Howto: Nonviolent Ipod Shuffle Disassembly

shuffle disassemble hack
while most shuffle owners don’t know it yet, in a year or two there will be a lot of folks wondering where their battery life went.  applecare’s battery replacement service for normal ipods is available for the low, low price of $99.  think they will have a cheapo shuffle battery replacement service?  think different.

we mentioned earlier that someone posted photos of an ipod shuffle disassembly.  the previous disassembly left a few key questions unanswered, namely:

  • do you need to butcher the buttons to take your shuffle apart?

  • will the average joe be able to replace the battery?

  • what else is under the hood?

  • can it be cleanly reassembled?

this howto will attempt to answer these questions while disassembling the shuffle in a non-destructive manner.

tools required

  • xacto knife
  • ballpoint pen
  • pliers (optional — not recommended)
  • patience

step 1: all your base

shuffle base

freeing the base of the shuffle from the rest of the body is the hardest part of this whole process.  the
previous disassembly suggested just pulling on the usb connector with a pliers until the base breaks free.

mine appeared to have been glued quite liberally and i was worried about damaging the connector, breaking the
connector from the base, or tearing the ribbon cable with too overzealous a yank.  if you choose to go this route,
you’ll probably want to cram a strip of plastic in the usb connector so that it doesn’t bend when you grab it with the

shuffle base removed

i ended up trying a different approach, which i think works a little better.  i used an x-acto blade to slowly
make my way up the inside wall of the case.  once you can dig in a little bit, a very light twisting of the blade
will cause the wall to free from the base.  you’ll be able to hear the glue crackle as it breaks free.

it takes a lot of time and patience to do it without scarring the ipod, but after you’ve worked your way around the
entire base 20 times, you should be able to remove the base by gently rocking the usb connector up and down with your

remove the on/off switch

shuffle switch removal

nothing new here, just tuck a blade or a fingernail under the switch and carefully pry it free.

you don’t have to remove the play buttons!  the guts can slide out without damaging anything

slide off the case

shuffle case slide

nothing new here, either.  just use a ballpoint pen to push on the audio connector.  it should slide out
fairly easily.  if it gets caught, you can use a needle nose to squeeze in the end of the usb side of the

i recommend doing this with the play button side facing up.  the charge indicator button will fall out otherwise
and it’s a slight pain getting it back into place.

replacing the battery

at this point, you should be able to replace your battery and reassemble the shuffle.  instead of soldering
directly to the motherboard, you may just want to clip the wires generously and solder to them to the wires for the
replacement battery.  this leaves a little more room for error if you are like me an unskilled in the finer points
of soldering.

with a little care, it’s a pretty easy job.

so far i haven’t seen any replacement shuffle batteries for sale anywhere.  in two years time i bet they will
be really popular.  lion batteries really suck in that respect…

more details

ipod shuffle circuit
the flash ram and the cpu sit on two seperate circuit
boards and are sandwiched together.

ipod shuffle board disassembly

to get them apart and see what is inside you’ll need to remove the whole unit from the plastic sled.  this can be
accomplished by first removing the ribbon connector, peeling back the tape that holds on the button contacts, and then
carefully freeing and bending the sides of the sled away from the circuit sandwich.

once you have this removed, you can pull the two halves apart.

ipod shuffle flash

i have the 512 mb shuffle and the flash chip used is a samsung k9k4g08uom.  i suspect that the 1gig shuffle’s
only difference is that it has a k9w8g08u1m instead.  here is the pdf
for both.

it looks like it would be a real pain to attempt to upgrade this to a 1gig shuffle.  however, if you have the
tools to do it, give it a shot and let us know how it works.

ipod shuffle processor

the processor is a sigmatel stmp3550b.  you can read more about it

closing thoughts

shuffle reassembly

everything reassembles painlessly.  just be careful not to pinch the ribbon connector as you slide everything
back together.  you can clean up the scuff marks and old glue on the base with the x-acto and then resecure the
base with a couple drops of super glue along the seam.

it’s unreal how tiny the shuffle’s electronics are.  with a little adjustment, it should be able to fit
alongside a 9volt inside the usb battery case, bypassing
the lion battery altogether.

or it could be sewn into some clothing, perhaps a hat or a parka.

anyway, those are just some ideas to get you started.  send in your own shuffle hack.  i’d like to see

107 thoughts on “Howto: Nonviolent Ipod Shuffle Disassembly

  1. Aren’t there solvents or other compounds that can dissolve superglue? Will any of them _not_ dissolve plastic? :)

    On the subject of battery availability, I was quite astonished to find many different sizes and types of Lithium Ion Polymer and Lithium Ion batteries for sale in a retail shop here in Germany, along with chargers. It was a model shop, and they were designed for lightweight models. They had a generic charger and pure, raw cells without cases.

  2. Wow, really interesting… it’d be nice to have a thumb or something in shot with the boards to give it some scale… It looks like this could actually be built into my wallet, which would mean one less thing to fall out of my pockets

  3. just to clear one thing up.
    Applecare for the ipods is 59. for a second years, all apple products have one year free. The battery replacment is FREE if you have apple care.

    okay… back to hacking…

  4. It is likely that the lithium-ion battery could be replaced with one or two (in series/parallel) Li-ion batteries that are used in RC microflight airplanes. Look at, microflight section, look for forum threads on batteries… Also just go to any RC microflight suppliers on the web.

