Recovering iTunes ratings from your iPod

So I had this major breakdown before leaving for the East Coast last week. My external E drive was sounding like it was about to die, so I thought I’d better back up the stuff on it, which is mostly my iTunes music files. But I needed to make some space on my C drive to do so, and went about deleting a whole bunch of old music files that were hanging around in my My Music folder on C from before I had the external drive.

I was in a bit of a rush, and made a major error. Even though iTunes is configured to store the music files on my E drive, I didn’t realise it still keeps the “iTunes Music Library” file in your “My Music” folder on the C drive. Now, this is is the file that contains all your ratings and playlists, and I zapped it along with all the other putative junk in my “My Music” folder. And of course when I backed up all my real music files from E to C, it zapped everything in the Recycle Bin too.

So, next time I start iTunes, it tells me I have no songs. AAARGHH!! The songs I can get back easily just by dragging the E:/iTunes folder back into iTunes, but I’ve spent the last year fastidiously rating every song in my 15Gb library. By pressing the select button twice on the iPod, you can rate the song playing from one to five stars. I use the following system:

  • One star: Things I want to delete
  • Two stars: Things I don’t want to hear on shuffle, but don’t want to delete
  • Three stars: Songs that would be OK to come up on shuffle at a dinner party
  • Four songs: Songs I like a lot
  • Five stars: Songs I really love

That way, I can just use my “3+” smart playlist for a good mix of songs any time. When I’m in the car, I usually play my “unrated” playlist and rate songs as I go. I have spent ages setting this all up, and now it seems all my ratings are gone forever.

Apple support was no help. They told me that the iPod was a one-way device only, and you couldn’t get your ratings back from the iPod. Well that was worth the $60 for my extended service contract, eh? The fact that iPod automatically moves ratings from the iPod to iTunes when you use the thumbwheel to rate songs puts paid to that “one-way device” lie, but I didn’t want to risk synchronizing in case it copied the nonexistent ratings from iTunes to the iPod instead. No amount of cajoling would get Apple Support to help me make sure the ratings went from the iPod to iTunes. Bastards.

But after much experimentation and anguish I did find a solution. There is a cool little freeware app called iPodAgent that works with iTunes for Windows and will let you update iTunes with ratings and playcount information from your iPod. So all I had to do was drag my iTunes Music folder into iTunes to restore my library, and then use iPodAgent to restore my ratings. Perfect! Well, almost — I couldn’t find a way to restore my playlists, but I only had a couple and I could easily recreate those from some CD liner labels I had created. No biggie.

One final point: iPodAgent also lets you copy the actual song files from the iPod to iTunes, so there’s really no need to back up the music files, which is what caused all the problems in the first place! It also has a nifty tool for copying my Outlook contacts to the iPod.

What a relief!

8 thoughts on “Recovering iTunes ratings from your iPod”

  1. Color me a Luddite, but why have we let listening to music become so complicated? It just seems bizarre to micromanage songs like this.

  2. Well, consider yourself colored, Luddite. 🙂

    The point is that having done all this rating, I can now very easily listen to a mix of music I know I’ll like. Losing the convenience of doing just that was what pissed me off so much.

  3. Thanks so Much for writing this you and I have much and common and well You saved me alot of trouble considering the same thing happened to me that happened to you. I find it funny how you wrote your star rating system I had explained my rating system in almost the exact wording to a freind earlier in the week. You rule, thanks again! ~ bren

  4. After much surfing around to solve my similar problem.. I found Podworks..

    I’d reinstalled my itunes library, lost my ratings, but had synched my iPod to hold my rated songs. So there they were, how I was I going to copy that info to my new iTunes..?

    Podworks carrys Metadata with it, so I selected ‘overwrite’ in the settings and updated all the tracks back in my itunes. Worked a treat.

  5. Well I have a similar problem, yet not exactly the same.

    I recently ugraded the firmware on my iPod, and for some strange reason all the my rating (i use a system much like yours) have been “shuffeld” – thats right, the songs still have ratings, only it seems random what rating a song has, and defintly not the rating i would give it!

    The even bigger problem is that the problem is on both the iPod and in iTunes. However I have an old backup of the My Music metadata folder.

    So I’m wondering if it is possible to somehow restore this old ratings? – Any ideas would be very appriciated!

  6. I’d contact Apple support for that one. It seems pretty clearly to be a bug! Sorry, but I don’t have any other suggestions.

    I think I’ll hold off updating the firmware myself!

  7. Emil,
    I have the exact same problem as you since I upgraded the firmware. Ratings have been randomly lost on both the iPod and iTunes… just a bit pissed!!!

  8. Just in the spirit of comraderie I just had a similar issue. Thanks for the ipodagent and podWorks tips! I’ll be trying them right away to restore my ratings (for which I use an identical scheme, BTW, except I never delete anything).

    Trent/Emil, I updated my 4G ipod to the latest firmware as of Jan ’06 and haven’t had any issues; touching wood now…

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