Is it possible to charge your iPod via the USB cable on a PC without iTunes installed?
Yes, but it’s tricky and not obvious.
My opinion on iTunes is well known, it’s a pig. It runs slow and uses a lot of memory in windows, if I could find an alternative which actually worked and didn’t mess with the iPod music database I’d use it. I’ve tried Music Monkey, the Foobar plug-in and a bunch of other stand alone apps, none of them worked as well as iTunes does to just move music to the iPod in an orderly fashion, it’s just a shame iTunes turns any machine I install it on a chugging, disk thrashing heap of crap.
Anyway, enough iTunes bashing.
I encountered this problem recently which took me a while to solve so I figured I’d share. You want to be able to charge and play music from your iPod on a PC without iTunes installed? If you plug the iPod in via USB the PC will detect and mount it, the iPod will go into to “sync” mode and you can’t use it. Instinctively you’d think that using the “Safely Remove Hardware” window would unmount the iPod so you can use it, and it does, but once unmounted the iPod will not continue to charge via the USB connection.
Here’s the trick to keep it charging and usable while connected via USB:
Right click over the iPod drive mounted under Windows Explorer and select EJECT.
All that text just for that hint? Exactly how this is different to “Safely Remove Hardware” is unclear, but it doesn’t actually seem to unmount the drive, just makes it inaccessible. The only gotcha is that if the PC you are using is a badly earthed noisy piece of shit like the dell I use you’ll hear all sorts of high pitched bullshit coming from the iPod while the hard drive is spinning up and down and it’s plugged in via USB.