Getting Ford Microsoft Sync to recognize your ID3 tags

22 Oct

So I never tought I would be writing about my car on this blog. However this particular problem took me some time (like WAY too long!!) to solve and I could not find any posts of other people with a real step-by-step solution. I figured it would be nice to make an exception and write about it :-). The case: Since not too long I’m driving a very nice Ford Focus Titanium Wagon. I’m very satisfied with it, and enjoy driving it on a daily basis. However the audio system (The Microsoft Sync Media system) really sucks when it comes to recognizing the ID3 tags you’ve so accurately set. In my case in about 50% of the cases (read tracks) it just wouldn’t recognize the Artist, Album and Genre. All tracks could be found in the ‘unknown’ section of the USB index.

So what you need to know about the Sync system (with the exception of that it sucks 😉 ). It will only recognize a few tags: Track, Artist, Songtitle and Albumtitle. It will not recognize Albumartist (which is used a lot). And It will not recognize the number of the disc (which again sucks bigtime). I did say suck a lot this article. I’m going to stop that now. The last thing you need to know is that it will not recognize all tag versions. I read about that on the internet. I’m not a 100% sure it’s true, and I also cannot tell you which tag versions it will recognize 100%.

In my particular case I used foobar to convert my flac collection to 320kbps mp3 (cause ofcourse the Sync System will not read flac). What I can advise you is that you place your tracks in a logical folder and file structure. Mine looks like this: Artist – Albumtitle\Track – Artist – Songtitle. When you use a structure like this it’s very easy to read the tags from the folder & filename. You also need to make sure that multiple disc cd’s have the discnumber in the Albumtitle. Cause your Sync will not recognize the tag for the discnumber. When you have prepared like that download mp3tag. It’s free and rocks!

First you need to set some options (tools > options)

You need to specify which tags it will read (I don’t see why you should not select them all). You need to specify which tags it will write. I can confirm in this case that version 2.3 ISO-8859-1 is working and I believe I read somewhere that Sync doesn’t support v2.4. Then you need to specify which mp3tags you will like to see removed. Now the reason that you specify this is that you will start removing all the tags from your mp3’s. That’s it for the settings. Now you need to add your mp3 folder. Because you will remove all tags I recommend you leave your original mp3 folder for devices that can actually read ID3 tags and just create a copy of it. Now add the copied folder to mp3tag. CTRL+A to select all files and rightclick > remove tag to remove all ID3 tags. When done all ID3 tags will be removed and you can start settings them again.

If you followed my advise it’s easy to set the tags. Mine are in the Artist – Album folder and have the Track – Artist – Title Format. Just by selecting all again and then using ALT+2 (which is convert filename to tag) you can read the folder and filename to create the tags again.

So in my particular exampe I use the following format:

%albumartist% - %album%\%track% - %artist% - %title%

That will take a while and then your tags are set. The only thing missing your sync can read is the Genre. I do not use it but if you’re smart and categorize your collection in Genre folders first mp3tag can read them as well with the following code:

%genre%\%albumartist% - %album%\%track% - %artist% - %title%

To finish up you need to let your Sync system recreate it’s index. Plug in your USB and in the Sync Media Options you will find a reset USB option. After a while you’re USB key is indexed and it should now display all Artists, Songs and Albums. The ‘unknown’ part should have disappeared. Do enjoy driving your Ford (or other vehicle that has a Sync system 🙂 )


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  • Charles, is saying:

    I was having a problem with the Sync in my 2014 Focus. It wouldn’t read some complete mp3 albums, seemingly at random. I brought the files in question into an mp3 tag editor and made sure everything was formatted properly.

    Still no dice.

    Today, I sat in the car and looked up all the “unknown” artists, writing down the song titles. I pulled the USB stick and took it to a computer. As I looked at them in the tag editor, I finally figured out what they had in common; the artwork embedded in each file was pretty large, as in 1MB or larger.

    When I was adding artwork to all my mp3 files, I had chosen the highest-resolution, best-looking album covers I could find on Google. Well, it turns out that with artwork that large, the system in my car just wouldn’t play ball. It would read the file name but not any tag info.

    I removed the artwork from the files and then plugged the thumb drive containing the songs back into the car. Success.

    Now I just need to reduce the size of the artwork and re-attach it.

    Glad I got that solved, anyway.

