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iPod to Computer: How to transfer from iPod to computer manually

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Posted by Patrick, 8 Comments

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:

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

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:

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

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.

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.
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:

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

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
killall Finder

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.

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

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.

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

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.

Transfer iPod to computer and backup iPod music.

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!

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Tags: Fixes · Tutorials · Tweaks

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tweets that mention iPod to Computer: How to transfer from iPod to computer manually -- Topsy.com // Jan 5, 2010 at 1:38 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by iPod Legends, Patrick Miltner. Patrick Miltner said: Read our new guide, iPod to Computer: How to transfer from iPod to computer manually http://bit.ly/4MiarA [...]

  • 2 How To: Backup Your iPod // Jan 13, 2010 at 1:39 am

    [...] iPod to Computer: How to transfer from iPod to computer manually [...]

  • 3 Emmeline // Feb 25, 2010 at 5:57 am

    thanks so much for this, when my man presented me with his ipod and asked me to ‘sort it on that thing (computer)’ I didn’t have a clue, never used itunes before, never used an ipod before

  • 4 Saudi Arabia // Mar 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks dude, it really helped.

    I was worrying that my IPod content would lost without having a backup, but thanks to you! I’m not worried any more ^_^

  • 5 paisley // May 29, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    my computer wont let me do this. i got as far as changing my folder options then all it said was internal storage… i double clicked on that and it said DCIM which i clicked on, then 2 more folders that just led to the pictures on my ipod. nothing about music or anything. what should i do?

  • 6 pmiltner // May 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    are you using an iPod touch or iPhone?

  • 7 papi12 // Aug 22, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    my computer wont let me do this. i got as far as changing my folder options then all it said was internal storage… i double clicked on that and it said DCIM which i clicked on, then 2 more folders that just led to the pictures on my ipod. nothing about music or anything. what should i do?
    im using the the ipod touch

  • 8 mintay // Oct 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Okay so I was able to go into Terminal on my Mac and show the hidden folders. But now how do I go back and make the hidden folders…hidden?

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