Reluctantly, I use iTunes as I have an Apple phone and I want to keep it synchronized with my PC. As with most electronic devices that sync with your PC, you are stuck using the proprietary software needed to communicate with the device. iTunes isn’t all that bad, but I set out looking for good alternative to iTunes and here is what I found.
In this guide, I look at seven iTunes alternatives and compare them side by side to give you an option to use them as an alternative to iTunes.
Seven iTunes Alternatives
The seven programs I picked:
- Foobar 2000
- Froddle Pod
- Media Monkey
Each of these programs performs different tasks with different objectives; however, I chose these for a couple of reasons: they can communicate with Apple hardware (read: sync) and can play music, as a media player, on my PC. To expand the perspective from my needs to a more general iTunes replacement, I’ve broken key requirements into four categories:
- OS Compatibility
- Media Formats
- Device Sync
- Key Features
The remainder of this guide will compare these programs, side by side, in these categories.
Even though this is a Windows site, I’ve listed compatibility with Windows XP, Vista, 7, Mac OS X, and Linux.
All seven programs work with Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (Froddle Pod’s homepage does not list Windows 7 compatibility but I got it to work.)
Songbird’s support for Linux is now dropped, leaving YamiPod as the only option for Linux without the use of WINE.
I really don’t use iTunes for much more than playing music, syncing my phone, and purchases (which can be done via 3G/Wifi through the App Store and iTunes apps.) Here are some of the more commonly-used features of iTunes:
- Album art
- Media tagging
- CD ripping
And here’s how the alternatives stack up with these features:
Media Monkey wins by a mile here as it packs all these features and many more (even more if you purchase Media Monkey Gold.)
iTunes plays most types of media and if it’s to be replaced, so should the replacement. Here’s a breakdown of media playback compatibility of the seven programs:
Songbird has the biggest base of audio playback support and is the clear choice if your library contains all file types. Froddle Pod states it “play[s] audio and video formats supported by the iPod (except Quicktime format)”, which I’ve taken to mean at least MP3 and AAC (dependant upon your iPod.)
The most prominent feature keeping me “tied” to iTunes is being able to sync my phone. To sync to your Apple device, you need specific hardware drivers, which come bundled with iTunes. If you don’t want iTunes on your PC (that’s the whole point of this guide right?), then you can do the following:
- Download iTunes.
- Rename your downloaded iTunes.exe to iTunes.zip.
- Open up the zipped file and extract QuickTime.msi and AppleMobileDeviceSupport.msi.
- Install both programs.
Without having all the devices to hand to test for compatibility, I relied on information given by the publishers of the seven programs listed. Thus, this list is as accurate as the information on the product pages.
Foobar works with most devices (but not all firmware) and compatibility list is available here.
Songbird has officially dropped iPod support.
I can’t recommend one program over another as it all depends on the needs you have when looking for a replacement. I think I’ll still use iTunes (even after really enjoying these programs) as my wife also syncs her phone with our family PC and we have iTunes sharing our libraries throughout the house.
Although none of these programs proved victorious for me, I hope you find one you like. Which programs did I miss? Do you think you’ll stop using iTunes in favor of one of these programs?
Here are the current download links for all seven programs.