Apple, true to form, makes it simple to put media and files on your iDevice but the road really only goes one way. It can be pretty difficult to copy anything (or everything) back to your computer without a lot of trouble and sacrifice, but it's even harder to find a good, free solution to that problem amongst the many choices available. You could spend the better part of your week sifting through your options, or you could just read this post instead.
We've tackled this issue before, but things have changed for the better since 2008. Here's a look at your best options for transferring media from your iDevice back to your computer, free of charge. We've broken up this guide into Windows, Mac and Linux sections, so just choose the one that you need.
For quite a while, Windows was bereft of a solid solution to the problem of transferring media from iDevice to computer. Thankfully Sharepod came along and made the world a better place -- at least for those of you Windows users with music trapped on your 'pods. Not only can SharePod transfer the entire contents of your library, but it can also make any changes you want without iTunes. You can download SharePod here. Once you've got it installed, here's how you access your stuff:
- Connect your iDevice to your Windows PC.
- Open SharePod. (If you open SharePod prior to connecting your iDevice it will start looking for it immediately and may conclude nothing is connected.)
- Choose the specific songs/files you want and click the large "Copy to computer" button in the upper lefthand corner of the SharePod window. Alternatively, if you want everything, click the "Backup iPod" button instead.
- A window will pop up and ask you to choose a location. Decide where you want to transfer the music and how you want it to be organised. When you've made up your mind, click the "OK" button.
- Wait while SharePod transfers your music.
That's all there is to it. If you simply want to play music, just double click on any file in your library and SharePod will start playing it. It's incredibly simple to use.
Mac OS X
Mac OS X has long been blessed with Senuti. (That's iTunes spelled backwards, if you were wondering.) Senuti is very simple to use and can transfer your music back to your computer in just a few clicks. Here's how it works:
- Connect your iDevice and open Senuti.
- When you first launch Senuti you'll be asked a variety of setup questions before you can get started. Don't breeze through this process because you'll be asked to set where your music will be copied and whether or not it'll automatically be added to iTunes. You want to know where your music is going to end up when you've finished copying it so don't click through and ignore these options.
- Once you're done you'll see the main Senuti window. It'll look like a simplified version of iTunes, with all your playlists on the left and your music/media on the right. Just search for the songs that you want to transfer, or select them from your library, and click the Transfer button in the upper lefthand corner of Senuti's window.
- Wait while Senuti transfers your music to the location you chose during the setup process and adds it to iTunes automatically (if you decided you wanted it to do this, also during the setup process).
That's it. Senuti is a remarkably simple app that takes no time at all to use.
Linux users should check out gtkpod. As far as we know, it's really one of the only ways to sync an iDevice in Linux at all. It provides in-depth documentation on how to do everything from just connecting your iDevice to copying files back to your computer. Here's how it works, according to gtkpod's documentation:
- Mark the tracks you want to export and select "Export Tracks from Database" from the file menu (or use the context sensitive menu).
- A file selection dialog window appears and you can choose the directory you'd like the selected files to be written to.
- You can specify the output filename in the prefs dialog by specifying a template (e.g. "%A/%a - %t"). You can specify multiple templates for different file formats by separating them by a semicolon (e.g. "%A/%a - %t.mp3;%t.wav"). See the tooltip in the preferences window for a list of identifiers.
Although we haven't spent much time with it, it looks to be your best (and potentially only) option on Linux for managing and syncing your iDevice. If you have experience with gtkpod or another Linux option you like better, let us know in the comments.