Can you transfer music from iPod to SD card?

The iPod was a revolutionary portable music player developed by Apple that allowed users to store hundreds or thousands of songs on a small internal hard drive for on-the-go listening. First released in 2001, the iPod became immensely popular and dominated the portable music player market for years (Apple Presents iPod, 2021). At its peak in 2008, Apple sold over 54 million iPods (iPod – statistics & facts, 2023).

With the rise of smartphones and music streaming, iPod sales have declined significantly in recent years. However, many people still use their iPods to store and listen to music collections. For those with large libraries of songs encoded in MP3 or other formats, transferring music from an iPod to an SD card can serve as a way to free up iPod storage space while retaining access to their full music library.

This article provides an overview of the main methods for transferring music files from an iPod to an SD card. It covers using iTunes syncing, direct iPod-to-SD card transfer, file format conversion, estimated transfer times, preserving playlists and metadata, and alternatives to SD cards for iPod music storage.

Reasons to Transfer Music

There are a few key reasons you may want to transfer music from your iPod to an SD card:

Free up storage space on your iPod – iPods have limited storage, especially older models. Transferring your music library to an SD card frees up precious space on your iPod to add new music, videos, photos and more. An SD card can hold much more content than an iPod’s built-in storage.

Back up your music collection – Keeping a copy of your music library on an external SD card allows you to have a backup in case anything happens to the music files on your iPod. It provides redundancy in case of data loss.

Move music to a new device – You may want to migrate your music library from an old iPod to a new MP3 player, phone, tablet or computer. Transferring to an SD card lets you quickly move your tunes to another device.


To transfer music from an iPod to an SD card, you will need the following:

A compatible iPod model and software version – The process requires an iPod model that allows transferring of music such as an iPod classic, iPod nano or iPod touch. The iPod software should be updated to the latest iOS version that supports transferring files.

A computer with iTunes installed – You will need access to a Windows PC or Mac with the latest version of iTunes. iTunes provides the ability to sync and transfer music between the iPod and computer.

An SD card and reader – You will need an SD card, such as a Secure Digital (SD), miniSD or microSD card, along with a compatible SD card reader that can connect to your computer. The SD card will need to be formatted and have enough storage capacity for the music files.

Properly formatting the SD card before attempting the transfer is recommended. The computer’s file system format should match the SD card’s formatting for proper transfer. For Windows, SD cards are often formatted with FAT32 or exFAT. For Mac, Apple File System (APFS) or exFAT are recommended.

Using iTunes to Transfer

One way to transfer music from an iPod to an SD card is by using iTunes on a computer. This involves connecting the iPod and SD card to the computer, opening iTunes to sync the iPod, and then selecting songs to copy over.

To start, connect the iPod to the computer using the USB cable. Also insert the SD card into the computer’s SD card reader or a connected external USB card reader. Open iTunes on the computer, and the connected iPod should show up under the Devices section. If not, go to iTunes preferences and enable “Show this iPod when iTunes is open.”

Next, click on the iPod icon and navigate to the Music section under On My Device. Here you will see all the songs currently synced to the iPod. Now open a Finder or Explorer window and navigate to the SD card. Select the songs you want to transfer from the iPod music list, drag them over to the SD card folder, and drop them into place. iTunes will copy the tracks from the iPod to the SD card.

This process lets you directly transfer music files from the iPod to the external SD card without needing any special software. Just be sure to have enough free space on the SD card for the songs. Also, the original metadata like playlists does not get transferred over – it just copies the music file itself.

Transferring Directly from iPod

You can transfer music directly from your iPod to an SD card without using iTunes. This requires connecting your iPod and SD card directly using a special adapter or card reader that allows both devices to be accessed simultaneously.

To transfer music this way, first connect your iPod and SD card to the adapter/card reader and plug it into your computer. Open your iPod contents and navigate to the music files. Select the songs you want to transfer and drag and drop them into the SD card folder. The music files will copy directly from the iPod to the SD card.

This method gives you full control to choose exactly which songs to transfer. It also avoids needing iTunes or additional conversion software. However, it requires the right physical adapters and connectors. Make sure the SD card has enough storage space for the music you want to transfer.

