iPod suddenly shows no content


Q: I was transfering songs to my iPod from iTunes and suddenly my computer started to shutdown! Not thinking, I unplugged my iPod and all of my 2,500+ songs are now gone! My songs are still in my iTunes library, but when I plug in my iPod they are not showing up in my iTunes. I have a 20GB iPod and it is showing that I have 0 songs on it now, but only 9.37GB free space. What’s taking up the other half of my space if all my songs are gone? Are they somehow still on my iPod and I’m not able to access them?

– Anonymous

A: The most likely scenario in this case is that the iPod library database (on the iPod itself) has become corrupted and no longer recognizes the media files that are stored on the iPod.

Basically, when a file is transferred to your iPod, the file is copied and an entry is added to a database on the iPod to catalogue the information about that file and to allow the iPod and iTunes to locate that track. This is much more efficient that requiring the iPod to search every single media file and dynamically build the menus on the fly. Unfortunately, this also means that if this library database is damaged, the iPod (and iTunes) will not be able to “see” any of the media files on your iPod. The files may still physically be stored on the iPod, but they are now “orphaned” in that the iPod doesn’t know where they are, or even what they are.

These files will remain on the iPod taking up disk space, since iTunes will err on the side of caution and not automatically erase anything that it cannot identity.

If you still have all of the media content in your iTunes library, the simplest solution to this problem is to connect your iPod to iTunes and hit the “Restore” button. This will erase everything on your iPod, effectively reformatting it to a brand new out-of-the-box configuration. You can then connect it and retransfer all of your music from your iTunes library as you normally would.

In the event that your music is not all present in your iTunes library, you will likely want to connect the iPod and recover the missing content. The good news is that the files are likely still there, but you’ll have to go into the iPod in “Disk Mode” (accessing the iPod as an external storage device via Windows Explorer or Finder), and copy the files off manually. Our tutorial, Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer explains how to do this. In the event that the iPod database has been damaged, you’ll likely want to refer to the “Brute Force Method” described in that article, although there are some third-party tools that can also recover content from an iPod when the database is damaged or not present.

Photo of author

Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.