Back in the day, you needed to be a Mac person to use an iPod, but now even the nerdy PC guy in the Apple ads could do it -- provided that he has a USB 2.0 port. (By the way, in real life, John Hodgeman, the actor who plays the PC guy, is a longtime Mac head [source: Rojas].)
The most straightforward, pain-free way to put music on an iPod, of course, is to use the software that Apple wants you to use -- its proprietary music management software, iTunes. ITunes comes preloaded on Macs, and these days, it's loaded on a lot of major-brand PCs as well. If you don't have it on your PC, you can download it for free from Apple's Web site and install it. Once you do that, you can use it to sync music on your computer hard drive with your iPod, import music from CDs and the Internet, buy songs from the iTunes store, and create personal greatest-hits collections called playlists. You can also burn songs from your iPod onto a CD via your computer's optical drive [source: iPod Classic User Guide].
It's all pretty simple. When you install iTunes, it searches for music files on your hard drive and lists them in its library. Then, when you hook up your iPod to your computer for the first time, iTunes will open automatically, and the Setup Assistant will appear. To make things super-simple, set iTunes to automatic syncing. That will copy all the songs from your computer to the iPod, and then look for new ones every time you plug it in again. Unless you've got a music collection the size of the Library of Congress, this should work fine for most people. But you also can choose the option "selected playlists, artists and genres," and then drag and drop only certain songs from your computer into your iPod [source: iPod Classic User Guide].
Besides using your iPod as a music player, you can also use it to transfer songs from an old computer to a new one. The one hitch is that if you didn't buy them from the iTunes store, you have to configure your iPod so that it functions as an external drive [source: Apple Support]. But if you're going to do that, you may not want to use iTunes at all. More in the next section.