Transferring Music to iPod Without Using PC Hard Drive

Q: I have about 50 data CDs full of MP3s.  I want to get an iPod to store all my music, but from what I gather, I can only do that if all of those MP3s are on my computer’s hard drive.  I have a laptop with a small hard drive and have no way of doing this.  Can I bypass this and use my iPod as an external hard drive and play songs off of it through my computer?

– Jon

A: Yes, you can. It’ll take a bit of work, however.

With iTunes, you can manage your music automatically or manually. When you connect the iPod, you can make this choice in the iPod Preferences. If you manage music automatically, then you need to have all your music on your hard disk; iTunes copies your music library to your iPod, making a clone of it.

But if you manage your music manually you do things differently. Instead of having iTunes automatically copy and update all your songs, you drag the songs (or albums, artists, or genres) from the iTunes library to the iPod icon in the iTunes source list.

So, if you copy your MP3 files from a few CDs, add them to your iTunes library, then copy them manually to the iPod, you can then erase them from the iTunes library and from your hard disk. Depending on the size of your hard disk, you may need to do this just a few CDs at a time, but once you have finished this, you’ll have all your music on the iPod.

To play the music from the iPod, launch iTunes, connect the iPod, then select the music you want to play from the iPod’s contents. You can make playlists on the iPod in the same way as you do with iTunes.

Just one thing: you can also store your music on an external hard disk, and allow iTunes to manage it automatically. In that case, you need to connect the hard disk when you want iTunes to sync your music, but given the relatively low cost of hard disks these days, it might be a better solution. If you ever have a problem with the iPod, and need to reset it, you’d have to go through the copy-CD-to-iTunes-then-copy-music-to-iPod procedure all over again.

Kirk McElhearn is the author of several books including iPod & iTunes Garage. His blog, Kirkville features articles about the iPod, iTunes, Mac OS X and much more.
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