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. He is also the 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 watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. 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.