SharePod: More than iPod backup and share

SharePod breaks the iPod backup mold with useful features that work encased in a simple but appealing design.

Apple makes extracting your music from your iPod unnecessarily difficult, and there's been a cottage industry of software tools designed to get around Apple's restrictive file-renaming conventions. Most of these programs charge you to use them, and of the free ones, few are exceptional at what they do. SharePod breaks the mold with useful features that work encased in a simple but appealing design.

SharePod makes the typical spreadsheet interface look better with colorful, easy-to-understand icons. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

It's a fast freeware tool for transferring your music collection from your iPod to your hard drive, making it easy to back up or restore your music, videos, and photos. It also transfers playlists, album art, and ratings, both to your hard drive and optionally right into iTunes.

SharePod comes with features that many competitors lack. Not only can you transfer your files, you can also perform some basic track tweaking. You can use it to delete art, playlists, music, and videos from your iPod, edit tags, and you can also transfer from your computer to your iPod without having to use iTunes. When you copy, you can set the folder architecture to one of three defaults, or customize your own. One key feature of SharePod is that it comes with a database backup, so if something goes awry during the transfer process, it's a simple procedure to restore it.

The program comes in an archive, not a self-extracting EXE file. This is slightly annoying, but the EXE file is tiny and weighs in at just 5.4MB so it's small enough to carry around on your iPod. Most importantly, SharePod is surprisingly effective. During two transfers, with one session involving more than 7,000 songs and their accompanying artwork, playlists, and ratings, SharePod only freaked out on two dozen tracks. When it did, it didn't stop copying, but instead logged which files copied successfully and which ones didn't.

SharePod works with most legacy iPods, and with newer models including the Nano 5G, the iPhone 3GS, and the iPod Touch. It doesn't natively support Mac-formatted drives, though. Given how hassle-free it is and how good it is at what it does, it's hard not to consider SharePod a must-have for Windows users.