How to transfer music from an iPod to a computer: A step-by-step guide

how to transfer music from an iPod to a computer
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Do you still have an old iPod, iPod Touch, or other iOS device lying around with songs that you really want on your desktop computer? Transferring those songs isn’t always easy, especially if you want to mix and match tracks from the old days with your current collection. We’ll show you how to how to transfer music from an iPod to a computer, no matter if you have a PC or a Mac.

Preparation: Check your devices and connect your Apple device

Apple Music or iTunes gift card

Take a minute to check all your software and get your songs ready. Whether you are using a PC or Mac, you will need to install iTunes and make sure that the latest updates have been installed (if nothing else, this adds some quality of life changes that will make the other steps easier). Likewise, if possible make sure that your mobile device is also updated. For older iPod models and iPod Touch devices, updates may have stopped some time ago, in which case you don’t have to worry about it.

Also, iTunes is a little unpredictable in the way it handles duplicate songs, such as copying them twice or giving them different information. Many people choose to fully wipe iTunes before beginning this process, since all the songs they want to transfer are already on an iPod or similar device. However, some people have gone through so many devices (iPod and other) that they end up mix and matching more carefully. Whichever way you choose, get rid of duplicate songs and any other data you don’t want to transfer over.

When you are ready, connect your Apple device to your computer. A typical USB port should work fine for this purpose. There are have some reports of certain USB 3.0 ports not working well with older iPods, so if you run into trouble with a USB 3.0 port, you may want to try plugging into a USB 2.0 port instead.

Again, plugging your Apple device in is likely to bring up some prompts for syncing and enabling certain features. Say no to all of these. Essentially, you don’t want iTunes to make any decisions on its own, especially when it comes to wiping out your song libraries.

Option 1: Activate iCloud Music Library

Apple Music

iCloud keeps getting more capabilities, and one useful feature Apple was careful to include is the ability to manage your music via theApple Music Mobile cloud. The big advantage of this method is that it’s easy: You probably already have all the downloads you need, and moving songs can be a largely automatic process. The downside is that this method only applies to newer Apple devices with Apple Music. If you have an old iPod (especially a model before the iPod Touch) then iCloud probably won’t be able to help you. In this case, move down to our second option. If you have a newer model, follow these steps. Note that your device doesn’t have to be plugged in for this process, so it still works even if you can’t plug your device into the chosen desktop.

Step 1: Turn on Apple Music with your iCloud Music Library, which you can find in the settings sections of your devices or in iTune’s Preferences section on desktop. Note again that this only works with newer Apple devices that can connect to the internet, so particularly old iPods are out of luck here (option 2 can help you out). The iCloud Music Library needs to be switched on for all devices involved, and the same user needs to be signed in. If you haven’t turned on the Music Library before, Apple will ask if you want to keep the music that’s on your device or overwrite it with iCloud’s music. You should always choose to keep the music so you don’t lose songs.

iTunes Purchased Songs

Step 2: On your desktop iTunes app, select Account and then select Purchased from the drop-down menu. This will open up a window of all the iTunes songs you have every purchased on your account.

Step 3: In the new window, in the upper portion, you will see an option to select songs that are Not in My Library. Choose this option to see all the songs that aren’t currently in iTunes.

iCloud Library Music

Step 4: Download all available albums by selecting the cloud-shaped icon in the upper-right corner of the album. Note that this will take up some bandwidth, so a good wireless connection is suggested. After the downloads are complete, those songs will now be in your iTunes library.

Note: As you probably noticed, this method only works on songs that you have purchased with your current iTunes account. If the songs were purchased from another account, you may have to do some account shuffling to get your songs on iTunes. It’s less usual for an Apple device to have songs that weren’t downloaded from an iTunes account at all, but it can happen. In this case, you should try option 2 instead. You can also get refunds on iTunes purchases if necessary.

Option 2: Use iMazing


There are a number of different apps available to help manage music between Apple devices and iTunes: Our favorite is iMazing a freed, up-to-date download that manages all sorts of iTunes media, including songs. It’s compatible with both Mac and PC, and you can even use it instead of the iTunes library for organization. Here’s what to do.

Step 1: Navigate to this page and download the free version of iMazing Music. The pay version is $40, and includes an upgrade to iMazing 2 along with extra features, but if you aren’t planning on using iMazing as your music library (something to consider), it probably isn’t necessary.

Step 2: Open up iMazing Music — the interface will look a lot like iTunes. iMazing should automatically identify your iPod or other Apple device connected to your computer, and bring up its name in the left-hand sidebar menu, similar to iTunes. If it doesn’t, unplug and reconnect your iPod to get things going.

iMazing Connected Device

Step 3: Select your device from the sidebar. This should identify the content on the device in a drop-down menu. Select Music from that menu.

Step 4: At the bottom of the iMazing window you will see several icons for iTunes-related actions you can take. You want to select the option that says “Export to iTunes.”

iMazing Transferring Songs

Step 5: A new window should now open that allows you to fill in some of the details. You can choose to export your entire library, or only export music (selecting the music-only option is a good idea if you have other content on the device). You can also choose to export to a separate folder, or directly to iTunes. Choose iTunes if it is the only music library you use, and select Next. You will also have options to choose what song data you want export — unless you are really short on space, you can leave all song data checked. If you want to save some space and increase transfer speed, you don’t really need Skips or Last Played data.

Step 6: Keep selecting Next to move onto the Transfer section, and confirm you are ready to begin. iMazing will then do the rest of the work.

iMazing Importing

Note: This method should work with older iPods. However, you may need to choose to Export to Folder or a similar alternative to extract those songs. Once exported, you can then import them into your music library using iTunes. We can also help you convert audio files to MP3 files as necessary.

Update: Replaced past options with iCloud Music Library and iMazing. 

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