iPod upgrade

I got my iPod Mini in early 2004 and it’s been pretty solid since, though its relatively small storage capacity has been a source of frustration from time to time.  In the last year, however, the battery life really tanked.  Not only did it not play for long after being charged, but if I charged it up on Friday and didn’t use it all weekend, it would be totally dead on Monday morning.  That got pretty annoying.  So, I had been thinking about buying a new iPod.  I wanted something that had good battery life and large enough capacity to store almost my entire music catalog with some room to spare.  However, I didn’t like the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a new iPod when my current iPod still basically worked.  So I decided to upgrade my Mini.

I’d been aware of the availability of replacement iPod batteries for a while and I had considered just getting a replacement battery and accepting the less-than-ideal capacity for the time being.  However, last week I found a site talking about upgrading the hard drive in iPod Minis as well. It turns out that, unlike newer flash memory-based iPods, which have their memory soldered onto the main board, Minis use Hitachi Microdrives, which are essentially tiny hard drives disguised as compact flash cards. These drives can be removed and replaced with actual compact flash cards. So, I realized I could basically remedy both of my gripes with my Mini by installing a replacement battery and upgrading the storage capacity by installing a large CF card.

Before I left for Pittsburgh last week, I ordered a 16GB compact flash card from Newegg for $45. Yesterday, I picked up the CF card from our mailroom and drove over to Microcenter, where I picked up a replacement battery.  It took me a while to get the case open but eventually I got it.  Once the case was open, it didn’t take long to swap out the battery.  Replacing the Microdrive with the CF card was a little harder but, all in all, it was pretty painless.  After I got the case put back together, I plugged the Mini into my computer where iTunes prompted me to restore it.  After loading the most recent firmware, I was prompted to plug the iPod into an AC adapter in order for the firmware installation to complete.  I then charged up the battery and copied over all the music I wanted.

Now I’ve got about 3300 songs on my iPod with almost 3GB of free space, along with great battery life all for about $65.  I saved myself a bunch of money and avoided sending another gadget into a landfill, so I’d say this is a win-win.

10 Responses to “iPod upgrade”

  1. August 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    That’s cool that this worked out.

    Way to go.

    (It’s also now a lot more robust to drops as the hard drive was the weak link before.)

  2. 2 Colin
    August 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks. Yeah, I was kind of nervous that I’d break something. Fortunately, the battery came with a CD containing how-to videos on how to open the case, which helped a lot in avoiding breaking stuff. I’m very happy with the way it has turned out. I would definitely recommend that anyone who has a Mini give this a try.

  3. 3 SFJ
    August 15, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    win-win, indeed.
    any idea what the read-write lifespan is on a CF card in an iPod?

  4. 4 Colin
    August 15, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    My understanding is that lifespan is determined by write cycles not read cycles. Since the CF card is large enough to hold all my music with room to spare, it’s basically write-once. So, I don’t anticipate any problems. Plus, the CF card has some kind of function built into its controller that balances the write operations across all the cells in the card to avoid overworking specfic cells. That said, it was the cheapest card I could find, so maybe it’ll die anyway. Only time will tell.

  5. 5 SFJ
    August 16, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    umm…a 16gb card holds all your music? wow. I applaud your multi-faceted low carbon footprint .

  6. 6 Colin
    August 17, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Well, I use 128kbps for everything. That helps. I got into doing that because of my Mini’s low capacity. For everything that I didn’t buy from iTunes I still have the CDs, MP3s or higher bit rate AACs so maybe if I wind up with an iPod with very large capacity, I’ll eventually switch to something better quality, though generally higher bit rate or lossless means less battery life.

    Plus, the amount of music I’ve bought since high school is pretty low since I just haven’t had the time to educate myself on what’s out there. Other than the period when I subscribed to eMusic, I’ve hardly bought any music…

  7. 7 Colin
    August 17, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    When I subscribed to eMusic, I always converted all the variable bit rate MP3s to 128kbps AAC to load onto my iPod but I kept the MP3s.
    I just checked the total size of all the MP3s I downloaded from eMusic and it’s over 24GB. That doesn’t include all the CDs I ripped and music I downloaded from other sites. So, it seems like the 128kbps bit rate probably has a lot to do with how small my music library is.

  8. 8 Jeff H.
    August 18, 2008 at 1:47 am

    man, that’s awesome – i have similar ipod mini issues – i got mine in ’05 – it was a 6 gig, and unfortunately, i haven’t used it much since college, but this looks like a great call – very nice, Colin!

    btw, in a couple saturdays, i may be going to an indianapolis indians game! that’s right, in indy. i wonder if a lot of their good players will be held out to get ready to be called up to the show at pnc since it’s gonna be one of the last days in august… hmmm… interesting… ha

  9. 9 Colin
    August 20, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Jeff, if you replace the battery, you’ll probably get spectacular battery life. This site has a link to battery life specs and the 2nd gen Minis have much better battery life than the 1st gen ones. If you do try to replace the battery, I recommend you find a replacement kit that comes with a hard plastic (nylon) opening tool. If you try to use a small metal screwdriver, you’ll really mess up the case at both ends. If you decide to try one or both of these upgrades, let me know how it goes.

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