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Introduction > Mac vs. Windows iPods

Mac vs. Windows iPods

If they were all hanging out together one afternoon at the beach, it would be hard to tell a Windows iPod from a crowd of Mac iPods. On the outside, they look the same.

But just as Macintosh and Windows computers use totally different formats for their hard drives, so do Mac and Windows iPods. This makes perfect sense, because the iPod is a hard drive. (Note for nerds: Mac iPods use a file system called HFS Plus; PC iPods use the unappetizing-sounding FAT32. If you've ever had to back up, reformat, and reinstall your pre–Windows XP system, FAT32 may sound familiar: it's the system Windows used for years.)

So how, then, can Apple claim to sell a single iPod model that, out of the box, comes formatted for either a Mac or a PC?

It doesn't really. The current iPod models are all preformatted for the Mac. But if you run the CD installer software that comes in the box, and it detects that it's running on a PC, it quietly reformats the iPod hard drive with the FAT32 system. Details on this process, and on the cabling differences between Mac and PC, begin on Section 2.1.

Software Differences

These days, both Mac and PC fans use the same software to manage and organize what's on the iPod: a free program called iTunes. It works almost precisely the same in its Macintosh and Windows versions. Every button in every dialog box is exactly the same; the software response to every command is identical. In this book, the illustrations have been given even-handed treatment, rotating among the various operating systems where iTunes is at home (Windows XP, Mac OS X 10.2, and Mac OS X 10.3).

If you're a PC fan and you don't have Windows 2000 or XP, however, you can't use iTunes. Therefore, this book also describes the Windows software that preceded iTunes: MusicMatch Jukebox. It, too, can manage and move music to the iPod, copy songs from CDs to your hard drive, organize and play them, and burn blank CDs with playlists of your favorite songs. And like iTunes, it can automatically transfer your music library to the iPod whenever it's hooked up.

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