Resolving lost iPod content

Q: I tried hooking up my iPod with iTunes and there was an error message saying “file required for syncing is not there.” I ejected the iPod by clicking on the eject button and then restarted computer to reconnect the iPod and all my songs are gone!  I also cannot copy new files into the iPod.

Where the main screen of iTunes used to have a blue bar indicating current file storage, the bar is now ORANGE.

Resolving lost iPod content

Can you help me understand what happened and if there is a way to fix it?

– Kyle

A: The most likely problem in this case is that your iPod library database has become corrupted, and iTunes (and the iPod) therefore no longer recognize any of your music files, even though they may still be physically stored on the iPod’s hard drive or flash memory. Since iTunes can no longer read the iPod index database to find the music, it assumes that all of the files that are still stored on the iPod fall into the “other” category, since they cannot be identified as anything else.

If you’ve been using automatic synchronization and have all of your music and other media content in your iTunes library as well, then the fastest and easiest solution is to simply perform a “Restore” on the iPod.

This will reformat the hard drive or flash memory on the iPod, erasing anything on it, and rebuilding a new iPod database in the process. You should then be able to resynchronize all of your content back to the iPod.

If your music is only on your iPod, however, and you do not have backups anywhere else, you will need to access the iPod in “Disk Mode” in order to copy these music files back off the iPod and onto your hard drive. Unfortunately, since the iPod database is corrupted, many of the utilities that would normally work to recover your music won’t be able to help you in this case, as they rely on your iPod database in much the same way that iTunes and the iPod itself does.

You will therefore have to manually go into your iPod via Windows Explorer or Finder (Mac), and go into the \iPod_Control\Music directory.

All of your music and video files will be stored under this directory, although they are not stored in any organizational manner that would make sense to a human. The good news, however, is that you can copy them all out manually back to your hard drive, and then import them into iTunes. Since iTunes uses the internal tag information to identify files rather than the directory and file name, it will be able to sort this all out for you, and the tracks should be imported with their proper name, artist, album, and other information. The only data that you will lose in this case is your playlists, ratings, and play count data, since this information is only stored in the iPod’s internal database, and not within the files themselves.

Note that if you cannot see the \iPod_Control folder when accessing your iPod through Windows Explorer, you may need to turn on the option in Windows Explorer to display hidden files and folders.