MP3 on Macintosh
Players and the Macintosh
Do you have an MP3 player that you want to use with your Macintosh?
This article tells you one way to accomplish that.
First, if you have an iPod, just plug it into the Mac, start
iTunes, and you're ready to synchronize songs or other audio files
from your Mac to the iPod.
However, if you have a MP3 player made by some other company,
life becomes more challenging (but you can save money). The Apple-made
Itunes works well with the Apple-made iPod but refuses totally
to talk to a MP3 player made by any other company.
Problems with MP3 Players and the Macintosh
There are two problems you will encounter when trying to load
songs into your MP3 player from the Macintosh.
To get a CD into the Macintosh, you will first be importing
(often referred to elsewhere as ripping) the CD into
iTunes. iTunes reads the audio signals from the CD and translates
then into an encoded digital format. The problem is that, by default,
iiTunes uses a format that many other MP3 players do not support.
Fortunately, it's easy to change the iTunes preferences to use
the MP3 format instead.
When you connect your MP3 player to your Mac, you'll see it on
your desktop. You might think you could just drag music files
to the player using the Finder, but doing that may make your MP3
player very unhappy, with strange songs with weird noises when
played. This happens because of the way the OS X Finder stores
files on a non-Macintosh file system such as on your MP3 player.
Finder puts extra files on the MP3 player to hold Finder information.
Because of the naming convention used, the MP3 player may try
to interpret that iinformation as music. This doesn't work well.
You'll need to use another program to copy files from the Macintosh
to your player.
You'll need to make two changes to your Macintosh and then you're
ready to roll.
To get iTunes to import files in MP3 format instead of its default
AAC format, start iTunes. From the menu, select Preferences and
go to the Importing options (which may be a tab or require pressing
another button depending on the version of iTunes). Set the "Import
as..." option to "MP3 encoder" instead of "AAC".
That's all you need to do; tracks from CDs you import after making
this change will be in mp3 format and usable on your mp3 player.
Next, download the program KopyMac from
Open the downloaded file and place the program whereever you keep
applications on your Mac.
Insert a music or audio CD into your Mac and iTunes will probably
ask you whether you want to import it. Tell iTunes to import the
CD. (If it doesn't ask, you probably have some preference setting
turned off and you will need to initiate the import process using
After the import has completed, iTunes will have created a new
folder for the artist, a folder within that for the album, and
files in the album folder named for the tracks on the CD. If the
CD was a commercial CD, everything is probably fine. In that case,
you're finished with the import process.
However, if the CD is private, unusual, non-commercial, or very
old, you'll see "Unknown Artist," "Unknown Album,"
and the track files will be named TRACK01.mp3, TRACK02.mp3, etc.
When this happens, you have some additional work to do.
First, it will be helpful to understand how the import program
identifes artist names, album names, and track titles. The CD
itself contains only the music--it contains no information about
the artist, album, or track titles. What any import program does
is to look at the audio CD and then construct a "magic number"
based on the number of tracks, length of tracks, and a few other
factors to create a "fingerprint" that indentifies the
CD. The program then looks up that magic number on the web and
downloads artist, album, track, and other identifying information.
When it cannot find the magic number on the web, it sets everything
Second, it will help to understand how mp3 players index files.
MP3 players were designed for music, so their view of the world
is in terms of an album with a series of songs recorded as tracks.
Everything you put on the mp3 player, including audio books, dharma
talks, or any other audio must fit within that music-related structure.
Each "song" on the album ends up in a separate file
on disc after it is imported.
Every mp3 file, in addition to having music in compressed format,
also contains additional identifying information, such as artist,
album, etc. This information is stored in the same mp3 file as
the music and is stored in what are called id3 tags.
There are iid3 tags for the album name, album artist, track name,
track number, name of the artist for the track, date, and other
values. After you copy new files to the mp3 player and disconnect
the player from the computer, the player examines all the tracks
in its memory and extracts values from these id3 tags to contruct
the menus that allow you to select genres, artists, albums, etc.
and to play tracks in the correct order.
Most mp3 players completely ignore any folder structure you create
on disc and rely solely on the id3 tags to organize music.
(Most mp3 players also support playlists, which I am
ignoring in this discussion, primarily because I never use them.)
So, if iTunes is reporting artist and album as "unknown,"
the id3 tags are likely to be blank. You must fill in some of
the id3 tag information so that your player can organize the tracks
In iTunes, select all the tracks you just imported, then select
File/Get Info. Respond 'yes' to the question of editing multiple
files. Type in the name of the primary artist in both the artist
and album artist fields, the name of the album, and a genre. The
other values on this panel need not be changed. If you want the
track names to be correct, do a Get Info on each track and type
the name of the track in the Name field at the top of the dialog.
This takes care of the id3 tags.
Copying Files to MP3 Player
The steps are:
- Plug your mp3 player into the computer USB port using the
mp3 player's cable. (Note, be sure to use the cable that came
with the player. An iPod cable will fit a Sansa player but the
pins are different and using an iPod cable with a Sansa player
will destroy the player.)
- Start the KopyMac program. (KopyMac may be fairly slow to
- Double click on the mp3 player icon to open it.
- Drag the Music folder on the mp3 player to the "Destination
(Drag)" box on the KopyMac program. Be sure to drag the
Music folder from the mp3 player to this box. If there is no
Music folder on the mp3 player, it is ok to create one.
- Close iTunes. You don't need it any more during this process
and its presence might be confusing in the next step.
- Open your Macintosh hard drive and locate your iTunes music
folder. Go to the folder containing the tracks by selecting
Macintosh HD -> USERS -> username -> Music ->iTunes
-> iTunes Music.
- Drag the Artist name folder (or the Album folder within the
artist name folder if you want to copy only one album) to the
"Copy these items (Drag)" box in the KopyMac program.
- KopyMac immediately begins copying your folders and tracks.
There is no progress bar in KopyMac so you will need to watch
the progress indicator on your mp3 player to know when the copying
- Eject the mp3 player and unplug it. The player will refresh
its internal database of tracks using the id3 tags on the mp3
files you just copied.
You can copy only individual albums instead of entire artist folders.
You can also copy individual tracks if you desire.
Never completely fill an mp3 player. I recommend leaving about
200GB free when unplugging. The player needs this space for its
internal database of id3 tags.
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