How To: Use your iPod on Mac & Windows computers

Here’s a little known fact: Your Windows PC cannot read your iPod if you formatted it with a Mac.

I found that out the hard way today, when I wanted to transfer some files from a Windows laptop to my iPod (which was formatted on Mac OS X). But the iPod is supposed to work on a Mac or a PC, right? Well, that’s correct, but Windows can’t read the mac HFS+ file format, so… if you’re using your Mac ipod on Windows, here’s the how-to.

First and foremost, let me say that if you follow any of my advise, the world may split in two and swallow your entire town. Or other bad stuff could happen. It probably won’t, but it could, so don’t come crying to me. 🙂

Second, while I’m going to explain how to use your iPod on both Mac & Windows computers, there are software programs out there to do just that. I haven’t used any of them and have no plans to, since the following method works flawlessly – for free.

Here we go….

To use your iPod on both Mac & Windows computers, you must format your iPod on a Windows version of iTunes.

Why? Windows will format your iPod with a FAT32 file system (which is readable by both Mac and Windows) whereas a Mac version of iTunes will format your iPod with a HFS+ file system (which Windows cannot read).

How do you know if your iPod is formatted for Mac or Windows? Easy.

To determine if your iPod has been restored for Macintosh or Windows, do this:

  1. On your iPod, select Settings > About. If you’re using an older iPod with older iPod software (such as iPod Software 1.x), select Settings from the main menu.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen.

If your iPod disk is configured for Macintosh, the serial number is the last item you’ll see listed in the About screen. If the disk is configured for Windows, the last item you’ll see is “Format: Windows.”

So, if you have an iPod that was formatted using Windows – you’re fine. You’re finished. Stop reading. 😉

If you have an iPod that you originally started using on a Mac, you’ll need to reformat it on a Windows PC if you want to use it on both types of computers. (Note: Apple says this will only work on iPod shuffles, but it does seem to work on most newer iPods.)

  1. Connect your iPod to a Windows PC.
  2. When iTunes attempts to sync the iPod, you will get an error message that it cannot be read and must be formatted.
  4. If you want to make your iPod readable by both Windows and OS X, follow the prompts to format your iPod.
  5. Once your iPod has been formatted by Windows, you will need to remove the iPod, attach the plug, and plug it into the wall to finish the restore.

You now have an blank (empty) iPod that can be sync’d to either/both Windows and Mac computers. Simply plug it in to either your Windows PC or Mac, and re-sync your songs, photos, and movies!

3 thoughts on “How To: Use your iPod on Mac & Windows computers”

  1. R u sure about this? my uncle seemed to think that it wouldn’t work, has anyody used his method succesfully? I just wanna make sur it won’t earase all my songs and not let me put them back on from the mac again. Maybe u could email me with an answer or someone could comment.


  2. This will definitely work, Marshall, but please do read the caveat above. When you connect to the Windows PC and reformat your iPod, it will delete all the music files off your iPod. It will make it blank, just like the day you bought it.

    Windows will put the format on and allow you to use disk mode, sync, or whatever it is you wanted to do originally. Then, when you come back to your Mac, it will still allow you to have your files from the Windows computer on the iPod.

    One tip – if you’re ever afraid that some of your files *might* be deleted by a Windows or Mac version of iTunes, make sure that you have the MANUALLY SYNC options selected. If you’re not sure what that means, google for “itunes manual sync”.

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