Xbox Music Pass and Zune Pass use different DRM, not directly compatible for syncing? [Updated]

Update: And just like that our Xbox Music app updated and is now auto-importing Zune Pass content. So it works going forward, but Xbox Music does not DRM sync back to Zune--yet.

Eck. Looks like there’s going to be a headache for some of us as we upgrade and merge to Windows 8 (and Windows Phone 8) regarding music. Turns out, Zune Pass music doesn't like to import into Xbox Music and vice versa.

The problem is thus: when you open Xbox Music on a Windows 8 PC, it won’t recognize your Zune Pass content, which for some of you could be quite substantial.  There is supposedly a work-around that involves creating a playlist in Zune Desktop of just your Pass music and then using Xbox Music to import that, resulting in a re-downloading of your music.  You can try that via this tutorial at

For us however we were able to get the playlist into our Xbox Music where it played but we couldn’t import the actual albums/songs, leaving us unsatisfied.

The reverse is true too. If you download tunes via Xbox Music, those songs will not show up in Zune Desktop meaning you can’t sync them to your Windows Phone.

We have a feeling this is related to a change in the DRM capabilities between Zune and Xbox Music. It’s also the difference between Windows 8, Windows 7 and the respective Phone versions too, making this probably a somewhat necessary hurdle to overcome as Microsoft progresses with these updates.

What is unfortunate of course is that there is no immediate solution we have to fixing this problem, especially if the “import playlist” trick doesn’t work for you.

What we can tell you is that Zune Desktop won’t be the sync client for Windows Phone 8 and there will be other options for Windows Phone 7 on new PCs running Xbox Music. In other words, we think this is a temporary issue that is gaining ground only because some of us are running Windows 8 (preview release or RTM) with “legacy” hardware (phones) and “legacy” sync software.

Syncing error

We can’t guarantee that this specific issue will be resolved (or at least discussed) next week in San Francisco but we do know Zune Desktop won’t be the preferred or recommended sync method for Windows Phones on Windows 8.

As to how to get Zune Pass music to show up in Xbox Music, we’re not too sure just yet. Though you can try that aforementioned tutorial to see if it helps.

Guess we can't download the app

We should also mention the Xbox Music app for Windows 8 is perhaps not 100% ready yet either. For this story, we heard there was a newer version just released but we didn’t have a notification. So we uninstalled Xbox Music. When we searched the Store for the app, we were told our PC doesn’t meet the requirements (we’re running an i7 2.8GHz on an SSD Lenovo, so that’s not it).

Point is, this stuff may not be a complete “go” just yet so we may want to watch on the sidelines for a while.

