Recover Your iTunes Music Library From Your iPod

You Can Restore Music by Copying the Music From Your iPod

Your iTunes library probably contains a large collection of media, everything from music and videos to podcasts. Many of us have iTunes libraries that are quite large and represent years of collecting, especially music.

That's why I always recommend being very diligent about backing up your Mac, and your iTunes library.

But no matter how often you back up your data, something can always go wrong. That's why I've assembled a list of last-resort methods that can help you restore much of your iTunes music library by using your iPod.

If your iPod contains all or at least most of your tunes, you can copy them back to your Mac, where you can then import them back into your iTunes library.

The process varies, depending on which version of iTunes you're using, and, sometimes, which version of OS X you have installed. With that in mind, here is our list of ways to copy music from your iPod back to your Mac.

This list also contains a guide to moving your iTunes library to another drive or another Mac, as well as an easy way to back up just your iTunes library. That way, you may never need to use the iPod recovery method.

1
Copy Tunes From Your iPod to Your Mac (iTunes 7 and earlier)

Copy Tunes From Your iPod to Your Mac (iTunes 7 and earlier)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This guide to copying your iPod music to your Mac will work for iTunes 7 and earlier, and is specifically designed to copy all your music, regardless of whether or not it was purchased from the iTunes Store.

This guide uses a manual method of moving the music from your iPod to your Mac. You can then use iTunes to import the music files into your iTunes library.

2
How to Transfer Purchased Content From Your iPod to Your Mac (iTunes 7-8)

iPod Nano (3rd generation)
Your iPod probably contains all your iTunes library data. Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty Images

For a long time, Apple frowned on users copying music from their iPod to their Mac’s iTunes library. But when iTunes 7.3 was released, it included an easy method for restoring music that you purchased from the iTunes Store.

What’s nice about this method is that you don’t need to dig into Terminal commands or mess around with making files visible. All you need is a working iPod that contains your purchased music.

The instructions in this guide will work for iTunes 7 through 8.

3
How to Copy iPod Music to Your Mac (iTunes 9)

iPod Family with Steve Jobs
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

If you're using iTunes 9 and OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or earlier, this guide will show you how to copy your iPod's music library back to your Mac.

You'll be using Terminal to make invisible files appear, and you may be surprised to discover the arbitrary and scary naming convention that Apple uses for iPod music files. Luckily, iTunes will sort it all out for you, so don't worry if your favorite song is named BUQD.M4a in iTunes. Once you import the song back into iTunes, the embedded ID3 tag will be read, and the correct song and artist information will be restored.

4
Copy iPod Music to Your Mac Using OS X Lion and iTunes 10

iPod Touch
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

OS X Lion (and later), along with iTunes 10 and later, introduced some new wrinkles to copying media files from an iPod to a Mac. While the basic process remains the same, locations and menu names changed around a bit.

You can still transfer purchased music very easily just by using features built into iTunes. The manual method of copying everything is also supported; it just changed up a bit for the new version of OS X.

5
Move Your iTunes Library to a New Location

Move Your iTunes Library to a New Location
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

I access iTunes, and its library of music, video, and other media, just about every day. I listen to a bit of music while I'm working, watch videos when I'm not, and crank up the volume when no one is around.

One nice thing about iTunes is that there's no upper limit to the library size. As long as you have sufficient storage space, iTunes will happily grow the library to meet your needs.

Unfortunately, many of us, especially those of us who actively collect music, quickly discover that the default iTunes library's location on our startup drive is a poor choice. As the library grows, the startup drive's free space shrinks, and that can affect the Mac's performance.

Moving your iTunes library to another volume, perhaps an external hard drive dedicated to your iTunes library, may be a good idea. If you're ready to move your iTunes library to a new location, this guide will show you how to move all the data while retaining all of the meta data, such as playlist and rating information.

6
Back Up iTunes on Your Mac

Back Up iTunes on Your Mac
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Backing up an iTunes library can be as simple as running Time Machine or another third-party backup application. But even if you have a backup system in place, it's a good idea to create a dedicated backup of certain key application data.

Backing up the iTunes library is fairly simple, although you'll need a drive that is large enough to store all of that data. If your iTunes library is big, you may need to buy an external drive and dedicate it to iTunes backups.