The best free alternatives to iTunes
There are many positives to owning an iPad, iPhone, or iPod, but there are also a few downsides. For many people, having to battle with iTunes is a major negative there are alternatives.
Whether you're using iTunes to listen to music on your computer, or you're simply using it to keep your music collections synchronized with your Apple device, there are plenty of free alternatives to choose from.
Here we take a look at five such tools – and the great news is that most of them are completely free. In some instances you may have to pay to unlock some advanced features, but for the most part they're completely free.
If you're tired of iTunes, read on to see what other options are available.
An incredible, feature-packed tool for playing and managing tracks – the best iTunes alternative
First, MusicBee has one important caveat: at the time of writing, it's only available for Windows. There are two versions: the regular desktop software, and a portable app that doesn't have to be installed.
MusicBee is more than just a music player; it gives you the changes to better organize and manage your music collection. It will import your existing iTunes library to get you started, but you can also specify other folders to include. In terms of looks, it is not entirely dissimilar to iTunes, but it's also highly customizable – both in terms of screen layout, and through the use of skins. Sound levels can be tweaked using a 15-band equalizer, and you can also sync your music with mobile devices.
MusicBee does a great job of keeping your music collection in order, helping your my automatically tagging files, offering ripping support, and pulling in all manner of helpful data such as album art and track lyrics. There is also a pleasing collection of add-ons to download from the MusicBee website to further extend the capabilities of the program – such as with extra audio tweaking options, network device support, and a host of visualizations.
Download here: MusicBee
Keep even the biggest music libraries in check, and sync with all your devices
MediaMonkey can be used as a near-complete replacement for iTunes; you can even use it to sync music to your iPod or iPhone if you keep iTunes installed (although there's no reason to ever fire it up).
Like MusicBee, the program can be installed in the usual way, or as a portable app if you would like to move it from computer to computer with a USB drive. The interface isn't super-attractive, but when it comes to managing a large music library, the program does an excellent job. Tagging is handled well, and the skinnable, customizable interface will keep most people happy.
If you decide to level up and upgrade to the paid-for Gold version of MediaMonkey (£52.82, US$59.94, AU$85.04 for a lifetime license) you'll benefit from improved performance when ripping, automatic background library updates, and other extra features such as auto-playlists.
For most people, however, the free version should be more than enough.
Download here: MediaMonkey
A streamlined, minimalist approach to music management for all your Apple devices
PodTrans has a very particular approach to replacing iTunes, and it does not do so by trying to replicate all of the features of Apple's software. In fact, it keeps everything very minimal.
The sleek interface focuses on making it easy to copy music between your computer and iPhone or iPod. It's available for both PC and Mac, and the aim is to make everyday management as quick and simple as possible. It may not serve as a complete iTunes replacement, but it certainly goes some of the way and it worth checking out.
You might also want to consider upgrading to PodTrans Pro (£27.99, $29.99, AU$42.35) or AnyTrans (£34.99, US$39.99, AU$56.47), as these allow for greater flexibility when it comes to two-way file synchronization and far better phone management options. But if you're just looking for the basics, there's nothing wrong in starting out with the free version of PodTrans.
Download here: PodTrans
Retro looks conceal a powerful and hugely adaptable music player and manager
You could be forgiven for thinking we've made a mistake in including foobar2000 in this roundup. It's not the most attractive or modern-looking programs ever created, but looks can be deceiving. While the program might look like a blast from the past, it's actually highly customizable and immensely powerful.
It's fair to say that you do start off with a music player that looks basic, and even has fairly basic functionality, but there are endless add-ons available that can be used to completely tailor it to your needs. You can use foobar2000 to extend your music library thanks to support for CD ripping, and the range of supported playback formats is vast. There's also a version for iOS to support the desktop software.
For some people, however, foobar2000 will quickly become too complicated. It can get confusing to have to work with so many plugins, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, the rewards are great.
Download here: foobar2000
Another feature-packed music manager, with advanced tagging and support for mobile devices
Clementine (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) isn't an entirely unique program – it sprang up to fill the void left when the music player Amarok took a change of direction that many users didn't appreciate.
It might not be the most attractive music player and manager (though the same accusation could be levelled at iTunes), but it certainly gets the job done. With ripping, library management, tag editing, music playback, and the ability to copy music to supported devices, it has everything you could want.
Clementine provides you with interesting information as you listen to your music collection, such as the lyrics to the current song, and statistics about how many times tracks have been played by other people on Last.fm. In addition to your locally stored music, you can also use Clementine to tune into online radio stations, listen to podcasts, and stream music from cloud storage.
Download here: Clementine