Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer - The Definitive Guide | iLounge Article


Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer - The Definitive Guide

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Photo Recovery

As mentioned earlier, the recovery solutions discussed thus far actually only provide recovery of audio and video content from the iPod. Unfortunately, photo storage on the iPod works very differently from the way that audio and video files are stored. Therefore, the recovery of photos from an iPod requires a different approach.

The best way to copy or recover photos from an iPod is to ensure that the full resolution photos were stored on the iPod in the first place. This can be done by selecting “Include full-resolution photos” in the iTunes Photos tab for your iPod:

If this option is selected, iTunes will transfer an original copy of each photo to the iPod, stored under the Photos/Full Resolution folder, which can be accessed simply by going to the iPod using Windows Explorer or Finder. The photos in this folder will be organized into sub-folders by Year, Month, and Date, but will retain their original file names unless conflicts exist.

The major advantage to storing the full-resolution photos, as the name implies, is that these are exact copies of the original photos, simply placed on the iPod by iTunes in the same way as if you had copied them there yourself.

Unfortunately, the photos that are used for display purposes on the iPod are actually pre-resized by iTunes before being transferred to the iPod. With a fifth-generation iPod, the maximum resolution stored on the iPod is approximately 720x480—an image suitable for TV display. Since the iPod nano does not have a TV display feature, the maximum size of image stored on an iPod nano is actually only 176x132—the resolution of the iPod nano screen.

Therefore, if you have not chosen to store full resolution photos when you originally transferred your pictures, the quality of those images that may be recovered from the iPod itself may be far too small to be of any practical use, particularly on an iPod nano.

In the event that you do need to recover photos from the internal iPod photo databases, there are a couple of tools that can be used to do this.

On Windows, the makers of CopyTrans also have a “CopyTrans Photo” tool ($20, Windows, 30-day trial available, This can be used to recover the various resolutions of photos stored on the iPod either individually or en masse. The application works much like many photo management applications, providing a thumbnail view of the photos stored on the iPod, organized by album.


Even if you have chosen to store the full resolution photos, CopyTrans Photo can offer certain advantages in that it reads the iPod’s photo database to organize the full-resolution photos by the album or folder that they were originally loaded from. This is often a more reasonable way to recover photos than browsing through the YEAR/MONTH/DAY folder structure in the iPod’s “Full Resolution” directory.

If you do not have the corresponding full-resolution photos stored on the iPod, CopyTrans Photo will advise you of this with an icon in the bottom-right corner of each thumbnail that is missing its full-resolution photo:


Recovering the photos in CopyTrans Photo is as simple as dragging the photos you want to recover to the panel on the right-hand side, clicking the “Backup” button, and choosing a folder to store the recovered photos in.

The target directory will contain the full resolution photos (if available), and then four subdirectories for the four thumbnail resolutions that are normally stored on the 5G iPod.


Note that if you’re recovering photos from the iPod nano, the “Big Thumbs” and “Small Thumbs” directories will be empty, as the Nano does not store photos in these particular resolutions.

You can specify which photo sizes you want to retrieve as well as other configuration settings from the “Settings” tab:


The makers of iPodAccess have also provided an iPodAccess Photo tool that is available for both Mac and Windows users ($13, trial available, This works in much the same way as CopyTrans Photo in principle, displaying a list of albums and a series of thumbnails. Individual albums or pictures are selected for copying by placing a checkmark beside the images you want copied and clicking the “Copy” button.


The trial version is fully functional, but will add a “Findley Designs” watermark to each photo, as shown above.

A Word on iPod Games

Since all of the Games presently available for the fifth-generation iPod are only sold through the iTunes Store, at present the best way to recover these back into iTunes is via the “Transfer Purchases” feature described earlier in this article. The “Transfer Purchases” function works for all purchased content, including iPod Games, and will in fact transfer them back to your iTunes library and repackage them as iTunes expects to find them, where they are actually stored in a slightly different format from how they are stored on the iPod.


Although it is useful that Apple has provided a method in iTunes 7 to copy purchased content from your iPod back to your computer, it is doubtful as to whether iTunes will ever provide any more advanced features to facilitate copying music back from an iPod. Fortunately, there are always third-party developers willing to fill the gaps and provide this much-needed functionality.

Unfortunately, with Apple’s newer devices like the Apple TV and iPhone, it appears that the ability for third-party developers to provide these types of tools has become more restricted. The Apple TV synchronizes over a network connection, providing no possible interface to access it without physically disassembling the unit to access the hard drive, and the iPhone lacks any kind of user-accessible “disk mode” at this point in time. Whether or not this functionality will be provided in the future is unknown, nor is there any indication of whether or not future-generation iPods will follow the same approach.

In closing, it should be stated that although many third-party developers provide extremely useful tools for recovering your iTunes library from your iPod, these should never be depended upon in the place of real, tangible backups of your iTunes music library, particularly for content such as purchased music that is difficult to replace. Future versions of iTunes and iPod firmware updates have the potential to affect the ability of these tools to function, and although most third-party developers are very diligent at providing updates, there is always the possibility of a window of time between an iTunes update and the necessary third-party software updates that will follow. Good, regular backups of your iTunes library to CD/DVD media or an external offline hard drive is always the best option.


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