Copy Music from Your iPod to Your Mac Using iTunes

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iPod to Mac - Before You Begin

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

iPod to Mac copying has long been frowned upon by Apple. But since iTunes 7.3, Apple has allowed iPod to Mac copying, for transferring iTunes libraries from one computer to another, and, more importantly in my estimation, for using your iPod as a backup device. After all, your iPod probably contains a complete copy of your iTunes library.

Nevertheless, I don't recommend relying on your iPod as a backup device. I think of an iPod more as a backup of last resort, one that you actually shouldn't ever need to use, because you create regular backups on other media.

You do make backups, right? No? Well, this is a good time to start. If all of your music is on your iPod, your iPod can serve as your backup. By following these instructions you should be able to copy your music, movies, and videos from your iPod to your Mac, using iTunes.

iTunes 7.3 or Later

Starting with version 7.3, iTunes includes a new feature that lets you copy purchased music from your iPod to the iTunes library on your Mac. This feature works with all Apple DRM-protected tracks, as well as iTunes Plus tracks, which are DRM free.

What You Need

  1. An iPod with your content intact.​
  2. A Mac in fully operational condition.​
  3. iTunes 7.3 or later ​
  4. An iPod syncing cable.

Need instructions for a different version of iTunes or OS X? Then take a look at: Restore Your iTunes Music Library by Copying the Music From Your iPod.

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Transfer Purchases From Your iPod to Your Mac

iTunes 7.x
iTunes 7.3 and later lets you copy files from your iPod. Courtesy of Keng Susumpow

Before you can copy music from your iPod to your Mac, you must authorize iTunes on your Mac with the same account that was used to purchase the music.

If your Mac is already authorized, you can skip this step and go on to the next one.

Authorize iTunes

  1. Launch iTunes on the destination Mac.​
  2. From the Store menu, select 'Authorize Computer.'​
  3. Enter your Apple ID and Password.​
  4. Click the 'Authorize' button.

With iTunes now authorized, it's time to start moving the iPod's data to your Mac.

To transfer purchased songs, audio books, podcasts, videos, and movies you buy from the iTunes Store from your iPod to Mac, all you need to do is plug your iPod into your Mac and launch iTunes 7.3 or later.

Transfer Purchases

  1. Plug your iPod into your Mac.​
  2. Confirm that your iPod is mounted in iTunes.

If you have iTunes configured to automatically sync with your iPod, you will be greeted by a sync warning message that will allow you to start the transfer. If you have automatic syncing turned off, you can still transfer your purchased music and other content, using the iTunes menus.

Automatic Syncing

  1. iTunes will display a sync warning message, informing you that the iPod you plugged in may be synced with a different iTunes library, and presenting you with two options for proceeding.
    • Erase and Sync. This option replaces the contents of the iPod with the contents of the iTunes library on the Mac.​Transfer Purchases. This option copies any iTunes Store purchases this Mac is authorized to play from the iPod to the Mac's iTunes library 
  2. Click the 'Transfer Purchases' button.

Transfer Purchases Manually

  1. Select 'Transfer Purchases' from the File menu.

The transfer from iPod to Mac is complete. All of the items you purchased through the iTunes Store and authorized for this Mac have been copied to the Mac. If you want to copy content other than purchased files from your iPod to your Mac, refer to Copy Tunes From Your iPod to Your Mac. This guide will show you a completely manual way to access and copy all of the data on your iPod, not just purchased content.