Thanks, d3lueCs, for the tip

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Hope it all comes clear between now and Monday.
  • It won't. Zune User will get the shaft. This is how I vew it will turn out. Xbox Music is Microsoft future music player. They want Zune to just die out. They won't kill it though due to all the people grandfathered into the Zune Pass account that gives you 10 free song credits. The song credits can't be used in Xbox Music so MSFT needs to keep Zune up. I saw that my zune pass was transferred but not my song credits. I will be using Xbox Music for all my music now but I will keep Zune just to use my song credits. I am pretty sure MSFT is going to release a program to manage your windows phone.
  • I'm guessing they will bring your Zune purchase/pass history over to Xbox Music software through your Microsoft account. You may have to delete all of your Zune pass files if you are no longer using Zune and re-download them with Xbox music...
  • There's an option within Xbox Music to automatically download music that you have downloaded to other devices, so that will probably take care of this.
  • While that could be 100% true, it's not ideal.  I fully expect the Music app to recognize and support Zune content.  I don't expect the Zune Desktop client to support or recognize Xbox Music content.
  • That will be the saving grace for what would otherwise be a huge pain in the arse!
  • If it's able to show a list of previous songs and auto download, ita not a big deal. Sometimes to adapt a new system they have to make changes. If you don't want the headache then just keep using the crappy Zune software. People seem to complain no matter what. We are getting a more superior service, just be happy with that!
  • To be honest Xbox Music on my Lumia 900 isn't really an issue for me since there are new phones comming, the thing that I want is Xbox Music for Zune HD as there  is no replacement for that coming in the near future.
  • Yeah, uninstalling it was a mistake;  you should've gone to the Settings charm, then "App Updates" and manually checked for an update.
    That being said, if you create a new user, that new user's profile will have the old Music app installed, which can then be updated to the release version.
  • The confusion and lack of cohesiveness between W7/WP7 and W8/WP8 when it comes to Xbox Music is ridiculous. I guess Microsoft thinks that they can use Xbox Music as a selling feature for new devices, but I really can't see anyone buying a new computer or phone just to use Xbox Music.
    If Xbox Music comes out for iPhone and Android as assumed (which I think would be a good idea) it will be even more ridiculous that W7 and WP7 aren't supported.
    Every time it seems like MS has finally "got it," they seem to find new ways to screw up.
  • You can just use Zune on w7/wp7?!?
  • But what if you have  WP7 device and a W8 computer? Or a W8 device and a W7 computer? Or a W7 computer, a WinRT Surface and a W8 phone? You'll need to use a combination of Zune and Xbox music that could be pretty confusing.
    It would be much, much easier if you just used one program to do everything for both WP7/W7 and WP8/W8.
    On a somewhat related note, I'm sick of the attitude that just because you don't absolutely love every move that a tech company makes, you should "calm the he11 down." I've heard people tell others to "leave Windows then" just because they had a suggestion or felt annoyed by some aspect of the ecosystem.
    I like Microsoft products. I will continue to use Microsoft products. But that doesn't mean that everything they do is always 100% right.
  • I absolutely agree with this. As an owner of a WP7 device, I recently upgraded my Windows 7 machine to the Windows 8 Pro RTM. Just getting my old music from Zune -> Xbox Music was a headache. In fact, I think installing Zune caused my audio drivers to be unusable from Metro apps so I had to reinstall W8 again. I manually downloaded all the songs I wanted.
    My phone no longer plays Zune Pass content since the account is now apparently Xbox Music and needs to be retethered to a machine for the licenses to update. But I will need to install Zune on W8 for that to work and I don't want to do that in case my audio drivers get messed up again.
    The ideal solution would be to retire Zune entirely and release Xbox Music for Windows 7 and WP7.
  • I just updated my music app in Windows 8 Pro and all my music purchases where there automatically. Kinda neat actually.
  • So....what exactly is someone with a Windows 7 PC and a Windows Phone 8 device supposed to do? I have a HUGE catalog of music downloaded with my Zune Pass. Am I expected  to redownload every single song to get it to play on my Lumia 920? 
    Conversely, how can I play songs downloaded on my Lumia 920 onto my Windows 7 PC running Zune software? 
    Microsoft, did you really not think this out and assume that everybody buying a Windows Phone 8 device would also buy Windows 8 PCs or upgrades at the exact same time?
  • +1 I know I am going to be having the exact same issue/question once I get my 920/ATIV/8X or whatever I end up buying. I do not have a plan right now to upgrade to windows 8 on my desktop.
    If anyone has any background information on what the almighty msft is doing about this I would love to hear it. Or just point me in the right direction :)
  • I'm pretty sure MSFT really wants everyone to upgrade from 7 to 8, which is why they are making it so cheap initially. I believe that is going to be the best solution, unfortunately.
  • Yup, it appears that way. Zune software does not support Windows Phone 8 devices and the only software you get on a Windows 7 PC is a crap sync software or the ability to just manually drag/drop files onto your device. Fortunetely the lumia 822 I just purchased has expandable memory so this won't really be much of a headache. So far as I can tell my xbox music account/zune music pass are the same now so I have no issues downloading music onto my phone free of chrage via my music pass. 
    I'll eventually upgrade to windows 8 but the support they have for Windows 7+Windows Phone 8 devices sucks :(
  • I too have become very frustrated by the lack of proper support.  I don't expect Zune to recognize Xbox Music content, but I fully expect Xbox Music to support Zune content. BTW, you do know you can force a check for app updates by bringing up the Charms bar, selecting Settings, then App Updates, then Check for Updates button when in the Windows Store?
