Far and away, Playlist’s most popular story is Two-way Street: Moving Music Off the iPod, a tutorial, as the name hints, on copying music from an iPod to a computer. (Who knew iPod users were so plagued by hard drive crashes that forced them to use these techniques for recovering their music libraries? I mean, why else would you need to do this?)
It seems that a number of readers have been stumped by Step 11, which reads:
11. Return to iTunes and drag the Music folder you just copied to iTunes’ main window.
The context here is that you’ve made an invisible folder visible, dragged the now-visible folder to iTunes, and iTunes will proceed to copy the contents of the folder—which is music files—into its library.
These instructions, including Step 11, were ducky when I wrote the piece in early 2005. They are no longer so today because Apple has changed something about iTunes that keeps it from copying the contents of an invisible folder into iTunes. Before I provide the workaround, here’s the background.
When you turn an invisible item such as the iPod’s iPod_Control folder visible with a tool such as TinkerTool on the Mac or with Windows’ built-in Show Hidden Files and Folders option you’re essentially instructing the operating system to reveal these items without making any specific adjustment to the items themselves. Invisible items still retain the invisibility flag that gives them their ghostly countenance. In the past, iTunes ignored the invisibility flag and accepted compatible music files whether or not they were housed in an invisible folder. That’s no longer the case. If an item’s invisible flag is set, iTunes won’t embrace it.
Which means, of course, that the trick to making this work is to change the flag from invisible to visible.
On the Mac you can use SkyTag Software’s $40 File Buddy 8 or Rainer Brockerhoff’s $10 XRay to toggle the visibility bit on both the iPod_Control folder and the F folders within the Music folder inside the iPod_Control folder.
This capability is built into Windows. To switch the visibility bit, right-click on an invisible folder, select Properties from the contextual menu, uncheck the Hidden option in the Attributes area of the General tab, and click Apply. In the Confirm Attributes Change window that appears make sure the Apply Changes to This Folder, Subfolders, and Files option is checked and click OK.
With both techniques the folder and all the items in it are now visible and can be dragged into the iTunes library.