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How to back up your iPod

Question: I just lost my ipod that had a ton of songs on it. So now I have to buy those songs all over again and load them on my new ipod! Is there a way for me to backup these songs I'm buying, so that if my ipod goes belly up again then I won't lose my music investment?

Answer: Wow, sorry to hear that you lost all those tunes - that can be really expensive!

iTunes does have a built-in backup feature, but it requires you to use a recordable CD for each album. You can access this feature by selecting the songs you want to back up, and then selecting the "File" - "Back Up To Disc" menu in iTunes.

That'll convert your mp3 songs to audio format that you can play from a CD or DVD player, but you'll burn through a LOT of discs for several gigs of music files that live on most ipods.

A more ideal solution would be to back up all of your ipod music to a single location on your computer, and preferably an external hard drive.

MediaPilot has a slick backup feature that lets you backup all of your ipod music to a single location on your hard drive. No recordable CDs or DVDs are needed with this approach either.

Here's how it works.

  1. Plug your ipod into your computer using the regular data cable, which should start itunes.

  2. Download a copy of MediaPilot, install it and run it on your system.
  3. Select the Tools - iPod File Backup menu.
  4. Choose a backup folder location and identify how you'd like the backup folders to be organized.

How to Transfer your iTunes Library to Another Computer

Question: I have a bunch of music in iTunes on my old computer. How do I transfer my iTunes library to my new computer?

Answer: There are two ways to do this: 1) by manually copying your iTunes music files to an external hard drive and then manually copy them to your new computer, and 2) using a program like iPod 2 iTunes or MediaPilot that let you copy music from your iPod directly to another computer.

I'll cover the manual route first, which is a little harder and requires that you have an external hard drive, and then I'll show you the easy way using just your existing iPod and an inexpensive copy of iPod 2 iTunes.

Manually copy your iTunes library to another computer using a external hard drive

Plug in your external hard drive to your computer. Open Windows Explorer and go to your iTunes music folder. On Vista it's C:\Users\your.username\Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Music. On Windows XP it's under Documents and Settings.

Copy the iTunes Music folder to your external hard drive, and then plug the hard drive into the other computer.

Make sure iTunes is installed on the other computer, and just copy the contents of the iTunes Music folder from your external hard drive to the new computer (in the same location as the old computer). iTunes will recognize the files the next time you run it, and you'll be good to go.

Automatically copy your iTunes library to another computer with third-party software

A much easier option if you have all the music on your iPod is to use a third-party program that will copy music from your iPod to your computer (basically using your iPod as an external hard drive).

There are a couple of programs that you can use to upload music from your iPod to any computer running iTunes.

MediaPilot:

How to Backup Copy-Protected DVD Movies

Question: I have a few DVD movies that I'd like to copy for backup purposes, and would also like to view them on my laptop when I go on business trips. The software that came with my laptop isn't able to do it though - it says the DVDs are copy-protected. Is there an easy way to do this?

Answer: You'd think it would just be a simple matter of plugging the DVD into the DVD drive on your computer, and clicking a "Create Backup Copy" menu somewhere in Windows Explorer (or in the Finder for Mac users). It turns out however that copy-protection and encryption on commercial DVD movies have made it a lot harder than that.

Your operating system will not let you make backup copies of your favorite copy-protected commercial DVD movies without the help of third-party software programs. You'll also most likely need to find software made outside the United States. Thanks to some confusing legislation, and the fear of copyright law suits in the states, companies like Roxio, Nero, and others have removed the ability to copy commercial DVDs.

Is it legal?

If you're intentions are to copy your DVDs and sell them for profit, then you're clearly violating copyright laws and will be subject to fines or imprisonment if caught.

But what about making backup copies of your own DVDs that you paid for? I'm not a lawyer, so I recommend that you read the copyright laws for your country and decide for yourself what's legal and what's not. Personally I found them confusing at best, and conflicting with regards to fair usage laws that should allow me to protect my personal property by making backup copies of my own DVDs.

I'm a firm believer in the right to protect your own personal property. For DVDs that means being able to burn backup copies to your heart's content, provided they're for your own personal viewing (ie. you aren't selling them or using them to make a profit).

The search for a good DVD Ripper and Burner

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