  • "I too have become very frustrated by the lack of proper support. I don't expect Zune to recognize Xbox Music content, but I fully expect Xbox Music to support Zune content." This. I'm really disappointed with the lack of support for WP7 beyond that God-awful new Start screen. From what I'm reading in Microsoft's content, it appears SmartGlass won't be made available for WP7 either. They've basically frozen everything pre-Windows 8 and made the old and new ecosystems completely incompatible.
  • Sorry, but nothing you said is true.  The Zune Marketplace will still exist for Windows Phone users, the Zune Pass is AUTOMATICALLY converted to an Xbox Music Pass.  Only new features like the Xbox Cloud Storage Locker is not available for Windows Phone 7.x or Zune.
  • The new W8 music app also has free Pandora. I'm digging it :)
  • Ehh thats okay, i was planning on starting everything over... fresh!
  • Its not o.k. There is a lot of us that can't afford everything at the same time. If HTC releases a pure Nexus next week. I will just get that. I bought a 32gb Nexus 7 for $250 and im loving it. Windows 8 seems so phucking confusing now. I guess I'll just use my Windows 7 for back up. This sucks!!!!!
  • I'm running windows 8 RTM and just updated to the latest version of Xbox music, the full feature version. This version DOES match all your Zune music pass content and all of it is playable in the Xbox music app. Problem solved.
  • Same here. Just updated the Xbox music, and it suddenly started to import all my Zune music. So it seems it has been fixed. :) A lot of Windows 8 app updates today, and the apps are slowly becoming usable.
  • When you say "import" all of your Zune Pass music, do you mean it read it off the hard drive where previous it did not OR that it started downloading it from Microsoft's servers?
  • That is an interesting question. I asume it would just play it from the hard drive. All my ZunePass Music is the Music Library. But that is not the case. It is streaming it. If I try to open a file from my ZunePass music folder in the Music app, I get an error and the song will not play. In the Xbox Music app the songs have a Cloud on them, and there is a Xbox Music Cloud setting in the settings. The options are Syncronice this device with other Xbox music devices, and If I add songs to other devices, download them here. XboxMusic also automaticly dowloaded the music I have bought on Zune. They are in the bought folder in Xbox Music. If you play with the settings, maybe you can get it to redownload all the music.
  • Crap I should have updated before manually redownloading everything. :/
  • Anybody notice the phone in the image. What phone is that?
  • Doubt that is a real phone just a marketing render.
  • yes the music ap issue appeared a bit ago, yo ucan reinstall it by going to your your installed apps section, under apps not installed and reinstall it that way.  My big question is, Is there a way to select and artist from your downloaded collection and then review music by browsing the artist cds?  and of course is there a way to browse artists with out scrolling? in sune you could type the name of the artist and it would go there, in the zune software on the phone you could tap a letter and it wouold go there.  This so far doesnt work on the xbox music app for windows 8.
  • You can search for the artist using the Search Charm.  Then in the results you can select "My Music" to limit the results by what is in your own collection.  Then you can select "Albums" to only see albums.  Previously, searching only showed you what was in the Xbox Music service, and if you clicked on any of it, it would stream.  And searching for an artist would previously only give you the option of playing songs by that artist (without the option to select a specifc album).  Luckily they fixed all of that.  I keep the My Music section sorted by "date added" and "album".  That simulates the "Albums" view in Zune (or the "Artists" view when no Artist is selected.  So that's the quickest way to get to all of my recently added music.  For anything else, I use the Search Charm.
  • So music downloaded DRM-free is safe. Cool.
  • chea chea :) DRM Free thats whats up
  • I have just got an update to xbox music today....and it looks like it has automatically recognised a lot of my zune pass music with out me doing anything.....playlists came in the last update, so I guess they are getting there.  Can't really say if it has all of my zune pass music yet (I have quite a bit of it)
  • So I have to soil my new Windows 8 PC with Zune just to sync my 5 month old Lumia 900? How do podcasts work in the new desktop software?
  • I have 6982 Zune Pass songs in my collection right now, I just checked. Syncing the playlists I have on Zune using Pass songs to a WP8 device better be hassle free. There's no way I want to download all of those songs again just to get them  to work on my new phone.
  • LOL @ 6982 songs, you need to get out more :P
  • Most of my music listening is in the car and at work, but I use a Zune HD and my WP7 for that, so I can listen to my Pass songs anywhere. I've also been a Zune Pass subscriber since 2007, so I've had a lot of time to build that up.
  • Also noticed that the new xbox music app has free music pass for 6 months. Way to go Microsoft!
  • Compared to the Zune App this "new" Music app is simply horrible and to me an embarrasement for MS.  Collection Management, Marketplace, all suck...
    Like many I have a large collection of ripped, and/or subscribed ZunePass content on a server.  In my case it's a Windows Server 2012.   The Music app fails horribly at reading that library.  It will show 1 cover as an unknown artist with thousands of songs in it.   It only identified a small portion of my subscribed content - like 15 albums.  
    If I launch the Media Player from Win8 desktop it finds everything perfectly with all the correct metadata and plays fine..     
    I just amazes me that with the resources available to MS that they can't seem to figure this out.
