Q: On the scale in iTunes that shows you how much free space and music you have, what is the orange-colored OTHER section? Mine keeps getting bigger and now its occuping almost 1 GB. What should i do?
A: The “Other” category essentially includes anything that iTunes doesn’t specifically recognize as video, audio, or photo content. It is normal for there to be some space taken up by the “Other” category, and this category on a fully-loaded 80 GB iPod can easily exceed 1 GB if album artwork is being used.
There are several common types of data that are included in the “Other” space, and most of these are completely normal to the operation of the iPod itself.
For most users, the largest portion of the “Other” category is taken up by album artwork. iTunes resizes and stores album artwork on the iPod in a separate database expressly for that purpose, and this storage is included in the “Other” category. Further, since album artwork is stored for each individual track, this can consume a fair bit of storage in a large library.
The amount of storage occupied by each album artwork image varies with iPod model due to the differences in screen resolution, as follows:
- 5G iPod: 98 KB per track
- 4G iPod: 44 KB per track
- iPod Nano: 23 KB per track
While this may seem relatively small, it can add up quickly, particularly on the higher-capacity iPods. For example, on a 5G iPod with 5,000 tracks that include album artwork, the artwork alone will consume just under 500 MB of storage.
Unfortunately, short of removing the artwork, there is nothing you can do to optimize the artwork storage on the iPod. The album artwork images are stored uncompressed and pre-sized into the appropriate resolutions, so using lower-resolution images in iTunes won’t make any difference to the resulting space occupied by artwork on the iPod, although it might have the advantage of making your MP3/AAC files slightly smaller (since the same artwork may also be embedded in the MP3/AAC file itself, depending on how it was added in iTunes).
Games purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Store are also stored on the iPod as “Other” content. These vary with the size of each individual game, but can occupy between 12 MB and 80 MB of space per game. The full set of twelve games currently available from the iTunes Store will consume approximately 400 MB of space.
Note that this does not include the games that are pre-installed on the iPod itself such as Brick, Music Quiz, Parachute and Solitaire.
Internal iPod Database and Configuration Files
The iPod also stores a number of internal database and configuration files, which are also included in the “Other” count. Since the largest of these is the iPod’s index database itself, it will vary in size with how much content is stored on your iPod. The database for a fully-loaded 80GB iPod will generally be around 150 MB in size, although this will vary with the quantity of content.
Data Files you store on the iPod in “Disk Mode”
Anything you transfer to the iPod in disk mode, regardless of the type of file, is counted as “Other” space. If you transferring music, video or photo files onto your iPod through Windows Explorer or Finder, they are still counted as “Other” storage. Only audio, video and photo files that are transferred through iTunes are counted in their respective categories.
Rather than referencing media files directly, the iPod identifies the various types of media that are loaded onto it through a database. This database is updated by iTunes at the end of each transfer of new content, after the content itself has been copied. If iTunes transfers new media content and does not successfully update this database, those transferred files will be “orphaned” on the iPod, taking up space but not listed in the iPod’s database.
While anything that may prevent iTunes from successfully completing a sync can cause this, the most common cause is disconnecting your iPod without ejecting it properly. To avoid this, always ensure that you eject your iPod from within iTunes and wait for the “Do Not Disconnect” screen to disappear before physically disconnecting it from your computer.
The only effective way to deal with Orphaned files at this point is to do a full “Restore” on your iPod. This essentially reformats the hard drive or flash memory of your iPod, erasing everything contained on it and returning it to factory settings. You can then reload your iPod from iTunes, which if you’re using automatic sync is relatively trivial to do. This was discussed in last week’s Ask iLounge article.