How iTunes works

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Are you thinking of using iTunes to manage the songs you have saved on your computer but, before embarking on this new “adventure”, would you like some more information on the functioning of the famous software produced by Apple? Have you just subscribed to Apple Music or have you just bought an iPhone and would you like to understand how to use iTunes to manage everything? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.

In today’s tutorial, in fact, I will explain how iTunes works both for what concerns the management of the music library on the PC and for the use of the Apple Music music streaming service and the management of iPhone, iPad and iPod from a computer. Also, if you have a recent Mac that no longer supports iTunes, I’ll tell you how to take advantage of the workarounds Apple has introduced in its latest operating systems.

So, without wasting a second more, concentrate on reading the instructions below and try to put them into practice to make the most of iTunes according to your needs: I assure you that it is not difficult at all. Happy reading and good luck for everything!

How iTunes works on Windows


If you haven’t done so yet, the first step you need to take is to download iTunes to your PC . You must know, however, that there are two versions of the program: a specific for Windows 10 downloadable from the Microsoft Store and one for all versions of the Microsoft operating system (from Windows 7 onwards) to be downloaded from the Apple website .

In terms of functions there are no differences between the two, but the iTunes version available on the Microsoft Store could cause problems with some third-party software, such as those to explore the iPhone’s memory and those to jailbreak.

Having made these necessary clarifications, let’s take action. If you use Windows 10 , you can download iTunes from the Microsoft Store by opening this page, pressing the Get and Open buttons and then, after opening the store, clicking the Install button . You may be asked to sign in to your Microsoft account.

iTunes Microsoft Store

If you use a previous version of Windows or prefer the “classic” version of iTunes , connect instead to the Apple website and first click on the Windows link that you find next to the item Are you looking for other versions? (below) and then the Download iTunes for Windows (64-bit) Now button . If you have a 32-bit operating system, click on the Are you looking for the 32-bit Windows version? Download the app from here placed below.

Then open the .exe file obtained, click on the Next button , choose whether to add a shortcut to iTunes on the desktop and whether to use iTunes as the default player for the audio files (by checking the appropriate boxes) and complete the setup by clicking in sequence on Install , Yes , Yes and Finish .

iTunes installation

At the end of the installation, regardless of the version of iTunes you have installed, start the program via its link on the desktop or in the Start menu (the one accessed by clicking on the Windows flag ) and accept the terms of use by pressing on the appropriate buttons. Once this is done, you can start taking your first steps in the famous Apple software.

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How iTunes works for music

Screenshot showing how iTunes works

One of the main functions of iTunes is related to the management and playback of music contents . Going into more detail, Apple’s software allows you to import, manage and play songs in all major file formats (except FLAC); access Apple Music streaming service content and purchase digital music from DRM via the built-in iTunes Store .

In this chapter of the tutorial I will focus on managing music locally, while in the following chapters I will deal with Apple Music, the iTunes Store for purchasing digital music and iTunes Match: a service that allows users who do not have a Active Apple Music subscription to sync your music across multiple devices.

So let’s begin. In the iTunes library it is possible to import all the music already present on the computer disk. To import music into the program library, first make sure you have selected the Music item from the drop-down menu located at the top left.

Once this is done, simply click first on the File menu (top left) and then on the Add file to library item … or on the Add folder to library item within the latter and select the files or folders to be import into the software library. More info here.

If you want some advice, before importing the music into iTunes, go to the Edit> Preferences> Advanced menu of the program and check the Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library box : in this way, all files copied to the library they will be stored in the same folder on your computer, making it easier for you to export your iTunes library in the future.


It is also possible to import music CDs into iTunes and transform the songs they contain into compressed files (ie files that take up little space on the disk, while maintaining good sound quality). To do this, just insert the disk into your computer while iTunes is open and answer Yes to the request to import the album into your library. More info here.

If you were wondering, know that to add covers and other information to your multimedia content added to the iTunes library you will not have to do anything. In fact, iTunes automatically downloads cover art and information about albums and songs. However, if you want to manually change the information of a song or album, you can do so with a simple right click on it and then selecting the Song/Album information item from the context menu.

To organize the music in a playlist , on the other hand, all you have to do is go to the File> New playlist menu , to create a new playlist, and drag the songs of your interest to the title of the same, which in the meantime will have appeared in the left sidebar . You can also create smart playlists , i.e. playlists that update their contents automatically based on the parameters you set (eg date of addition, number of plays, rating and so on). More info here.

