Ubuntu – How to copy existing movie files on ipad to watch


I have an iPad and a desktop running Ubuntu 12.04 with lots of movie files of various formats (avi, mp4, m4v, etc).

Is it possible to transfer those files from within linux directly to the iPad (without using iTunes to sync) over USB and then play those movies on the iPad without reformatting/resizing all of them?

I've used iTunes in a Windows XP virtualbox instance with other iOS mobile devices before but I would prefer a pure linux approach if possible.

(I'm creating this question so that I can share the solution I found because I failed to find a simple, satisfactory answer elsewhere).

Best Answer

Yes, you can easily copy movies to an iPad (or other iOS device) in Ubuntu without using iTunes or Wifi or Dropbox or any of the other terrible solutions out there.

First, simply choose one of the many video player apps available from within the App Store. (Searching for video player returns many irrelevant results, I recommend searching for avi player or mp4 player or whatever your desired format is). I found flex:player and that has worked for my needs and is free but has pretty much no features beyond video playback. Other players provide more features but can cost between $0.99 and $4.99 generally.

Second, plug your iPad into your computer via USB. You should hopefully get a popup showing two mount points for your iPad.

  • My iPad (or whatever your iPad's name is)
  • Documents on My iPad

I believe this functionality goes as far back as 11.04 but at least back to 11.10. See troubleshooting below if this does not happen.

Navigate to 'Documents on My iPad' (again, your name will vary) and find the application you just installed. It will look like an application with an icon but it is actually a folder for that app and its files (the user accessible ones at least).

Example of 'Documents on My iPad' mount

Open that folder (i.e. double click on it) and then open the Documents folder within.

Now all you have to do is copy your video files into this folder. When you next open your chosen video player, all of your movies should be visible and available for playback (assuming the video player supports your codecs, if it doesn't, another one probably does).

Note: I've generally found that if I load new video files onto the device while the app is open, I have to close and re-open the app for it to register the new files. However, some apps may be more proactive in scanning for new files.


If your device is not automatically paired and mounted:

Make sure you have libimobiledevice-utils and ifuse installed

sudo apt-get install libimobiledevice-utils ifuse

and then run

idevicepair unpair && idevicepair pair

and then disconnect and reconnect your device.

If you do not see video files you have copied

  • Make sure you copied the files to the correct app's individual Documents folder.
  • Close and reopen the app to get it to refresh its file list.
  • Read the app's documentation to ensure that the app you chose supports the video format and codec in question.

A file is visible but does not play properly/at all

  • Read the app's documentation to ensure that the app you chose supports the video format and codec in question.
  • If your video file is high resolution (such as 1080p), try a lower resolution file. Some apps appear to have problems playing high definition video. The older generation devices also sometimes have trouble because of their slower hardware. You may be stuck downconverting to something more like 720p. (But try a couple different apps first).
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