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A one-time fix for Google Play Music's device-deauthorization limit

Google inexplicably limits you to four per year. Fortunately, there's a reset switch, and it's in a surprising place.

Google limits you to four device deactivations per year. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

As a tech writer and gadget lover, it goes without saying I juggle a lot of gizmos. And recently I ran into an unusual hiccup.

I use Google's Play Music service as an online repository for my music library, and it's great because I can stream tunes to up to 10 devices -- five of them smartphones. However, when I installed the app on my iPhone 6 Plus and tried to play, I encountered this message:

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Huh. Well, OK, time to deauthorize one of my lesser (or no longer) used devices. But after tapping Manage Devices and then selecting a device to remove, I ran into this message:

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Double-huh. Guess with all of my gizmo-juggling, I'd already hit this longstanding, inexplicable deauthorization limit. (I can understand Google restricting the number of devices I can authorize, but why does the company care how many devices I remove from my account?) And it wasn't clear when my authorization "year" would restart. I actually encountered this issue at the end of December, so I waited for January 1, hoping it was tied to the calendar. Nope.

So now what? It's not like Google has tech support, at least in the traditional sense. If you have a problem with, say, Gmail, you have little recourse but to peruse online help pages and user forums. Was I really going to have to wait some unknown length of time just so I could start using the service again?

Turns out, Google does have tech support, at least for Play Music. Here's what I did, and what you can do, too:

Step 1: Head to the Google Play support page, click Contact Us in the upper right corner, and then choose Music.

Step 2: Click "Problem playing music," then "Request a Call."

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 3: Complete the call-request page by providing your phone number and description of the issue. (It doesn't matter if you're not a Google Play Music subscriber. I'm not.) Finally, click Call Me.

When I did this on a Tuesday morning, my phone rang about 60 seconds later, and a very friendly support person offered to "zero out" my account's authorizations as a "one-time courtesy." Yes, I'd have to reauthorize my various devices to get them working with the Google Play Music app, but I'd also have a "fresh" set of deauthorizations to work with.

Live, human tech support. What a concept!