Backing up and restoring an iPod classic

Q: I have a 120GB iPod classic needing a battery change. I am opting for an in-store change due to lack of skill, and as a result, I am told I will lose all my data.

I have my songs backed up already, but I am concerned about losing the artwork manually added (i.e. not inside the mp3 file). Is it possible to use Windows Explorer to do a straight copy and paste of all the MP3 and DB files and then re-copy onto the replacement iPod? Are there any files I should not copy back over?

– Scott

A: Since the iPod classic uses a hard drive to store your data, it’s actually very unlikely that simply having the battery changed will result in you losing any data; most likely the store is advising you of this simply as a precaution, and it’s definitely a good idea because anything can happen.

If you’ve manually added your album artwork to your tracks through iTunes, then it should be embedded in your MP3 files anyway, as this is how iTunes normally behaves. If artwork was added to the tracks directly on your iPod after copying the music onto it, then the source files on your computer would likely not have embedded artwork, and you would need to copy them back from the iPod in order to have the copies with the artwork stored on your computer.

The ideal way to back up the content on your iPod classic is actually to copy it off using one of the methods described in our article on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer and then reimport it into your iTunes library. This will ensure that everything is properly tagged and organized on your computer, including your album artwork. iTunes can also automatically download and add album artwork to any tracks that don’t already include it, however artwork added using this method will not be stored inside the actual MP3 files, but only in the appropriate iTunes and iPod databases.

See our Guide to Album Tagging, Art and Playlists in iTunes for more information.

Creating a new iTunes library from your iPod content provides the most flexibility as all of your data is stored properly in an iTunes library and can be managed and retransferred from there. Should this not be an option for whatever reason, however, you actually can just copy everything from your iPod classic to another hard drive using Windows Explorer, but you must ensure that you include the “iPod_Control” folder, which is where all of your music and database files are actually stored. This is normally a hidden folder, so be sure that you’ve enabled the option to show hidden files and folders in Windows Explorer. The section on “The Brute Force Approach” in our Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer article provides more information on how to do this.