Ask LH: How Can I Transfer Music From My iPod Or iPhone To My Computer?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve just gotten a new computer and want to transfer my music onto it, but I don’t have an easy way to get it off my old computer. Is there a simple, free way I can just transfer it from my iPod or iPhone?Sincerely
Infuriated with iPods

Dear Infuriated,

Computer programs abound for solving this problem, though most of them are either pay apps or needlessly complicated. Luckily, there is one simple way to get all your music off almost any iPod or iPhone, no jailbreaking required. Here’s how to do it.

Note: This works with every iPod except old click wheel iPods that were formatted for use with a Mac. So, if you’re a Mac user and you have a click wheel iPod (as opposed to an iPhone or iPod touch), you’ll still have to use one of the other, more complicated methods.

Step One: Find Your Device’s Music Folder

If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, you’ll need a free program called iPhone Explorer to do this. Just download it, install it, and start it up. Look under User > Media > iTunes_Control > Music in the left sidebar. This is where your music is stored.

If you’re on an older iPod, plug it in and start up iTunes. Click on the iPod in the left sidebar and check the box that says “Enable Disk Mode”. Then, open up Windows Explorer and click on the iPod in the sidebar. If you don’t see the iPod_Control folder, go to organise > Folder and Search Options and hit the View tab. Click the “Show Hidden Files, Folders, and Drives” radio button and hit OK. You should see a folder called iPod_Control show up, in which you’ll find all your music.

Step Two: Open Up iTunes

The iPod_Control folder houses all your music, but it’s in a cryptic and hard-to-understand file structure. This doesn’t matter, since we’re just going to transfer all of it directly into iTunes, and iTunes will sort it out for us. Open up iTunes and head to Edit > Preferences (or, on a Mac, iTunes > Preferences). Click the Advanced tab and make sure both boxes are checked on this page — both to Keep the iTunes Media Folder organised and to Copy Files to iTunes Media Folder. This will ensure that iTunes copies all that music to your computer and renames all your songs for you.

Step Three: Drag, Drop and Wait

Lastly, just click on “Music” in iTunes’ sidebar, select the “Music” folder inside iPod_Control, and drag it into the main iTunes window. It should start copying all of your music over into your library, and when it’s done, you should have everything restored. Note that this method does not restore playlists, videos, or podcasts; you’d need one of the $US20 or so programs to do that (though you can always just re-subscribe to podcasts manually, they’re free anyway).

It isn’t the perfect method, but it’s the easiest, most consistent method we’ve found, and it’s completely free. If this doesn’t give you everything you want, try out one of the programs we mentioned in our guide to copying music from your iPod, just know that you may have to pay for most of them. Good luck!


P.S. Got your own favourite method for getting music off an iPod or iPhone? Share it with us in the comments.

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