Excerpt: Use your iPod as a startup drive

Editor’s Note: The following article is an excerpt from the just-released second edition of Take Control of Your iPod: Beyond the Music, a $10 electronic book available for download from TidBits Electronic Publishing. The 134-page book shows readers over a dozen practical and fun ways to use your iPod for more than just listening to music.

The iPod’s storage is optimized for storing digital music, pictures, and video, but you can use it to store any kind of data that you can put on your computer’s hard drive, thus enjoying the flexibility of a small, fast, portable drive and taking advantage of any extra storage space on your iPod. For instance, a 40GB iPod might have 30GB available for other information.

In this excerpt from my ebook Take Control of Your iPod: Beyond the Music , I provide detailed instructions for setting up an iPod as a portable disk drive with your Mac. On the next page, we’ll turn our attention to use your iPod as a Mac startup drive.

Use your iPod as a disk on a Mac

To use your iPod as a portable disk drive, begin by enabling disk use:

Figure 1 : Select the checkbox to “Enable disk use.” And, if you plan to use the disk function of your iPod more often than you’ll sync media, uncheck “Open iTunes when this iPod is connected.”

  • Plug your iPod into the computer that you usually synchronize it with, and then, if necessary, launch iTunes. A flashing international “No” sign appears on your iPod screen, as well as the words “Do not disconnect.” On the shuffle, the Power Indicator light changes color when it isn’t safe to disconnect.
  • Click the iPod icon. At the right, near the bottom of the Summary pane, you’ll see a list of options (see Figure 1 above).
  • Select the “Enable disk use” checkbox. iTunes will display a warning message (see Figure 2 below). Pay close attention to the warning—from now on you must dismount your iPod before you unplug it from your computer (I explain how below ).
  • Click OK to dismiss the warning.
  • If you use the shuffle, see Shuffle users: Choosing between songs and data for info about the space allocation slider.
  • If you plan to use the disk aspect of the iPod more often than you’ll sync media, uncheck “Open iTunes when this iPod is connected.”
  • Click Apply to save the new settings.
  • Your Mac can now use the extra space on your iPod just as it would any other storage device.

    Using the disk

    Figure 2 : Warning! Warning!

    While your iPod is attached to your Mac, you’ll see a disk icon for it in the Finder. Depending on your Finder preferences, the iPod’s icon will appear either on the Desktop or in the upper section of any Finder window’s sidebar (or it could be in both locations).

    Double-click the iPod’s disk icon to open it and see several folders—Calendars, Contacts, Notes, Photos, and more. The number and names of the folders will vary depending on the type of iPod you have.

    As with any Macintosh drive, you can now create a new folder on that drive and start dragging items into the new folder. To ensure that you don’t corrupt the data that iTunes manages, drag files and folders only into new folders that you’ve created.

    Ejecting the disk-enabled iPod

    Figure 3 : See where it says “Steven Sande’s iPod?” That symbol to the right is the eject button. Always remember to click it to gracefully eject your iPod before detaching the cable.

    Several paragraphs ago, I noted that you need to manually eject your iPod before unplugging it from your Mac. In iTunes, that’s a simple matter of selecting your iPod in the list at the left, and then clicking its eject icon, as shown in Figure 3.

    After you click the eject icon, the “Do Not Disconnect” logo on your iPod screen should disappear shortly (up to 15 seconds in some cases), and then you may safely unplug it.

    Tip: Other ways to eject

    Clicking the eject button isn’t the only way to eject an iPod:

  • Drag the iPod icon to the Trash.
  • Select it on the Desktop and press Command-E.
  • In any open Finder window, find your iPod in the sidebar and click its eject icon.
  • Click the “other” eject button in iTunes, which appears in the lower right of the iTunes window when the iPod (or content on an iPod) is selected.
  • Shuffle users: Choosing between songs and data

    Figure 4 : Allocate space between songs and general use.

    If you use the shuffle, as you follow the directions for enabling disk use, you’ll encounter a storage allocation slider that you can drag to the left to increase the amount of space for your music or to the right to increase the space reserved for non-music files.

    When iTunes transfers music to the shuffle, it copies only as many songs as it can fit into the space allocated for music files. I suggest allocating at least 128 MB for data. You may be surprised how often you’ll use your shuffle to move files between computers.

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