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If you wish, you can also burn playlists to CD/DVD , creating standard audio CDs or MP3 diskettes. To do this, put all the songs you want to burn into a playlist, right-click on the playlist name in the iTunes sidebar and select the Burn playlist to disc option from the menu that opens. More info here.


To play a piece of music (or any other multimedia content added to the iTunes library), just double-click on it. Once the playback of a multimedia content has started in iTunes you will be shown the player controls with which you can forward and/or rewind the same, stop and resume playback and perform various other operations, above.

If you want to make the player less cluttered, you can go to the View menu> Switch to Mini Player and activate the reduced version of iTunes.

How iTunes works with Apple Music

Apple Music

If with its iTunes Store Apple had revolutionized the world of music, giving way to the digital download market of songs and albums, with the advent of streaming services à la Spotify it found itself having to catch up. So here comes Apple Music : a subscription service that allows you to access a vast catalog of music belonging to all genres and eras, which you can both listen to in streaming and download locally.

Apple Music provides a 3-month free trial without obligation and then personal plans from 10.99 euros / month or 109 euros / year with the possibility of canceling at any time and without additional costs. The music hosted by the service, as easily understood, is protected by DRM (anti-copy digital padlocks) and therefore can be played or downloaded only on certified devices and software ( iTunes on Windows, the Music application on Apple devices and Apple Music application on Android). Furthermore, it is not possible to copy the songs to other devices, play them in other players or burn them to floppy disks.

Apple Music, however, also gives access to the iCloud music library : a free service that allows you to upload to the cloud and synchronize the songs loaded in the iTunes library on all your devices, even if they are not present in the catalog of the service. streaming of the Colossus of Cupertino. This means that you can create a single music library on the cloud , automatically synchronized on all devices associated with your Apple ID, including both Apple Music and local contents.

To use Apple Music through iTunes, select the Discover tab of iTunes (in the Music section of the software) and click on the item to log in (if you are already subscribed to Apple Music) or on that to try the service for 3 months ( if you are a new user), then signing in to your Apple ID .

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If you don’t see the option to activate Apple Music in iTunes, go to the Edit> Preferences> General menu and check the box Show Apple Music features . For more information, read my guide on how Apple Music works: it really explains everything there.

How the iTunes Store works

iTunes Store

Now let’s move on to what, in the early days, made iTunes famous in the world and, coupled with the iPod, revolutionized the world music market: the ability to buy songs and albums (along with other multimedia files) on the iTunes Store .

To browse the various contents of the iTunes Store , select the type of content of your interest (e.g. Music or Movies ) from the drop-down menu located in the upper left corner of iTunes and then click on the Store tab at the top. You will thus find yourself in front of the highlighted contents and you will be able to browse the entire vast catalog of the service (with New music , Albums at special prices , Compilations etc. and a side menu for choosing musical genres ).

The prices of the content available on the iTunes Store range from 1.29 euros for single songs to 4.99 euros and more for complete albums. You can listen to a brief preview of the contents before buying them, by hovering the mouse pointer on their title and pressing the button (▶︎) that appears.

To complete the purchase, of course, you will need to log in with your Apple ID or create a new one by following the on-screen instructions (then associating it with a valid payment method, such as a credit/debit card). Once purchased, the songs all end up in the software library and can be used freely, as they are not protected by DRM.

Movies and other media, on the other hand, are DRM protected – to find out more, you can take a look at my tutorial on renting movies on iTunes.

How iTunes Match works

iTunes Match

If streaming services like Apple Music aren’t your thing but you don’t want to give up the ability to sync your favorite music across all your devices, you can consider activating a subscription to iTunes Match .

iTunes Match is a service that for 24.99 euros/year (therefore a quarter of the price of Apple Music) allows you to upload your songs to the cloud and have them synchronized on a maximum number of 10 devices.

The songs are DRM-free, but to download them you need to use iTunes on Windows or the Music application on Apple devices, connecting with your ID. Also there is a limit of 100,000 tracks that you can have in your library.

To activate iTunes Match, you must go to the Music section of iTunes, then in the Store tab , scroll the screen to the bottom and click on the iTunes Match item . More info here.

