Thursday Nano Hacks: Getting Power from your Nano

For this week’s Nano Hack we will cover how to get power off your iPod Nano’s battery. Power can be useful when you need to run other small low power devices in conjunction with the Nano. These devices can be small circuits, lights, etc. In next week’s installment we will use the power we draw to power a glowing sleeve for the iPod Nano.

What you will need:
– an iPod connector cable to cannibalize (we used a Dock Connector to USB 2.0 + FireWire)
– a multimeter
– a soldering iron
– some sort of thin knife or miniature flat head screwdriver to pry open the connector

First recharge your iPod Nano completely. Take the iPod connector and start by prying off the white plastic housing on the Dock Connector end:


Carefully remove the white plastic from the connector and pry the cable or cables out of the back. You should have a foil covered metal box like this:

This foil is sticky backed and can simply be peeled away. Do so now.

Next you will need to pry open the metal box. Be extremely careful to not destroy the connector pins inside the box (on the side of the connector, not the cable side). There is a tab on each side on the cable side that needs to be pushed in before you can pry the box open.


One you have the metal box open, you will have something similar to this:
…where the foil and ground are soldered to the backplate of the metal box. Go ahead and carefully cut away the cables about one centimeter from the dock connector side above the glue and electrical tape mess. With great care, pry away the glue from the remaining cables with a small knife or flat head screwdriver. Be sure to not break off any of the tabs that are intact.


Now desolder each of the wires from the tabs one by one. Do not introduce too much solder or break any of the solder tabs. Plug the connector back into the Nano and using a multimeter set to DC volts, locate the +3.3V pin on the connector. Using the following diagram, the ground is completely to the right when you have the Nano facing upwards. The +3.3V is the seventh pin over from the right on the top row:


Remove the connector from the Nano so as to not damage the Nano. The seventh pin over from the right on the top row may be missing a solder tab. If so, scrape gently away at the epoxy/red glue on the edge of that pin to expose as much metal as possible to solder to. Tin the exposed metal area with a touch of solder. Solder one small cable to the doubled ground (both the top row and bottom row rightmost pins).

In the image above you can see the exposed metal on the 3.3V pin (seventh over from the right) we scraped away and tinned. Now solder a second lead to the exposed 3.3V pin like so:


Next plug your completed cable into your Nano and test your wiring job:


Congrats, you now have a 3.3V cable to power an external device to go along with your Nano! We put a LED on that 3.3 V to have a visual example of our power:


Next week tune in to see an example 3.3V project using this connector: a luminescent case for the Nano. Send us your Nano hacks here.

[edited for an error in one of the pin placement descriptions]


  1. jeffers says:

    would be interesting to see how badly this affects battery life.

  2. Stew says:

    heh, you could hook up a fan to your nano, and use it when you’re jogging :P

  3. furtim says:

    Use it to charge a USB Battery v2.0! Then use the USB Battery to charge your nano! Repeat!

    There is no flaw in this plan. Not a one.

  4. yeti says:

    #3, Actually you could do something similar such as charge a friend’s nano.

  5. dim5 says:

    …and I was just wondering what I was going to do with all that extra battery life in my nano.

  6. Ajjeko says:

    Cant wait to see the case!
    Sweet stuff.

  7. furtim says:

    yeti: nano jumper cables? ;P

  8. CAptSnuffy says:

    i guess you could make some homebrew ipod acessories

  9. jacob says:

    does the connector stay in well even tho the push tabs are not there to hold it in place?

  10. Atomici16 says:

    will this work on a 3 generation Ipod

  11. e says:

    doesnt look like that LED has any current limit (like a resistor)…?

  12. Dr_nathan says:

    iirc, you shouldn’t need a resistor for most common LEDs at 3.3v. At anything higher, you would need to step the voltage down.

