How to Access Your iTunes Library from a Chromebook
Chromebook’s are great entry-level devices, with long-lasting batteries, good displays, and thin and light designs that keep the load untaxing on both your backpack and your wallet. Google’s browser-based operating system can cover a lot of your everyday needs for browsing Facebook, watching Netflix or YouTube, creating documents, and more. But what about your music collection? Most of us at one point have owned an iPod, and if you want to move your iTunes library from your desktop to your Chromebook, it can be a bit unclear how to make the transition. After all, Chrome OS doesn’t have an iTunes plugin available, so what’s a Chromebook user to do?
Here’s the good news: with a few workarounds, you can access your iTunes library on any computer or phone you’ve signed into with your Google account, including your Chromebook. With some time and patience, you move your entire iTunes library into the cloud for absolutely free using Google Play Music, with the ability to access it from your iPhone, Chromebook, Android device, or any other platform with a web browser. Despite the lack of a native iTunes application, Google Play Music’s one of our very favorite services on Chrome OS. Let’s take a look at accessing your iTunes library on Chrome OS.
Google Play Music Manager
Using Google’s own music player is by far the best option for any Chromebook user. Google’s music service doesn’t get its fair share of coverage in the age of Spotify or Apple Music—truly, Google’s entire music suite is one of our favorite platforms for music on the web, with both free and paid tiers covering nearly every use case one could think of. Whether you’re looking to access your pre-existing library from the cloud, use a Spotify-like streaming service, access YouTube entirely ad-free, or listen to pre-built radio stations and playlists based on genres, decades, and moods, you’re bound to find something to love inside Google Play Music.
But instead of diving into all that, let’s focus on just the main part of this guide: moving your iTunes library into the cloud. As long as your song collection is under 50,000 songs, you can use Google Play’s cloud storage feature for absolutely free. Your library can be added automatically from iTunes, Windows Media Player, or simple folders on your device, and you can listen to your collection on any computer, phone, or tablet. All for free, without any paid subscriptions or limitations. Let’s get started.
First, you’ll need access to the Mac or PC that your iTunes library lives on. If you don’t have access to a Mac or PC, but you do have access to your iTunes library on external media, you can use Chrome to upload your music. If all your music lives on your phone—without access to a computer—you’ll need to find a a way to download all your music without access to iTunes, a workaround that, unfortunately, is easier said than done. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be covering how to use both a Windows or Mac computer, as well as using Chrome’s Play Music extension that can handle your backups.
Using a Mac or Windows PC
Head on over to Google Play Music’s upload page, where you’ll be asked to download Google’s Music Manager application. It’s totally free, and the installer’s only about one megabyte in size. Once you open the installer, Google will automatically download and install the full application to your computer, which will open once the installation is complete. Hit “Next” to open the signin page, and sign into your Google account to open up the full application.
Once you’ve logged in, select “Upload songs to Google Play” on the next screen. Google will then ask you if your music is already kept in a specific location. For most users, you can select iTunes from this menu, which is where the majority of your music will be kept. If you keep music outside of iTunes—say, you keep your content in Windows Media Player or a select group of folders—you can select those from this option too. If you select an option that doesn’t contain more than ten songs, Google will warn you and ask if you’d like to select a new location. For our tests, we used the folder select, to upload a very specific album to our collect.
After you’ve selected your source, Google will tell you the number of songs found in that specific folder. If you wish, you can ask Google to automatically upload new music you add to your library, so that if your library grows or expands over time, your new music is always available in the cloud for you. Finally, Google will show you that your uploader will be minimized in your taskbar (on Windows) or menu bar (on MacOS). If you need to access your uploader’s settings or options, that’s the place to go.
Music Manager Settings
Once you hit next, you’ll be able to view your uploading music right from the uploader. If you have a large library, you’ll want to keep in mind that upload speeds are often far lower than download speeds on your ISP. Uploading lots of content all at once can also slow down and eat your bandwidth entirely, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at Music Manager’s settings. Open your Music Manager display from either the taskbar or the menu bar depending on your platform, and let’s dive into those tabs.
