How-To Geek

How to Sync Your iPod With Another PC Without Losing Your Music

As all iPod owners might know, it isn’t possible to sync your iPod with more than one computer. But what if this computer (with which you sync the iPod) dies? All the content on your iPod is at stake, because syncing it with another computer will erase everything. Ah, poor lonely iPod. Fortunately, there’s a way out. So keep reading to see how you can sync your iPod with a new computer without the risk of losing data.

This is the first part of the guide, more focused on iPods (Shuffle, Nano, Classic). A guide on ‘syncing your iOS device with a new computer’ will be available soon, do check back!

Your scenario can be either:

The computer with which you used to sync your iPod has died, and you can no longer sync it because a new computer won’t accept it.

Or, you simply want to move your entire iTunes library to a new computer and eliminate the risk of losing everything when you sync with it.

In short, you don’t want to lose data, but syncing the iPod with a new computer means all the content on your iPod will be overwritten with the content in that computer’s iTunes library.

However, moving the iTunes library to another computer is not as difficult as it seems, since you have the original (host) computer up and running, so you can get stuff out of it. Apple has detailed instructions for that, so have a look at them. Just a matter of copying and pasting, it’s that simple. But syncing a lonely iPod with a new computer (without losing content already existing on the iPod) is not easy, and there’s no guideline provided by Apple whatsoever. That’s why it is recommended to have a backup of your computer, and doing so might save you a lot of hassle, kinda like what you’re probably going through right now!

But all is not lost. In a nutshell, here’s what we’re going to do. Since you have all the content on your iPod, we can extract it from the iPod, import it into the new computer’s iTunes library, and sync with the new library. But if the music/content is purchased via iTunes, you can simply authorize the computer, and iTunes will instantly recognize the iPod. You might have different types of content on your iPod, depending upon the model. But retrieval of almost every type of data is possible. Whether it is music, playlists, photos, or videos, there’s a way to retrieve each type of content.

Once you’re on the new computer, install iTunes on it. Once installed, open iTunes, navigate to iTunes preferences (iTunes> Preferences on a Mac, or Edit> Preferences on Windows). Click the Devices button and make sure ‘Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically’ is checked.

Recovering Media (Music, Playlists, Videos, Podcasts)

This is our first approach. In case all the media on your iPod was purchased and downloaded via iTunes, there’s a small, simple way of making the new computer accept the iPod and you can start syncing right away.

Attach the iPod, open iTunes if it is not open already. Navigate to Store>Authorize Computer. A window will open asking for your Apple ID and Password. Enter the required information and click Authorize.

You’ll see some activity in the information panel of iTunes. Once that’s done, navigate to File> Transfer Purchases from *your iPod’s name*. Now you’ll see all the content being transferred from the iPod to your computer, into the iTunes library. Once that’s finished, you can add/remove content, the iPod will be fully syncable with the new computer. No data lost!

The second approach is for music that you didn’t download from iTunes. Instead, it is the music (or videos) that you probably ripped from CDs (or obtained from some other source). The method we discussed earlier won’t work for such media. If you have both iTunes-downloaded and ripped music, this method is more preferable, since it will recover everything. In such a case, third party utilities come to the rescue. There are several paid and free utilities for recovering music from a stranded iPod. We will have a look at the free ones.

Let’s discuss Windows users first. SharePod is a very useful, free utility. Let’s get started with it. Plug in your iPod and open SharePod. Make sure iTunes is not running or it will prompt you to close it.

Update: Looks like SharePod is no longer a free option.

SharePod will readily detect the iPod and all the content on it, including songs and videos. However, in case of videos, you might not be able to identify whether the selected item is a music file or a video. That’s a drawback, but hey, firstly you’ve got free software doing all the hassle for you, and secondly, why would you want to be selective when your entire library is to be recovered from the iPod. Surely you’ll have to select everything, including videos. Once recovered, you can view the videos as well.

Select the files you want to copy from the iPod or press Ctrl+A to select everything in the list. Click Copy to Computer once you’ve selected the required media.

SharePod will now ask you where to save the files. Specify a path, and you can also specify how the recovered media is to be categorized. You can select a different categorization format if you want to. Finally, click Ok to start extracting media from your iPod. Once the process is complete, you can navigate to the specified location to see all your music there.

