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Should you use iTunes on Windows 10 in 2017?

For many, iTunes on Windows has felt more like a punishment from Apple for not using a Mac than a piece of software you actually want to use. For a company at the forefront of design, iTunes has always been the ugly duckling.

Except it hasn't ever grown into a beautiful swan.

Now on version 12.6, what's the current state of iTunes on Windows? Is it still something you should actively avoid or has Apple worked some magic and made it a great piece of software.

Let's attack it from both angles.

The case for using iTunes on Windows

iTunes on Windows

The biggest case for using iTunes on Windows at all was always that you owned an iPod, and later and iPhone or iPad. The iPod began its life as a Mac-exclusive product but had Apple not put iTunes, the essential companion software on Windows, it's unlikely that it would have seen the immense success it did.

While there are benefits to using iTunes for certain things with a modern day iOS product, it's no longer the requirement it once was. It is, however, an essential piece of software if you buy any content from Apple's digital store.

The only way to get at music and video you buy from the iTunes Store on your PC is through the iTunes desktop app. You can download your music, for example, and listen to it in other apps such as the built in Groove Music player on Windows 10. But you'll still need iTunes to get that far.

Beyond content you've bought, if you're a subscriber to Apple Music on any of your mobile devices, or you want to listen to Beats 1 (which isn't a bad radio station as it happens), again, you'll need the iTunes desktop app on your PC.

It's mostly an ecosystem play. If your content all comes from Apple, then you're going to need iTunes.

The case against using iTunes on Windows

Groove Music

In simple terms, the opposite to the points above. If you're not invested in Apple's content you don't really need to worry yourself with using iTunes on your PC. There are better apps out there for ripping your own CDs, likewise the Groove Music app built into Windows 10 is nicer to use.

Even if you only want to get at music you've previously bought, the Groove app is cleaner and less of a chore to use, and will play all your iTunes music as well. And honestly, iOS is so well supported, even by Microsoft, that you don't need to get your content from Apple to enjoy it on an iPhone or iPad.

Unless there's a specific reason you have to go into iTunes to get something, it's a download you don't really need to make.

I'm going to use it, so what's it like?

The running joke for some time is that iTunes is just a complete dumpster fire. The truth isn't so simple or brutal, but there are still areas that will frustrate. For example, music you've previously purchased and can access through the cloud doesn't just show up. Instead, you have to go into the Store tab and access your purchases.

Why? Microsoft doesn't do that with Groove, it's just an unnecessary complication. And the iTunes user interface is fairly cluttered, too, away from the more modern stylings of the Apple Music areas.

iTunes isn't the most user-friendly application you'll come across, either. There are plenty of features inside, but nothing is particularly obvious and most is buried inside menus. Most jarring when it comes to design, though, is that Apple Music and your own iTunes library look completely different. There's not much cohesion going on. Compared to Groove, where everything follows the same design language, all the time.

It can also be something of a resource hog. I fired up Task Manager several times while using iTunes and it was using over 20% of the CPU — to play music!

iTunes on Windows

It's not all bad, though. The mini-player is actually nicely done, looking more akin to something you'd find in iOS than the dated look you'll find over the of iTunes. And despite different parts looking completely different, the Apple Music area is nicely done. It looks fresh, modern, and above all it's fairly intuitive to use.

What would be best all round would be if Apple split out Apple Music into a standalone app, like when Beats Music was the thing. Apple Music is a great service and it's nice to use, but it's dragged down by the rest of the iTunes experience a little.

The bottom line

iTunes isn't as bad as it once was, but it's still hard to recommend someone actually use it. If you give Apple your money in exchange for content, then you'll have to use it and for the most part be okay with that. So long as you can look past the obvious flaws.

But if you just want an app to listen to your own music and rip your CD collection, there are better ways. One of them is built right in to Windows 10.

Download iTunes for Windows (opens in new tab)

