iPod Classic Hard Drive Upgrade

Last Update:

Status: DONE

‘Nay Merci, Isya’s mom, sent her iPod Classic1 to me for repair, a device that’s at least ten years old now. It’s life can still be stretched by upgrading some of its components.

Back in 2018, I did a similar upgrade on Isya’s iPod Classic, so doing this isn’t something new.

I’ll discuss the overview of what I did. This isn’t necessarily a step-by-step guide, and shouldn’t be considered as such. This is an attempt to document the process through a crappy camera and poor lighting that I have.

Getting what I need

Here I list the things needed to replace the orignal mechanical hard drive with the new, much faster, solid state drive.

a spread of items needed to upgrade the ipod, including hard drive and prying tools

TOP HALF, LEFT TO RIGHT: iPod Classic, new microSD card, iFlash-Quad microSD adapter (and the included square foam below it), special flexible steel pry bar; BOTTOM HALF: an assortment of prying tools

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iFlash is the go-to site/store when it comes to iPod adapters. They have adapters that will fit iPod Videos, iPod Classics, and iPod Photos. The iFlash site has helpful tips and advice for non-pro iPod modders like me.

Even when there was a slight problem in shipping (probably due the on-going Pandemic), the iFlash team was quick to resolve the problem, at no extra cost. Great customer service, if you ask me!

iFlash-Quad is, in my opinion, the best bang-for-buck purchase for this iPod. Good capacity is 256Gb to 1Tb!

From their site:

Automatic quad mode adapter—use with 1 MicroSD card in standard mode, and 2, 3, or 4 MicroSD cards in mixed JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) mode for even greater storage capacity.

Mix and Match any MicroSD cards, you are free to mix any size and any brand to achieve your iPod needs.

Intelligent power management with much lower power consumption than the original Hard drive, longer runtimes and quicker user interface.

It’s true. I’ve done this in Isya’s iPod, and it has worked better since its upgraded. So I know it will improve ‘Nay Merci’s iPod, which I’ll unofficially call Mercipod.

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MicroSD Cards

Maximum of four. This will vary on how hardcore of a music enthusiast you are, and/or your budget.

If you’re aiming for 1Tb worth of music, it might well be a replacement for your Spotify! It’s offline, too, so you don’t need internet connection to play music.

Since you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have some familiarity with iPods and how they need to interface with iTunes.

For those who don’t know, when we connect the iPod to a computer with iTunes on it, the iTunes will be the one to put music on it, by syncing the library with the iPod. So, don’t put your mp3 files in the microSD just yet!

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Prying tools

As with any Apple device, iPod is tricky to open. Classic Apple move discourages the owners to repair their own devices through malicious design and planned obsolescence, but it’s a discussion for another time.

One special tool is the flexible steel pry bar tool. It’s a thin steel with grip, ideal for opening iPods. iFlash offers it in their store. Another brand, iSesamo, is known to be the gold standard for prying open iPods, but you may find it a bit too pricey, especially if you factor in shipping costs. I did okay with cheap knockoffs, though, in Lazada/Shoppee. In fact, I still have the one I used to open Isya’s.

Other plastic prying tools may be needed. They can be bought on the cheap at your favorite e-commerce site. Look up with terms like “plastic prying tools for electronics”.

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Not included in the picture above, sorry about that. This will come in handy when putting back the battery ribbon to its slot. More on this later.

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Video Tutorial

Yes, I couldn’t have done this (again) without the help of a guide.

I found Everson Siqueira’s video, “iPod Classic upgrade: new battery + SD Card. 256GB 7th gen iPod Classic” (YouTube link) really helpful. I will be referring to this video a few times in this post. In addition to his tutorial, he also discussed the hurdles he had to overcome so viewers may not repeat his mistakes.

He also provided an “iPod Classic opening reference card in PDF” (Dropbox link) so I would know where to locate the metal clips that hold together the iPod chassis.

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Lots of it. As I said, iPods are not easy to pry open. That special flexible prying tool mentioned above is key (almost literally) to successfully opening the device.

I would say that opening is the hardest part. The rest will be easy, if not manageable.

If this is your first time opening an iPod, take your time. Go over your chosen guide (or video tutorial) again as long as you need to. It’s better to make sure, than force something and then breaking it needlessly.

This is my second time doing this, so I’m more confident.

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Swapping the Hard Drives

Now we will be discussing the steps involved in taking out the old hard drive to be replaced with the new solid state one.