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How iTunes works with photos, videos, and podcasts


Even if music remains the “core business” of iTunes, in reality Apple’s multimedia software also allows you to manage films (and more generally videos), podcasts , books and photos .

As far as films , podcasts and books are concerned , all you have to do is follow the instructions similar to those I gave you for music: the steps to be taken are almost identical, both to add the contents in the library and to buy them through the internal store. .

As for the photos , however, these cannot be managed either by iTunes, but it is only possible to synchronize them on the iPhone / iPad / iPod by following the instructions that you can find in the dedicated chapter of this guide.

Finally, data such as contacts and calendars are synced to your computer via the iCloud client.)

How iTunes works with iPhone, iPad and iPod


Many users start using iTunes just because it is the software that allows you to manage iPhone , iPad and iPod from your computer. So let’s see how to take advantage of this possibility.

To connect your Apple portable device to iTunes, physically connect it to your computer using the supplied cable . If this is your first time connecting, answer yes to the authorization request that appears on both devices and then enter the unlock code on the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch.

Once this is done, you can start managing your device by clicking on its icon that appears at the top left of the iTunes window. You will then have access to a screen with, on the left, a menu to manage all the contents of the device and, on the right, all the options available to you.

In the Summary section you will find information about the device and buttons for updating iOS, backing up and restoring data. Furthermore, in the box dedicated to the Options (below) there are the boxes to synchronize via Wi-Fi and manually manage music and videos : I advise you to activate them both. By doing this you will be able to synchronize your device with your computer without physically connecting it to it (provided they are both connected to the same Wi-Fi network) and you will be able to copy music, videos and other contents to your iPhone/iPad/iPod without synchronizing them with the iTunes.

What is the difference between simply copying music, videos etc. on a device and sync the device with the iTunes library? It seems quite obvious to me: in the first case, files are simply copied onto the device connected to the computer, then having the possibility to manage them as one prefers; in the second case, however, the iTunes library is copied entirely or partially (e.g. only some albums or playlists) to the iPhone with a reciprocity relationship, according to which all changes applied to the library are automatically reflected also on the iPhone/iPad/iPod connected to the computer (and vice versa).

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To copy files to iPhone / iPad / iPod without synchronizing the iTunes library, you need to select a content category (eg Music or Movies ) from the On device section , in the iTunes sidebar, and then drag the files of your interest to the program window.

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To synchronize the iTunes library with your mobile device, instead, you must select a content category (eg Music , Movies or Photos ) from the Settings section , in the iTunes sidebar, you must check the boxes relating to the contents to be synchronized (you can choose whether to synchronize the entire library or individual elements) and click the Apply and Finish buttons at the bottom right.

For more information, I refer you to my tutorials on how to copy music to iPhone, iPad and iPod; how to copy videos to iPhone and iPad; how to copy photos to iphone and ipad; how to insert ringtones on iPhone and how to transfer files from PC to iPhone (in which I explained how to copy files in third-party apps as well).

Note: If you have enabled iCloud Music Library and / or iCloud Photos on your device, you will not be able to manually copy or sync content between your phone and iTunes. You will need to copy the content of your interest to the cloud library.

How iTunes works on Mac

Music macOS

Do you use a Mac ? In this case, there are important distinctions to be made based on the version of macOS installed on the latter. If you are using a version of macOS equal to or lower than 10.14 Mojave, you will find iTunes pre-installed and you can use it by following the same instructions seen in the previous chapters dedicated to Windows.

If, on the other hand, you use macOS 10.15 Catalina or later, you should know that iTunes is no longer included by default in the operating system, nor can it be installed. It has been “deconstructed” and replaced by other applications.

  • To manage your music library and access Apple Music, you can use the Music application (the one with the music note icon). Its interface is practically identical to that of iTunes, so you can use it without problems following the directions I gave you earlier.
  • To manage iPhone, iPad and iPod from your computer you need to use the Finder (the smiling face icon located on the Dock bar), selecting the device icon from the left sidebar. Operation is similar to that of iTunes, but the menus for accessing the sections dedicated to music, films, etc. they stand on top instead of to the side.
  • To manage videos, podcasts, books and photos you need to use the TV applications (which also allows you to access the Apple TV + video streaming service ), Podcasts , Books and Photos .

Thankfully, it’s all very intuitive, so you shouldn’t encounter any difficulties using these solutions as well.

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