Q: When I plug my iPod into our Mac, it will show on the “Devices” page that my iPod is filled with about 50% music (blue) and 50% “other” (which is orange). I have a 4GB third-generation iPod nano with only music on it—no videos, no podcasts, or photos. I cannot seem to get rid of this “other” that is filling up half the space on my iPod and isn’t even there. I would prefer not to restore it to its factory settings because I’d rather not have to go through our whole library putting all my songs back on. What is this “other” and how do I get rid of something that isn’t on my iPod in the first place?
A: The “Other” category actually does include content stored on your iPod nano, but it represents information that iTunes itself cannot identify.
Basically, when iTunes copies media onto your iPod, it lists that media in a database on the iPod and uses that database to identify what is stored on the iPod. Anything not specifically listed in that database is considered “Other” since iTunes cannot identify it as a specific type of content. While it is normal to have some small amount of “Other” space taken up by some of the iPod’s internal operating files and the artwork that is stored for your music tracks, this should normally represent a very small percentage of your iPod’s total capacity.
In this case, the most likely scenario is that iTunes did in fact copy some music to your iPod nano at some point but was not able to successfully update the iPod’s database index of that content. Since the iPod’s database gets updated after iTunes has finished copying files, this can easily happen if iTunes crashes in the middle of a sync or if you disconnect your iPod before iTunes has finished syncing. In this case, since iTunes doesn’t have any record of what is actually on the iPod, it will potentially re-copy tracks that are already there, taking up extra unnecessary space. The original “orphaned” tracks remain on the iPod, taking up space but otherwise invisible to iTunes or the iPod itself.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to recover from this without doing a complete Restore of your iPod and reloading everything from scratch. The problem is that iTunes places all of the music on your iPod in the same folder structure and doesn’t organize the files in any way that is meaningful to a human. As a result, there is no easy way to identify which files are actually listed in the iPod database as “Music” and which files are “orphaned” in the “Other” category.