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]

38 thoughts on “Thursday Nano Hacks: Getting Power From Your Nano

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. #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..

  7. 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

  8. #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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