Yeah, it had to happen: 'Classic iPod Hackers Say There’s No Better Way to Listen to Music'

Prime Minister

Site Owner
Staff member
There are retainer clips that have to be released with a thin spatula blade-like tool that is inserted into the very small gap between the two halves of the clamshell.

Many people struggle with this aspect alone, as you have to go around the entire enclosure releasing each clip and then with the one hand holding the iPod exert some slight continuous pressure in pulling each half away from the other, otherwise when you move around the enclosure with the tool, releasing another clip manages to just re-engage the one you just released two clips back. It's an annoying juggling act and obviously a design choice meant to stymie novice attempts at opening the unit at all. Most people would just give up.

This is compounded (and proven to be deliberate by Apple) by the fact that they made each successive version of iPod harder to open than the previous. So a Gen. 5, while annoying, is nowhere near as difficult to open as the Gen. 6 was despite them looking pretty similar, and the Gen. 7 was even a bit tougher still to crack. It requires patience unless you plan to replace the rear metal half, because you will bend and ripple the edge of the metal if you try to shortcut the process and get too heavy handed with the tool, and that leaves the unit looking shabby or in need of a new rear cover.

The good news is the rear cover is not expensive, and the ones you can get on eBay even have the large capacities of 128, 256, 512GB, or even 1TB laser etched on them, to signify the modded iPod's new capacity.

However there is one more gotcha designed in by Apple, and it's the biggest one of all, once again proving just how deliberate they were in not wanting people to repair or upgrade an iPod.

Once you've hassled with the two case halves and the blade tool enough to get the two halves apart, the tendency or human nature is to immediately fully pull apart and separate the two completely... YES... SUCCESS... er, NOT! You see they glue the battery and its fragile ribbon cable to the rear of the case, and that cable has insufficient slack unless it is first released from the logic board, you can only separate the two halves about .5" before you run out of slack. No problem right, after all you are likely replacing that battery anyway as part of the restoration, you wouldn't go to all that trouble and not install a new battery, who cares if you tear the ribbon cable? Apple made sure the battery ribbon cable is actually very strong. It does not tear, rather, you end up tearing the retainer clasp straight off of the logic board, ruining it unless you can do microsurgery with a hot air station to remove the broken connector and install a new one with solder paste. Alternatively, you could insert the new battery cable and then just put a blob of hot glue on the connector, knowing that's the last new battery the unit will ever receive.

The site where I bought the flash memory conversion adapter boards goes out of their way to warn people of this huge gotcha designed in failure waiting to happen, and I for one never ruined a logic board by carefully heeding that warning. LOADS of others were too hasty, ignored the warning, and ruined their iPod by destroying the battery cable connection point.

So once you've wrestled with the case to get it open, you can only separate the two halves .5", before needing to then hold them in one hand, while the other maneuvers a plastic fine tip spudger tool inside and gently releases the clasp that affixes the battery cable to the logic board. Only then can you safely separate the two halves and even then, there is still one other ribbon cable for the connection of the headphone jack to the logic board, but it has sufficient slack to allow the two halves to be safely separated and placed alongside each other without destroying anything.

The above is actually the hardest part of the modification, removing the HDD and installing the flash memory adapter and new battery is simple by comparison, but you then juggle one last time in lining up the new battery's ribbon cable into the connection point, and snugging down it's clasp. You don't dare then click all of the case retainer clips fully closed/buttoned up until you have first confirmed the unit powers ON, and also Restores properly on connection of the USB cable and launch of iTunes. Once that's done, you can finally click the two halves together and finish it.
I can imagine my iPod flying through the air and crashing hard against the wall if I were to try that.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I'd be tempted to try to resuscitate one just so I could drop offhanded comments about using a spudger.

:smoke
I've got a whole bunch of spudgers, different sizes, shapes, tips, both plastic and metal spudgers. Yes I have spudged... if that's actually a word (probably not).

In most cases a small precision screwdriver is a perfect substitute if one lacks a spudger, however the case opener flat blade spatula type tool is more of a necessity, the only good suitable replacements one may already have on hand are a spark plug gap feeler gauge, or a very small thin metal spatula.

Here are my tools of the trade (F-you Apple I'll crack your shit open):

Spudgers.jpg
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I can imagine my iPod flying through the air and crashing hard against the wall if I were to try that.
More than one person has actually had that happen, either due to their hands lacking the fine dexterity needed to perform this delicate dance, or they just got frustrated, lost all patience and threw the thing against the wall.

Reminds me of a friend of mine in NJ, he's unbelievably technical, and astute with all things mechanical too, he always knows what actually needs to be done and how to do it, but he lacks patience. It doesn't take him long to start issuing threats out loud to inanimate objects, something to the effect of "you motherfucker, if you don't submit real soon I'm just gonna throw you on the floor and jump up and down on you, and I guarantee you'll never give me trouble ever again!".

He actually means it, I've seen him do it, very short fuse. He stomped the crap out of a Japanese receiver one time, I don't even remember what about it was annoying him, but he threw it on the floor and put it to its death wearing a pair of winter boots that had Vibram soles supported by steel shanks, that unit stood no chance, he is a big strong guy. He was happy afterwards.

