Let me talk you through one of my worst nightmares. I wipe my computer a lot for various reasons, but often have one machine that’s left completely untouched. There are times, however, where for whatever reason I re-install the OS on that untouched machine, which happens to link in to the aforementioned nightmare… I’ve been collecting music on my iPod for years, and my iTunes library is just over 30GB in size, not counting any of my TV shows or movies. If I forget to back up my library and format my hard drive, then I’m screwed.
That was the exact situation I was in a few weeks ago. My iTunes library was gone, and I needed some way to get all the files off my iPod and on to my hard drive. If you re-install iTunes and sync your iPod with an empty library, you’ll just end up with an empty iPod, and then you HAVE lost your music! Before you start panicking about your precious music collection being lost though, try a program called SharePod.
SharePod is a free application which can browse all the files of your iPod, backup your library, copy songs to your PC and even add songs. The best feature of this application is that it doesn’t require iTunes to be installed to work – just plug your iPod into your PC and open SharePod, and you can browse, add and remove anything, or so they claim…
When you open SharePod, you’re presented with a very clean, simple and easy to use interface. The main tools that you need are across the top of the window with big icons that are easy to locate. On the left hand side, you have the option to: “Copy to PC”; “Copy to iPod”; “Backup iPod”; “Search iPod” and “Eject iPod”. On the right hand side are the options and a link to the website. To test SharePod, I installed it on a Windows XP system that didn’t have iTunes installed, and used both a 4th Gen. iPod Nano and a 3rd Generation iPod Touch.
First up was the Nano. When I plugged it in to the PC, all of my playlists from the iPod appeared on the left hand side of the window with track information and how much capacity was being used on the iPod. This also included playlist management, so I could create and delete playlists from within the sidebar. All my songs were shown in the main window, with track titles, artists, albums, genres, song lengths and file sizes. I selected 100MB worth of songs and transferred them over to my hard drive. It took exactly 10 seconds for the songs to be copied from the iPod to my hard drive in M4A format, which I thought was reasonable. Copying files from my hard drive onto the iPod was also just as quick. Overall, it was a very smooth process.
My 2nd Generation iPod Touch was a bit more difficult at first, but the end results were equally impressive. For SharePod to find your iPod Touch (or iPhone) you need to have iTunes 7 or later installed on your machine. For me, this was a bit of a disappointment, as a feature I enjoyed with the Nano was not having to install iTunes to navigate through my iPod and edit the content on it.
Despite this drawback, however, SharePod is still a great application for removing songs from your iPod and getting them to your hard drive so you can save your iTunes music library! If a later version had the ability to find iPhones and iPod Touches, I would use it more on iTunes-less machines, but for me, the lack of support for these devices is somewhat of a deal-breaker.