Disappearing iPods

by Erica Sadun

I have been deluged by e-mail about disappearing iPods. Here's what happens in general: Your iPod starts reporting disc (although I'd imagine that "disk" is more correct) errors in iTunes when you try to sync. "The iPod cannot be updated. The required disc cannot be found." So you reformat your iPod and reload the new firmware. Then your iPod stops appearing in iTunes. It mounts onto the desktop as a disk rather than with an iPod icon. Unfortunately, this isn't just happening to you. It's mostly shuffles, but also happened to nanos and 5G video iPods. Anyway, the cure for now seems to be quitting out of and re-launching iTunes and hoping. And occasionally rebooting your computer. Some people have found that it helps to keep their computer from sleeping and enabling disk usage for the iPod. In any case, it's not just you and it seem to happen to iPods using the latest firmware updates. If you know anything more about this behavior or have any insights, drop me an e-mail or add to the comments. Thanks.


Paul B
2006-12-30 23:39:44
Crikey - I really thought it was just me! Up to date firmware but my Shuffle is very flakey sync-ing with iTunes 7 under Panther. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!
Chad Ohman
2006-12-30 23:41:25
Woa, I have a Silver 2nd Gen iPod Mini that does that! Very odd!
Ray Drainville
2006-12-31 00:46:56
Yes, this happened to me, too. What helped the Mac see the iPod again was resetting the iPod (i.e., holding down the menu + play keys for a few seconds).
2006-12-31 01:51:56
No problems here...and I have the same "equipment" you are talking about...
Nick H
2006-12-31 07:32:05
"I'd imagine that "disk" is more correct"

Yup, disk is from the Greek.

Mind you, I'd guess it entered English via Latin, which doesn't use the K in its orthography. :-)

Erica Sadun
2006-12-31 07:39:26
Nick: Good to know. I actually meant the disk/disc convention where disks refer hard drives and discs refer to CDs/DVDs. So is the thing thrown in competition a diskus or a discus?
Eric P
2006-12-31 15:02:24
Had the same problem with my 40 Gb Click-wheel HP iPod for the past few weeks. Finally fixed it today. I've found that using iTune on my Windows PC (I normally connect the iPod over firewire to my Mac) to reformat it, then re-loading the music on my Mac did the trick.

One note: during my 10+ times of failed restores, I've found that it seems to be failing from over-heating when I tried to reload my 35 Gb+ library. So I placed it on top of a metal filing cabinet, with the metal part of the iPod down. With the metal filing cabinet functioning as a gigantic heat sink, my aging iPod re-loaded its entire library without overheating and failing.

Now I am back to enjoying my iPod again!

Happy New Year! :)

2006-12-31 18:04:27
I have a 2nd generation iPod Shuffle and occasionally experienced this problem ("The iPod cannot be updated. The required disc cannot be found.") as well, but so far it could always be solved by ejecting the iPod, unplugging the USB cable, and connecting it again.

And IIRC, the problem always occurred when playing songs in iTunes that happened to be on the iPod as well. Anyway, I haven't seen this problem again ever since I avoided playing such songs while the iPod was mounted in iTunes.

Hope this helps. :)

2007-01-01 02:32:01
This seems to have something to do with the way the iPod auto-unmounts after syncing. I had this with my first brand-new 80GB iPod, and Apple exchanged it, thinking it was a hardware problem. I have it less often now, but sometimes if I try to make a change or re-sync the iPod when it's been connected for a while I'll get the same error.

Setting it to Enable Disk Use prevents the auto-unmounting, and resolves the problem. So it's not clear whether it's a hardware or software problem...

Rich Koch
2007-01-01 05:17:00
The odd part for me is that it doesn't happen on all the Macs I use my iPod (20gb 4th gen) with. Works fine with my G4 at home, but gives the "can't update" error everytime a song changes on my G5 at work. Both machines are running 10.4.8.
Joey Gibson
2007-01-01 06:24:47
I saw this happen several times, but it was always when I plugged the iPod (60GB iPod, Mac Pro) in, while the screen saver was active. I don't know why, but it's only happened in that circumstance. What would happen is I would plug it in and about 5 - 10 seconds later I would hear an alert sound. I would wiggle my mouse to kill the screen saver, enter my password, and then see the error dialog on top of iTunes.
Roger Weeks
2007-01-02 13:18:51
The item thrown in competition is a discus. Again, it came from the greek via latin, which has no K.
Todd L
2007-01-04 11:54:07
Same thing for my 10GB ipod. I suspected perhaps it was due to using an external drive to store my 495GB itunes library. So I tried it with my laptop with a very small library & its working. Who knows?
Chas M
2007-01-23 11:03:09
I believe this may have to do with the source file. The disc being requested is the source disk from which the music was imported. I had a Stevie Wonder song that caused this error to pop up every time I clicked on it. I erased the song from iTunes, re-imported it and now it works fine. Only certain songs seem to cause this problem and it may have to do with the album artwork.
2007-01-27 10:39:42
Alot of the same things were happening to my husband's 40 GB iPod. He updated iTunes and his iPod and had problems with the iPod updating new tunes and skipping. Now he cannot reset because he keeps getting a briefcase with a lock or something on the face of the iPod. Now what?
2007-01-28 05:30:03
I was having the same problem. It was my virus software autoprotect. I made my ipod an excluded zone and now the problem has gone away. Basically tell autoprotect to leave the ipod alone.
David D
2007-01-28 21:39:29
My 1st gen Shuffle started this when I upgraded to iTunes 7 on my G5 PowerBook. The message would appear several times while I was deleting podcasts from the library which were also on the Shuffle. Despite the message it was always actually syncing - so purely nuisance.