His father was a nuclear power plant engineer, and Dad clearly had a bit more patience built-in to his psyche.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I feel like you’re ready for a comeback ... 🙂
I am, my Gen. 6 is the only iPod I still actually use, because it is capable of digital output via it's dock connector to certain "Made for iPod" compatible DACs, including the Oppo HA-2 that I own.

The problem is the Gen. 6 that I modded got a new battery, but it wasn't a high capacity version, and digital output actually consumes more battery than analog output does. That generic replacement battery is now 5-6 years old, and it is not holding up anywhere near as well as the Apple OEM Sanyo batteries that are now unobtainium.

I did some time ago order a high capacity battery for it, and a new back cover too, but I have been too lazy to date to actually search out and find which project bin that stuff is actually in, pull it out, and do the job. Maybe this thread will inspire me.
 

Prime Minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Is there anyone who does this work well, at a reasonable cost? I was thinking a “vintage “ iPod might be a fun source to feed my dads old radio.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Is there anyone who does this work well, at a reasonable cost? I was thinking a “vintage “ iPod might be a fun source to feed my dads old radio.
I would imagine in Toronto there must be, however they seem to have mostly vanished here in NY, both due to the fleeting popularity of the iPod, and because Apple always refused to sell any replacement parts to repair shops which is criminal.

Those kinds of shops don't like buying generic parts at retail from Hong Kong, so this was and still is the domain of DIY more than professionals, but any place that fixes smart phones would possess the tools and knowledge necessary. If you ordered the parts after consulting with them, I'm sure they would do the job, but at what cost I would have no idea.

They actually sound quite good if using the analog Line Out of the 30-pin dock connector, as opposed to the headphone jack 3.5mm variable output.
 

Kpatch

Junior Member
It seems like you’re in a position to set up a cottage industry to do the mods, Mikey, i.e., if you have the interest to do so.
Looks like you might already have some customers ... including me.
:D
 

airdronian

Junior Member
I can't imagine trying to pry open an iPod. When I had to get into my 2009 Mac Mini, I found the perfect tool - a pizza cutter. It was able to roll along the seam where the clips would release. Worked pretty well, no damage.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I can't imagine trying to pry open an iPod. When I had to get into my 2009 Mac Mini, I found the perfect tool - a pizza cutter. It was able to roll along the seam where the clips would release. Worked pretty well, no damage.
Yes that too is a pain in the neck, bit of a pattern here with Apple products. I've torn apart and put back together my 2006 Mac mini, and also my 2012 Mac mini.

The newer one just needed a doubling of RAM from 4 to 8GB (that's easy) and a periodic cleaning of dust build up to increase airflow and lower the operating temperature. I know you've done that to yours too, and it definitely increases the lifespan if cleaned from time to time.

The 2006 mini was a total rebuild, I replaced the original 1.83 GHz CPU with a compatible 2.33 GHz dual core version, and the 80GB spinning HDD with a 256GB SSD, quadrupled the RAM from 1 to 4GB, along with the aforementioned full cleanup of dust built up over the years, and that unit now runs OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard like brand new.

Unbelievable how difficult Apple makes these upgrades, however the payoff is huge because they did use inherently good designs and parts, Apple products do last years and years, it seems the sky is the limit if periodically cleaned and updated.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Is there anyone who does this work well, at a reasonable cost? I was thinking a “vintage “ iPod might be a fun source to feed my dads old radio.
It seems like you’re in a position to set up a cottage industry to do the mods, Mikey, i.e., if you have the interest to do so.
Looks like you might already have some customers ... including me.
I'd be happy to refurb any HFH member's iPod. Tell me which model you have and we'll have a look at the availability of the parts for it.

In almost all cases you'd want to use the superb iFlash adapter board to swap the fragile old spinning HDD for flash card memory. That adapter ships from London, but the designer uses Royal Mail and its flat out cheap, he does not mark up the shipping at all, and his product is vastly superior to the Chinese flash adapter boards. I have one such Chinese adapter board that I bought just to compare, I still have it and I will not install it in anything, because it's a piece of junk compared to the iFlash.

I see there appears to be a U.S. seller of the high capacity batteries now too, and that's good because shipments from China in a COVID-19 world are very slow and unreliable.

Toss in the nosediving cost of SDXC cards, and there is good reason to upgrade an iPod assuming one still has a use case for it.

@JohnVF might have a semi-unique case with a Gen. 4, if I'm not mistaken it's HDD ribbon cable is directly compatible with the Compact Flash memory cards, meaning he needs no adapter at all. The iPod mini is the same way, and though I did use a CF-SD adapter on mine, the one I built for a friend's wife skipped that part and just used a Compact Flash card plugged directly into the HDD ribbon cable connector, as it was an exact match pinout. I believe the Gen. 4 iPod is the same.

The only issue there is Compact Flash is a good deal more expensive than SDXC is, and there was odd incompatibility with certain CF cards that no one ever figured out, evidently they used wonky firmware or had a partition scheme that you could not alter when restoring in iTunes. That said, I did get a Kingston CF card to work just fine in my friend's wife's treasured mini, hers was just 16GB but that was plenty as her music library was iTunes Store bought MP3, and it was then 4 times the original 4GB capacity. The iPod mini is a really cool little portable player, all metal body, monochrome display, and it does have the famous Wolfson DAC too, it sounds great. The one limitation is there's no room inside for a high capacity battery, so the run time can't really be improved like it can with a full size iPod, and it too is a big PIA to take apart.
 
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