How to Restore Erased Music on an iPod
By Amanda Knaebel
Updated August 24, 2017
Apple’s iTunes software used for syncing works only one way – from iTunes on your computer to your iPod – so you can't restore your music using iTunes unless all your songs are currently saved on your computer’s hard drive. That doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible to get your accidentally erased music back. Like all hard drives, the drive inside your iPod is not actually erased when you delete your music. It just marks the space the music previously occupied as available, so it can be overwritten. You may have to do a little digging into your iPod’s Music folder or download third-party software to recover your erased music.
Searching for the Music on Your iPod
After you erase your music, don’t re-sync your iPod with iTunes before you attempt to recover your files.
If you sync your device, iTunes may overwrite the hard drive space your music previously occupied. Instead, click “Manually manage music and videos” from the iTunes Summary pane when you connect your device, then click the “Apply” button.
If you’re using a Windows computer, open My Computer by typing “My Computer” into the search bar on Windows 8 or 10 or by clicking the Start button and selecting “Computer” if you’re using Windows 7. Double-click on your iPod in the My Computer window.
The Music folder on the iPod is hidden by default, so you’ll have to unhide it.
- Windows 10: Type “folder” in the search bar on the taskbar and click on “Show hidden files and folders.” Select “Show hidden files, folders and drives” under “Advanced settings” and click the “OK” button.
- Windows 8: Show hidden folders by swiping up from the bottom right corner of the screen and clicking “Search.” Type “folder” in the Search box and click on “Folder Options.” Click the “View” tab and select “Show hidden files, folders and drives” under “Advanced settings” and click “OK.”
- Windows 7: Click the Start button, then "Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Folder Options." Select the “View” tab and select “Show hidden files, folders, and drives” under “Advanced settings;” then click “OK.”
Once you’ve set Windows to show hidden folders, you can select the “iPod_Controls” folder, then the “Music” folder.
Show hidden folders through the Terminal. Click on Finder (the smiley face icon in your dock), then choose "Applications > Utilities > Terminal." In the Terminal window, type “defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES” without the quotation marks and press Return. Hold down the Option key and click the Finder icon to open a pop-up menu. Select “Relaunch” and you’ll be able to see the hidden folders and files on your Mac. Click on the iPod drive, then choose the “iPod_Controls” folder and then “Music.”
Alternatively, download and install a program that shows hidden files on your Mac, such as Houdini. Open up the Houdini program, then click on "Folders > Reveal." Click on your iPod, then “iPod_Controls.” Highlight the “Music” folder and click “Choose.”
Once you’re in the Music folder on your iPod, you can drag and drop any files you see on your iPod to the folder on your iTunes music folder on your computer. Any files you see will show as a combination of letters, so it can be difficult to tell what songs they are at a glance. It’s best to just move them all to your computer and let iTunes try to pull the metadata information for them. To do that, click "Edit > Preferences > Advanced" in iTunes and check the boxes for “Keep iTunes Media folder organized” and “Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library.” These options help iTunes recognize your song files and add the correct album, artist and song title information.
Using Third-Party Software to Restore Music
Several companies make software programs that claim the ability to recover deleted music from your iPod as long as it hasn’t already been overwritten. Apple doesn’t directly support the use of these programs, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get your music back, but this strategy may be worth a shot if you can't access your music with your iPod in disk mode and you don’t have a backup copy of your music files on a computer.
MobiKin, Remo Software, EaseUs and TenorShare are four companies that make this type of software available for download. While some companies provide free downloads of the software, others do require payment, either up-front payment or as a paid option to unlock other software features once you’ve downloaded the free program.
Re-syncing Music Stored on Your Computer
If all your erased music is stored on your computer and visible in iTunes, simply sync your iPod with iTunes to get it back. Remember that syncing with iTunes recovers only music that’s currently stored on your computer’s hard drive and visible in iTunes, so if you have any songs on your device that aren’t on your computer, make sure to try to recover them from your iPod's Music folder or by using third-party recovery software before you sync.
To sync with iTunes, plug your iPod into your computer and open iTunes. Click on the iPod icon near the top left in iTunes to open the device Summary page, then click on Music. Make sure the “Sync Music” box is checked. Choose whether to sync your entire music library or just certain playlists, artists, albums or genres. Click “Apply,” then “Sync” if syncing doesn’t begin automatically. You’ll see your syncing progress near the top of the iTunes window.
Downloading Past iTunes Purchases
You can re-download any music you originally purchased in iTunes. Apple ties iTunes purchases to your Apple ID, not the device with which you originally purchased or downloaded the songs. If you have an iPod Touch, open the iTunes Store app on your device and tap on "More > Purchased > Music > Not on this iPod." Tap on the cloud icon next to your songs or albums to download them on your iPod.
If you’re not using an iPod Touch, access your past purchases through iTunes on a PC or Mac. Open iTunes and sign in with the Apple ID and password you originally used to make the purchases. Click "Account > Purchased > Not in My Library" and click on the cloud icon next to your songs or albums to download them to your computer so you can sync them to your iPod.
- Apple: iTunes for Windows: Sync iPod, iPhone, or iPad
- Cnet: How to Transfer Music From an iPod to Your Computer
- Microsoft: Show Hidden Files
- Ian Lunn: Quickly Show/Hide Hidden Files on macOS Sierra, OS X El Capitan & Yosemite
- MacUpdate: Houdini
- MobiKin: Restore Deleted Music from iPod Touch/Shuffle
- EaseUS: Free iPod Music Recovery
- Cnet: Tenorshare iPod Data Recovery
- Apple: Sync Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch With iTunes on Your Computer Using USB
- Purchased songs can always be re-downloaded through the iTunes store.
Amanda Knaebel is a self-professed gadget geek and loves all things tech, both new and old. Amanda has been working as a freelance writer for over 10 years on topics including technology, health, fitness, nutrition, gardening and many more. She has also worked with Fortune 50 tech and financial companies, both in technical support and content production.