I've just tried enabling disk usage as you suggested and so far that seems to have resolved the problem

2007-07-01 19:43:13
So what now? still doesn't work with itunes 7, my ipod shuffle is now totally useless, cannot use it to listen to music, i mean wtf apple??
Mark Buster
2007-07-03 17:38:42
The reason this happens is because itunes is way over engineered.

Instead of simply copying the file onto the disc they decided it would be better to jam the file into a proprietary database.

So the file is renamed into something cryptic, and then if the id3 information is missing it likes to take longer than it should.

Apple has made great music players, but Itunes as software is horrible.

Third party solutions don't work very well either because the firmware will only accept songs that have been converted to be used in their clunky database.

Joe Kiniry
2007-07-10 17:13:23
I have been having this problem on my iPod Shuffle (2nd gen) for a week or two. Enabling disc use on the iPod, as suggested by an earlier poster, has solved the problem for me. I suspect it is a non-deterministic problem with iPod updating and auto-unmounting of its filesystem. I had always used my iPod as a disc in the past and had never had this problem, so I guess I'll go back to using it as a small backup device as well. That solves two problems in one.

For reference, this solution is wrt OS X 10.4.10 running on a 12" (PPC) Powerbook, iTunes 7.3 (build 54), and an iPod Shuffle of the "tie clip" variety.

I disagree with some previous posters snarky comments about iTunes being over-engineered. As a computer scientist with a passion about software quality, I'd rather my software be over-engineered, reliable, and usable than under-engineered, unreliable, and unusual, like most of the alternatives.


2007-07-14 11:25:26
My iPod does the same thing. Sick of the Apple groupies who spout how everything Apple does is from the Gods. This is my third iPod but only because I have yet to find something to beat it. Wait- that sounds familiar...

Windows, anyone?

2007-07-16 07:47:41
Hmm... just migrated my iTunes from one machine to another, and all my songs and films loaded fine, but not my podcasts. Turned on sync for podcasts (why is it off by default?!) and now I repeatedly get the irritating cannot update message... Argh!
2007-07-16 08:46:42
I think the main thing to take away from this is that it is highly unlikely your iPod hardware, or cable, is at fault. I've moved back to my laptop and hey presto, no problem. Same iPod, same cable, same version of iTunes too! Just a different OS build. Very very frustrating but not entirely fair to blame Apple alone.
2007-07-18 17:29:52
Hi Everybody.
I have the same problem with a first gen shuffle, Windows XP sp2, & i found this article in Apple, it works, but firs the ipod must be unplugged, iTunes closed, close the itunes*.* services runnind, and execute the procedure that is in the document refered
2007-07-20 18:33:04
well it makes me a little relieved to know that there is more. however that has brought me to reason that there is something very american going on. By American, im refering to that capitalism machine that never seems to be telling the truth. I have had all the problems with my shuffle. and i mean all. but through perseverance I have managed. but now at this point where im considering that the problems are part of the plan. I believe I am being coaxed into upgrading to the newer Ipod. it does make sense. the problems with the software are so many now that either monkeys are running their business or assholes. so what Im gonna do tommorow instead of fuck with my ipod is bring it back to the ipod store in the mall (which will be busy cause its saturday) and make a scene in front of all the many customers (being sucked in on their day off cause of all the pretty advertising) and clearly state all the problems Ive had with the software. since many people want the smooth ride with the product (and they deserve it too) a few will question, and maybe ill save their day.
I want my money back!
2007-07-23 02:14:25
Hi this is kokoben19, check this out!
US Asians
2007-09-26 00:28:34
Nobody has an answer to this situation that is plaguing me?!?!
tri nguyen
2007-10-06 01:18:53
i experienced the same thing too. First, my ipod could not be updated, then I updated itunes and recieved that message when trying to synce music into my ipod. I then restored my ipod to manufacture setting, then it synced perfectly.
Trevor R.
2007-11-04 20:55:02
I have the new 3rd Generation 8gb Nano, and whenever i try to sync the error message comes up!

I have tried rebooting, and restoring my ipod but it just doesnt sync!

It does sync "automatically" when you plug it into your computer. But if you want to manually sync some more items, it doesn't appear to sync!

Please if anyone has a reliable solution, email to:


Thanks you all!

Cesar Montero
2007-12-14 17:27:28
I'm having lots of trouble with my new ipod. It shows the same disk error. I'm using a 64xp windows machine. It seems to be the problem I just enabled the disk usage via the itunes, but I have no idea now of what to do :S
2007-12-26 08:15:16
I too have had this problem for sometime now. I have the 2nd Gen Shuffle. I am about to junk it and get a Zune or something.
I have tried more than 10 different suggestions found both here and other articles/forums. Does Apple care that it doesn't work on PCs as well as MACs?