How to Copy Music From Your iPod to a Mac

Transfer your music library along with movies, podcasts, and videos

While Apple has discontinued making all iPods except the iPod touch, there are still plenty of older iPods in use or available secondhand, such as the iPod Classic, Nano, and Shuffle. iPods are great devices for storing music and other media, and many users hold their entire music library on their iPods.

If you want to enjoy your iPod tunes on a new Mac, or if you lost or accidentally deleted media files from a Mac, it's possible to transfer your iPod music library, including movies and videos, and add these files back to your iTunes library on your Mac. The process differs depending on what version of iTunes you're using.

The information in this article applies to older iPods only, including the iPod Classic, Nano, or Shuffle, not the iPod touch or iPhone. We're addressing only the transfer of legally purchased iTunes content.

For iTunes Version 7 or Above

If you're using a newer version of iTunes, the process is easy. First, prevent iTunes from syncing with your iPod, and then transfer your iPod music library to your Mac.

Prevent iTunes From Syncing With Your iPod

Before you connect your iPod to your Mac, it's important to stop iTunes from erasing your music while syncing. Since you can't download music from an iPod to iTunes, connecting the device will overwrite your iPod music library with the contents of your iTunes library unless you turn off this feature.

For Macs running macOS Catalina and newer, open the device in Finder and uncheck Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected.

In other macOS versions, before syncing your iPod, open iTunes and go to iTunes > Preferences. Select the Devices tab and check the box that says Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically. Select OK and close iTunes.

Now you're ready to transfer your iPod music library to your Mac.

Transfer iPod Music Library to a Mac

  1. Open iTunes on your Mac.

  2. Select Account > Authorizations > Authorize This Computer.

  3. Select Authorize. Your computer is now authorized to accept transfers.

  4. Connect your iPod to your Mac using the sync cable, and then select your device.

    If your iPod drive appears empty, you must reveal hidden files and folders on your computer. On your Mac, hold down the Cmd + Shift + Period keys to toggle hidden folders on or off.

  5. In the window that appears, select Transfer Purchases. If you don't see Transfer Purchases, select File > Devices > Transfer Purchases From [device].

  6. Your music will automatically transfer from the iPod to your Mac.

For Older Versions of iTunes

If you're using a pre-7 version of iTunes, the process is a little more complicated.

Disable Syncing in Old iTunes Versions

To disable syncing, hold down the Command + Option keys while you're connecting your iPod to your computer. Don't release these keys until you see your iPod display in iTunes. This will stop iTunes from automatically syncing when it detects the iPod.

This action is only for iTunes versions earlier than 7. Don't perform this step if you're using iTunes version 7 or higher. See above for instructions for newer iTunes iterations.

Find and Copy Your Music

The Music folder on your iPod contains your music, movie, and video files. The folders represent your various playlists, and the files in each folder are the media files, music, audiobooks, podcasts, or videos associated with that particular playlist.

The filenames aren't intuitive, but the internal ID3 tags are all intact, so iTunes can read them.

  1. Connect your iPod to your Mac and double-click the iPod icon on your desktop, or select the iPod's name in the Finder window's sidebar.

  2. Open the iPod Control folder.

  3. Open the Music folder. The Music folder contains your music, movie, and video files.

  4. Use Finder to drag and drop the files to an appropriate location, such as a new folder on your desktop called iPod Recovered, for example.

  5. Drag the Music folder from your iPod to the newly created folder on your Mac.

  6. The copying process will begin. It could take a while, depending on the amount of data on your iPod.

Add the Recovered Music Back to iTunes

After your files have copied to the new folder, add them back into iTunes.

  1. Select Preferences from the iTunes menu.

  2. Select the Advanced tab.

  3. Place a checkmark next to Keep iTunes Music folder organized.

  4. Place a checkmark next to Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.

    iTunes preferences
  5. Select OK.

  6. From the iTunes File menu, select Add to Library.

  7. Browse to the folder that contains your recovered iPod music.

  8. Select Open. iTunes will copy the files to its library and read the ID3 tags to set each song's name, artist, album genre, etc.