Zune for International Users
So you are now one of those people who found out about Zune and got really turned down by Microsoft for preventing us to access the device and the Marketplace just because we do not live in the US? Don’t worry because I have the ultimate workaround.
Since the released of Zune Software 4.0 and the integration of Zune Marketplace to the Xbox 360, Microsoft has stepped a big leap forward into the Music and Entertainment industry. The Zune Software 4.0 is user-friendly and much more responsive than its competitive the iTunes in the Windows platform and the Zune HD device is awesome and feels much more robust than the current iPods. And thanks to the Zune Pass, the Zune Marketplace now provides unlimited number of music at the tip of your hand to listen to or download, of course, with DRM lock. The Zune Pass cost only $15 USD monthly but the problem is that if you are not based in the US, you won’t be able to enjoy the Zune Marketplace, heck, you won’t even be able to buy Zune. To be fair to the Microsoft folks, I think those roadblocks were necessary for license music in the Marketplace whether the Zune team really wanted to block international users or no.
In this article I’m going to talk about how to own a Zune HD and get yourself hooked up with the Zune Marketplace with the full features of Zune Software 4.0 just like living in the states.
Get the Zune HD
Officially the Zune HD is supported and sold only in the states but you could find sellers in ebay that would happily sell it and ship it to your country but for an extra profit.
Another alternative is to buy Zune HD through Amazon or any other retailer and ship it to a “shipment forwarder company” in the states that ships anything they receive under your name to your home address. Basically, those types of companies will provide you with a US mailbox and an address, and if anything is mailed/shipped to that address it will be forwarded and shipped to your home. I personally use Aramex’s Shop&Ship but if you cannot use Aramex for any reason, you could always use DHL since they provide a very similar service. This kind of shipping service is available in my country and I’m not sure if it is available everywhere.
Grasp the Full Potential of the Zune Marketplace
Zune HD can play all music and videos in that’s already in your hard disk and playable by Zune Software 4.0. Now, here what really made me ditch iPod and iTunes, it is the Zune Marketplace. The main reason I made the move from iTunes to Zune Software is that I can get unlimited music with Zune Pass as I mentioned previously.
Now it is time to do some changes in your computer. Follow the next instructions before opening the Zune Software for the first time. You can download Zune Software from here.
Accessing the Zune Marketplace
In a typical non-US computer you won’t see the Marketplace & the Social tab in Zune Software, however, you could easily solve this by setting your location to US. To do that, go to Control Panel –> Clock, Language, and Region –> Change location, then select your location to “United States” [Windows 7].
Now you should be able to see the Marketplace tab after restarting the Zune Software.
Get a Windows Live Account
Now you need to register for a Windows Live ID which is the generic account for all Microsoft services, or you could just grab a new Windows Live or Hotmail email which is also considered as a Windows Live ID. You could use your existing Live email.
Just ensure that in your profile your home address is set to US. You could use any US-based address you want. Heck, you can use any of Microsoft offices address
If you followed previous instructions you should be able to browse the Zune Marketplace and play with it. But wait! We are not done yet. Follow next instructions if you want to be able to buy Music and download them.
Note: To login successfully in your Zune Software, your PC location has to match the location in your Windows Live profile which should be US by now.
Purchasing Music from the Zune Marketplace
To purchase Music from the Zune Marketplace you’re going to need Microsoft Points which is the currency being used for the Zune Marketplace and it is also the same currency being used for the XBox 360 Marketplace. You can purchase Microsoft Points online by the Zune Software but the problem is that Zune Marketplace only accepts US-credit cards. Fortunately, I was able to overcome this roadblock with the Xbox point card.
You can purchase an Xbox point card by either asking a friend from US to buy one for you and send you the card code, or you could head to ebay and buy one. Some sellers in ebay will just email you the card codes regardless of your location which is perfect for a fast solution. I personally buy from GSG online retailer because I’ve bought several Microsoft Points from him already so I trust him, and he usually send the code in less than 24 hours.
Now that you have the card codes, launch Zune Software in your PC then go to Settings –> Account –> Redeem code. Enter the code and you’ll be redeemed with Microsoft Points which can be used to buy anything in the Zune Marketplace.
You could also use those points to purchase videos on the Zune Marketplace but you’ll need to workaround it more to download videos. I’ll talk about it later.
Want to enjoy the ultimate experience of Zune? Then Zune Pass is your salvation.
Again, the Zune Marketplace will not accept a non-US credit cards so you won’t be able to purchase Zune Pass on your own. It took me a lot of Googling (Bing suck!) to figure out alternatives which is the Zune Pass Anywhere retailer. It provides you with a Zune Pass but for a higher price and they will need to access your account so you’ll have to submit your password. Basically, they will access your account and buy a Zune Pass.
Alternatively, if you have a friend in the states you can ask your friend to buy you a Zune Pass card from Best Buy for $15 and email you the card code.
So far you should be able to download music yourself with no problem. The experience is not complete without the ability to purchase videos from the Zune Marketplace or downloading it. Easy, get a VPN (aka Virtual Private Network) for as low as $40/year from some firms.
I use Witopia but there are many other companies that provide VPN and you probably could even find lower prices. But you have to ensure that the VPN is based in the states. By the time I write this article it seems that the video download works even when the VPN service provide you with an anonymous-IP.
As soon as the video starts downloading, you won’t need VPN anymore. If your VPN connection is slow, you could pause the download then disconnect your VPN connection and resume the download with your regular connection.
After doing the first download, it doesn’t seem to need VPN anymore to download any additional videos. I don’t know the actual reason behind it but I can guess that because I have already purchased a Zune HD and linked it to my account.
What Microsoft has done with Zune HD and Zune Software 4.0 is really incredible. If you were one of those lucky people who own a Zune HD and Zune Software, you officially own the modern device and software. They are both much user-friendly, easy to use and feels much more modern than the iPod-like interface. If you are a tech-savvy you are probably bored from the iTunes and iPod interface which feels really out-dated. You would also notice the big gap in performance with Zune Software 4.0 compared to iTunes 9.1.
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