Converting File Formats

iTunes saves music in AAC format by default. While this provides high audio quality, it may cause compatibility issues when transferring music to other devices. Many MP3 players and older car stereos don’t support playback of AAC files.

To get around this, you’ll need to convert your iTunes music library from AAC to the more widely compatible MP3 format. This can be done directly within iTunes. Simply right click on any song and select “Create MP3 Version.” iTunes will create a separate MP3 copy while retaining the original AAC file.

You can also convert in bulk by selecting multiple songs or an entire album and choosing “Create MP3 Version.” The process may take awhile for large libraries but is straightforward. Converting to MP3 allows transferring to SD cards and compatibility with a wider range of devices.[1]

Transfer Time

The amount of time it takes to transfer music from an iPod to an SD card can vary greatly depending on several factors:

  • Amount of music – Transferring a larger music library with thousands of songs will naturally take much longer than a smaller collection of a few hundred songs.
  • File size – Higher bitrate songs that are larger in filesize will require more transfer time than lower bitrate compressed songs.
  • SD card speed – Using an SD card with higher read/write speeds will allow for faster transfer times. Older, slower SD cards can bottlebeck transfer speeds.

As a benchmark, transferring 1000 average 3-4 minute songs saved as 128kbps MP3 files to a UHS-1 Class 10 SD card through a USB 2.0 connection can take around 30-60 minutes. Larger high bitrate lossless audio collections may take multiple hours to fully transfer over.

To achieve optimal transfer speeds, use a high speed modern SD card and avoid transferring extremely large lossless audio files if possible. Expect transfers to take awhile if moving your entire music library.

Playlists and Metadata

When transferring music from an iPod to an SD card, playlists may not transfer correctly. The playlist order and structure often gets lost in the transfer process. This is because playlists are stored differently on an iPod compared to how music files are structured on an SD card. An iPod uses proprietary software like iTunes to store playlist data separate from the actual music files. In contrast, SD cards just contain the raw music files in folders. There is no separate playlist metadata.

According to discussions on the Apple support forums, simply exporting a playlist from iTunes does not guarantee it will retain its order when transferred to a plain folder structure on an SD card. The software used to transfer the files may ignore or be unable to read the playlist data [1].

Similarly, metadata like album art, artist information, and other tags may not carry over when transferring music directly off an iPod. This supplemental data is stored in the iTunes library, not within each music file. Copying the raw files to an SD card strips this metadata away. There are utilities that can help match and restore metadata after transfer, but the default process tends to lose it. This can leave music transferred to an SD card with missing information and artwork [2].

Alternatives to SD Card

While SD cards are convenient for transferring music from an iPod, there are a few other good options to consider:

External Hard Drives

External hard drives provide lots of storage space to transfer music libraries. They connect to computers via USB and are available in large capacities. External drives need to be formatted properly to work between Mac and Windows computers.

Cloud Storage

Services like iCloud, Google Drive, and Dropbox allow you to upload music from an iPod and access it from various devices. Cloud storage provides offline access in many cases. One downside is that bandwidth caps and slow internet speeds can make uploading large music libraries time-consuming.

Computer Hard Drive

You can transfer an iPod’s music directly to your computer’s hard drive. This doesn’t provide portability, but it allows you to consolidate your music in one place. You’ll need sufficient hard drive space for large libraries. Backup your computer regularly if storing your music collection locally.


In summary, there are a couple main ways to transfer music from an iPod to an SD card. Using iTunes is the easiest method – you can sync your iPod to iTunes and then enable file sharing to copy the music files over. The other way is to access your iPod’s hidden folders directly and copy files off. Converting formats first to a universal one like MP3 avoids compatibility issues.

No matter which method you use, it’s important to have backups of your music library. SD cards can fail or get corrupted over time. By keeping the original files in iTunes or on your computer, you’ll always have access to your music collection.

Transferring to SD card lets you free up iPod storage and use the music on new devices. With the right steps, it’s straightforward to move your songs, playlists and metadata over. iTunes handles most of the work so you can save time and avoid hassles. Now you can enjoy your music wherever you go.

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