Now, all the content that was on your iPod is on your new computer as well. Now you can import it into iTunes, and let iTunes sync it to your iPod. However, if you didn’t uncheck ‘import my music to iTunes’, you’ll be surprised to see all your music in iTunes already, ready to go, no need to manually import music into your iTunes library. Nothing will be lost.

Mac Users can use a free program called Senuti. Senuti is free for up to 1000 songs, but don’t worry if your collection is over 1000 songs. There was a time Senuti used to be free (and open-source), and you can find the older version here. It has almost the same interface (and features) as SharePod. You just need to select all the files (Cmd+A), and click the ‘Transfer’ button. Just like SharePod, Senuti will transfer all the media (audio/video) from your iPod directly into your iTunes folder. However, the destination folder can be changed from the preferences panel. Here’s a small tutorial on using Senuti. Once you’ve recovered all your required data, you can continue to sync your iPod with iTunes as you normally would. No hiccups, iTunes will accept you iPod for sure.

But what’s the point of all this hassle? We just enabled the new computer to sync with your iPod. Now you can add/remove media, do whatever you want, because your iPod is now fully embraced by iTunes on the new computer. Congratulations!

So, did we recover everything? Yes.

Did we lose any data? Nope.

Who said syncing your iPod with another computer was risky? It’s that easy!

There are several other methods of achieving the same results, this guide only highlights a couple of those methods. Let us know in the comments if you have ideas on the same subject. And stay tuned for Part-2 of this guide, syncing an iOS device with another computer.

Here's our very own regular reader. He's an aspiring tech writer, and obsessed with all things tech!

  • Published 01/31/12

Comments (37)

  1. Thane

    Amazing how awful apple is. This should be a simple task but their need for total control makes life miserable for millions…

  2. Copypasta

    I’ve found that simply copypasta-ing the entire iTunes Music folder into the same location on another computer will provide a setup that is exactly the same.

    My computer went kaput several times, so before a restore, I just drag the iTunes folder found in My Music into an external hard drive and then stick that folder into the right spot after the restore and it works excellently.

  3. steve

    I have linked my ipod touch upto Ubuntu tograb songs before! as apple haven’t been clever enough to lock the folders down in other os’s besides windows! (and i assume apple os’s too)

  4. Scott Morris

    I have one word for you people, MediaMonkey! Find it, get it, learn it, use it. You’re life will be greatly improved over the aggravation of iTunes.

  5. crab

    I bought a Creative Zen and an Android phone instead of an iPod Nano and an iTouch.

  6. Henfracar

    I,ve recently come across Copy Trans Manager, which allows backing up and syncing your iPod without iTunes installed. Try it.

  7. Guest

    What about iPad,can’t upgrade to new iOS…

  8. Milknhunniee

    013112, OMG!!! THAAANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!!!

    Since I purchased a new laptop 5 months ago, I have been trying to do this UGH! Apple is such a great company, but it’s just INSANE that they won’t allow you to use a different computer.

    I am soo glad that you guys figured out a way. And though I havent tried it yet, I totally trust you guys.
    I love your daily updates. Keep up the great work.

    Thanks again, and have a great week.

  9. Usman

    As mentioned in the post, a guide for “syncing your iOS device with a new computer without losing apps, music, movies, etc” will be up shortly :)

  10. Covertone

    I am seconding @copypasta. The bulk of my music (300gb) is stored on an external drive. In addition I regularly sync my music folder on my computer to the same drive. If anything happens I just need to copy the music folder to the appropriate place on the new computer and make sure the external drive is connected to the same letter drive (I use k since its always not in use) and ta-da I have all my playlists, etc and can sync with no problem.

  11. Usman

    This copying-pasting thing was mentioned in the post !

    “since you have the original (host) computer up and running, so you can get stuff out of it. Apple has detailed instructions for that, so have a look at them”

  12. Stewart Nelson

    Isn’t this what iCloud is used for?

  13. Usman

    iCloud is for iOS devices, and this guide is about iPods ONLY. A Guide on iOS devices is on its way!

  14. Jon

    I now have 50GB of free backup with SpiderOak, so I simply backed up all my music/photos/documents. If my computer crashes, I can basically drag the folder over to another computer, make some minor tweaks, and continue as if nothing happened.

