September 27, 2006

Rebuild a Lost iTunes Library from an iPod?

Option 1:
Assuming you're moving files legally between your own computers, check out iPodAgent at

Option 2:
The manual way around this problem is to use the iPod in its alter ego - that of portable computer disk drive.

Start with the iPod disconnected from the computer


  • Open iTunes
  • Open iTunes Preferences - this blocks iTunes from seeing an iPod connection; leave the preferences window up and running
  • Connect the iPod to the computer, wait about 15 seconds before continuing
  • Open 'My Computer'
  • Tools menu, Folder Options, View tab, enable 'show hidden files /folders'
  • Open iPod icon in My Computer
  • Open iPod_Control folder
  • You should see a folder named Music
  • Drag this folder to somewhere on your computer hard drive
  • After the copy completes, right-click the new Music folder on your hard drive and select 'Properties'
  • Cear the checkmark next to 'Hidden'
  • Close that explorer window
  • Eject iPod from System tray "Safely Remove Hardware" icon. This icon looks like a small gray rectangle with a green arrow floating above it. It's only there when a removable device (like the iPod in this case) is attached to the computer.
  • Right-click & select 'Safely remove..', then click 'Stop' in the next window, OK in the next window, and then Close to complete the ejection.
Disconnect the iPod from the computer
  • Go back to iTunes, cancel the preferences window
  • File menu \ Add folder to Library \ find that Music folder copied over from the iPod

Your iTunes library should be back in action! But wait - there's more!!

Long time forum regular Otto42 has a java script/program that can also retrieve the playlists themselves from the iPod as well. Here are his instructions and a link to the most recent thread discussing this tricky process:

This is really useful when you're pulling all the songs off of an iPod to put them back into iTunes, because you lost your library or anything along those lines.

Download this program:
(If you can't download it, try again later. The connection goes up and down a lot.)

Now, put the iPod into Disk Mode or otherwise access the iPod as a drive. Make sure you can see hidden files, then go to the drive and the iPod_Control folder and find the iTunesDB file. Copy it to your PC.

Put the copied iTunesDB file in the same directory as this program, then run the program. It'll read the iTunesDB, get all the playlists, and create an XML file for each one. Now just import those XML files into iTunes to recreate the playlists.

(1) The songs in playlist must already be in the iTunes library. If any one of them isn't there, iTunes throws up an error when you try to import the XML file.
(2) The song names, artist names, and album names in the library all must be identical as to what the iPod has. If you just copied all the music off the iPod and into iTunes, this will be the case, so it's generally not a big deal. but you'll get an error if it can't find the song in the iTunes library, so it's something to keep in mind.
(3) It probably won't be able to cope with unusual characters in song names. Dealing with unicode is way annoying.
(4) Smart Playlists get changed into regular playlists.

And there you have it. I picked these instructions up somewhere along the way, and they've just been sitting here on my computer. I thought someone out there might find these useful at some point in time - I know I will.


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