Thank you for your interesting question! Here is my advice for you on
how to do this well.
First you need to come up with a plan. How are you going to organize
all this music? Which are you going to switch to the Nano and which
will you keep on your other IPods, and do you want copies of all of
them on the computers for future reference? You could divide the
music into some organisational system that makes sense for you: your
computer music on one, IPod music on another, wife's computer music on
one, her Ipod music on the fourth. A solid plan will help you when it
comes down to you saying, "I want to listen to Aerosmith's 'Sweet
Emotion.' Where is it?" I would almost recommend you using an entire
computer for all the songs, and having them on a LAN network or on an
internal network from which you could get all the songs easily. You
could also use TightVNC software to look at the other computers'
collections when you need a song. (Later I detail a way to use
software to listen to your IPod from any of your computers.)
Hard drives are so inexpensive these days that you could easily buy a
200-gigabyte or larger drive and store all your music on it (and you
should have backups of your data anyway, so this makes perfect sense).
What I would recommend after you come up with a system for which
computer will have which music and which Ipod which music, is to
compile all the music (from external HDs, DVDs, Ipods and all four
computers) on at least one of the computers if possible or buy another
hard drive (many gigs can be had for about $100 these days) and that
way, if you ever need just one particular song and can't find it on a
machine, you know that at least you could find all your music in one
place. A program such as Windows Desktop Search or Google Desktop can
also help you find specific files on specific computers faster than
simple Windows Explorer could.
Windows Desktop Search
If you're really computer-savvy, you could forego the extra hard drive
and just install your own program to do searching for music on all
four computers on your local network. A parallel shell program can do
this. I would say the easiest, though, is to have a system of one
"backup" hard drive with all your music stored there, and utilize a
desktop search program on the individual machines.
Anyway, the first step is to get good software to manage your Ipod.
There is a software management system called Anapod which allows you
to control your Ipod using Windows Explorer. This is much more
convenient than having to open Itunes and doing it from there, in my
estimate, and faster too. Anapod also has a few important features
that Itunes does not.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two programs.
(Keep in mind, however, that this is a page from Red Chair Software,
which makes Anapod, so it is of course biased in Anapod's favor).
Some advantages of the Anapod software are:
--Windows Explorer integration
--ability to drag and drop playlists onto the Ipod, and playlists and
songs back onto the PC
--copy and paste abilities for files
--integration of Ipod into "send to" feature
--telling you which songs you've just added so you can make a playlist
of "recent songs"
Since ITunes won't allow you to transfer songs back to your PCs from
your IPod, I assume you must be using two different software systems
to do this, at least. If not, these capabilities are both inherent in
the Anapod program and I believe it would greatly simplify things for
Here's a review of the Anapod software:
"After trying Anapod, I would ask why wouldn't you use it over iTunes.
In fact, the only thing I think iTunes has over Anapod is the price.
However, if you are serious about your music Anapod has much more to
For starters, Anapod allows for drag and drop transfers of music to
and from the iPod. You simply connect your iPod and open up Windows
Explorer. As you can see in the screenshot, Anapod shows up as if it
were a drive. The iPod also shows up, but you cannot drag music
directly to that folder, as most of you know. You can open up the
Anapod window and then drag tracks/folders to the new window or simply
drag directly to the folder icon. This is as simple as transferring
Notice that I wrote "to and from." Anapod allows you to pull music
from your portable to your computer. Copyright protection be damned!
This is a huge benefit for many users. For example, I have enormous
MP3 collections at work and home. If I get a new CD I don't want to
bring it to work in order to rip it again. With Anapod I simply drag
it onto the iPod and then pull it off at work."
Red Chair also has a program called TrueStream, which allows you to
connect your Ipod to your computer through USB and then listen to your
songs without transfer. It also has a feature called AudioMorph which
allows you to change the bit rates of songs that are encoded
differently without actually changing the bitrate. Very convenient for
those files you have that are encoded at different bitrates.
The software comes in five versions: regular IPod, Nano, Mini for $25;
Shuffle for $20; and a universal version for $30. The universal
version would be your best bet.
Here is a free trial version of the software that you can try:
It can also be used on as many computers as you want once you have
bought the program.
Here's another review:
Another benefit of this software is that you will be able to stream it
onto local networks and listen from any computer-- so you could hook
your IPod into one of your computers and then access that music from
any of your computers. From the above review:
"Anapod Explorer comes with a second, more advanced tool called
Xtreamer, which lets you view and play your iPod's contents through a
Web browser interface on your computer. Even better, Xtreamer lets you
stream music from your iPod across a local network or the Internet so
that you (or anyone else) can access your music from remote
locations--for instance, at work."
Second, you will need a good ripping program for those CDs that you
haven't transferred yet. Using a single, high quality program will
prevent you from having to distinguish low quality rips from high
Exact Audio Copy
Personally, I use CDEX to rip my music, but Exact Audio Copy is a
better technology that improves on other ripping programs in a few
It reproduces the music better than previous rippers do
If there is an error on the CD, it will tell you exactly when and
where so you can skip over that with a media player
Here are instructions on how to use EAC:
Here is an additional tutorial on EAC:
Here is a further page about EAC:
CDex is not as good as EAC, but it is easier to configure. Once you
have EAC configured, I believe that you can just save the settings and
not have to worry about it again. However, if you're going to be doing
this on four different computers, and ease of use is more important to
you than quality, CDex might work better for you. However, I
recommend EAC because it is better and it is especially good with
extracting songs from scratched CDs that other programs aren't able
to. A someone with a very large CD collection myself, I know that
that is always a major problem with any collection of CDs.