    The only thing is that you may not get as good battery life – you might want to find out the voltage/current (and size) specs on the shuffle battery first…

  5. This is very interesting guide here. BTW I wonder if i am the only one who noticed how you cleanly inserted that all your base in on the step 1: ” step 1: all your base”

  6. This is completely random. I just found this site not too long ago and I was amazed with the technical ability of many of its inhabitants. I was wondering if anyone knew if it were possible to unload the ipod library from the ipod to another computer.

  7. Has someone yet found out what the sigmatel chip is about and if (even better, how) it is hackable?

    Sigmatel doesn’t seem to be very keen on providing information, as their website is not very informative on this point.

  8. Would the iPod Shuffle be software hackable ? I mean, do we have enough information on how it works and how the flashing process is done to feed it with an alternative Firmware ?
    It would be great to have some advanced features thanks to, say, a vocal menu. It could be used without that stupid iTunes format and open doors to advanced Shuffle hacking (audio in, remote control, new buttons, …).

  9. A few notes on the removal of the base…

    The holes in the side of the usb connector are used primarily to keep the cap secure, however I believe that apple uses them in their disassembly process as well. I tested this out and it worked perfectly. The base was easily removed (without using pliers) using a vertical mill and a home-made steel tool that fit through the semi-circular hole, allowing the connector to be pulled. Any screw-driven table will work, as long as pressure can be applied slowly and firmly. Carefully clamp the shuffle in a vise, and attach the tool to a stationary toolpost, etc. Slowly crank the table in the appropriate direction, and pressure is applied evenly and slowly to the connector, until it pops free. If you have the resources, the process will be very clean and precise.

  10. hey i’m really impressed with all the things you can do to a simple gadget like this. cheers to all the hacks.
    however, does anybody know whether spare parts for the shuffle is available? my ribbon cable joining the usb connector port to the shuffle has torn, for no apparent reason. i simply connected it to the computer as one would to charge/transfer songs, and when i pulled it out it just tore.
    i went to the apple care centre and they refused to repair it under warranty, and said the cost for repairing it would cost MORE than the shuffle itself.
    just wondering whether its possible to replace it, as i dont wanna waste money on another shuffle. thanks.

  11. I would like to hack/build a permanently installed iPod shuffle into my car and have it feed the audio to my amp. I ALSO want to connect a female USB port to the Shuffle so that I can connect a second, removable USB pen drive and have the Shuffle recognize the playlist and mp3’s on it. This way I can have a tiny Shuffle-based audio controller with the ability to play songs via its builtin memory AND/OR the second USB drive that I can remove to take inside and change the mp3’s and playlists according to what I’m in the mood for. Anyone know how hard it would be to make the Shuffle OS recognize the second USB drive? What about connecting the car’s power to it to keep its battery charged? Ideas anyone?

  12. As to how they program the Shuffle, I heard somewhere that there were small contacts in-between the USB contacts that were used when the shuffle was fresh from the factory. Any word on those, or whether it was a hoax?

    You might be able to write to Sigmatel and get a datasheet. Make something up, you guys are creative.

  13. Just finished a Shuffle autopsy and here are some adds to the instructions above…
    WATCH IT! if you follow the instructions above using an X-Acto knife to loosen the glue around the USB connector end, be very careful on the bottom edge – the ribbon cable connecting the USB connection and the innards runs over the battery and along that bottom side of the case. It would be easy to cut it with the blade. Also, when pulling on the USB connector to open the end, if you pull hard and it come free, you’ll tear the ribbon cable. (Cause of death for this shuffle). Where do I get a replacement?
    Other observations…
    SLIDER SWITCH – It’s easier to remove and replace when in the off (slid towards top) position. When replacing slider, make sure the swich itself on the board is in the off position too so it is in line with the 2 protrusions on the slider that engage the switch itself.
    USB CONNECTOR – the ribbon cable simply pulls out of the USB connector – no weirdness here.
    USING BALL POINT PEN TO PUSH INNARDS OUT – Don’t use anything narrower to push the audio jack – especially if it goes all the way through the jack. If you do this, you’ll be pushing on the logic board itself…not good.
    BATTERY CHECK BUTTON – must be flush with the case on the inside before sliding innards back in.

  14. I became interested in the Shuffle after reading PC Mag’s Machrone describe the push-pull audio circuit that no other player has. Only the Shuffle can be considered a high fidelity player. Link follows:

    After reading the article here and all the comments though, I decided to save my money — No way will I buy a battery operated device where the battery was not EASILY replaceable by ME especially with the factory replacement cost amounting to 50 to 90 percent of the item’s street price. Too bad but Apple is just a little too greedy for me.

  15. Thanks for the help in removing the guts of the shuffle. Although my interests aren’t about changing the battery, this has been very beneficial in creating a some cool things with an integrated ipod shuffle. Although, I have to admit, plugging my pants into my laptop to upload songs does seem weird. lol

  16. Well, I’m taking it appart right now, almost lost my finur twice. The sides/narrow parts are a pain, but, I have some xtra 3.7 v lithium AA, so I’m mounting the whole thing in a altoids box. But, like with xbox’s won’t a LCD be hard to instal?

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