Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Transfer Songs from Your iPod to a Computer

        Tech | How-to Tech

Finding Hidden iPod Music Files

With a few mouse clicks and keystrokes, you can uncover the unseen files and locate your music. By enabling the disk mode on the iPod (see previous page), you can then search for the holy grail: a folder called ipod_control. The ipod_control folder is hidden when you open up the iPod as an external drive.

­Here's how to find it if you use Windows:

  • In Explorer, open the iPod icon in the Removable Disk drive.
  • Click Tools.
  • Scroll down and click Folder Options.
  • Click the View tab.
  • Under Hidden Files and Folders, select Show hidden files and folders.
  • Select Apply, then click OK.

Toggling back to the contents of the iPod disk drive, you should see the ipod_control folder. Open that, and behold the Music folder: it contains multiple folders with clusters of song files. The songs' filenames probably won't be recognizable. That's because they're derived from ID3 tags. Those mP3 tags embed information such as title, artist, last time skipped and other data -- not the original filename. Internally storing music files with ID3 tags allows iTunes to catalogue and cross-reference music more easily [source: Hollington]. On the flip side, the ID3 tags make it harder to retrieve specific songs or albums.

Accessing ipod_control in a Mac takes a little more work. Once you open the iPod icon on the desktop or from Finder, here's what to do on a Mac:

  • Open Terminal.app from the Applications folder.
  • When the Terminal text window appears, type: defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE.
  • Press Enter.
  • Type: killall Finder.
  • Press Enter and leave the application open on the screen.

[source: Buskirk]

The ipod_control folder should then appear in the iPod disk contents. Once you've located ipod_control, create a folder on the Desktop to copy the Music folder contents. Then, import the music into iTunes using the Add Folder option.

Once you find and transfer your music, don't forget to disable the file-showing operation. On Windows, retrace your steps and deselect "Show hidden files and folders." For Macs, type FALSE instead of TRUE in the Terminal application.

To save yourself time and panic of losing your library, it's always a good idea to back up your music. Apple has made that a bit easier with iTunes 8. It includes a feature that allows you to up your entire library on CD. Then, all you have to do is remember where tucked away that disk.


More to Explore