iPod and Windows Autoplay

Q: Ever since I upgraded from iTunes 7.2 to, whenever I plug in my iPod, a Windows Explorer window pops up, treating the iPod as an external drive. However, I have “enable disk use” unchecked in iTunes. This never happened in earlier versions of iTunes. What gives? Is there anything I can do to prevent this minor annoyance?

– Ron

iPod and Windows Autoplay

A: This is actually a function of the “Autoplay” feature in Windows XP.

Essentially, Windows XP will scan any removable media device when you first connect it, and automatically offer you some options in relation to the content which it finds on that device:

iPod and Windows Autoplay

If this is the first time that a particular removable disk has been connected, you should normally receive a list of options, as shown above. However, if you have previously selected an option, such as opening Windows Explorer to view the files on the device, Windows will remember that setting the next time you connect that device and simply perform that operation without prompting you again.

The issue here is that regardless of the actual “Enable Disk Use” setting, the iPod will always appear to the underlying operating system as an external disk drive. In fact, this is how iTunes itself communicates with the iPod—it simply writes the files to the disk drive and updates the database, using normal Windows file system calls.

Of course, when you connect your iPod, Windows also sees a removable disk drive having been connected, and wants to do something with this as well. The iTunesHelper service that runs in the background normally intercepts this call and prevents any Windows popups from appearing, but this does not always work consistently across all versions.

The simplest solution is to connect the iPod and enable disk use (so it remains connected after iTunes finishes syncing), and then access the iPod via Windows Explorer, right-click on the drive letter represented by the iPod, and choose Properties. The “Autoplay” tab will display the current preferences.