Recover your iTunes library from your iPod or iOS device
Apple's iTunes software is, in the main, designed to transfer data to their devices but not in the other direction. In general if you try to connect and sync an Apple device to a new library iTunes will want to erase all the current media content and replace it with items from the new library. See Move your iTunes library to a new computer for advice on moving a working library to a new computer if that is still a possibility.
Should you be in the unfortunate position where your computer has been lost, stolen or damaged and you have no viable backup of your library then you can use the steps below to attempt to recover most, if not all, of your media and other information from your devices. If, however the library that has been lost or damaged was on your current computer see Empty/corrupt iTunes library after upgrade/crash first.
If you still have the computer, but it is in a non-bootable state, then it may be possible to extract the hard drive, put it in an external drive bay and recover data from it that way. The steps in Repair security permissions for iTunes for Windows may help to allow iTunes to properly access any recovered data. If the drive is accessible then using your old drive may well be easier than what follows, though it depends in part on the mix of purchased vs. ripped media and whether or not your device holds all your media, or a subset of it. If you have an iPod classic, nano, or shuffle see Recover media from an iPod instead of this tip.
Before you connect any device to a new library go to the Devices tab of the the preferences panel via Edit > Preferences (Windows - press CTRL+B to reveal the menu bar if needed) or iTunes > Preferences (Mac) and ensure the box next to Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically is ticked. You can now safely connect the device to your computer without the danger of media being automatically deleted or overwritten. If your device doesn't register in iTunes see iOS device not showing in iTunes for Windows.
If this device contains contacts or calendar items that are not already on the computer you are using, and that you wish to recover, then make sure you have at least one contact & one event in the applications that will sync with the device (e.g. Windows Address Book or Outlook under Windows, iCal & Address Book on a Mac). Dummy entries will do, but there must be at least one if the data is to be retrieved from the device in step 7 below.
- Transfer purchases
You can transfer your iTunes Store purchases into a new library, after connecting the device, with the menu item File > Devices > Transfer Purchases from "<DeviceName>". You should be prompted to authorize the computer to your iTunes account if you have not already done so. If your device holds content from more than one account you will need to authorize each one. To avoid duplicates it may be easier to extract all media at one time at step 4, then come back to this step to recover any Apps or iPod Games if you are running iTunes 220.127.116.11 or earlier. Note that with the introduction of app thinning in iOS 9 your device may no longer contain a complete version of each app, so app transfer from device to library is disabled, and with iTunes 12.7 most app management features were removed altogether. See Managing apps with iTunes 12.7 or later for details.
See also: HT201267: Redownload or transfer your iTunes Store purchases from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod to a computer (retired document, archived version)
- Back up (iOS only)
If this is an iOS device you should now right-click on it (control-click on a Mac) in the left-hand column of the iTunes window and click Back Up to make a backup of the current settings and application data on the device.
See also HT201302: Import photos and videos from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Although a backup should include the contents of the camera roll it is probably best to copy off your photos and videos to local storage at the same time. See HT204136: About backups for iOS devices for more details about what is and is not included in the backup.
- Recover other media
iTunes only permits the transfer of iTunes Store purchases. If your device contains other media that you've ripped from CD or downloaded from other online stores you can either go back to the original sources or use third party software to extract your data from your device. There is a list of some of the software available below. Note also that photos synced to the device from a previous computer are not necessarily included in the device's backup so should be extracted now if possible.
- Recover other purchases
Your device may not have held all your iTunes Store purchases. You can recover qualifying purchases from your account by visiting the music home page of the iTunes Store then clicking on the Purchased link in the Quick Links section in the right-hand column.
See also: HT201272: Redownload music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books from the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, and App Store
- Restore (iOS only)
Having backed up your device, and rescued all the media from it that you can, you should now restore the device from the backup that you took earlier to ensure that the device is properly associated with this new library. Right-click on it (control-click on a Mac) in the left-hand column of the iTunes window and click Restore from Backup...
