Zelek iPod Music
Liberator is a small utility that facilitates copying the music loaded on an iPod
back to your computer. Apple, probably as an olive branch to the music industry,
built in some restrictions as to what could be done with the music loaded to an iPod.
There is no way, through the iTunes software, to copy music back off the iPod, one
can only add or delete. Fortunately, the iPod is not totally locked down, as the
music folder is simply marked as "hidden" and with some minor effort, it
is possible to retrieve the music files from the iPod. That is not the end of the
story, though, as the folder layout and filenames on the iPod are all just garbled
letters and it's pretty useless without going through and re-organizing and re-naming
all the files. Additionally, with this method you will not retrieve track ratings
or playlists. While this does make casual copying ("piracy") difficult,
it can be the source of serious headaches when your hard drive crashes and you've
lost all your original music files on the computer or you want to load your music
to a new computer and do not have a network between them. Zelek iPod Music Liberator
was designed with these issues in mind and has a few extra features to spice things
The primary function of the software is to copy the music off of your iPod, retrieving
the meta-data (album, artist, track name, etc.) from the iPod's own database and
then organizing the music folders on your hard disk and naming the tracks in the
manner you specify (e.g. for folders you can pick layouts like Artist-Album-Track
or Genre-Album-Track, for track names you can choose which info should be included
in the filename itself.). The rating and playlist info is captured to an XML file
that iTunes can import.
- Playlists - copy
your playlists from your iPod to your computer
- Ratings - recover
your songs' ratings from your iPod
- Automatic File Renaming
- automatically rename your songs using any combination of the artist, album, and
- Organized Copying
- automatically organize your music into folders labeled by artist and album
- Intelligent Copying
- copy only the updated songs from your iPod to your computer
- Powerful Searching
- refine songs restored using search criteria
- Simple User Interface
- simple user interface to allow easy navigation
- Quick Song Listing
- uses the iPod's own internal database to quickly list your songs
- Music Player - can
directly play your music from your iPod to refresh your memory about which song you
want to copy
Installation on the Mac was a breeze: one need only unpack the download archive,
copy the app to your Applications folder and double click. On first run, it will
ask if you want to evaluate the software or enter your license info. Other than the
fact that I had an old license at first that would not validate the latest version
of the software, once I got a valid license key, the install went without a hitch.
Once the software is up and running it will detect any iPod that is plugged in.
The interface is clean and to the point. Using the browsing interface provided by
the software, you simply select the music to retrieve from the iPod and click "Copy".
In the preferences you can set the desired destination folder, the hierarchy layout
and file naming scheme and that is about it. In my case, I left the default settings,
since they matched iTunes default music layout. Note that copying music and getting
it back into iTunes is a two step process. First, iPod Music Liberator (IML) copies
the music to your hard disk, then you need to tell iTunes to import the newly recovered
data. Fortunately, IML generates an XML file, readable by iTunes that includes all
your rating and playlist info and paths to all the music files so you simply instruct
iTunes to import that file and it takes care of the rest.
When first using IML, it's important to change a setting in iTunes preferences under
the iPod tab. You need to checkmark the "enable disk use" option; otherwise,
you can get problematic behavior from IML.
Enabling disk use within iTunes
Once an iPod is recognized, iPod Liberator displays your library as well as your
playlists in the left window pane. In the primary pane to the right is a list of
all the songs located either in your library, or the selected playlist.
Displaying the "5 Star Music" playlist from the iPod "Black Diamond"
You have the option to restore the entire library from your iPod, or you can selectively
choose specific playlists and/or specific sounds. Once your selection has been made,
you just click on the "Copy" button, and IML begins downloading the music
off of your iPod onto your hard disk. You can even use the search field to select
specific songs only to copy. In the example below, selected just the U2 songs from
their Rattle & Hum album.
Copying songs from iPod to hard disk
There is a progress
bar on the bottom left of the window indicating the status of restoring your songs.
After it is completed, the songs are organized in the destination folder you selected
after pressing Copy. IML first creates a "Music" folder where the actual
songs are stored, and it also creates an XML file that includes your song ratings,
and other meta data that is not stored with the actual audio files. This is helpful
for loading into iTunes.
