Building a better iPod


I got my first iPod in 2005 with the release of the iPod nano. I was mesmerized by how small it was. 1,000 songs in an even smaller pocket, Steve Jobs proclaimed on stage, a call back to the original tagline of the first iPod. Since then apple dominated the online music store. You could now for first time ever buy just one song for 99 cents.

The iPod defined my high school. Nearly everyone had one. Before my nano, I had some of brand MP3 player that wasn’t nearly as cool as having iPod with the iconic white headphones (Though I could never bring myself to wear them).

3rd Gen iPod repair circa 2006

Being around hundreds of well-worn iPod led me to know a thing or two about fixing them. I successfully replace a battery in a 3rd gen iPod for a friend and once fixed an iPod that had the Folder with exclamation icon by dropping it intentionally. Eventually, I had an Archos 604-WiFi the world’s first PMP with WiFi. This player aged quickly, since the iPod touch was released a short time later.

Most people have long forgotten iTunes and dedicated music players all together. I certainly have not. I’ve purchased two iPods in the last few years with the most recent one being a iPod video, the iPod that I would have bought in 2005 if I could afford it, with the intent of upgraded everything. I replaced the aging spinning hard drive with a custom flash disk board which gave me more room for a much larger battery.

Pros:

  • Headphone jack
  • Physical buttons
  • Large SSD
  • About 100 hours battery life
  • Requires nothing of the user
  • Insanely easy to use
  • Iconic design
  • Has brick and solitaire
  • Line out

Cons:

  • 30 pin charging cable
  • Managing music in iTunes

I bought the iPod used on eBay for about $50 and the board was $40 plus the cost of storage. I put a 200GB SD card in here, but I could install 3 more flash drives on the board which could pool the storage up to 1 TB.

Board installed, not pictured: larger battery.

One of the issues with this upgrade is making sure there is enough ram to hold song information. The model I have was a 30GB model that can handle about twenty thousand tracks. The database for track information is always stored on the main iPod board. This won’t be an issue for me since i’ll never reach that many tracks with most of my library being ripped to FLAC and converted to Apple Lossless. I would max out 1TB well before reaching twenty thousand tracks. Device specific info can be found here.

I ran into some issues with running 2 different sized SD cards, so I’m sticking with just the 200GB card for now.

Installation was pretty easy. My iPod was already opened by the previous owner, meaning the clips were not hard to remove. Having a thin opening tool will make it easy, like the iSesamo. I Then swapped out the hard drive and battery and added foam where needed. After closing it back up I had to restore the firmware in iTunes and then I could load up songs. This is definitely one of the drawbacks, syncing a ton of songs takes what seems like forever.

I should mention if opening up at 10+ year old iPod seems daunting to you, it was not. You’ll have to be careful around the a few ribbon cables, but everything is pretty straight forward. If you don’t have the skills to do this, head over to Ebay, there are plenty modified this way for sale. Over all I really enjoyed this project. I’ve had this iPod going for about over a year now, and it’s everything I wanted and so much more. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go watch a U2 music video on my iPod.

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