The Zune HD is one of the year's coolest gadgets and one of the best alternatives to the iPod we've seen. But with so many people invested in their iTunes media collections, switching from an iPod to a Zune can seem like a daunting task. So here are a few tips to make things run smoothly.
First, let's tackle your music collection. When you download and install the Zune software from Zune.net, the installer will automatically seek out all the music files stored in your PC's My Music folder. In the majority of cases this is where your iTunes music collection is stored, so any compatible AAC and MP3 files should get sucked right in.
Bear in mind, if you still have some protected AAC files you purchased through iTunes, you'll have to upgrade them to a DRM-free version in order for the Zune software to play them. To see if an iTunes' file is protected, select the file within iTunes and right-click to "Get info."
To quickly see what songs from iTunes might be affected by DRM protection, launch the iTunes Store and click the iTunes Plus link in the top right. If you have songs to upgrade, iTunes will list them and give you a chance to buy the unrestricted versions.
Of course, if you don't feel like giving Apple any more cash, you also have the painstaking option of burning songs to CD and ripping them back to your computer using the Zune software.
If your iTunes collection is stored somewhere other than your My Music folder, or even on an external drive, you can add the location to the Zune software by diving into software settings, then selecting Collection. Click the Add Folder button next to music and locate your music folder. This same trick also works for videos, pictures, and podcasts.
One of the big stumbling blocks for the iTunes to Zune switch is the playlist dilemma. iTunes doesn't make it easy to export them and Zune doesn't go out of its way to rescue them. To solve the problem, there is a free application you can download called iTunes To Zune.
Just open it up, give it the location of your iTunes library file and your Zune music folder, and all your playlists show up with an option to convert them to Zune. The converted playlists should automatically appear in your Zune playlist collection.
Then there are podcasts. There's a good chance Zune already pulled in your podcasts when it loaded the music from your iTunes folder, but don't take that to mean you're subscribed. Look in the podcast section of your music library and if your podcasts show up, take the extra step of selecting them and hitting the subscribe button. If your podcasts don't show up or you want to subscribe to more podcasts, you can search for them in the podcast directory of the Zune Marketplace.
Now for the bad news. Those movies, TV shows, and audiobooks you purchased through iTunes--those aren't coming with you. The FairPlay DRM protections built into these files mean they can only be played on Apple-approved hardware and software. Fortunately, this is usually the kind of content you'll use once and never revisit, but it still stings to leave it behind.
That said, if you've been getting your audiobooks through a service like Audible, you can load those on the Zune HD by using Audible's own standalone software, which you can grab from Audible.com.
That about covers it for the iPod/iTunes to Zune switch. For a video version of this tutorial, head over to CNET TV.