Converting Windows-formatted iPods for Mac use

Q: I have a Windows-formatted iPod but I now have a MacBook Pro. iTunes said only Mac-formatted iPods can update, is there any way I can change my iPod to a Mac format?

– kp

A: This is becoming a more common question as we see more people switching to Macintosh computers.  As the question points out, one of the problems with having a Windows-formatted iPod on a Mac OS X machine is that you won’t be able to update the firmware from your Mac without doing a full restore on the iPod itself. Further, Apple does not officially support Windows-formatted iPods synced with iTunes on Mac OS X. Although the majority of our readers have had no issues with this configuration, there have been reports of odd behavior that have been solved by converting the iPod to a Mac format.

Unfortunately, the only reliable way to convert a Windows-formatted iPod to Mac format is to do a complete “Restore” on the iPod, which will erase all of the content on the iPod, and restore it to out-of-the-box factory settings. This is done simply by connecting your iPod to your MacBook Pro, and then selecting your iPod from within iTunes (under “Devices” on the left-hand side of the iTunes window). You should be taken to the “Summary” tab by default:

Just hit the “Restore” button and your iPod will be reformatted for Mac use and restored to original factory defaults. Again, this will erase everything on the iPod, since you’re basically reformatting the iPod’s hard disk or flash memory.

If you’re using automatic synchronization of your iPod content from iTunes, reloading your iPod is simply a matter of reconnecting it to iTunes and allowing it to sync up.  After a “Restore” you will be presented with the standard “New iPod Setup Wizard” as if you were connecting a brand new iPod. Simply respond to the questions and allow the iPod to sync and your music and other media content will be restored.

On the other hand, if you’ve been managing the content on your iPod manually, this process may be more complicated, particularly if you don’t have your music stored on your computer. Since the “Restore” procedure outlined above will erase everything on your iPod, you would need to recover the music from your iPod back to your computer before doing a Restore. See our iPod 201 tutorial, Copying Music from iPod to Computer for more information on how to do this.

Keep in mind also that once you’ve formatted your iPod for Mac use, you will not be able to use it on a Windows computer without installing third-party software on Windows such as MacDrive. Of course the iPod itself can easily be converted BACK to a Windows format by following the procedure above from a Windows PC.

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