The first tab, Upload, is pretty straightforward. You can view your current upload status, add or remove a folder from your upload cache, and finally, check or uncheck the option to automatically upload songs to your selected folders. Next up, the Download tab. Google Play Music makes it easy to keep your music all together in one bundle. Anything you upload to the cloud can be easily downloaded back to any device of your selection for free at any time. Specific songs can also be downloaded, though you’ll have to do that through the web player itself.
The About tab doesn’t have anything interesting beyond some credits, along with the terms of service and privacy links. It’s the Advanced tab we want to pay close attention to. From here, you can change the location of your music collection between those same folders and options we mentioned above. You can also check or uncheck the option to automatically start Music Manager when your computer boots up, and you can enable or disable automatic crash reports sent to Google. But the most important feature here covers the bandwidth problem we mentioned above. By default, Google Play Music Manager keeps you set at the fastest possible level for uploads, but if you’re concerned about your speeds or data usage, you can change your speeds between 1mb/s or even lower. Obviously, setting Music Manager to such low speeds means your upload will take substantially longer, but it will help manage your internet connection while in the middle of your upload.
Using Google Play Music’s Web Player
Once your music has begun to upload to the cloud, you can use this opportunity to explore the Play Music player, which is available by clicking here or heading on over to music.google.com in your browser. Chrome OS also keeps a shortcut in the app launcher of your device, so feel free to select that as well. Your uploaded music will appear in the “Recent Activity” tab in the top of the display, and you can view all of your uploaded music by clicking “Library” on the left side panel to view your content.
Your uploaded music should already feature all of the metadata transferred straight from iTunes or your music folders, but if the metadata wasn’t picked up or detected properly, you can easily change and edit your library’s metadata for both individual songs and albums. Both albums and song listings have their own individual triple-dotted menu button you can tap to open the menu on your device. From here, look for either “edit album info” or “edit info,” depending on your selection. Each individual song can be edited entirely within Chrome, so you won’t have to use a media management device to change song or album info. And luckily, the metadata editor within Google Play Music is really solid—you can change song names, artists, composer names, track and disc numbers, view bitrates for individual songs, and even mark songs as explicit within your library. It’s all really impressive stuff for a web app to be able to manage.
Play Music can be accessed on both iOS and Android devices as well, making it easy to grab your library you go. And as previously mentioned, Play Music also has a bunch of other built-in content for listening and playing around. Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s offered on the free versus paid tiers:
- Cloud storage for up to 50,000 songs (any music purchases or obtained through the Google Play Store doesn’t count against this number).
- Curated playlists and radio stations for moods, activities, or your favorite musicians and artists. This is ad-supported and only gives you six skips per hour.
- Podcast support for thousands of podcasts on any device.
- Playback on any iOS, Android, or web-based device.
- A Spotify-like access to 40 million streaming songs, including new releases, without advertisements or skip limits.
- Unlimited usage of the personalized radio stations without ads or skip limits.
- Offline playback for those 40 million streaming songs.
- A completely ad-free experience on YouTube with YouTube Red included for no additional cost.
On Android and Chrome OS, Google Play Music is one of the best subscription services for music you can buy into—it combines the freedom and flexibility of Spotify with the digital locker for your music that may not be available on streaming services just yet. Ad-free YouTube on desktop and mobile just sweetens the deal, and we think it’s absolutely worth looking into the platform if you can afford the monthly cost.
Once your music is backed up to the cloud, you can access it on any of your devices using your internet connection. It’s a great and easy way to get your iTunes library available across a large range of devices, even if it does require a bit additional work with uploading your content to the cloud. Still, we’re huge fans of the utility offered by Play Music, even if you choose not to pay for the additional features.
Uploading Your Music in Chrome
Okay, so maybe you don’t have access to a Windows or Mac computer. That’s okay too—it just means we need to use Chrome’s proper plugin instead of the dedicated media manager app for uploading our music collection. Also take note that most Chromebooks only have 16 or 32GB of storage, so you’ll want a portable hard drive or USB flash drive to keep your music on while it uploads on your Chromebook. That said, here’s our guide to uploading music on your Chromebook instead of using a Mac or Windows PC.
