Recovering photos from an iPod touch

Q: Our old PC crashed, and all files were lost, however the most important files, our family pictures are still on our iPod touch. What software would be best to purchase or download that would allow me to get the 3000+ picture files quickly and easily transferred to our new PC?

– Bob

A: There are a few third-party software tools available that are specifically designed to recover pictures from an iOS device such as the iPod touch or even a traditional Click Wheel iPod model. Keep in mind, however, that if you’ve synchronized your photos onto your device using iTunes, you will not be able to recover the original, full-resolution photos in most cases; only lower-resolution versions are transferred to your device by iTunes, which resizes photos for a given iPod or iOS device to resolutions optimized for display on that device. The notable exception here is the third-generation iPad, to which iTunes does indeed transfer full-resolution originals, likely in deference to the device’s high-resolution Retina Display.

The exact resolutions stored vary between devices. In the case of the iPhone 4/4S, fourth-generation iPod touch and the original iPad and iPad 2 the maximum resolutions are around 3.1-3.5MP, depending on aspect ratio: 2048×1536 for 4:3 photos (those taken with most consumer point-and-shoot cameras) or 2304×1536 for 3:2 photos (commonly used by DSLR and other pro-grade cameras). These are the same resolutions used by all devices for the iCloud Photo Stream feature.

Unfortunately, the maximum resolutions go downhill from there, with non-Retina-Display iPhone 3G/3GS and pre-fourth-generation iPod touch models maxing out at 0.7-0.8 MP; 1024×768 and 1152×768 for the common 4:3 and 3:2 formats, respectively. Other models such as the iPod classic and iPod nano will use even lower resolutions than this—generally 0.3MP (640×480 and 720×480) and below.

Of course, this is all academic if these are really the only copies you have left of important family pictures; after all, a low-resolution version of an important family photo is better than no version at all. However, it’s important to realize in advance that you’re not going to get back full resolution photos no matter what transfer software or method you use, so it’s important to be especially skeptical of apps that promise recovery of “full-resolution” photos.

There are a number of good options for recovering photos from an iPod touch or other iOS device. iPod Access Photo ($13) by Findley Designs is a relatively inexpensive solution designed simply to recover your photos in the highest resolutions available. By comparison, CopyTrans Photo ($20) provides a two-way photo management solution as an alternative to transferring photos onto your device using iTunes, and Wide Angle Software’s TouchCopy ($25) offers a complete solution for transferring not only photos, but other content such as music, video, messages, contacts, calendars and notes to and from your iOS device. All three of these utilities can be used to recover your photos, but you may find the slightly more expensive options worthwhile for the additional features they provide. All three of these applications also have trial versions available, with limitations such as watermarking recovered photos, only working for a certain number of days, or only transferring a limited number of items back to your computer.

Latest News