Dumping your entire music collection onto an iPod is a simple, one-click process.
But what about getting your music off an iPod? You’ll find that’s not so easy. Apple’s iTunes software only lets you put the music onto the player, and not the other way around. The iPod/iTunes combo was designed with this restriction built in to prevent piracy and illicit trading. However, there are a number of legitimate reasons you might need to transfer songs from your iPod to your hard drive. For instance, if that fateful day arrives and your PC hard drive crashes, you can restore your music collection without re-ripping dozens of CDs.
Fortunately, there are many applications you can use to get your tunes off your iPod. Some of them are even free, so they won’t cost you a thing.
What You’ll Need
1. An iPod (obviously)
2. Either a Windows or Mac machine.
The simplest method for grabbing tunes off of your iPod is also the geekiest. Just enable the “Disk Mode” feature of the iPod from within iTunes, which will allow you to mount the iPod as a hard drive. Then, you can browse the disk using Windows Explorer or the Mac’s Finder.
How To (Mac)
On a Mac, you’ll need to enable hidden folders in the Finder.
1. Launch the Terminal by going to Applications > Utilities and double-clicking on Terminal.app.
2. Paste in these lines of code:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
3. If you ever want to make the hidden folders disappear again, just run the code again, but change TRUE to FALSE.
How To (Windows)
Similarly, you can copy songs from an iPod onto a Windows PC by enabling hidden folders to be viewed. Here’s how.
1. Open your My Computer directory.
2. Double click on your iPod.
3. Go to Tools > Folder Options > View.
4. In the Advanced Settings list, under Hidden files and folders, check the radio button for Show hidden files and folders. Then click OK.
5. Go to iPod_Control > Music. You’ll see the iPod’s music organized randomly into a bunch of folders. Copy those into your music directory.
Although the filenames of the songs will be scrambled, their ID3 tags will be intact, so you’ll be able to navigate the songs as usual on your computer or another iPod.
While these slightly inconvenient methods work, there are plenty of software apps that make the process of browsing and copying files much easier.
Third Party Apps
Senuti is a free, open-source, Mac-only application that allows you to recover songs, photos and movies from your iPod. Senuti features drag-and-drop transfer of songs and playlists. Senuti also allows you to copy songs from a Windows formatted iPod onto a Mac.
The main downside to Senuti is that it doesn’t recognize duplicate tracks. If you have a playlist with 10 songs on your iPod and the same playlist already exists in iTunes, Senuti will add the same 10 songs again. You can stop Senuti from duplicating the actual song files by choosing “overwrite songs” in the preferences, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop the duplication of songs within playlists.
IPodRip works in both Mac OS X and Windows. It has drag-and-drop support for moving songs from your iPod directly into iTunes, as well as one-click importing to restore a local collection. IPodRip also features a number of nice extras not found elsewhere, such as a database integrity check for your iPod database, an option to export your library information to HTML or XML formats, and the ability to sync metadata between your iPod and iTunes.
IPodRip is shareware, and it costs $15. The unlicensed version will expire after 10 uses. So, if you just need to recover from a hard drive failure or similar one-time problem, iPodRip can do it for free.
This is another cross-platform offering. Copying songs with iPod Access is simple: Just highlight the songs you want to copy and click “Add to iTunes.” The trial version only allows you to transfer five songs at a time. A full license costs $20. When it comes to handling song transfers, iPod Access gives you more options than some of the other programs in the list, including the option to rename the songs in a variety of formats. IPod Access will also only overwrite existing files on your computer if the iPod copy is newer.
This Windows-only app raises the bar somewhat compared to the other programs. It doesn’t just recover files, it also has a whole bunch of additional features like ID3 tag editing and other file management tasks. The downside is that those additional features come at an additional cost — the full version of Anapod Explorer is $30.
Anapod Explorer includes a separate program, Anapod Xtreamer, which allows you to browse your iPod in a web browser. Xtreamer makes it easy to transfer files, not just from your iPod to the connected computer, but to any computer on your network.
Another Mac-only program, Podworks boasts a number of ways to recover your music from an iPod. Podworks can send the songs straight into iTunes by using the “Send All to iTunes” option, or it can transfer songs to any other location on your hard drive. Podworks lacks the desirable-drag and-drop features of other applications, but it does avoid duplicating songs. The shareware app costs $8. There is also a 30-day trail version which is limited to 250 song transfers.
With XPlay there is no bulky interface, no fluff, nothing to get in the way of you and your music. XPlay’s powerful drag-and-drop ability makes transferring music on and off the iPod quick and simple. To copy music off the iPod, simply double click the iPod icon and navigate to the songs folder. Once there you see a listing of all your songs. You can drag-and-drop your music to and from the songs folder. It is that easy.
This is the only tool of the bunch that supports all three major operating systems — Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It’s also free. YamiPod can transfer songs to and from an iPod, and it offers a good range of options for handling duplicates. YamiPod also has some extra features not found in the other programs, including the ability to create playlists and send them to Last.fm. YamiPod can add song lyrics to your tunes, and it also supports Mac OS X’s Growl notification system.