Ever since iTunes 10.5 came out with support for “iTunes Match”, I’ve been debating whether I should upgrade my home system. I did a wide variety of web searches, and finally opted to monitoring the RSS feed of the Apple Support community for the iPod Classic. In doing so, I’ve learned a lot…
[Updated 2011-12-16; 2012-01-13; 2012-01-16; 2012-01-25; 2012-02-26; 2012-03-04]
[¶1] First and foremost, I’ve learned that many iPod users (well, at least those that go to the support forums) don’t understand how iTunes and the iPod coexist. There are numerous questions about syncing, and why something doesn’t sync. There are loads of questions on how to move an iTunes library from one computer to another. My advice in this area: Keep your digital music on an external hard drive, and back it up regularly. Also backup your .itl files (iTunes Library Files), and the XML equivalent, and recognize that paths need to stay the same if you want to use the library on a new computer.
[¶2] Second, I’m still unsure about iTunes 10.5 or 10.5.1, and wouldn’t advise moving to it unless you really need it. I’ve seen loads of posts from people using the latest version of iTunes, and the common complaint is that the new iTunes is taking forever to synchronize, or it doesn’t recognize the iPod, or thinks the iPod is corrupt. The problem appears to be (especially on Windows) that antivirus products interfere with the synchronization, the synchronization times out, and ends up corrupting the filesystem of the iPod. The iPod then mounts as a disk but isn’t seen in iTunes, with the usual recommended solution of disabling the anti-virus, doing a CHKDISK of the iPod, and then attempting to restore the iPod. This is a typical response in this vein. Here’s is more useful advice on how to break up a transfer.
[¶3] If you want to try to reinstall an older version (no guarantee it can read the library), try visiting the oldapps page for iTunes. Alternatively, you can visit the Apple Knowledgebase Search function, search for your version, and then restrict the search to “iTunes” and “Downloads”. For example, doing so I found the link to download iTunes 10.4.1 for Windows (64 bit). If you do so, I suggest making sure you have a backup copy of your iTunes database (i.e., the .itl, .itdb, and .xml files in your iTunes directory), and that you have completely removed iTunes following these instructions from Apple. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a complete backup of your music files as well, but I’m sure you do that already. If not, here are instructions on how to backup your music to an external drive.
[¶4] ETA: Another interesting data point: If you just disconnect, the archive bit could be set resulting Windows to ask you to “Scan and Fix” the iPod. Here’s what to do if you get that message.
[¶5] For a lot of other problems, it seems that people still don’t know about the “5 Rs”. In particular, rebooting the iPod (I find) tends to be the answer for click-wheel slowdowns. Don’t know the 5Rs? Look here.
[¶6] When something goes wrong, ask yourself: Did it work before? What changed? Sometimes that can give you the clue. If you updated your iTunes, that could be the underlying cause. Although you might have to restore your iPod, you should consider going back to an older version of iTunes. This points out two other another important rule: (1) Always back up your iTunes database before you update iTunes, and (2) Always make a copy of each iTunes software download, so you have it in case you need to go back.
[¶7] I’ve learned there are some hidden modes on the iPod Classic. In particular, there is an iPod diagnostic mode. I haven’t experimented with it yet (although I will if there is a problem). This post on the forum talks about the mode. I’ve also found articles on the mode here and here. Another good discussion of disk diagnostics is here.
[¶8] A common query is how to move music from the iPod back to a computer. A lot of people refer to this post on the forum (written by forum regular Zevoneer). Myself, I’ve had good luck with Copytrans, or you can just find the music files and add them directly (of course, then you lose ratings and play counts).
[¶9] A similar common query is how to move music to an external drive. This support article indicates how. If you want to understand things better (or are moving between operating systems), this article from iLounge provides a real good explanation about how to move media the right way.
[¶9.5] Backing up your music is an important thing to do. iLounge has an excellent article on the subject: The Complete Guide to Backing Up your iTunes Library. Read it. It describes the structure of the library and how to find your files. There are lots of ways to do it: Use your backup program to backup your music files and your iTunes directory; manual copying; etc. Here is one user tip from the iTunes forum for backing up; I haven’t tried it yet. However you do it, do it regularly and to a different drive than your main music drive.
[¶10] An iPod displaying a Red X is a bad thing. In almost all cases, it appears to be a hard disk crash. Alas, the answer for that is either Apple Service, or just buying a new Classic. Here’s what Apple says. Some suggest attempting to realign the head by a gentle slap of the iPod against your thigh. It is important to remember that an iPod Classic has a spinning hard disk, not a solid state disk. Sharp bumps, drops, etc. can misalign the heads and result in a head crash, and that’s often all she wrote.
[¶11] It appears that car audio systems, especially those with dock connectors, are particularly bad for the iPod classic. If there is no transformer or fuse in the middle, some of the newer ones can corrupt an older classic. At this point, I’m only sticking with using the headphone jack to connect to a speaker system. BMWs are particularly bad here. Often, the problem is software incompatibility between the car software and the iPod software. Again, the headphone jack and an external charger is the safest approach.
[¶12] Some people don’t know the generation of their iPod. This page can help them find out.
[¶13] What else have I discovered? Error 1439 can be the wrong type of USB port. Error 69 indicates some corruption in the library. Sometimes the only answer is to start afresh–that is, completely erase and reformat the iPod disk, and then restore the iPod to out of the box status and reload.
[¶14] Lastly, it’s a bad thing to drop an iPod Classic. No duh from me: there’s a hard disk in there. But loads of folks drop their iPod Classics, and then post wondering why it is no longer working, and making a clicking sound… Water is also bad, but if your lucky and the amount of water is slight, you might be able to save it using these tricks.
[¶15]Evidently, there is an alternate OS available for some, not all, portable music players. In particular, it does not seem ready for prime-time on the iPod Classic. Information is available at http://www.rockbox.org/
[¶16] Turingtest2 has a nice post explaining how to fix album groupings in iTunes.
I’m posting this mostly for my reference–so I can find these things in the future. They may be of interest to others. For those out there that have iPod Classics (us older holdouts) and Windows 7: How is iTunes 10.5 or 10.5.1 working for you?