I wasn’t amused when I discovered iTunes doesn’t allow transferring MP3 files from an iPod to a PC, but there are tools out there, both commercial and free, to do so. I tried SharePod, but my Japanese-tagged file showed up as question marks in the program’s display. UTF-8, c’est pas?

I noticed my Nano (presumably second generation, since it’s a silver 2GB model) is always enabled as a disk drive, so I poked around the directories through Windows Explorer. I found my MP3 files in some hidden directories, renamed with some random encoded convention.

So I experimented. I launched the very excellent Mp3Tag program and browsed to the music directory on my iPod (//iPod_Control/Music). Lo and behold! Mp3Tag read all the subdirectories.

Mp3Tag is an incredibly robust program. I used to dread tagging MP3 files, but Mp3Tag makes it so easy, it’s actually exacerbated my more, ahem, "thorough" tendencies. (Yeah, go ahead and call me anal retentive.)

Leveraging the power of Mp3Tag, I managed to transfer a full album’s worth of MP3s to my PC with little effort. Here’s how:

  1. I reordered the columns by album name, and highlighted all the tracks for a particular album.
  2. I clicked the Copy to icon on the toolbar, and when prompted, I created a new folder for the album in my iTunes Music Library folder and selected it.
  3. I hit OK, and the files were copied over.
  4. I changed directories in Mp3Tag to the newly copied files on my machine.
  5. I selected all the files, and hit the Tag – Filename icon on the toolbar. After determining the convention of my file names (usually $num(%track%,2) - %artist% - %title%), I hit OK, and the files are renamed to something legible.

That it.

I didn’t have to download and evaluate a new tool. And I could easily read my Japanese-tagged files.

I’m not sure whether this method can work with a previous generation Nano. And it certainly won’t work with iTunes-purchased music. At least, I’m assuming it won’t — I don’t have any iTunes-purchased music to test.

Maybe at some point in the future I’ll want a more robust tool to handle the other PDA functions in my iPod, but for a quick grab of my music files, Mp3Tag is pretty convenient.