iPod, Death and resurrection

iPods are cool gadgets, when they work.Well, a week or so ago, during a rather fantastic thunderstorm my iPod died.
It was attached to my mac, at the time of the thunderstorm, and my Mac locked up, hey ho I guess to be expected (power blips). I forced a shutdown, and powered back up.
After about 5 minutes I noticed the LCD on my iPod seemed to have a dark ‘splodge’ on it, centered around the top RHS of the screen. Thinking this was odd, I tried pickup my iPod. I almost had the skin taken off my fingers, it was red hot!

Ok, so I’ve got a problem, tried it with the USB lead and it didn’t get hot, but my mac wouldn’t see it and it didn’t charge the battery. I took it to the local apple repair center and sure enough, with firewire it gets hot, with USB it does nowt.

So now, I’m facing the death of a rather expensive, and much loved, gadget. Chatting with a friend at work, he came up with the bright idea (and don’t ask me why I didn’t think of it), of buying a ‘dead’ one from ebay.

I did some research and basically what I wanted was the logic board for a 4th gen iPod, and what I needed from ebay was an iPod with a dead hard disk (folder icon with an ‘!’ on it).

Off to ebay I went, and I scored a 40g 4th gen iPod (perfect, exactly what I had!) for £70, more than I wanted to pay, but considerably less than a replacement one.

Folder and i of doomIt arrived today at work, plugged in at work, sure enough, “folder icon with the ! logo”, meaning dead HDD, but the battery charged up and it didn’t get hot!

Got home, popped open the iPod (this takes about 30 seconds with the right tool) and swapped my HDD into the ebay iPod. Yep, it worked! all my music was there and everything.

Now, as the ebay one was a little beaten up (someone had tried to open it and it was badly scratched) I figured I’d use my front panel, it’s logic and my HDD (Still with me?). I began swapping parts to build my frakenstein iPod.

I cheerily put it together and, disaster, I now had “the folder and ! of doom”

Ok, so maybe the click wheel was odd or something, I dunno, I swapped the HDD and new logic back, and still “the folder and ! of doom” presented itself.

So now I thought, hang on, maybe I swapped the HDDs by mistake, so I swapped them (having numbered them 1 and 2 just to be safe), and yet again “the folder and ! of doom” presented itself, ARGGHHHH!.

So, now the thrid-party-field service engineer in me takes over (you know, the one with the motto ‘FTFT’, “Fix The F*cking Thing!”). I deffinatly want my old case (it’s in better conidition), so I swap the Logic and parts back, this time I also swap the HDD cable from my old logic. Figuring, well if that doesn’t work nothing will.
I plugged my iPod into it’s cradle, and op pops a window on my mac saying I need to update my iPod, phew, this means the HDD+Logic is working, YAY.. But hang on, last week it didn’t need updating.

Looking deeper, it also says I need to ‘reset’ my iPod to its factory settings, and I notice, it’s got a different name, not ‘Pauls iPod’.. Hang on, this means the one with the dead HDD is not dead!

Sure enough, swapping HDD-2 for HDD-1, I have all my tunes back and no update is needed.

So, not only did my £70 get me a new logic, it got me a spare battery (very handy), a spare LCD, a spare clickwheel and spare case, but I also now have a spare HDD!!

So, for all you iPodders out there with the “the folder and ! of doom” syndrome, before your buy a new HDD, or sell it on ebay for spares, check to make sure that *both* ends of the HDD cable a secure and that it’s intact. You could save yourself a lot of hassle and money!

3 Responses to “iPod, Death and resurrection”

  1. Chris Booth Says:

    Great story, but where did you get the tool to open the iPod from?

  2. Paul Says:

    Many many years ago, there was a computer company called ‘Compaq’, who created the compaq LTE386, an ultra small (for then) 386 based PC.
    One of the things they did to make it ‘portable’ was remove all screws (there were only something like 4 screws in the whole machine).
    In order that people could service it (I was a Field Service Engineer at the time) they supplied serice companies with the ‘compaq case splitter’. Basically a ‘wedge’ of plastic, that’s *just* hard enough to pry open a case but soft enough that if you get too heavy handed it bent (rather than snapping the case).

    If you don’t have one of these you need something similar (plastic knife, or be able to be gentle with a regular knife), and the ‘weakest’ part of an iPod case to open it with, is above the connector on the bottom.

    Failing that, there’s always ebay ;-

  3. Tim Says:

    Hi there,

    That’s quite a story…I like the idea of swapping out parts of one iPod with those of another.

    Regarding the spare HDD that you now have. I recently fixed two iPods for two of my friends, both of which reported that same infamous (!) logo. So, I opened them up to have a look around and I re-seated the connections and viola, both worked again…So, I’m guessing that this loose cable thing is a pretty common issue.

    Anyways, you guys can read more about my iPod resurrections at my tech blog found at