Got music stuck on an iPhone or iPod? Here's how to get it off and transfer your tunes to a Mac.

One of the most infuriating thing about Apple's music devices - its wonderful iPods and iPhones - is their rigid approach to syncing. You can sync music from a single PC or Mac very easily and intuitively using iTunes, but transferring music in the other direction seems to be impossible.

(Why would you need to transfer music from an iPhone or iPod to a Mac? Perhaps your original music library was on a Mac, was synced on to an iPhone, then the original Mac died. Or your music is spread across more than one location.)

You can't simply drag-and-drop music files off the iPhone, the way you could with some low-capacity MP3 players in the 90s. But installing a simple piece of software (for which a free demo is available) lets you access the files on there and transfer them directly into iTunes, if you wish.

iExplorer lets you treat an iDevice a bit like a flash drive. Download the demo version of iExplorer (if you like it, the basic paid-for edition is $34.99), install it and open it. If an iPhone or iPod is plugged into the Mac, you'll immediately see it in the list of folders down the left - click Music to see all the tunes on there.

Transfer music from an iPhone to a Mac

If you've got a playlist on the iPhone you can export it in full to iTunes on your Mac; alternatively you can select individual tracks and export them to iTunes or a folder of your choice.

Why does Apple stop you from doing this using native software? It's intended to discourage piracy and as a courtesy to the record labels who work with iTunes. After all, if you've bought songs on your iPhone through iTunes, you'll be able to download them to your Mac from iCloud. If you bought the CD, you can just take that into work. But it is annoying that you can't do this without downloading third-party software.

See also:

How to navigate your media in iTunes 11

How to downgrade iTunes 11 to iTunes 10 in Mac OS X

iTunes 11 Guide to tips, tricks and new features