  15. Sam

    or you can completely replace itunes with this….

  16. Fultronics

    I agree with Scott, – Media Monkey… Organize your library with simple scripts (some provided-or write your own), Access track info for free (free DB!), Convert files types (yes..even m4a), Sync with any ipod (and other mp3 devices) without erasing!! 5 yrs and 3 ipods later, I’m glad I switched. (all ipods are still running btw- none were injured in the creating of this post)

  17. Usman

    We at How-To Geek have covered using MediaMonkey as an alternative to iTunes.
    Check it out, here:

  18. Helene

    awesome info now one step further what if you have 2 ipods and you want to share the same library, I won a small nano and I have my ipod classic and I want to load up my fav music on both can I do that somehow.

  19. Doc

    This song-and-dance is the main reason I won’t buy iJunk. My MP3/MP4/Divx player shows up as a USB device in Windows, and I just drag-and-drop the stuff I want to and from it. No gibberish filenames, no worries about the player being wiped by a media control app, no DRM management woes.

  20. blc

    Why didn’t you write this article last week?

    My synched computer needed a new hard drive, and my back up files were not complete. There were songs that only existed on my ipod touch. I googled for quite awhile without finding any free apps, so ended up paying $25 for a program (Phone2pc) that did do a nice job of transferring all the files from the ipod to the pc.

  21. malachipclover

    You spelled example wrong on the authorize account screenshot.

  22. Craig

    SharePod on Windows is excellent.

    gtkpod on linux is also excellent.

    iTunes on any OS just stinks.

  23. Technomancer

    I moved all my iTunes folder to my external drive and run it from there. It has the same drive letter across all my machines so I can plug my iOS device and external drive in, select the correct iTunes file an go. It’s like having it installed in all my machines without having to install it everywhere. I do routinely copy my folder to another external drive as backup just so I don’t have to worry about it.

  24. dendersb

    Thank you for the much needed information. Question – Does anyone know how to save your apps and any purchased books onto your pc from your iphone/ipod/ipad.

  25. Usman

    @dendersb: As mentioned several times, a guide for iOS devices will be up very soon!
    (and it will include all the stuff you need to backup from an iOS device)

  26. DRE

    The only thing you did not address is playlists; which if you are like me, may have spent hours piecing together playlists. I don’t believe SharePod supports that and if they do, it doesn’t work like you want it. Let me know if there is a free site that will mirror your iPod to the iTunes; all the sites I found and ended up using ran around $20 to download the software; but worked as a perfect mirror to my iPod. I would love to find a quality free one.

  27. Leo

    Does this also transfer song rating etc? -When I’ve tried copying songs from an ipod it doesn’t move this data to new machine. To solve this you can try itune mover which is freeware and copies the library and ratings.

  28. dima

    …or just stream your music. Syncing is for suckers

  29. Jom

    Do not sync. Just use the ‘Manage manually music and videos’ then drag and drop from anywhere.

  30. Jom

    Do not sync. Just use option ‘Manage manually music and videos’ then drag and drop from anywhere! This would save you!

  31. Jlauve

    @malachitclover: they didn’t misspell anything; they simply wrote “eample.”

  32. drewbdrewbdrew

    I recently bought a new laptop and d/l sharepod to get my music off of my iphone, but it only took a small portion of my music when I selected ‘copy to pc’. The Folders were all there, but when I opened them there was only the lonely message of ‘This folder is empty’. Please help. I want to clean up some space on my iphone, but I don’t want to lose everything on it. ( my external is down due to a missing power cable, otherwise I could have just taken the music from there)

  33. brent stansbury

    @technomancer spot on! drive letters and a backup of your itunes folder has worked for me, and of course keeping your music backed up on as many drives and devices.. though best to have the itunes folder backed up and know the drive letter attached. cheers. great advice from technomancer ;}

  34. brent stansbury

    @usman thanks for sharing, will czech out mediamonkey ;} thanks for posting this entire article

  35. JoshH100

    If you have a iphone, ipod touch or ipad and are using a passcode then a new computer can’t sync with it unless you unlock it.

  36. Aricka

    Literally been looking for step by step instructionson how to do this for weeks since my computer crashed and had to switch. I love you! Thanks!

  37. Angie

    Thank you thank you!! This has been plaguing me since my computer died!!!

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