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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 filesystem 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 non-Shuffle 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 in Chapter 2.

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. As described in previous editions of this book, earlier versions of the iPod came with MusicMatch Jukebox for use with Windows-formatted iPods. Apple hasn't included MusicMatch Jukebox in the iPod box since 2003. If you've snatched up an older iPod on eBay or been on the lower end of a hand-me-down, and for some reason want to learn how to use the antique version of MusicMatch Jukebox supported by these elderly iPods, you can download the old MusicMatch chapter, once included in previous editions of this book, from the "Missing CD" page, which is located at www.missingmanuals.com.

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