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

55 Comments
  • No.
  • Never ever
  • Do people even still use it on Mac? What is the point these days with streaming everywhere? Local content is just a pain to deal with.
  • Only if you are using iProducts... It's super simple for me to move MP3s to my phone using file explorer, plus its already paid for. I'm sure Android is probably the same way.
  • It has been years since I have had to manage actual files. Google Music made everything so easy. Once you upload it, you can access all your music immediately on any computer or device, no syncing or transferring or anything like that. It is just there and just works. I have been using it for years, don't even keep local copies anymore. I can't think of any reason to. I assume Groove does something similar.
  • You people are sick in the head at WC
  • I think a main reason people have iTunes on their PC is to synchronize music to their iDevice.  Covering alternatives to do that would be useful. 
  • When I stopped using my iPod due to moving to a Smartphone I totally ditched everything Apple related on my PC. iTunes was a freaking nightmare whenever I wanted to do something, I even used to have issues synching music with it.
  • I use it to purchase albums not in Groove, and I have my iTunes folder set to store in OneDrive, so as I buy and download albums from iTunes, they automatically show up in my Groove collection...
  • There is no "i" in Groove, so No.
  • Every single day, at least one article to irritate to the core! What is wrong with this site? I wonder, where is the article on s8 for today?
  • Try to be nice.....
  • "Should you use iTunes on Windows 10 in 2017?"
    One answer and only one possible answer here: F*CK NO.
  • iTunes is feature-rich, reliable and free, Groove is no match except in appearance. Windows Media Player is a lot closer but I suspect Microsoft will kill that off soon...plus its ugly too I guess. Haven't used Zune but I hear it was decent but they killed that already it seems. As was said earlier, if the article had mentioned alternatives it would be nice; to knock the guy in first place with no suggestions seems a bit odd.
  • Reliable? I have had my entire library deleted at least 5 times, to the point where I make weekly backups for the next time they delete everything. It goes through my library and assings "Album Ratings" to everything without a way to turn it off, it crashes frequently (I have 50,000+ songs so they have problems with large data sets), it is slow doing basic operations such as removing their auto-assigned music from my 1,2,3,4 star playlists, and when I am done with their mess, it will not even shut down properly claiming that other apps are using it when it was the first and only app I installed after wiping and reinstalling my new XPS15. iTunes is just a cluster fu** that Apple keeps shoving more and more crap into, and has made it a mess in the process.
  • When I had Itunes on Windows 7, it crashed and reset itself constantly. On W10 works reliably, for me anyway. It's not everyone's cup of tea. My brother doesn't like it either.
  • Just to be clear, I'm saying iTunes is way more functional than Groove. Its a full music managment tool and player, Groove is just a player. The article makes it seem as though Groove and iTunes are in the same category, but they are not. I don't think they are any free equivalents to iTunes for Windows. When I say reliable I mean that iTunes always plays my music and always allows me to manage and sync the files. I just need Groove to play the music and it doesn't always do that for me. I reset my Groove playlist a couple days ago to solve another problem it had, and now certain sounds in my newly created playlists won't play either because I need music pass (which i dont), or due to media rights, or it just says "oops something went wrong on our end try again later". My issues with iTunes are never around such basic functionality.
  • I'm not a fan of iTunes on Windows, but you need it if you own an iPhone or iPad, whether it's your own or work issued. "But if you just want an app to listen to your own music and rip your CD collection, there are better ways. One of them is built right in to Windows 10."     Is this referring to Windows Media Player?   Because you sure as hell can't rip your CD collection in Groove.    
  • No talk about watching movies on Itunes? For music, I now use Android (RIP W10M) and it's a simple thing to drag my music into a directory folder on my phone and listen to it with any of a bazillion music players. The only thing I really use Itunes for is watching movies on my desktop or Ipad. While the interface needs help, it does work well and Itunes makes it easy to manage and share movies between my devices. The other thing Apple did well was to make it easy to activate the 'Digital Download' option when it was more common to buy movies on disk. I have a bunch of them sourced that way and will always need Itunes to watch them.
  • Same reason here, use it to get the newest movies and buy some Music.
    Using it on Windows is mostly a pain, Starts slow, opens the store very slow....
  • Every other device you could simply copy files, music, podcasts, images & videos with a USB cable. Then this bloatware came along and over complicated everything. How Apple drew a following on iPods/Pads with this software bewilders me.
  • iTunes on windows gives me playcounts and user defined smart playlists.
  • I use iTunes because I have an iPod Touch. I used to also use it because of the playlist management abilities. But Apple has completely broken playlists where they decide for you the ratings of songs, and hiding the star system for a heart system (remember how Apple fans mocked Zune when they did that?). Then they continuously try to force Apple Music down your throat even if you turn it off, they copied metro design and copied it poorly. Just all around, Apple is trying to force me out of their ecosystem, and I am all too happy to be pushed out.
