Recover media from an iPod
Media files on an Apple device are stored in a set of hidden folders with short randomised file names. If you lose access to your iTunes or Music library and have no backup to restore then you can extract these files into a new library.
First use option under Edit > Preferences > Devices (Windows) or iTunes|Music > Preferences > Devices (Mac) to Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically to ensure that existing content on the device isn't overwritten before you've had a chance to recover it.
Next make sure you can see hidden files in Windows Explorer (details) or Finder (details) so that you have access to files that you want to recover. Put your iPod into Disk Mode and connect it to your computer. For the iPod shuffle this mode is enabled with iTunes rather than a combination of buttons. The files will be distributed randomly between a number of folders named F00 upwards that are found inside Device > iPod_Control > Music. For iOS devices whose file systems cannot be explored directly with Windows Explorer or Finder try http://www.i-funbox.com/. This should give access to the same set of folders in the device which you can copy out.
If you don't see this set of folders, or they are all empty but there was content previously stored on your device, then you could investigate the possibility of recovering deleted/erased files using a recovery tool such as Recuva or EaseUS, then apply the techniques that follow to the data that you retrieve.
To begin the recovery process browse to Device > iPod_Control > Music, select the folders within and copy them with Ctrl+C (Windows) or Cmd+C (Mac). You can ignore any ._F## files you may see. These may show in a Windows formatted device that has been updated on a Mac.
Do not copy hidden content into the Automatically Add to iTunes/Music folder while iTunes or Music is running as it may be deleted without warning. Deleted content may not go to the recycle bin or trash, leaving no option for restoring it.
With iTunes (or Music) closed paste the folders you have copied into your library's Automatically Add to iTunes folder using Ctrl+V (Windows) or Cmd+V (Mac). This folder will normally be inside User's Music > iTunes > iTunes Media or User > Music > Music > Media in Catalina or later.
Next you need to unhide the hidden folders or iTunes will discard them and their contents rather than importing to the library. For Windows select all of the folders you have pasted in, right-click and select Properties, untick the Hidden checkbox and click OK, then confirm that you want to make the changes. On a Mac you may need to go into each F## folder in turn and manually move the files up one level as the command to unhide folders doesn't appear to work.
Finally you can launch iTunes or Music and it will import the files in the Automatically Add to iTunes folder, moving them into the media folder and organizing them according to their metadata. Any media files is doesn't like will be moved into a Not Added folder and hidden files or folders will be deleted.
Once the media has been recovered you should backup the library. See Backup your iTunes for Windows library with SyncToy for a suggested approach.
SyncToy can also be useful if you have to copy files from a device when some files are unreadable. Windows Explorer typically crashes out when this happens. SyncToy will move on to the next item. You can try multiple passes with SyncToy, it only needing to try copying files that have yet to copy over. Sometimes it may be able to succeed with a particular file when it has failed to copy on previous attempts.
Windows users may also find these two scripts useful:
- ImportDevicePlaylists - Imports regular playlists from an iPod or iOS device into the iTunes library. Can import from a selected playlist, or playlist folder, or all playlists on the device.
- SyncStats - Copies highest play count, skip count, rating and most recent played & skipped date of selected tracks or playlist between iTunes and an iPod or iOS device.
See also Recover your iTunes library from your iPod or iOS device for further advice if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. There is also a list of some possible media recovery tools which might be useful if you want recover selected content from the device.
iPod click wheel games
iTunes 12.7 introduced changes to iTunes which have removed the management features for iPod click wheel games. They can neither be added to an iPod nor transferred from it. Should you want that facility you may need to temporarily install a copy of iTunes 18.104.22.168 which can be obtained from Deploy apps in a business environment with iTunes - Apple Support. If needs be you can make a separate library to work with this build and iPod games or iOS apps, then reinstall the current version of iTunes and reconnect to your regular library when ready. This workaround cannot be implemented in macOS 10.14 Mojave or later.
While iTunes has a facility to sync photos to an iPod there is no general mechanism to copy them back. If you opt to include full resolution images these are stored in folders that can be accessed using disk mode with Finder or Windows Explorer. Otherwise lower resolution images that have been copied to the device can potentially be recovered using one of the tools referred to in Recover your iTunes library from your iPod or iOS device.
macOS 10.15 Catalina or later
Due to the fact that Finder includes sync and device management tools for Apple devices it may be difficult to browse to the file system of the device using a standard Finder window. Instead use Finder's Go > Go to Folder... menu option and enter /Volumes/ then browse to the device from there.