Life was good when you had your iPod all synced up with your old computer. Then, you lost that computer somehow. You didn’t care because you had 8 GB of songs safely stored on the iPod, right? Then, you bought a MacBook and thought, “I’ll just plug the iPod in and sync it back to iTunes.” You were greeted by this message:
Now hopefully, you had the good sense to click cancel right away and start googling “how to copy music from your iPod to your Mac” and landed here. I did that and found many confusing, involved tutorials. I knew I was in trouble when I had to start typing in linux man page commands to figure out what the tutorial authors were asking me to do.
If my tutorial does not work for you, try this one. But hopefully, these instructions will work for most people.
Apple does not want to make this easy because then bad people would copy other people’s iPod songs and commit digital piracy. That is not my goal here. I just wanted to get my songs back and consolidate what I had on my Mac (I had ripped dozens of CDs already into iTunes) with what was on the old iPod. Here’s how I did it:
- enable disk use on the iPod
- use the Terminal application to access and copy the source .MP3s from the iPod to the hard drive
- import the MP3s into the iTunes Library
First, connect the iPod and cancel the message asking you if you really want to erase it. Then, in iTunes, select the iPod and click on the summary tab. Check the box to enable disk read. Confirm that you want to do this and understand you will need to eject manually. Click the Apply button to save this change.
Now launch the Terminal application. This puts you in a command-line shell–the opposite of what you might ever expect to see on a Mac. From this point on, you will be typing unix commands, but they are very simple:
- cd – change directory
- ls – list files
- cp – copy files
You should see the name of the iPod like this:
new-host:~ daveatkins$ cd /Volumes new-host:Volumes daveatkins$ ls Macintosh HD USER'S IPOD
If you do not see the Ipod, make sure you clicked the Apply button after checking off enable disk use.
The music files on your iPod are stored in a folder under USER’S IPOD (or whatever yours is called): iPod_Control/Music. They are hidden from the Mac Finder and they are in folders with cryptic names like “FA, FF, FC, etc.”
Copy the music files from the iPod to your hard drive using the following command:
cp -r -X USER\'S\ IPOD/iPod_Control/Music/ ~/Music/copiedstuff
To make this easier, take advantage of the command line’s ability to “autocomplete” text as you type by matching files and folders it knows are valid. Type “cp -r -X US” then hit the TAB key. Then type “ip” followed by TAB. Then type “M” and TAB. Now, type “~/Music/copiedstuff” and hit the RETURN key. This will ensure that the command you enter matches the specific names of folders on your system.
The -X option in the copy command removes extra information from the files that, among other things, make them hidden. There are other ways to accomplish this task, but this seemed the simplest to me. It does not remove digital rights management, it just makes the copies of the .MP3s visible so you can attempt to import them. It is also “safe” because you are making a copy of what is on the iPod so you can verify it works before you risk deleting anything on the iPod.
If you have many music files, the copy command may take a few minutes to run before returning you to the “shell prompt” of “new-host:~ daveatkins$”
When the copying is done, close the terminal application. Go back to iTunes and uncheck the box for enable disk use. Remember to Apply the change. You should now be able to disconnect the iPod without having to manually eject it. Set it aside for “safekeeping.”
Now go to iTunes and choose File…Add to Library and locate the “copiedstuff” folder you created.
Import the music. You may see some messages like this if the files are protected:
Now we are ready for the fun part. Plug the iPod back in and do an erase and sync. The old music from the iPod and whatever you had on your Mac should now be merged on the iPod.