File organization from iPod Music Liberator
You can instruct IML
how to organize and name your fields under IML Options. In the example above, I have
the songs organized in folders, and named by artist/album/song.
Organizing files and folders
For the purposes of
reviewing this software, IML was used to copy music from two different fourth generation
(photo) iPods as well as a 5th generation video iPod. The first iPod had about eight
gigs of music that was no longer available elsewhere due to a crashed disk. Having
a tool to recover music that has been lost due to a crash is what really makes IML
a valuable tool. I plugged in the iPod, selected all the music and hit "Copy".
It took awhile (around 60 minutes), but when it finished, sure enough, there was
a nicely organized folder layout with a bunch of music in it. The long transfer time
is not unique to IML, as even iTunes takes a long time to transfer that much data.
When the copy finished, IML reported: "2,398 files copied, 60 errors".
In my transfer of some songs by Zemfira, the Russian names (using Russian characters)
did not translate. It appears that non-Latin character language support is not supported
by IML. IML reported errors, and converted the names to odd ASCII characters in the
view window. On the hard drive, those files ended up with a bunch of question marks
in the names.
Clean and simple interface, but not so good with Cyrillic characters.
I was a little bothered
by the fact that the interface told me there were errors without providing more information
on what those errors were. After contacting the vendor, I was informed that I could
generate a log file of the errors by choosing Select File -> Export Help Files.
This places a log file on your desktop. This was not obvious, and undocumented, but
the vendor was quick to provide the information, and at least there is a way to get
a log file.
Errors aside, after starting iTunes and telling it to import the XML file generated
by the copy, the music showed up, and, even better, so did my playlists and ratings.
The other features of IML, like search and the music player, all seem to work pretty
much as advertised. It certainly would not make sense to try to use IML as your standard
music player, but if you are looking for a particular file to recover, it is nice
to be able to play it right from the browser interface. All in all, it is a very
useful piece of software. However, depending on an individual's particular music
collection, the lack of international character support may be a critical flaw.
Over all, the IML interface is very intuitive, but it does have some issues. By default,
when IML opens up, all playlists and all songs are selected. I just wanted to copy
one song, so in the song list pane, I highlighted just the one song. After clicking
Copy, however, all the songs began copying. This was not very intuitive. I had to
cancel the operation, and after clicking stop, instead of stopping completely, the
progress area switched from copying x of y songs to copying x of y playlists. The
stop should have canceled the operation completely without requiring further intervention.
To make matters worse, in some cases, IML got confused and bombed out with the following
Zelek Software offers iPod Music Liberator for $34.99. If you are just looking to
copy music between two computers via your iPod, that price is a bit steep. In that
case, it is probably easier to just copy the music to and from the iPod using your
iPod's Disk Mode, using the Finder, and assuming you have the extra space on the
iPod (or simply use an external USB or Firewire drive). However, if you are the victim
of a hard drive crash and have lost the original copies of your music, this tool
is a lifeline, and $35 is a pittance compared with the investment of time necessary
to re-rip all those albums, or convincing the iTunes Music Store staff they should
let you download your music all over again.
Zelek's iPod Music
Liberator is a straightforward tool that does its task well: copying music, ratings
and playlists off an iPod back onto a computer. The recovered data is easily imported
into iTunes. The interface is clean and the software is simple to use. It lets you
grab all the iPod's music, specific playlists or selections by search criteria. It
has some nice options on file organizing and naming, and let's you play the songs
within the Music Liberator. The software does have some flaws, such as lack of language
support for non-Latin characters, and a non-intuitive process of retrieving an error
log. There are also a few interface quirks, and the occasional application shut down
message. However, if you are trying to recover from a crashed hard drive and the
loss of music on the host computer, all of these issues are easily forgivable. The
iPod Music Liberator is a must-have tool for anyone who has a need to retrieve music
from your iPod.
- Recovery of not just
music, but also playlists and ratings from an iPod
- Recovered files are
well organized and named
- The recovered data
is easily imported back into iTunes
- Clean, simple interface
- Critical need when
original library gone
- Unintuitive error
reporting and logging
- Poor support for
- A few interface quirks
4 out of 5 Mice