Using an iPod in Linux

What can you do with an Apple iPod and Linux that you can't do with Apple's iTunes? Plenty.

If you do run into trouble, relax. I had a little trouble myself getting everything to run smoothly. Be warned that some of the drivers still are a little flaky. The modules used when running the iPod over Firewire are sbp2 and ohci1394. One of my test systems was a Red Hat Fedora Core 3 system, running the 2.6.10-1.741_FC3 kernel downloaded and installed with up2date. Note: the stock kernel with this distro has a known bug that makes using your iPod with USB a nightmare. Most of the time, there were no problems, although the sbp2 module would hang when I tried to unload it by running modprobe -r sbp2 as root. Once, I had to remove the ohci1394 and reload the ohci1394 driver for my system to see the iPod. Of course, your mileage may vary, based on your kernel version or the chipset of the Firewire card in your system.

If no amount of plugging/unplugging the iPod or loading/unloading the modules gets Linux to see the iPod, don't panic. This happened to me, and the one sure-fire way I found of getting my system to see the iPod was to boot the machine with the iPod plugged in. It's not exactly elegant, but it is effective. Watch your distribution's release notes, and consider helping to diagnose any bugs you experience.

Resources for this article: /article/8210.

Bert Hayes has been a Linux user and administrator since the dark days of the 2.0 kernel. He is an RHCE and a co-author of Snort for Dummies. His hobbies include cycling and restoring an aircooled VW bus.



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i have an old ipod,

Anonymous's picture

i have an old ipod, formatted for mac & when i try to use the program it can't transfer any files to the ipod, and it gives me a "read-only" system error message any tips? i've tried restoring it on a mac & using other methods like transfering them on rythynmbox via the menus and such, the wierd thing is i can bring files over from the ipod but not vice-a-versa.


John Turner's picture

This is the best information I have found for a newbie like me on the web. Keep up the good work!

What about Ogg Vorbis files?

Anonymous's picture

Will this work for Ogg files? Could you guys write a follow-up OGG article?

I would rather use Ogg on my iPod than proprietary mp3.


If you want to play Ogg

Anonymous's picture

If you want to play Ogg Vorbis on an iPod you may find Rockbox of interest:

disconnecting the Ipod

Tom's picture

In the LJ article, Bert alluded to problems getting rid of the
do not disconnect message on the Ipod. I'm using
SuSE Professional 9.3, Ipod mini software version 1.4 and connecting
via USB. I found that if I exit gtkpod and then type eject
that the disconnect message dissappears, and the Ipod
displays its standard menu.

My solution, on Ubuntu, was

Anonymous's picture

My solution, on Ubuntu, was to open the terminal and type:

sudo eject sda2

The first time I did it, the Do Not Disconnect screen remained, but I disconnected anyway because I was sick and tired of the nonsense. Subsequent times it really did eject the iPod.

eject sda2 works.

thelenshar's picture

This works for me as well:
'eject sda2'

That did not work first time i tried it, so i tried other aproaches, like unloading the usb modules, which didn't work, cos then my mouse wouldn't work (its usb, and even though i could have used ps2, ps2 port was broken, but thats another solution if you don't have anything else on USB)

Make sure you have permission

CyberInferno's picture

I found the same problem. I didn't have permission to eject sda (I eject sda and it removes sda1 and sda2 as well). I'm using PCLinuxOS which runs on KDE. When I used su and ejected the device, it worked fine. So I went into my user account privileges and added my account to the group "disk". After I logged out and logged back in, I was able to eject it without any problems or the need of a super user account. I use Amarok and have the device set to use "eject /dev/sda" as my unmount command and it works fine when I eject it. Good luck!

'eject /dev/sda' (or

Anonymous's picture

'eject /dev/sda' (or possibly 'eject sda') should work. Just 'eject /media/ipod' or 'eject /dev/sda2' did not work for me (FC4).

Charging Ipod Shuffle

thomaslai's picture

Did u manage to charge Ipod Shuffle from Ubuntu using USB 2.0 ports? Mine can't seem to work.

Uhm, i could charge the ipod

thelenshar's picture

Uhm, i could charge the ipod video. i don't have a shuffle, so i can't test it.. i am pretty sure other people have gotten it to work, so yea, uhm, wanna explain more details?

My Ipod shuffle charges on a

Anonymous's picture

My Ipod shuffle charges on a USB 2.0 port. I've tried both the 1 Gig (I bought that) and 512MB (free from bankone). Make sure you format it FAT32 via a windoze machine

You don't need windows to

synorgy's picture

You don't need windows to format an iPod. Install gParted, plug in your iPod and fire up gParted. It will open and (once you change the device) allow you to format your iPod (or your harddrive if you aren't careful)

Unfortunately gparted is far

rguinn's picture

Unfortunately gparted is far more adept at crashing than formatting anything.


Anurag's picture

You can use fdisk instead, a command line utility

Thanks for the post! But my

in confusion's picture

Thanks for the post! But my ipod is out of