Apple’s iTunes Match has long been the simplest way to gain absolution for your past music-downloading sins, letting you replace all those old MP3s you got from Napster with shiny, higher-fidelity copies of the same tracks. But iTunes Match costs $24.99 a year and requires using iTunes, so I know it’s not a great option for all of you.
Google’s Play Music service, however, can work that same kind of musical magic alchemy for free — even (as a reddit thread taught me) with old iTunes Store .m4p files locked up by Apple’s digital-rights management restrictions.
To use it, first install the Google Play Music extension for Chrome; alternatively, you can use the free but wonkier Music Manager app to scan your entire iTunes library and then upload all of it or just particular playlists. If you’re using the extension, click the menu icon at the top left corner of Play Music’s window, click Upload Music in the left-hand column you’ll now see, and drag the files you want to convert into the browser window. In the app, just follow the onscreen prompts. To see the songs you uploaded, click “Last Added" in the left-hand column.
If Google can match a track — which is not a given; in one test, it was able to do so on only 23 out of 112 ancient, DRMed iTunes purchases — you should see “Fix Incorrect Match” in the menu that appears when you click the three-dots icon to the right of a song’s name (yes, this is a clunky setup). From that same menu, click “Download” to get that high-quality version back to your computer.