If you’ve ever needed to backup your iPod music to a new computer, or if your computer crashed and you lost your music, you’ve probably realized that iTunes makes it nearly impossible to transfer from your iPod back to your computer. The only built-in backup feature Apple gives us is the ability to transfer iTunes-purchased music from your iPod back to your computer. Fortunately, there’s a workaround that lets you transfer from iPod to computer by opening up your iPod’s hidden folders and files, and manually transferring the music back into iTunes. All you need is iTunes and of course, your iPod. It’s worth noting here that this method doesn’t work with iPod Touch and iPhone because they store their music in a different way than previous iPods.
iPod to Computer Instructions:
1) Before connecting your iPod to your computer, be sure to set iTunes to not automatically sync. If you don’t do this beforehand, your iPod will sync with iTunes and you’ll lose the songs and other files on your iPod. Open iTunes, go to Edit -> Preferences, then on the Devices tab, check the box next to “Prevent iPods and iPhones from syncing automatically” as seen below:
2) Next, we need to change another setting that actually copies the music from the iPod and into iTunes’ own organized music folders. Go to Edit -> Preferences and on the Advanced tab check the box next to “Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library” as seen below:
3) Now we can connect the iPod to the computer. Once it’s connected, go to My Computer and double-click your iPod device to open up its folders.
4) The folder containing the actual music files on your iPod is hidden, so we need to make sure that hidden files are set to display, if they aren’t already. To do this, go to Tools -> Folder Options at the top of any folder window. On the View tab, select the button next to “Show hidden files and folders” as shown below. If you don’t have a menu bar at the top of your folder windows, you can do this same step by going to Control Panel -> Folder Options and doing the same thing:
If you’re on a Mac, this process is a little more involved. In Mac OS X, open “Terminal” from under your Applications/Utilities folder, and type in the following at the command prompt:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
5) Now we can see the hidden files and folders on your iPod. Enter the iPod_Control folder, and then go into the Music folder. You’ll see a bunch of folders named F00, F01, F02, etc. These folders hold all of your song files on your iPod, and it’s from these folders that we’ll transfer your iPod music back to your computer.
6) Each of the Fxx folders holds a portion of the total songs on your iPod. Your song files are named 4 random letters each by the iPod operating system for whatever reason, but the good news is that the artist/album/song etc. tags are retained for the files. This means that when we import them, iTunes automatically renames them and organizes them without you ever having to modify anything. What you can do now is open each folder individually, select all the files in the folder (pressing control+A at the same time selects all the files for you), and simply drag them into your iTunes window, making sure that the Music window is active in iTunes when you drag and drop the files. iTunes will copy the files into its local music folder and add it to your library automatically. Just repeat this process for each of the Fxx folders, and all of your music will transfer back to your computer from your iPod. Both MP3 and MP4 (AAC) audio files will transfer just fine. Depending on the number of songs you have on your iPod and how fast your computer is, this could take some time. To transfer about 18GB of music to a relatively fast computer, it took me just under an hour. I just checked out some new iPhone apps while I was waiting for each folder to finish and watched an episode of Dexter that I missed.
That should prevent some serious headaches arising from crashed computers or migrating to a new PC. If you need to transfer from iPod to computer but only want to transfer a few specific songs, you can also do a search for those songs. As mentioned, even though the song file names are 4 random letters, the information tags are intact. That means that we can sort by song titles, artists, album titles, etc. To do this, navigate to the Music folder on your iPod (iPod_Control/Music) and search (control+F). You’ll need to make sure that search is set to look for hidden files again, so under “More advanced options” check the box next to “Search hidden files and folders.” You can then just hit “Search” without typing anything, and all of the music files will show in the results (this will be slow, so be patient). Just make sure that your folder view is set to display the artist, song title, album title, etc. fields, and you can sort by whatever field you like and drag and drop your specific songs into iTunes.
Comment below if you have any questions about our iPod to Computer guide, and feel free to let us know if this helped you out!