  13. Daniel says:

    try again. some leds have built in resistors, but it’s not ok to assume. many diodes have a voltage drop of 1.5 – 3 volts, leaving 1.5 volts going through whatever resistance is there… if there’s enough resistance in the circuit to keep the led from drawing more than 20mA or so, then good, otherswise, don’t expect the led to last long.
    always use a current limiting resistor. please.

  14. N says:

    Connect an on/off switch to the bottom along with a couple of white leds, and you have yourself a nano flashlight

  15. jacob says:

    does the connector stay in well even tho the push tabs are not there to hold it in place?

  16. Jake says:

    Can this be used for ipods other than the nano?

  17. Nezuji says:

    3.3V, huh? You could run some CMOS logic off that. How about a SMD LED-array with a scrolling message for extra blingness? If someone could find a way to rip the current song title through the port as well…

  18. digitallysick says:

    i might sound crazy but isnt this a bit pointless? looks like alot of work for nothing? i mean what would you need to power that would be more important than the nano? humm *draws a blank* cigarette lighter?

  19. sean s says:

    how about a MAX powered fm transmitter for cheap?

  20. Kevin says:

    could you maybe do the same for data cables so that you could add some extra storage? Like a microdrive backpack?

  21. kevin: that would be insanely hard

  22. v1p3r says:
  23. Gbz says:

    Ta da. Way to go sister (and yes, she really is my sister). I can’t wait to see the glowing sleeve. The answer to some questions of what is the point to any of these hacks is: why the hack not try the hack?

  24. I can’t wait to see the iPod Nano Sleeve! I enjoy these hack an awful lot (and sometimes just sit here and laugh) so keep up the good work (P.S. go to for the latest apple news)

  25. Alan says:

    Use 4 of them to jump start a car :)

  26. milk says:

    Come on… there hasn’t been a single decent hack for the nano ipod yet.

    I mean, they should be more useful, or cool… painting the headphones?! OMFG. I have a pretty neat idea for an ipod nano hack… but don’t have the time to do it. Anyone interested?

  27. I am interested in that hack #25. Can you put it in the message board? If you can’t, you can put in on a free website from !

  28. RadioDylan says:

    Its was supposed to be #26!

  29. RadioDylan says:

    Its was supposed to be #26!

  30. n1x-uk says:

    Im thinking of combining this how-to, with the following sites info:

    to create a new adaptor unit so i can use the itrip and head phone remotes etc with the 5g, but im having one major problem…..
    Where is the final line in/out (not R, L or GND) from the headphone socket repersented on the dock connector? Is it pin 7,8,14,17?

  31. Mark says:

    so… when is the glowing sleeve coming out? not to be a nag, but it’s a bit late.

  32. dudey says:

    #3, would it not be simpler to simply connect it to itself? So your nano is charging itself? Rather than charging another battery and then charging back into the nano (which will lose power due to resistance in the wires and the tendency of NiMH batteries to lose charge)… Which would be utterly pointless. As for a flashlight, just use the backlight, it’s plenty bright enough. And, my last two words: JUMPER CABLES!!!

    #10: it should… but no guarantees..

  33. Terry says:

    Could you power a headphone amp?

  34. tom says:

    do you know how much current you can pull through this pin at +3.3v? 50ma? 100ma?

  35. john pavlick says:

    would it be possible to make something like this work on my dell pocket dj?

  36. john pavlick says:

    my dj uses a mini usb

  37. Adam says:

    help me! I tried this hack, but it isn’t working… when i check the voltage with a multimeter, it is just under 4 volts (3.7-3.9v) but when i put a load on it (LED, iTrip, etc) it immediately drops to around 2.2v, and i need 3.3 to operate the iTrip… why is this happening?!? help meeee

  38. Adam says:

    #32: he was kidding, charging a battery and then re-charging would not only be incredibly inefficient, but also wouldnt work because the iPod needs a higher voltage to charge
    #33: sure, why not… but most headphone amps i know of use higher voltages (my cmoy likes 9v)…. but you could prob build a low-voltage amp

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