Set up your new preferences for syncing Music, TV Shows, Podcasts, Info etc. then click Sync. You may get an erase and sync warning at this point however provided you have recovered all of your content from the device then you can safely proceed. For a device that holds calendar or contact information you should be prompted to restore or merge. Click merge to copy this information into your computer. Your device is now properly associated with your new library and you shouldn't have lost any data.
- Backup your library
For the future you should backup your library to a separate hard drive or network share as restoring a backup is much easier than the process above. The user tip Backup your iTunes for Windows library with SyncToy gives a suggested way of doing this effectively for Windows users. Mac owners can make use of Time Machine, or tools such as Carbon Copy Cloner or Synkron which can do a similar job to SyncToy.
- Remove old authorizations and associations
If you've lost access to an old computer, or it will no longer boot up, it may still be authorized to or associated with your Apple ID. See Deauthorize your computer using iTunes - Apple Support and use the Deauthorize all computers option to remove all authorizations, then authorize the computers you still wish to use. See View and remove your associated devices in iTunes - Apple Support to manage any unwanted associations.
This list is by no means comprehensive. Compatibility and feature details may have altered since this tip was published. There is usually a trade-off between cost and ease of use.
|Floola||Free cross platform (Linux too) iPod manager. It appears to have partial support for extracting playlists to m3u files rather than transferring directly to iTunes.||➕||➕||➕||➖||?||➖|
|iPod Access||Copies music, videos, playlists, ratings and more. Can extract content from hard drive based iPods with damaged databases.||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|iPod2PC||Can copy songs, podcasts and playlists to iTunes or a folder of your choice.||➕||➖||➕||➖||➕||?|
|iRip||Claims it can copy the contents of your iPod or iPhone to your Mac or PC with a single click.||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕||?|
Although primarily an alternative media manager to iTunes, MediaMonkey can also be used to copy files from an iPod or iOS device to the local file system. Tracks can be copied directly into the iTunes Automatically Add to iTunes folder to add and organize them within the iTunes library.
Recommended, particularly for retrieving selected files rather than everything on the device.
|Music Rescue||Copies music, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, audio recordings, playlists and notes.||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕||?|
|PhoneView||Save iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch app data, voicemail, text messages, iMessages, call log, notes, contacts, music and photos to your Mac.||➖||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|Senuti||Transfer music from your iPod or iPhone to your computer with this easy to use application for Mac.||➖||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|SharePod||Free tool that can add, remove and copy media to or from your device.||➕||➖||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|TouchCopy||Comprehensive tools for copying media and other items from your device to your computer.||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|TuneJack||Can copy all songs & playlists from your iPod/iOS device to your PC and optionally add them to iTunes.||➕||➖||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|iRepo||Can copy selected songs & playlists from your iPod/iOS device to your PC/Mac and optionally add them to iTunes. (TuneJack with options)||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|iGadget||Can copy selected songs & playlists from your iPod/iOS device to your PC/Mac and optionally add them to iTunes. Can also add other data as notes to non-iOS devices. (TuneJack with more options)||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕||➕|
|YamiPod||Yet another iPod manager. Mainly designed as a free cross platform (Linux too) alternative to iTunes for hard drive based iPods it includes features for transferring media from your device to your computer.||➕||➕||➕||➖||?||➖|
|A Windows script that 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. |
Use to extract metadata not recovered with other tools, e.g. the method given in Recover media from an iPod below.
|A Windows script that 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. |
Use to extract metadata not recovered with other tools, e.g. the method in Recover media from an iPod below.
|Recover media from an iPod|
This approach is mainly aimed at older devices that can be accessed via disk mode, however free tools such as iFunBox or MediaMonkey which give access to the iOS file system may also allow you to use this method to extract media from an iOS device. Windows users would also be able to make use of the two scripts above to recover playlists and stats.
The user tip is an alternative to the iLounge Article: Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer - The Definitive Guide that has been previously referred to.
Recommended for retrieving everything from the device in one go.