Recently, Apple turned most of its songs from the shackles of DRM, making it possible to play the songs you've bought through the iTunes Store on virtually limitless number of machines. But, Apple's malicious DRM allows for only five activated installations to play the songs you've purchased.
Many consumers complained, but to no avail - the only way to remove a computer from the list is to deactivate it through iTunes. But what happens if your HDD crashes? It isn't impossible that in nine years of iTunes existence you had to endure through several failures or several reinstalls - making it impossible to deactivate that crashed installation of iTunes. Apple's website doesn't allow you to select your previous computer and state that it's dead, lost or whatever, so your total activation count will go down.
Sun's VirtualBox is freeware, and one of most user-friendly VM hosts out there... we hope that Big Blue, the probable future owner won't kill it.
Those who have DRM infected songs and don't want to purchase the DRM-free version, here's what you could do if you have approached the activation limit. First things first, what do you need? The answer is the best part - just the free-of-charge, open source virtualization software and a spare Windows 2000 or XP license.
Let's get started by archiving your iTunes folders found in your "My music" path of your profile. We're well aware that there are options to save your playlists or even the whole media library - but it is not proven to work every time. Our recommendation is Sun's VirtualBox 2.x. Install it on your home machine, reboot and create a virtual machine with that spare WinXP license you have laying around.
What makes this whole thing really interesting is the fact, that you can move your virtualized client to any machine running VirtualBox software. Given the fact that this is a free Virtual Machine application, there is little doubt about the longivety of such solutions. All the machines will be able to play the songs you have activated inside your virtual machine. Also note that even though we used combination of Windows 2003 Server and Windows XP Professional, VirtualBox runs on massive number of operating systems, including all versions of Windows, Macintosh, Solaris and OpenSolaris, OpenBSD, Linux (2.4 and 2.6 kernels)... and you can use the same virtual file in any possible combination. Our only doubt at this point in time is IBM's possible takeover of SUN Microsystems, creator of this software package.
Make sure you have connected your virtual machine to the internet, go to iTunes homepage and install it inside the virtual machine.
Create a share on your virtual machine, allowing you to copy all your songs from the host.
Now, copy your songs to the network share. Once done, deactivate iTunes on your host machine, giving you back that one available activation. Go back to your virtual client and activate iTunes and import your songs. If you have the audio properly set up, you'll be able to listen to them on your host immediately.
Connect the iPod while the VM is loading...
In order to do this, we copied the .vdi file (the virtual harddrive) to eSATA drive and now we can sync, play our iPods, add songs to it and so on. In our case, we are running the same virtual client on our home PC equipped with AMD Phenom II processor and on a notebook with Intel's Core 2 processor. Virtualization simply works on both... Be aware though, because there are a few caveats with this procedure. Virtualization taxes your system, and one of the CPU cores will be under full load all the time. If you want to play games, watch movies or surf the net, we recommend that you have at least a dual-core processor or better.
Voila... you work in your primary system, and iTunes is working in your virtual machine... and they lived happily ever after.
One last catch - you have to configure the host iTunes installation to pass the iPod directly into the virtual client. This will save you from accidental clearing of your iPod/iPhone.