There as many applications and methods for copying music from an iPod to your computer as there are iPod models themselves, which makes finding a sure-fire, free solution a matter of tedious trial and error. To save you the work, today we're rounding up the best tools and techniques for getting music off any model iPod onto nearly any computer—for free. Whether you're a Windows user looking to yank tunes from an iPhone, a Mac fan backing up an iPod classic, or a Linux enthusiast trying to get into your new nano, we've got you covered. Follow along for a detailed look at the best ways to transfer songs from your iPod to your computer, no matter what hardware or operating system you're rocking.
Update: This post has gotten a little out of date. For an updated version, read this.
iPhone and iPod touch
While it used to be as simple as enabling disk use on old school iPods to get to the music files stored there, it's not that easy with the iPhone and iPod touch models. Luckily, intrepid hackers have found a way on each platform. Here are our picks for the best ways to get at your music from your touchscreen iPod and iPhone.
Mac OS X—Senuti (beta)
Free Mac utility Senuti could always copy music from regular iPods to your Mac, and a new beta version now supports the iPhone and iPod touch. Be sure to download the beta release (as of this writing, the latest beta is0.50.2b7) and install it on your Mac. Fire up Senuti to get a complete list of songs on the iPhone or iPod touch connected to your Mac. Senuti will put a blue dot next to songs that already exist in that Mac's iTunes library. Select the songs you want and hit the Transfer button to copy them to your computer.
Windows—Jailbreak + SSH (Update: and Winamp!)
Unfortunately, there are no free graphical applications for Windows like Senuti for Mac that can reach into your touch-based iPod's guts and move music around.
Update: We stand corrected. Several readers point out that Winamp's newest iPod plug-in can indeed copy files from your iPhone in Windows without jailbreaking. Thanks, zod000, Scoops, and apprehensive!
Update 2: iPhoneBrowser is also an option for those with jailbroken phones, providing an FTP-like interface to iPhone/touch files with a USB connection. Thanks to emailer Miguel and commenter halfshafter for the tip!.
It's not that hard to get your files, if you're willing to jailbreak your device and do a little file-swapping. Here's how to do it.
Jailbreak your iPhone/touch: Your editors have found the 45-second ZiPhone method pretty reliable, but your mileage may vary. However you jailbreak your device, make sure it has "BSD Subsystem" and "OpenSSH" packages installed through the Installer.app utility.
Get an SFTP application: Unless you want to hack around command-line-style with PuttY or Cygwin, you'll find it easier to get around using an FTP program.Filezilla is a free, easy-to-use option, but any client that supports SSH transfer will do.
Get into your iPhone/touch: Make sure your iPhone/touch has a Wi-Fi connection to the same network as your computer, and that its Autolock setting (Settings->General->Autolock) is temporarily set to "Never" to prevent dropped connections. Find its IP address (Settings->Wi-Fi, then select the checked network), and in your FTP program, put that address in as the Host, and set a username of "root" and a password of "alpine," assuming you've upgraded your firmware at least once (it's "dottie" if not). Choose to connect through port 22 for an SSH connection, and you should get in. You may get a warning related to a "host key," but choose "Yes" or "OK," and check "Always trust this host" or a similar catch-all, if offered.
Transfer the files: I found my iPod touch's music nested deep inside the file structure, at/private/var/mobile/Media/iTunes_Control/Music/. You'll probably find your music there too. Copy all the folders named F01, F02, and so on to your computer. The files have nonsensical names, but they're really your tunes, and iTunes (and even Windows itself) knows it:
Once you've got your files, you can give them back sensible names in iTunes by importing them, then heading to Edit->Preferences->Advanced->"Keep iTunes Music folder organized." Now you've got your iPod's whole music library, organized, and ready to use wherever.
As with Windows, there's no single app that gets you to your music, but you can jailbreak your iPhone/touch in Linux and open it up for wireless access to apps like Amarok or gtkpod for transfers and organization. Head to our guide to Syncing your iPhone wirelessly in Linux for a detailed tutorial on doing just that.
All other iPods
Whether you've got a shuffle, nano, classic, photo, video, or something more old-school, your route to music recovery is decidedly easier than with those fancy-dancy touch models. Here's the best ways to get at your files:
YamiPod works on all three major platforms, but it really comes in handy in Windows. It recently added support for the new-model nano and iPod classic, and boasts a host of great features, including search, preview-play of files, duplicate remover, and more. Better still, it's a small stand-alone program that can run from a USB stick, so helping friends and co-workers recover their music is a snap.
Mac OS X—Senuti (stable release)
For non-touch Apple music players, Senuti is still your best bet. The uber-useful blue dots that indicate a song is already in your collection, a slick interface, full Leopard support—it's great, free software.
If you simply need to grab the music files off an iPod,gtkpod is the tool of choice. It grabs play counts and playlists, ratings and cover art, and can replicate the iPod's entire database on your hard drive. The creators are working on support for the very latest models, but photo, video, nano, and older makes should all function just fine. It's also worth mentioning that the three most well-known Linux music organizers—Amarok, Rhythmbox, and Banshee—can move unprotected music on and off most iPods with relative ease.
If you're a dual-booter, virtualizer, or use your iPod at different home and work systems, you might want to check out two apps that run on Windows, Mac, or Linux, for better integration and matching features:
Songbird: This open-source library organizer from Mozilla, creators of the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client, is looking pretty slick these days. Its latest version supports every iPod (except the iPhone/touch, of course), can replicate your iTunes database, and copying files from iPod to disk is a drag-and-drop affair.
Floola: As Adam detailed in his self-sustaining iPod feature, Floola not only works as a nifty iTunes replacement, but can actually run right off your device's storage drive, making it great for spreading your music to friends, co-workers and the person putting you up on vacation.
YamiPod: As noted above, this slick iPod-copying app works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and easily runs from a USB stick.
How do you copy music from your iPod to your computer? Got a simpler method of liberating songs from an iPod touch or iPhone? Let's hear about it in the comments.