Start by heading over to the Chrome Web Store here and make sure you’ve downloaded Google Play Music for your Chromebook. Once this plugin’s been installed on your Chromebook, you want to head on over to Google Play Music in your browser, and open the menu button in the top-left corner of your screen. Find the “upload music” icon and tap it. From here, you can drag and drop any files or folders that contain songs, or you can use a file browser to select from your computer. Your music will automatically begin uploading, though you won’t be able to do any of the advanced stuff we mentioned earlier within the Music Manager settings, including limit your bandwidth being used or enable automatic uploads for new music. Still, this is the fastest way for Chromebook-only users to get their music in the cloud.
But what if you don’t want to migrate your library over to Google Play Music. While Google’s tool might function quietly in the background, it can still be a mighty inconvenience learning to use a new tool just to listen to your music on your computer. It’s for that exact reason that we did some research into any other methods usable for listening to your iTunes library on your Chromebook. Here’s our findings—though we’ll reiterate, Google Play Music’s cloud locker solution is still our favorite of the bunch. Let’s take a look.
Using Chrome Remote Desktop
This isn’t a perfect solution—in fact, it will only work well if you’re on the same network as your own desktop or laptop that contains your iTunes library. But if you’re simply trying to stream your own library over an internet connection, and you can create a stable-enough connection to use Chrome Remote Desktop, Google’s online-streaming app can display your Windows or Mac PC right on Chrome OS with a couple clicks of your mouse. Chrome Remote Desktop comes standard on Chrome OS, and once you’ve signed in with your Google account, you’ll be able to sync your computers together for use automatically. It’s a really useful tool, though you’ll want to make sure you’re on the same network to prevent latency.
Installing Crouton and WINE on Your Chromebook
Crouton is our favorite way to install a Linux distro onto your Chromebook, making it easy to run all sorts of non-Chrome OS applications, including iTunes. It isn’t a perfect solution—Crouton has all sorts of small problems with occasional lapses in stability, driver issues, and the requirement of containing a fairly-advanced understanding of how Linux and command prompts function.
But don’t let that scare you off. If you’re feeling nervous about installing Linux, don’t be—we’ve published a fantastic guide on how to get Linux up and running on your Chromebook, and while it isn’t a perfect solution by any means, it’s also the only way to get iTunes proper running on your laptop. Once you’ve installed Crouton and you’ve booted it up, you’ll want to use a program called WINE for your newly-branded Linux machine. If you’ve never heard of WINE (originally known as Windows Emulator, now known as literally “Wine is Not an Emulator”—yes, nerds are great at naming things), you’re probably not alone. WINE is a program used to get software designed for Windows up and running on Unix-based platforms like MacOS and Linux, and while it can be incredibly useful for certain applications, it’s also a bit complicated, buggy, and technical at its core.
Head over to WINE’s website and download the application for your Linux distro. A quick Google search will tell you if your version of Linux needs any extra software, like “PlayonLinux.” Whatever you need, grab and install it from their respective websites. Once you have WINE up and running, you’ll need the iTunes .exe file to run inside of WINE. Install the program as you would on any other Windows platform, and you should be up and running. iTunes has been known to be a bit buggy when running through WINE, so you might have to try a bunch of different versions of iTunes to get it running properly on your Chromebook.
And obviously, all of this—installing Crouton, WINE, and all the assorted troubleshooting that goes along with both of these—is a bit much when you consider the simplicity of uploading your iTunes library through Google Play Music.
There are a ton of options for getting access to your iTunes library on Chrome OS, but our favorite is uploading your library to the cloud digitally. You can use your library on any device anywhere, you can upload up to 50,000 songs for free, and the quality is often matched at a higher bitrate than what you may have uploaded. The entire product works so well, and it’s such a great value, that we actually recommend upgrading to the paid tier for Google Play Music—the benefits offered are simply too great to ignore. If you haven’t made the jump yet to cloud-based music, now’s the time to do so.
If you need to stick with iTunes, both Chrome Remote Desktop and a combination of Crouton and WINE can really help you out, although neither solution is perfect. Crouton and WINE can be buggy and convoluted, while Chrome Remote Desktop simply mirrors your already-existing laptop or desktop PC. Still, it’s good to know these options exist, even if neither quite come close to the simplicity or straightforwardness we’ve come to expect from Google Play Music. Whether you’re willing to make the jump or not, you should still definitely check out Google Play Music.