Thursday, December 26, 2013

iPod Mini flash memory upgrade

Although most have moved on to iPhones or Androids to play their music today, many still use iPods in speaker docks or cars to play music.  I have a 2006 Nissan that has a dedicated iPod dock connector that displays the iPod menus on the center console display.  Recently my hard drive failed in my iPod 3rd gen and I needed a Firewire version because my Nissan won’t charge the USB iPods. 

So after reading some articles I discovered it’s easier to buy an iPod mini because it uses a CF Type II hard drive.  These hard drives can easily be replaced with CF flash cards which are commonly found in older SLR digital cameras.  I decided to buy an iPod Mini on eBay and try a 32gig flash card I had laying around. 

First getting the iPod mini open is the most difficult part of this project.  I used the blue tool that comes with iPod battery replacement kits.  You need to remove the top and bottom on the mini.  By working the tool between the metal and plastic edge you eventually will break the glue apart that holds them in place. There are also some plastic snaps and if you are not careful they can break. 

Once you have the top and bottom off you remove two Phillips head screws on the top of the iPod.  Then from the bottom you must remove a metal plate that has four holes.  I believe a C-clip plier could make this step easier but the set I had would not fit in those tiny holes so I worked it loose with a screwdriver blade.  Then you must pop off a small connector on the bottom left side that is attached to a ribbon cable that connects the click wheel to the main board. 

Now you are ready to slide the main board out of the iPod casing.  Be very careful, if it feels like there is too much friction make sure nothing is snagging.  A LED flashlight is handy to see what’s going on in there.  Once you have the board out you must remove the tape around the drive near the edge connector.  Then using a screwdriver blade you can work the drive off the connector. 

Now you can install your CF flash drive.  It goes label side up.  Although in my video I show reassembling the iPod at this point you can fire up iTunes and connect the sync cable to see if the upgrade is working.  The iPod does not need the click wheel cable hooked up to restore the iPod.  iTunes should see the drive and display a message that it is corrupt.  This is totally normal, do not panic.  Follow the steps to restore your iPod.  It will take about a two minutes for the whole process to finish. 

Usually the first restore will work as expected.  In one case I had a 32gb flash card show up as 6gb.  All I did was restore the iPod mini a 2nd time and it then recognized the full 32gb CF card. 

As of this writing a 32 CF card is about $35-$40 bucks.  A replacement battery is about $5.  Then scoring a cheap iPod mini on eBay is the trick.  Look for one where they say it shows the Apple logo and then displays an error.  That means the hard drive is bad and we don’t care about that, so bid on it.  If one does not power on at all stay away from it.  On average they are going for $15-$35 dollars.  Ones in perfect condition will go for way more.  You can even buy a replacement shell if you are fussy over the scratches that many have. 

It’s too bad Apple has crippled the Nano with only 16gb of storage.  That’s not enough for many people like myself.  And I don’t want a 32gb iPod touch that costs $300!! And if you need a Firewire interface for some old product you have none of the current iPods will work.

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