iPod as OSX/Windows/Linux USB drive

iPod MiniTake advantage of your iPod as a cross-operating system file transfer or backup usb drive. If you’ve read my ‘About’ page you know that I employ OSX and Ubuntu Linux at home and use WindowsXP at work as well. Having a usb drive to plug into all three of them is what makes using three different operating systems livable. Hopefully this short post can save you all of the time I spent reading on the net about this idea. In the end it was so simple I vowed to start my own site where I could give advice to other power users that don’t want to sell their soul to the tech-geek gods.

First: What is the operating system you use to alter the music/video content of your iPod? Windows or OSX? I use OSX. If you use Windows this is going to be very easy. In the iTunes preferences make sure your iPod is set to ‘use as external drive’ or whatever (sorry I don’t have the exact wording).

Second: Something to keep in mind is the file system that the two different operating systems employ:

  • Windows: FAT32 or NTFS
  • OSX: HFS+

When an iPod is first used on either operating system it is reformatted with either a 3-partition HFS+ file system or a 2-partition VFAT (which I can only assume is another name for FAT32 or some relative of FAT32) file system. (The iPod may technically not be reformatted depending on the format it is initially formatted in. The difference is irrelevant to the issue at hand.)

Linux uses its own file system (usually ‘ext3’). However, Linux has been working with Windows for a long time and apparently it has no trouble reading FAT32 file systems. The same goes for OSX because, let’s face it, when you’re 3% of the personal computer market you adapt to work with the competition. So, you guessed it, if you already use Windows to manage the content of your iPod you don’t have to do a thing. Just plug your iPod into either a Linux or OSX box and it will mount as a removable drive. With Linux this experience can vary depending on the version of the Linux Kernel being used as well as the distribution of Linux. With Fedora Core 4 I had to manually alter a text file to allow the system to mount the drive. However, with Ubuntu 5.1 usb drives mount automatically. (NOTE:If you think the word ‘terminal’ is usually associated with some sort of illness, I recommend installing Ubuntu.) In OSX you’ll see a generic usb drive icon instead of the iPod icon. That’s easily corrected with a simple trip to the ‘Get Info’ window of the iPod and copy/paste of the correct iPod icon.

Now, for those of you using OSX to manage your iPod content. You need to reformat your iPod for Windows. Don’t worry, you can still use your iPod with iTunes in OSX. I do it all the time. File transfers are a little slower with FAT32 (VFAT) but the benefits of going between operating systems outweighs the cost in file transfer speed. The other issue has to do with file name length and possibly a limited use of certain characters in file names. Seems like a small cost.

The trick is finding a Windows box to use for the reformatting. Find a friend with Windows and bring a $7 six-pack of beer with you.

Next, you’ll need to download the appropriate ‘iPod Updater’ for Windows from Apple.com. Try this page:


This will have to be installed on the Windows box. Then you’ll plug in your iPod and start the program to reformat your iPod. NOTE: Backup any music or files you have on the iPod prior to this step. Reformatting will erase the iPod’s drive and create a new file system. If you have music on the iPod that you don’t have on your computer, download this applescript to pull those songs off of your ipod ๐Ÿ™‚

Import iPod Audio Files Applescript

Once that’s done you’re ready to go. The reformatting is easy. You will now be able to take files in between different operating systems.

2 thoughts on “iPod as OSX/Windows/Linux USB drive”

    1. Why? Hankering to pay for a really expensive cellular data plan with a cellular phone company that is known to have spotty service? Plus, I’m not sure what your comment has to do with my post about using an iPod as a cross-platform removable USB drive. I’m not even sure the iPhone or iPod Touch can even be used in the same way anymore. I hope you found it helpful regardless.

Comments are closed.