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  • ivor, is saying:

    Take off the artwork and it reads perfectly… thanks that was genius.. it was really bugging me.. on my memory stick.

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  • Hillbilly, is saying:

    I know this is an old post, but the artwork problem can be solved if the cover art is no larger than 500 x 500 pixels. Any larger and you get the generic cover.

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  • Chris, is saying:

    Thank for the info – very helpful

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  • Dan Gravell, is saying:

    Thanks for this. I did some research and collected all the album art rules in one place:

    This blog post is one of the ones I used.

    A nuance on the ALBUM_ARTIST aspect. You mentioned that this tag is ignored. This is important, because Gracenote will be used as a fallback, and not having an ALBUM_ARTIST can make various artist albums (e.g. compilations) find the incorrect artwork. So I think this makes getting the correct album art embedded in the file in the first place all the more important!

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  • Mike, is saying:

    This was a very helpful article and certainly helped me gain more control of my Gen 1 Sync system in my 2012 F150 platinum.

    I am running a 500GB hard drive with almost 18,000 tracks on it with almost no issues. The touch screen menus are a mess but that’s a design flaw that likely won’t get fixed.

    I have one issue though that I haven’t been able to figure out.

    Albums with more than one disc don’t play in disc order. The system will play the two discs mixed together based on the track number and the title…


    Disc 2, Track 1 – AAA
    Disc 1, Track 1 – BBB
    Disc 1, Track 2 – AAA
    Disc 2, Track 2 – BBB
    Disc 1, Track 3 – AAA
    Disc 2, Track 3 – BBB
    Disc 2, Track 4 – AAA
    Disc 1, Track 4 – BBB

    Super annoying especially if the album you’re listening to is intended to be heard in track order, which most of mine are.

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    • Lukas, is saying:

      The System does not read the discnumber tag, it sorts the tracks by tracknumber and title only.
      To get them in order you have two options, first you could just include the discnumber in the tracknumber (with leading zeroes of course).

      Disc 1, Track 1 → 101
      Disc 1, Track 2 → 102

      Disc 1, Track 15 → 115
      Disc 2, Track 1 → 201
      Disc 2, Track 2 → 202

      Disc 2, Track 15 →215

      That system though does not work very well because (how I just figured out) sync does not treat the tracknumbers as a string (text) and then sorts them alphabetically as ist does with the other tags, it converts them into an 8-bit, unsigned integer (number between 0 and 255) so this system das not work for more than two discs, or more than 100 tracks on the first or 55 tracks on the second disc.

      The other way around this is to just include discnumber and tracknumer in the title of the individual song. Though you then have to remove the tracknumer tag because it looks for this first and then at the title, if it encounters two tracks with the same number. so if you’d use this system but leave the tracknumers in it’d play the first track of all disks first, then the second ones and so on. Also you have to put leading zeroes in front of all the tracknumbers.

      If you don’t know how to do this with mp3tag, you can use the tag to tag function.
      For both options you have to make sure that your discnumber and tracknumber are both just numbers, no other symbols. So no discnumbers like 1/2. In this case, to get rid of the /2 for example, you select discnumber from the upper menu and below enter


      That deletes the rightmost two characters.

      If you’re done and there are just numbers in both of the tags, for the first option you select track from the upper menu and below enter


      For the second option you select title from the upper menu and below enter


      Replace [1] with however many digits the highest discnumber has (1→1, 10→2, 100→3) [2] and [4] you can replace with whatever you would like to have in between the numbers and in between the numbers and the title I like to put ” – ” finally, [3 you replace with the number of digits the highest tracknumber has, just like with the discnumber.
      Then finally, to remove the tracknumbers select track from the upper menu and below enter
      And that’s it, pretty long description but in reality takes about 2 minuits + processing time.

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  • Priesty, is saying:

    Brilliant ! From reading the above plus a little experimentation I’ve found that on my version of Ford Sync it’s actually reading the filename for the display info..

    So I downloaded Foobar2000, renamed all the MP3s on my USB stick and hey presto – instead of “Unknown Artist”, the Artist’s name and Trackname now display when playing a song !

    Thanks a lot for bothering to write this up, Mark – it’s gold dust 🙂

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  • ray, is saying:

    What i ended up doing, i couldnt fix one song and so i ended up using this website
    which is free. This site creates a new mp3 file and then when i used mp3 tag and fixed it all, it read perfectly in the car. Not sure why or how that site fixed it but it did :).

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