Monday, August 30, 2010

Problem with iPod: remove iTunesU files

UPDATED with two more methods - see below (including the BEST method so far)
ADDITIONAL: In iTunes 11 the problem is resolved - How to delete iTunesU files from iPod
If you are using an iPod to listen to iTunesU content you must have already run into this problem. iPod does not handle iTunesU files very well. They are not handily organized and if you want to remove those files after use, you will have a very hard time doing so.

The problem started when iTunes no longer stuck iTunesU files in the podcast rubric and created an independent iTunesU folder for this category. It was forgotten to have an iTunesU folder on the iPod as well. As of that moment you would go look for your iTunesU files on the PC in the iTunesU folder and on your iPod in the Music folder. For playing this might be a bit bothersome, but not ultimately problematic, especially if you use playlist. However, for deleting files, you have to connect the iPod to the PC and use the PC interface to access the iPod. Here is the catch.

Since iPod has no iTunesU folder and iTunes on the PC does not take iTunesU files to be Music files, they simply are nowhere to be found. In case you have put the files on a playlist, they are seen there, but that is not where they sit. Or, in other words, if you delete the files from the playlist, they simply are no longer listed, but they still reside on the iPod. They take up space, but you can no longer find them. As a consequence, over time, your iPod will become clogged with redundant iTunesU files.

Until iTunes fixes this, there is no easy solution to the problem. But there are a few workarounds I have applied with success, although they all have their own drawbacks.

1. Recategorize to Music
Keep your iTunesU files on a playlist. Select them by right-click and choose 'Get Info'. This will open up a set of tabs which contain the definitions for the selected file (multi-selection is allowed). Go to the 'Options' tab and change the category from iTunesU to Music. Save the change and now the files show up in the Music folder in the PC interface. Now you can select and delete the files.

In case you have iTunesU files that are no longer on a playlist, you can use your iPod to stick them back there. Disconnect the iPod from the PC, find the files on iPod in Music and give them a long click with the wheel center. You will be offered to option to add the files to the 'On-The-Go'-list. Agree to put the files on that list and then connect to PC again. The 'On-The-Go'-list appears in the PC interface and from here you can select the files and change their category to Music.

- Some iTunesU files cannot have their category changed - they remain hidden and therefore cannot be deleted.
- iTunesU videos cannot be changed to music. They can be changed to Podcast or Video, but they still will not show up in the PC interface under these folders - they remain hidden and therefore cannot be deleted.

2. Use the file system to access iPod
In stead of addressing the iPod through iTunes, connect the iPod to the PC and browse to it through the file system. Find the removable drive that is your iPod. It sits, for example under E: and then browse through to E:\iPod_Control\Music. Note that this is a hidden folder, so you will have to set your file browsing to show hidden folders. E:\iPod_Control\Music will have a number of subfolders, each containing music files with encrypted names. The trick is to read around the encryption and identify exactly which file is which and then delete the iTunesU files you want to.

- This is difficult. You have to know what you are doing and be able to identify the files. In addition, this is a long and bothersome process.
- Your iPod will soon afterwards require a 'soft' reset as its datafile system has gone mildly corrupted. You have deleted files without the interference of iTunes and so -I guess- some of the indexes have gone wrong. Only after the reset the clogged memory will have been released. There may be some data loss though - I had to redo the synching of my iPod with regards to pictures.
Bottom-line: do not do this unless you have to, you know what you are doing and you can handle the system hick-ups that follow.

3. Hard reset
Restore your iPod to factory settings.

- Not only do you lose your iTunesU files, you lose all the others as well
- You also lose customized settings to the iPod
Bottom-line: this method is clean and effective, but it takes some work afterwards in order to shape your iPod menus and settings back to where you like them and put back all the files you want on the pod.

Do any of you know other ways to tackle this problem? Please let us know.

For me, the conclusion is clear this is a major flaw in iTunes. I have seen quite a number of complaints about this in the Apple user forums, but the developers have yet to respond. So I guess it may take some time for an iTunes update that will solve it. Until then: use iTunesU as little as possible; try to subscribe to its content as Podcast if you can. If not, carefully apply the above methods. Good luck.

I have now learned of a 4th method: synchronizing iTunesU
Here is the 5th method (the best one in my opinion): Subscribe to iTunesU feeds as Podcast
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