Today’s question comes from a friend of mine who asks one of the most common questions iPod users face… “How can I copy music off an iPod without syncing it to iTunes?”
A well known limitation of the iPod is that it is designed to sync with only one iTunes Library at a time. The general belief is that Apple made it more difficult to copy music between computers to prevent rampant stealing of digital music and appease the music industry.
Nonetheless, there are a number of good reasons you may want to transfer music and playlists off your iPod without breaking the law.
- High capactiy iPods offer a basic backup to your entire music library should something go kaputt on your computer.
- It’s a convenient way to copy your music from one of your computers to another (legally). You could for example copy your music to your computer at work, or copy your imported CDs from your desktop to your laptop.
Fortunately, there are applications for both Mac and PC that make this process simple.
Senuti – Mac
For the Mac, I recommened Senuti which is billed as “Works like iTunes, but in Reverse”. More detailed instructions are available on their site but it’s as easy as running the program, plugging in your iPod, and deciding which music or playlists you want to copy off.
Depending on how you set the preferences, the files will either be copied to a folder on your computer, or imported directly into iTunes.
Best of all, Senuti is free.
An app that comes highly recommended by Lifehacker for serving the same purpose on PC’s is YamiPod (Yet Another Manager for iPod). Unfortunately their site is down at the moment so I’ve not been able to try it out.
Another trick is to simply enable Disk Mode (see below) and view the hidden files on the iPod.
At first glance, your music is hidden and you can’t get at it.
To view your tunes:
- Enable Disk Mode in iTunes
- Open the drive letter for your iPod
- Click Tools -> Folder Options -> View tab -> Enable ‘Show hidden files and folders’
You’ll now be able to copy the iPodControlMusic folder off your iPod.
The Music folder will be incredibly cryptic with strange folders and file names, but if you are using iTunes to organize your music library anyway, it should still recognize the correct metadata (artist, album, etc) when you import them.
Disk Mode for File Transfer
In addition to above, there’s an even simpler way to move files around using your iPod. With your iPod plugged in and selected in the iTunes Source List, check the box for ‘Enable disk use’.
Your iPod will show up on your computer as any other USB drive or memory stick and can be used exactly the same way. The music and playlists synced via iTunes won’t be visible, but you can use the remaining free-space to copy other files.
Just remember to manually eject your iPod before unplugging it.
There’s also one small detail of format to keep in mind. iPod’s can be formatted using a Windows or Mac file system. A Mac can read PC or Mac formatted iPod’s but the converse isn’t true so if you absolutely need to move files between the two, keep this in mind. iTunes will automatically ask you to restore (and reformat in the process) the software on your iPod if it can’t be read.
Ok. That will do it for today. There’s plenty of other ways to do this as well so if you have a particular technique, feel free to post it in the comments below.