In addition, EAC may take longer than CDex to rip the songs, which
could be a factor for you since you have so many CDs to convert. In
that case, here is a link to CDex and another simple CD ripper:
Easy CD Ripper may be the easiest to use.
Easy CD Ripper
Here is a debate on the topic of which is better:
Ars Technica Forum
Now, as far as ripping these CDs go, you can always choose different
qualities of ripping. Sometimes I think too much is made of this and I
can't really tell the difference between 128kbps and something that is
higher. Then again, I don't have the best hearing. So, 256kbps is
considered to be CD quality. If you want all your mp3s to be CD
quality, you'll want to encode them at that rate. However, 128 kbps is
considered to be the best "middle ground" between file size and
quality, so that will probably be the level you end up using. If you
have any older ripped songs that are not at least this quality, you
may want to redo them to get them up to at least this level.
LAME, which is used in EAC, is a lossless codec, but with EAC it is
lossy because it encodes them in mp3s. (Mp3 by its very nature is a
lossy codec, compared to something like ogg vorbis, which has a
superior sound quality.)
Lossless codecs will possibly be about twice the size of a lossy song,
which will be a factor for you if you only have a certain amount of
IPod space to fill. (An IPod Nano is either 2, 3, or 8 gigs from what
I can tell, so at the most you have eight gigabytes and this will not
hold your CDs in a lossless format.) For this reason, IMO they are not
the best choice when you have limited space. You won't have as many
songs. This really comes down to personal preference. Are you an
audiphile who would really be able to tell if your mp3 wasn't a
perfect copy? I would like to consider myself an audiophile, but
really I personally can't really tell a perfect copy from a lossy copy
over a certain bitrate.
Here is a lively discussion at Slashdot on the matter:
If you decide to have a large hard drive that backs up all your music,
you could rip the music in a lossless format for archival purposes and
then condense them later when you use Anapod to install them on your
Here are some factors that would go into choosing an encoding level:
Guide to Ripping and Encoding CD Audio
" * .. amount of disk space you have available (more space offers
more options, such as the ability to use lossless compression, or (the
ultimate option of) storing *both* a lossless & lossy copy of every
song you own) ..
* .. number of CDs you own (more CDs require more storage space
and/or smaller files, which require more aggressive encoding settings,
which tend to hinder audio quality) ..
* .. how good your hearing is (younger ears tend to hear better,
older ears have trouble hearing higher frequencies. younger listeners,
therefore, tend to require higher quality audio files, because they
can hear imperfections more easily than us old farts) ..
* .. quality of your audio hardware (better equipment reveals
encoding flaws more clearly, which encourages the listener to use
higher quality encoding methods & settings) ..
* .. type of music you listen to (simple music tends to encode
easier than complex music. especially difficult is music which
contains many transients) ..
* .. format compatibility requirements (hardware such as the iPod
or Rockbox have limited file support) ..
* .. file restrictions (if you share files with your friends,
you'll obviously need to use a format you both can play) ..
* .. hardware restrictions (as mentioned earlier, hardware such as
the iPod and Rockbox have limited file support)."
Here are further tips from the Digital Audio Extraction Guide:
Since you have such a large amount of CDs to convert, you may want to
get a faster CD-ROM drive if you are working with old equipment. It
could save you much time in the long run (however, with four
computers, you may be able to spare one for a while to work on this
project so that may not be a concern for you.)
A LiteOn 52x drive should be a good choice:
CD Rom Recommendations
All right, the third step is to have a good protocol for moving files
back and forth from computer to computer. As I said above, I recommend
that you designate one computer to be the keeper of your music
library, but in order to do that, you'll have to move the files from
machine to machine. You can do this pretty simply using a file
transfer protocol, or FTP. I use Filezilla and highly recommend it.
Here is some more information on it:
FileZilla is pretty simple to use and if you're dealing with moving
large files around at all, it will make your life much easier. If you
can't move all the files onto one computer, this program will make it
easy to move them back and forth any time you wish.
Once you get the songs on your computers, you might want to download
FixTunes and have that program scan your files to confirm the song
titles and tags. It also apparently downloads the album art to
accompany the track. This could be helpful for you to get rid of
doubles and to make sure your albums/artists are properly organized
and easier to search for.
Now, here are what I recommend, in a nutshell, for each situation you
--You want to know how to get songs from the old IPods to the new IPods easily.
--- If you have enough USB cables, plug them both in and using
Anapod, you should be able to create folders on the computer with the
same playlists as the old Ipod, and then drag those playlists onto the
If this does not work or is not as easily as you like, or if you have
other problems with this method, there is a freeware program called
Ipod2Ipod that will do it. I would think it would be easier to just
drag and drop with Anapod, however, than having another program
specifically for this.
--from the new IPod to the computers and possibly to the old Ipods
---Anapod should work for this, and I believe if you have more
than one USB, you can plug in both devices, then you can just drag and
drop playlists and possibly drag and drop again and you should be set.
--From the computers to both.
--From computer to computer?
-- From DVD to computer to IPod
---Once DVD is in, open Anapod and then open the DVD files. You
should be able to drag and drop them (if not straight to the IPod, to
your Music folder and then to the Ipod)
--From external USB drive to IPod
---Same as above
Mp3 ripper FAQ
exact audio copy
quality cd ripping
lame vs monkey's audio
managing ipod songs mp3s
If you need any additional clarification of my answer, let me know and
I'll be happy to help you.