Main iTunes Window

Creating an Apple ID

Adding Media to iTunes

iTunes Playlists

Copying to a CD, or "Burning" a CD, with iTunes

Managing Your iTunes Library

Installing iTunes

  1. Go to
  2. Select your operating system and which communications you would like to receive from Apple. You can also enter your email address into the field provided but this is optional.
  3. Click the Download Now icon.
  1. Save the iTunesSetup.exe file and open it once it is finished downloading.
  2. Once the file opens you will be presented with a series of dialog boxes. Follow the prompts to complete the installation. This will take several minutes.

Navigating the Main iTunes Window

Below is the main iTunes window. From the left bar (1) you can access your Library of music and video. Books, apps, podcasts, and Internet radio stations are also available.


Next you'll see the Store section (2) where you can purchase content and share it through Apple's social network named Ping.

Towards the bottom you will find Genius (3). This feature suggests content from your library and the iTunes Store based on your listening habits. You will also see the Playlists section (4). Initially, this section has some playlists that Apple has included to get you started, but you can always create your own, too.

In the left side bar you will also find the Devices section when you have an iPod or other device connected.

Creating an Apple ID

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. From the Store Menu in the top tool bar, choose Create Account. Click Continue on the resulting screen.
  3. You'll be prompted to read the terms and conditions for use of the iTunes program. After doing so, click the checkbox next to "I have read and agree to these terms and conditions" and then click Continue.
  4. Complete the form and click Continue. After that, you will need to verify your email address. Check your email for a verification email from Apple.

Adding Media to iTunes

There are several ways to import content:

  • Import audio from CDs
  • Import music and video that are already on your computer
  • Download music, video, and more from the iTunes Store
  • Import songs and podcasts from the Internet:
    1. Open iTunes.
    2. When you find an audio file you want on a website, click the file to download it to your computer.
    3. Drag the file to the iTunes window.
  • Add items from other applications using the Automatically Add to iTunes folder:
      In the exporting application, set the destination folder as Computer\Music\iTunes\iTunes Music\"Automatically Add to iTunes."

Importing, or "Ripping" CDs into the iTunes Library

  1. Insert an audio CD into your computer's CD or DVD drive.
  2. When the list of songs appears in the iTunes window, you'll see that all of them have been checked by default. If you want to import them all, proceed to the next step. if there are some songs you don't want to import, simply deselect (remove the checkmark from) those tracks before proceeding.
  3. To add the selected songs to your library, click the Import CD button (at the bottom of the iTunes window).   To cancel importing, click the small Delete icon next to the progress bar at the top of the iTunes window. Any songs that iTunes imports before you cancel importing are added to your iTunes library.
  4. When the songs are finished importing, click the Eject symbol to remove the disc. You'll find it to the right of the CD title under Devices in the left menu bar.

The default encoding format is AAC (Advanced Audio Coding).

You can continue to use iTunes while songs are importing.

Importing Media from your computer to iTunes

  1. Drag a file or folder from the desktop to the iTunes window.
    If you add a folder, all the files it contains are added to your library.
  2. In iTunes, choose File> Add to Library to locate a file or folder, and then click Choose.

By default, adding items to your iTunes library places a pointer to each file in the iTunes folder; the original file remains in the current location. Just be aware that iTunes will not be able to play the file if the original copy is moved.

If the file is an unprotected WMA file and you have Windows Media Player Series 9 or later installed, iTunes makes a copy of the file and adds it to your iTunes library. The original WMA file remains unchanged. You can't add protected WMA files or protected WMV files to iTunes.

You can change this setting so that iTunes creates a copy of the file and places it into the iTunes folder.

To copy items to your iTunes folder when you add them to your iTunes library:

  1. Choose Edit> Preferences and click Advanced.
  2. Select the "Copy files" checkbox.

The next time you add an item to your library, iTunes places a copy of the file in your iTunes folder; the original file remains in its current location.

Buying Content from the iTunes Store

  1. To visit the store, click iTunes Store (on the left side of the iTunes window):
  1. To navigate the store, use the buttons at the top of the iTunes Store window:

To purchase items from the iTunes Store or use iTunes Ping, you need:

  1. An Apple ID or AOL account. If you already set up an Apple ID account (on the Apple Store website or on Mobile Me, for example), you can use that account and charge purchases to the credit card or account (including PayPal) of your choice.
  2. An Internet connection. A broadband connection (DSL or cable) is recommended.

