There as many applications and methods for copying music from an iPod to your computer as there are iPod models themselves, which makes finding a sure-fire, free solution a matter of tedious trial and error. To save you the work, today we’re rounding up the best tools and techniques for getting music off any model iPod onto nearly any computer—for free. Whether you’re a Windows user looking to yank tunes from an iPhone, a Mac fan backing up an iPod classic, or a Linux enthusiast trying to get into your new nano, we’ve got you covered. Follow along for a detailed look at the best ways to transfer songs from your iPod to your computer, no matter what hardware or operating system you’re rocking.
iPhone and iPod touch
While it used to be as simple as enabling disk use on old school iPods to get to the music files stored there, it’s not that easy with the iPhone and iPod touch models. Luckily, intrepid hackers have found a way on each platform. Here are our picks for the best ways to get at your music from your touchscreen iPod and iPhone.
Mac OS X—Senuti (beta)
Windows—Jailbreak + SSH (Update: and Winamp!)
Unfortunately, there are no free graphical applications for Windows like Senuti for Mac that can reach into your touch-based iPod’s guts and move music around.
Update: We stand corrected. Several readers point out that Winamp‘s newest iPod plug-in can indeed copy files from your iPhone in Windows without jailbreaking. Thanks, zod000, Scoops, and apprehensive!
Update 2: iPhoneBrowser is also an option for those with jailbroken phones, providing an FTP-like interface to iPhone/touch files with a USB connection. Thanks to emailer Miguel and commenter halfshafter for the tip! (posted here).
It’s not that hard to get your files, if you’re willing to jailbreak your device and do a little file-swapping. Here’s how to do it.
- Jailbreak your iPhone/touch: Your editors have found the 45-second ZiPhone method pretty reliable, but your mileage may vary. However you jailbreak your device, make sure it has “BSD Subsystem” and “OpenSSH” packages installed through the Installer.app utility.
- Get an SFTP application: Unless you want to hack around command-line-style with PuttY or Cygwin, you’ll find it easier to get around using an FTP program. Filezilla is a free, easy-to-use option, but any client that supports SSH transfer will do.
- Get into your iPhone/touch: Make sure your iPhone/touch has a Wi-Fi connection to the same network as your computer, and that its Autolock setting (Settings->General->Autolock) is temporarily set to “Never” to prevent dropped connections. Find its IP address (Settings->Wi-Fi, then select the checked network), and in your FTP program, put that address in as the Host, and set a username of “root” and a password of “alpine,” assuming you’ve upgraded your firmware at least once (it’s “dottie” if not). Choose to connect through port 22 for an SSH connection, and you should get in. You may get a warning related to a “host key,” but choose “Yes” or “OK,” and check “Always trust this host” or a similar catch-all, if offered.
- Transfer the files: I found my iPod touch’s music nested deep inside the file structure, at
/private/var/mobile/Media/iTunes_Control/Music/. You’ll probably find your music there too. Copy all the folders named F01, F02, and so on to your computer. The files have nonsensical names, but they’re really your tunes, and iTunes (and even Windows itself) knows it:
Once you’ve got your files, you can give them back sensible names in iTunes by importing them, then heading to Edit->Preferences->Advanced->”Keep iTunes Music folder organized.” Now you’ve got your iPod’s whole music library, organized, and ready to use wherever.
All other iPods
Whether you’ve got a shuffle, nano, classic, photo, video, or something more old-school, your route to music recovery is decidedly easier than with those fancy-dancy touch models. Here’s the best ways to get at your files:
Mac OS X—Senuti (stable release)
For non-touch Apple music players, Senuti is still your best bet. The uber-useful blue dots that indicate a song is already in your collection, a slick interface, full Leopard support—it’s great, free software.
If you simply need to grab the music files off an iPod, gtkpod is the tool of choice. It grabs play counts and playlists, ratings and cover art, and can replicate the iPod’s entire database on your hard drive. The creators are working on support for the very latest models, but photo, video, nano, and older makes should all function just fine. It’s also worth mentioning that the three most well-known Linux music organizers—Amarok, Rhythmbox, and Banshee—can move unprotected music on and off most iPods with relative ease.
If you’re a dual-booter, virtualiser, or use your iPod at different home and work systems, you might want to check out two apps that run on Windows, Mac, or Linux, for better integration and matching features:
- Songbird: This open-source library organizer from Mozilla, creators of the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client, is looking pretty slick these days. Its latest versoin supports every iPod (except the iPhone/touch, of course), can replicate your iTunes database, and copying files from iPod to disk is a drag-and-drop affair. (Original post)
- Floola: As Adam detailed in his self-sustaining iPod feature, Floola not only works as a nifty iTunes replacement, but can actually run right off your device’s storage drive, making it great for spreading your music to friends, co-workers and the person putting you up on vacation.
- YamiPod: As noted above, this slick iPod-copying app works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and easily runs from a USB stick.
How do you copy music from your iPod to your computer? Got a simpler method of liberating songs from an iPod touch or iPhone? Let’s hear about it in the comments.
Kevin Purdy, associate editor at Lifehacker, has been meaning to clean The Magnetic Fields off his iPod for some time now. His weekly feature, Open Sourcery, appears weekly on Lifehacker.