Conserving space by removing album art

Q: I own a 20GB iPod, and I have more music than I can fit on it. I recently added a few CDs to my library, and I noticed that the artwork I downloaded for them seems to be added to the iPod. I was wondering if the album art I have downloaded is in fact being transferred to my iPod, and if so, is it easy to take it off?

– Jeff

A: If your 20GB iPod is the type with a color screen, you’ll find the option to “Display album artwork on your iPod” in iTunes’ “Preferences” window (your iPod must be plugged in to see this).

However, unchecking this option will not do exactly what you’re asking.

Doing so will prevent the tiny iPod-optimized versions of your album art from being transferred, but this is insignificant compared to the fact that the full-size, iTunes-displayed versions of the graphics are embedded in the audio files themselves – regardless of the album artwork setting in iTunes’ preferences. As a matter of fact, they’re there regardless of whether or not you even have an iPod with a color screen capable of displaying art.

Considering standard 300-pixel square album art images and an average song at 4 minutes, 128kbps, the proportion of your music library taken up by embedded album artwork is only about 0.7%. If you could recover this disk space by stripping the images out the songs as they transfer to a 20GB iPod, the capacity you would gain would only be equivalent to only an extra 30 songs or so.

Since this is so insignificant compared with the 5000 songs a 20GB iPod will typically hold, we recommend that rather than fighting iTunes’ modus operandi, you take a look at our Guide to Synchronizing the iPod for a look at ways to best manage iTunes libraries larger than your iPod.

If you do decide that having album art isn’t worth the song capacity you lose, you always have the option to delete all art entirely, from both iTunes and the iPod. To do so quickly, simply highlight your Library, choose “Select All” from the “Edit” menu, and choose “Get Info” from the “File” menu. Then, simply un-check the album art box, and click OK.