How to Copy Songs from an iPod to a PC

If you’ve recently experienced a computer crash, a massive loss of memory, or another technical catastrophe, the last thing on your mind is probably your digital music collection.

Once you’ve waded through the software mess and stabilized your PC, its time to figure out how to get your tunes back. Hopefully, you backed up your collection on an iPod or other .mp3 player. If so — have no fear, you can get your precious songs back onto your new (or newly refurbished) machine in no time — and you have several options to choose from.

Most people think that it is impossible to transfer music files from an iPod — probably because this is not the standard method of travel for their music. If you’re like me, you make purchases on a PC via iTunes, then “sync” your music collection up with your iPod later. But when its time to move music from your digital player back to your computer, do not fret. Not only is it possible, its incredibly simple.

Transferring Your iPod Library

If you’re like me, you’re a bit wary about downloading one time use files or shareware, and would rather transfer your iPod library on your own, without outside assistance. Believe it or not, for many Mac and PC users, this is quite possible, though there are steps to take to ensure your machine and your files are safe.


Before you decide to manually transfer music from your .mp3 player to your computer, create a backup of all the files on your computer. It would be a shame to lose your tax information, important work documents, or just that awesome hacked version of Civilization 4 you have in the process of transferring your music. What we’re going to be doing to your computer is a bit tricky, and its possible that you could corrupt some files in the process of your music transfer.

To create a backup of all your “stuff”, you have some choices. There are commercial programs, like Carbonite, that offer to create a backup of your files and store them on the internet for easy access from anywhere. There are all kinds of hard drive backup assisting programs on the market that constantly save your hard drive info to a “zip” file for easy backup. You could also go through the lengthy task of manually “burning” all your important files to CDR, or storing your entire hard drive on a series of USB “thumb drives”. If you’re lucky enough to own an external hard drive, you can easily back up your entire hard drive on that bad boy and move right on to the next step. If you don’t have an external hard drive, I suggest heading to your local big box store right away and buying one — there are plenty of low cost choices these days. The point is, before you try to transfer your music collection, backup your info.

What we’re going to be doing in order to complete the music transfer is to undermine the design of the iPod. Anytime you use a tool in a way it wasn’t designed to be used, you risk damaging or breaking it. Having said that, I completed this kind of file transfer recently myself with zero problems, no damage to my hard drive or my iPod, and so have hundreds of thousands of other users. But you should know before you jump into this process that you’re “bending the design” a little.

The first step — allow your iPod to connect to iTunes without “auto syncing”. This is really easy. Hold down the “Shift” and “Ctrl” keys while connecting your iPod to your computer. Without letting go of the “Shift and Ctrl” keys, allow iTunes to startup (if it didn’t startup automatically when you plugged in your iPod). You’re still holding “Shit” and “Ctrl” while you wait for your iPod to appear under the “Devices” tag on the left menu bar of iTunes.

Once your iPod appears, you can give your hands a rest. Its now time to locate the hidden music files on your iPod and copy them to a folder on your computer. Click “My Computer” from the “Start” menu and locate your iPod — usually, it will appear as drive E: F: or G:, depending on how many devices or drives you run. Click the iPod drive ONCE to “highlight” it — you’re not trying to open the device here, just to access it. With the device highlighted, click on the “Tools” menu and select “Folder Options”. In “Folder Options”, four tabs will appear — the only one you’re interested in is the “View” tab. Under the “View” tab, you will see a box marked “Show hidden files or folders”. For most of us, this box will be unchecked — this is what keeps you from seeing the music files on your iPod through your computer. Check this box, press “Apply” and then “OK” at the bottom of “Folder Options”.

Go back to your iPod drive, and double click it to open. You’ll see a folder there called “iPod_Control” — open this folder. What do you find contained in this folder? Like magic, a folder named “Music” has appeared — normally hidden from view. When you open this folder, you’ll see all sorts of files and folders with funny names — usually F00, F01, etc. These are your music files, and when you run your mouse over them, the names of the files will appear. This is your music, compadre, and its time to move it over to your computer.

Create a new folder on your desktop (by rightclicking any empty space on the desktop and selecting “Create New Folder”), and name this folder “Music” or something that you’ll recognize later. Back at the iPod “Music” folder, select what songs you want to copy to your computer. If, like me, you want to copy it all, simply press the “Ctrl” key and select each folder or file that appears in the “Music” folder. Once all the files have been highlighted, head for the “Edit” menu and select “Copy”. Remember that folder you made on your desktop? Minimize all your other windows, find that folder on your desktop, right click it, and select the “Paste” option. Congratulations — you’re moving your iPod library over to your computer. Depending on how many files you’re moving, this could take quite a while. My 8 gig Nano, full of music and videos, took about half an hour — so use that as a guide. While your computer is completing this transfer, it would be a good idea to just let it do its work. Step away from the PC and grab a drink, comb your hair — do anything but play around on your computer.

So your transfer is complete, and all your music is in the new folder you created on your desktop — have no fear, the hard work is done. Open iTunes, open the “File” menu, and select the “Add Folder to Library” option. Your computer will prompt you to pick a folder to import — select the folder that’s full of your precious iPod collection. Again, this process may take some time. Don’t be alarmed if your iPod becomes a bit warm during this transfer process — my brand new 8 gig nano got alarmingly warm, but I placed it on a cool dry cloth during the transfer and nothing terrible happened.

Before you know it, you’ve moved all your music files from your .mp3 players back onto iTunes.

Some users will find they aren’t able to do this transfer manually — this is why there are shareware and software programs that have been written to assist you.

Using Programs to Transfer Music

Some benevolent people out there have created various pieces of software that will assist you in transferring your iPod library to your PC. Below are a few of the most popular music transfer programs currently available. What I like about these programs is that they works for PC, Mac, and Linux operating systems. They are all free to download and use, and many of them are currently available in updated versions, meaning the creators have done some work to improve the programs over time. They help you pull the songs off your iPod and can create a file on your computer that contains the songs for you — basically, they take the dirty work out of the above process. Consider these programs “Music Transfer for Dummies”. They all work a bit differently, and you can pick which one you want to use after looking over their websites. I chose Yamipod, as it was the smallest file to download and seemed easy to use. I’m happy to report I successfully transferred all of my iPod files with no trouble and no damage to any systems or to the hardware itself. The four programs I most recommend are:

As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when you decide its necessary to transfer files from your iPod or other .mp3 players to your PC, or even to your Mac or Linux machine. Just be sure to backup the files on your hard drive, and proceed with caution. If you wake up one day and find you’ve lost your iTunes music collection — don’t panic. Follow the above steps, and you’ll be listening to your music again in no time.