Recovering Mac-formatted iPods on Windows


Q: I got an iPod classic 80 GB as a gift. It’s set to Mac but I want it to Windows WITHOUT having to lose the 5 GB worth of music that were part of the gift. I don’t have a Mac, so is there a way that I can do this from Windows? Can I store the music with different software than iTunes that’s compatible with both Mac and Windows, than reset the iPod to Windows and download the music again or is there an easier way?

– Peter

A: Traditional iPod models appear simply as an external hard disk to the computer, and are either formatted for Windows (FAT32) or Mac (HFS+), depending upon which system they were set up on. While a Mac can read a Windows-formatted disk (and therefore by extension, a Windows-formatted iPod), the reverse is not automatically true—Windows has no idea what to do with an HFS+ formatted drive.

The normal way of converting an iPod from Mac use over to Windows is to perform a “Restore” on it, erasing everything on it and reformatting it for the Windows operating system. However, if you want to recover data from the iPod before doing this, it will be necessary to either find a Mac OS X computer to recover the data on, or purchase a commercial utility for Windows such as MacDrive (, $50, free trial available), which will allow Windows to read any Mac-formatted disk. Note that the MacDrive trial is apparently full-functional for five days, so the trial version may actually be all you need for one-time recovery of an iPod’s content, as long as you use it within five days after installing it.

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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.