Repairing corrupted iPod filesystem

Q: The other day I was copying the music from my friend’s iPod to my computer, and to make matters easier I decided to reorganize all hidden files in iPod_control/Music by date so that I could pick what music I wanted. Everything worked for copying the files off, however now the music on my iPod will not play—all the music shows up on the menus, but when I try to play the songs on the iPod they randomly shuffle. I think this is because I moved the files around, so I was wondering if there was a way that I can put the iPod_control/Music files back into there original locations (ie, F00,F01,F02,etc)?


A: Unfortunately there’s really no easy way to fix this without reloading the content back onto the iPod from iTunes itself. The problem is that the iPod uses a database index that points to each of these files, and doesn’t expect the user to access the hidden iPod_Control folder directly—that’s why it’s a hidden folder.

The songs still all appear on the iPod menus as the database listing is intact, but since you’ve moved all of the files around, the iPod no longer has any idea where to find them.

The good news is that if your friend normally uses automatic sync for this iPod and keeps all of their music and playlists in iTunes then the problem can easily be fixed simply by restoring and reloading the iPod from the original iTunes library. Although it may take some time to restore and reload the content back onto the iPod, it’s a fairly easy fix since in automatic sync mode, the iPod basically mirrors the iTunes library.

On the other hand, if your friend has been using manual sync and managing the content on the iPod directly, you’re going to need to copy all of the the music from the iPod, reload it into iTunes, and then re-sync the iPod to put it all back.

The other complication is that you’ll need to do this by manually copying the files off, rather than using a third-party iPod recovery tool, since most of these tools read the iPod database to find the files, which of course won’t work in this case. You can find more information in our iPod 201 article on Copying Content from your iPod to your Computer.

Note that there are some third-party tools that may be able to search through the iPod file system and rebuild its database from there, but unfortunately most of these tools were written for older iPod models and do not work with the current versions. Restoring the iPod through iTunes is the most reliable way to ensure that you don’t have any problems, as iTunes itself of course knows how to write the iPod database properly.