  • This music app does suck.However, the problem described in this article is non-existant for me, with the exception of ONE song (hilarious to me is that it's the song that Microsoft uses for its IE commercials, haha). Other than that, all my zune pass songs seem to work on Xbox Music without any problems. Anything I download on Xbox Music doesn't seem to appear in the Zune player - strange (it's in my music folder), but it doesn't matter when I prefer zune for downloads anyway. Running Windows 8 RTM btw.
  • All my Zune subscription tracks have been working in Music in Windows 8 Pro RTM for me for the last month or so.
  • I wanted to check how my music fared with the new update by loading up the W8 partition I have, but W8 apparently decided to commit suicide and will no longer boot up. Oh well, I'm certainly not going to deal with fixing the install now when the upgrade will be available in a few days.
  • Ughh, does the music app still have the cool mosaic patterns like there were in the zune client when you were playing songs in your collection on the desktop?
  • This is why I still buy CDs. No problems ever.
  • I have a feeling that this will be remedied at some point, but it may take some feedback/reviews to accomplish it. I'll be submitting it today for those who can't yet. That said, why are all of you so worried? You know it will get fixed, AND you know that you can still run Zune Desktop software the same as you always have. Take a walk outside if you don't believe me... the sky is still up there, and it hasn't fallen.
  • Unacceptable. Hopefully there is a real solution, not a workaround. If you want your products taken seriously, be precise in all aspects. I don't believe anyone should be waiting for purchased products to finally work as advertised.
  • I paid for the whole year.. Im buying the surface on Thursday so you telling me my songs on my phone won't syc to my surface?? If this will be the case im skipping this w8 release that's FUCKED UP msft
  • "we’re running an i7 2.8GHz on an SSD Lenovo, so that’s not it" - wrong, it requires an ARM CPU: Release notes Xbox Music
    Read more Recommended hardware   Supported processors ARM
  • I just installed the latest Music App on Windows 8 today, and all of the songs that I *purchased* with my Zune Pass automatically showed up in My Music in the Music App.  All of the songs I've downloaded via the Zune Pass Subscription (with DRM) on my PC or WP7 did not, and that's exactly what I wanted it to do! 
    I actually don't want it to automatically download the DRM songs, only the songs that I own.  If I were on a tablet with 16 GB or 32 GB of storage, all of my subscription music would consume too much free space.
  • I'm interested to see how this works for my convoluted setup. I'll be using an Xbox and Windows 8 machine at home, Windows 7 Zune Desktop at work and a WP8 and WP7 for mobile music, all with a legacy $15 Zune pass. I'm assuming the Xbox, WP8 and Windows 8 will all sync automatically when I download content, but nothing will be shared with the Zune desktop and my old Titan.
  • Sync your libraries using SkyDrive and that may link them more efficiently...doing that for me has almost pretty much guaranteed my stuff moves without loss. =)
  • I'm not interested in getting an Xbox, but I love my windows phone, and I love the Zune concept for my phone. If I don't get an Xbox, what will happen to my music when I get windows phone 8?
  • You should be fine. It'll load like normal Zune and mist likely prompt you to sign in using windows live id. That's all Xbox Music is really, just a windows live ID that ties together your downloaded music, you don't actually need an xbox..
  • Alright, I got my W8 partition to work and made sure to sync over some Zun Pass songs with the Zune client as well as a playlist with some pass songs on it. On the old Music app it only saw Zune Pass songs that were in a playlist and played them fine. I then updated the app, now it doesn't see any Zune Pass songs at all. When I try the same playslist as before it now wants to make me download the songs again or stream them. This is stupid.
    I just wouldn't bother with the music app at all, as I find Zune superior in every way, but I fear what this means for my new WP8 device when I get it.
    On a somewhat unrelated note, a single that I bought through Zune is apparently now no longer available in the store. Instead of using the built in data contained in the track the music app decided to match it with something else in the store with the same album name. Now it shows some artist I've never even heard of in my collection, yay.
  • I downloaded one song in Zune a  couple of days ago and it won't play in Xbox Music App. However a single I download in Zune today works just fine in the XboX Music app. Unfortunately I don't have access to the Xbox Music marketplace, there's no trace of it, and I have updated the App today. That's probably because Xbox Music hasn't premiered in my country yet, Zune was never offered, and Zune Music pass had been available for purchase for a few days by mistake mid-october. I managed to get the 30-day trial and  it showed up on along with Xbox Live Gold. I was even able to briefly manage it and disable the renewal. That loophole seems to have been closed too, and now clicking on manage shows the classic "not available in your region screen. Now interestingly, the display name of the subsription on the aforementioned page has changed from Zune Music Pass to Xbox Music Pass (and the cool zune logo is gone). Luckily after applying the featureoverride registry keys I can stream and download music in Zune Desktop and also have access to the social tab. Well at lest until November 12th when my Pass expires, and gods only know when the new service will be offered. So far it has completely gone underground - there was a website announcing it at but now it's gone, lulz.
  • Is this actually the case? I've not really had any such problems as of yet, it might just be taking some time to convert...most of my music has gone back and forth between the music services. I've only actually lost stuff in the shuffle but most of what I grandfathered in has stayed. Even stuff I didn't actually have on the device, by backing some files up on my SkyDrive...thought I would give that a try. I think it has more to do with libraries, organize on the desktop and find out ;)
  • Exactly what I am doing...watching from the sidelines...I've played with XBOX Music some but can't even get it to sync playlists between devices..simply will not do it!