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1. Open the iPod

an image of ipod and a small roll of washi tape below it

Washi tape marks the locations of the metal clips

With the aid Siqueira’s iPod Classing opening reference, I used washi tape to indicate the locations of the metal clips2 that hold together the iPod. I did this, because I have no printer to have the PDF printed. To be as accurate as possible, I aligned the iPod with the image on the PDF, making sure that it is zoomed to actual size, before placing the markings.

I inserted the flexible metal prying tool in between the seams at the edge, following the marked locations. I disengaged first the top clip, then the two bottom clips. Disengaging the clips on both sides can be done after, either by alternating between each side, or doing all in one side first before going to the other.

I’ll reiterate: Refer to the video tutorial first on how exactly this is done.

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2. Disconnecting the battery ribbon

an opened ipod

Disconnecting the battery ribbon

After successfully disengaging all clips, flip the iPod so it is facing down on your work surface. Slowly carefully lift the back chassis. metal-clips shouldn’t open it wide yet, because there’s a battery ribbon still connected.

With a plastic prying tool, slide up the black plastic clip that holds the battery ribbon. The battery ribbon can now be lifted (carefully) up, still with the help of a prying tool.

an opened ipod

Freshly opened iPod. LEFT: Back metal shell, battery (the yellow-orange rectangle); RIGHT: Front chassis, and what you’re seeing is the mechanical hard drive and some foam

The iPod is now open. Relish this moment of success.

Notice that there’s still one ribbon connected to the front chassis. This is for the headphones jack. Keep it in tact.

The battery still has some significant juice in it, so that’s an upgrade for another time.

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3. Disconnect the original hard drive

The original hard drive is attached to the motherboard via flexible flat cable (FFC) through called a Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) connector.

an opened ipod

Disconnecting the HDD

On the side of the hard drive, there’s a sliver of black plastic flap that must first be flipped to disengage the FFC from the ZIF. Do that carefully with a plastic prying tool.

Once disengaged, the hard drive shall be easy to pull off.

an opened ipod and a mechanical hard disk

RIGHTMOST: Hard drive successfully removed

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4. Installing the new solid state drive

The solid state drive here, technically, is the microSD. Insert it in one of the slots in the iFlash-Quad adapter.

The adapter comes with a small square foam, with an adhesive side. This will act as a spacer between the adapter and the iPod’s circuit board. The adapter being thinner than the original hard drive, the foam provides a snug fit, so the iPod won’t be an overpriced maracas. Refer to the following image to know which side the foam must be placed.

image of iFlash solid state drive

iFlash-Quad, with foams

Connect the FFC to adapter’s on-board ZIF connector. It shouldn’t be hard to slide it in. If the FFC is somewhat resisting, be sure that it is evenly sliding in, not at an angle. Then, lock it in by putting the black plastic flap back down.

Check the following image to see the orientation of the adapter during connection.

an opened ipod

Installing the solid state drive

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5. Closing the iPod

Realign the back chassis back to the front.

Using a tweezer (pictured in the following image), reconnect the battery ribbon in the same slot as before. Lock it in by pushing down the black plastic slider. Give it a light tug to ensure that it isn’t loosely connected.

an opened ipod

Reconnecting the battery ribbon

Press some buttons to check first if the iPod is turning on. Under normal circumstances, it should. If it doesn’t, trying recharging it. If during the process of opening the iPod, you somehow damaged it that it wouldn’t turn on, it’s beyond the scope of this post.

The iPod is now ready to be closed. While making sure the back is aligned to the front chassis, push down on the metal. Clicks should be heard; the metals clips are now engaged and the iPod is locked closed.

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…then comes the music

At this point, the iPod should feel snappier and lighter, because it is!

Since we’ve replaced the massive energy drain which was the original hard drive, battery should last a bit longer. Accessing the memory isn’t done mechanically, unlike the original hard drive, which literally needed to spin a disk (where the whirring sound comes from).

Connect the iPod to a computer (ideally a Mac, but Windows or GNU+Linux would be fine) with iTunes installed on it.

The iPod will be prompted for a restore, and then a software update. Do these both via iTunes.

When successfully done, the iPod can now sync with iTunes, so make sure you packed the latter with decent muzak. They syncing process is outside the scope of this post, but it shouldn’t be too hard. Look it up online.

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  1. iPod Classic, 6th Generation (“7th gen” in some sites), 2nd revision, 160 GB capacity, Model No. A1238. For more info on iPods, check the wikipedia about it↩︎

  2. One would notice the absence of screws with which to open the device. Instead, there are metal clips on the inside all around the edge. Without prior knowledge, one would think that the iPod was not designed to be maintained, and one would be right in thinking so. ↩︎

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