To purchase content from the iTunes Store:

  1. Find the item you want to buy. For some items you can hear or watch a preview before you buy by double-clicking the title or clicking the Preview button.
  2. Click Buy.

If you quit iTunes or restart your computer before a purchase finishes downloading, the download should resume at no additional cost the next time you open iTunes. If it doesn't, choose ; "Check for Available Downloads.

Some items in the iTunes Store may not be available in all countries.

If the iTunes Store is disabled in >Parental Control preferences, it won't appear in the iTunes window unless you also selected Allow access to iTunes U

iTunes Playlists


Playlists are easy ways to organize your music. You can put all your favorite songs into a playlist folder, so you don't have to continually hunt through your entire music collection to find them. You can also create playlists of party songs, mood music — you can group together your music any way you like.

To create a playlist, start by clicking the Add button in the lower-left corner. Give your playlist a name. Then drag songs into it. Rearrange the order of songs in your playlist by dragging and dropping.

You can have iTunes create a playlist for you based on your desired criteria, like all the rock songs you've added to your library in the past month or songs you've listened to more than 10 times. These are called Smart Playlists. You can create many rules for a single Smart Playlist, based on media type, genre, and more. iTunes finds the songs, podcasts, movies, or TV shows that match your rules and creates a playlist that updates itself automatically.


You can organize playlists into folders. To create a new folder, choose New Folder from the File menu. Double-click the folder to highlight the text so you can rename it (double-click on the folder's icon if you want to open the folder).

Copying content to a CD, or "Burning" a CD, with iTunes

To burn a CD of music from your iTunes library, do the following:

  1. Select a playlist in your library by left clicking on it.
  2. Insert a blank CD.
  3. Under the File menu, select Burn Playlist to Disc.
  4. iTunes will give you options to burn an audio or MP3 CD. Select the options you want and click Burn.
  1. You can change the gap between songs. This can be important if one track flows into another. Select Gap Between Songs and choose None to have no silence between your tracks. You can also choose to have more space between tracks, too.
  2. If there's a lot of volume difference between the songs you want to use, and you want to even that out, select Use Sound Check. iTunes will automatically equalize the average volume of all the selected tracks.
  3. If you check the Include CD Text option, title and artist info will display in CD players and car receivers with that capability.

Managing Your iTunes Library

Backing up iTunes

Backing up iTunes to CD or DVD

  1. Choose Library from the File menu, then choose Back Up to Disc.
  2. Tell iTunes what you want to back up and insert a disc.
  3. iTunes will prompt you when each disc reaches full capacity and will pause the burning process. Insert a new disc and choose Continue.

Time Capsule (Apple OS X Only)

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then click Time Machine.
  2. Slide the switch to On.
  3. Choose your Time Capsule and click Use for Backup.
  4. Give your mac several hours or even overnight to complete the initial backup.

Choosing Your iTunes Storage Location

  1. in iTunes choose Edit>Preferences>Advanced
  2. Set the iTunes Media folder to the desired location on the hard drive on your computer, or a connected external drive. The Change button will open up a window that lets you browse computer (and connected drives) to select the location you want.
  3. Check Keep iTunes Media Folder Organizsed and Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library. This will ensure that, going forward, all additions to your library will go to the new location.

    The default setting for iTunes is to store media on your computer's C drive. One advantage of changing this setting is that you can change the location to an external hard drive (or even one connected to your network). If you have very large audio and video files, this keeps you from being limited to the space available on your computer.

    Keep in mind that if you choose an external drive, and that drive is disconnected, iTunes won't be able to find your music (the directory will be on your computer, but all of the addresses and files will be on the external drive). When you reconnect your external drive, simply repeat the process above to select the external drive and reestablish all the links.

    You can have multiple iTunes libraries on the same computer, even under the same user account. Switching libraries or creating a new librtary requires restarting iTunes.

    Creating a New Library

    1. Close iTunes
    2. Open iTunes while holding the Shift Key
    3. To create a new library choose Create Library

    Choosing a Library

    1. Close iTunes
    2. Open iTunes while holding the Shift key
    3. Click Choose Library

    The bulk of this document was researched and created by
    Adam "Wayne" Sullivan
    Crutchfield Tech Support Specialist

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