  • If you have an iPhone or iPad, iTunes is the easiest way to make a full encrypted backup of your device (https://www.macrumors.com/how-to/encrypt-ios-device-itunes-backups/). That said, I don't think iTunes should ever be used to buy or play media on Windows.
  • iTunes is not that good, MB is better. But Groove, really???
  • I use iTunes only for syncing files and music to my iPad. I also prefer iTunes' music charts. It is up-to-date with popular and trendy music. However, I don't, and probably never will, use it as a dedicated music player. The UI isn't very user friendly and it's still horrendously slow.
  • The iTunes Music Store definitely has better pricing, though, than the MS Store. It also has the "complete my album" feature which the MS Store doesn't. MS forces you to buy an entire album even if you own 1 or more of the songs, or they direct you to paying for a Groove Music Pass. At least Apple has this 'complete my album' feature. Pricing across the board is much cheaper in iTunes, sorry to say.
  • Where's the daily S8 article?
  • "here's why you shouldn't use iTunes on Windows 10." **Includes an iTunes download link**
  • I wondered that, suggests not to use it. Then has a link at the bottom.
  • I might use it if you put  a gun to my head. I might...
  • I only use it to see my old movies and TV purchase. Do not load you digital copies to iTunes you will never be able to free them. Unless there is a law suit which finally freed up the music years ago from iTunes.
  • Groove music runs better than iTunes, I know, I used both
  • I use iTunes for two reasons: 1. Airplay is the easiest way to stream audio to multiple areas of my house. Even on Android.  2. It's much easier to sync my playlists and music to my phones using doubletwist & my iTunes library than any other method I've tried. 
  • True story: I reluctantly installed iTunes on my Surface 4 to help my now-ex reset his iPhone. I had the application on my system for only a few hours -- just long enough to reset his phone -- and immediately uninstalled it. After that, my computer started acting funny, sluggish browsing, problems opening/running applications, just generally poor performance issues that weren't there before. This went on for weeks until I finally wiped the whole system and started fresh. Everything's back to normal now, but I will never again install another "i" product on my system.
  • Agreed, iTunes really does hork up Windows machines semi-permanently.  The only way I've found to really uninstall it (short of the really painful full reinstall you went through) is to go back to a restore point prior to installing iTunes.  As crazy as it sounds, I think I'm going to do a monthly installlation of iTunes, backup my iPhone, and then restore to before the installation.  That's a major PITA, but should keep me from having to reinstall everything, which as you noted, is the only other way to really get your PC back...
  • I stopped using iTunes in 2007 when I retired my iPod photo. Once I got a Nokia N95 8GB an iPod became useless to me.
  • I use iTunes since the Apple Music subscription is only 5 CAD per month for students. I would consider paying for Groove Music Pass, but only if the streaming quality wasn't so horrible. Even Apple Music sounds bad compared to Spotify.
  • I used to buy music from Apple a long time ago, back when it was encrypted 128mb/sec. Times have changed and I don't buy from there anymore, the ONLY reason I have it installed is to listen to music I'm considering buying, as it's possible to skip parts of the song previews. Since my partner's Apple account got hacked, and after Click and Buy folded, I won't ever give them my payment details. They don't even support PayPal. I've never owned nor never will own any Apple products
  • No
    .
  • iTunes can stream to an apple tv for playing on a home stereo. And you can remote control iTunes with a variety of phone/tablet apps. I have purchased TuneBlade which will stream groove music to an appletv, Is there anyway to remote control what is playing on groove?
  • Only use it to backup/restore when switching out iPhones for people at work. iCloud backups are rarely current or complete.
  • No! It's terrible, always was. Groove baby, groove.
  • Yuck. No.
  • Oh look, here comes Richard with another iphone article LOL
  • I disagree, I've been using iTunes on my Windows PC since iTunes first launched. LOVE every second of it. I literally have over 25,000 tracks of music and well over 300 movies not including TV Shows. Never had an issue with it what so ever.
  • Never , never again.
  • Nope its 2017. Zero Apple software and hardware at my home.
  • I've actually started using iTunes a lot more on my Surface Book after Apple updated the program to support high DPI displays. Every point in this article is true. It's a real resource hog and some parts are kind of unintuitive. But it's still good software for centralizing and organizing your offline music library and the Apple Music portion is fairly nice. As not only a hardware company, Apple should really show some love to all of it's supported platforms. 
  • Call me biased, call me a hater, but iTunes is the reason why I decided Apple products weren't for me. I just hated it. I'll never touch it again.
  • I tried iTunes several years ago and it was nothing but trouble. Even my sister who is a full-on iFan hates iTunes. I'll never go back to it.
  • I use to sync my ios devices. Nver use it to play music tho.
  • Nope.
  • Doesn't the "Windows Phone app for desktop" force you to use iTunes to manage syncing with phone? That's how I remember recently being forced into the iTunes world. Since, you know, the perfectly amazing Zune app no longer synced with newer Windows Phone/Mobile devices.
  • On WP8.1 that went out the window with WM10. They had a good selling point at that time to try and get IPhone users over to them.