Classic IPods Are Super Upgradeable In 2022

The classic iPod was the MP3 player to beat back in the day, loaded with storage and with its characteristic click-wheel interface. [Ellie] had an iPod Video laying around, one of the more capable models that came out near the end of the product’s run, and set out upgrading it for duty in the pandemic-wracked badlands of 2022. 

The iPod in question was a 5.5th generation model, prized for being the last to feature the Wolfson DAC with its good audio quality. [Ellie] used the ever-helpful iFixit guide to learn how to disassemble the device safely. Careful hands and a spudger are key to avoid marring the pressed-together metal case.

Once opened, an iFlash Quad board was installed inside that lets the iPod use up to four micro SD cards for storage instead of the original hard disk drive. With two 512 GB cards installed, [Ellie] won’t be short of storage. A new battery was then subbed in, along with a fancy clear front casing for the aesthetic charm of it all.

After the hardware modifications were complete, the iPod needed to be restored with iTunes to start working again. She then installed the open source Rockbox firmware, which opens up the capabilities of the hardware immensely. Perhaps best of all, it can play DOOM! Alternatively, you can use the clickwheel to control the volume on your MacBook if you so desire.

[Ellie’s] project goes to show that modifying an iPod these days can be a fun weekend build thanks to the great software and hardware now available. It’s wonderful to see that the platform still has such great support years after it has been discontinued. If you really want to look back though, take a gander at the early prototype of Apple’s breakout MP3 player.

23 thoughts on “Classic IPods Are Super Upgradeable In 2022

    1. I updated my Mac to Catalina. It was a massive mistake. I could barely use my iPod classic before the update. Now it doesn’t work at all. I’ve tried seven or eight different platforms as an alternative means of loading songs onto my device. NOTHING works! I will curse Apple until my dying breath.

      Does anybody know of anything I can download to take the place of the old iTunes. Please, help!

      1. Hey Kenn, not the original poster of this comment but what I think he/she/they mean is that you can install a custom firmware called Rockbox on the iPod. Using it, you no longer have to use iTunes to transfer your music (it’s just a drag-and-drop from then on). It also adds decoding support for more music formats than the original Apple firmware supports, and it can do some gimmicky things like play Doom.

        Also worth noting is that the original firmware is held intact. After installation, you can boot back into the original firmware by holding the Menu + Center button, and then flipping the Hold switch into hold mode.

        It’s pretty cool, but personally I still keep coming back to the original firmware. I’m used to iTunes now and the battery optimization seems a little bit better. Though it would be nice to play FLAC files, I personally don’t have the ear (or patience) for distinguishing between those and I keep the FLAC files just as an archive backup of sorts on my PC.

    1. Still the original firmware is needed for file transfer. On my 5.5 (rockbox 3.15) there’s file corruption when adding music files (FLAC, MP3) through rockbox. Uploading file through the original firmware (by hooking up the iPod to the computer while hold/lock switch is on) doesn’t lead to corrupted files. It seems to be an issue with Rockbox and iflash adapter.

  1. I really should continue the repair of the old ipods I have on my shelf.
    I tried to revamp one but got stuck with an endless reboot loop. I think it is the clickwheel assembly holding down the center button, but I need to take a day and pull it all apart again to find out for sure.

  2. I like to have my phone’s battery as charged as it can be when I land in new places, as very much can depend on it these days. For that reason I use the good old mp3 player to keep me entertained during the flights.
    I recently acquired an ipod classic, and the first thing I did was install Rockbox, and now it makes more sense as a device. With its 120GB drive, it holds all the podcasts and music I can listed during a trip.
    It is now my music/podcast companion, replacing a Sansa E200 I have used to at least a decade.

    1. In case you used this crappy red chinese micro sd card adapter, you have to use Itunes and plug it out at a certain time. After that it works fine. The SD variant works okay though. The iflash stuff is much better but its really expensive here so I used a really cheap green adapter from zif to cf and from cf to a 128gig card.

    2. I think I read somewhere that 1st and 2nd gen ipods cant be flash modded because at the firmware level they actually check that the drive identifier is white listed. So if you replace the drive with a flash mod it will fail at startup and refuse to even see the drive. I have some sony portable mp3 players that use hdds and trying to swap the drive with a flash card has the same result, the player can format the drive but it will never mount in the os.

  3. The classic Ipod was the MP3 player….for people who didn’t know any better back in the day.
    It was crippled compared to what else was out there at the time. Rockbox was already being installed on the Archos units. The ArchOpen project (sadly abandoned, but still on Github) was another hack at adding more functionality on the later 400 series models that possessed video video functionality. I was playing Doom on my AV430! Still have it, as well as an AV500 that both have been modded with 128Gb SSDs. Fun times. Whenever someone gushed about the latest Ipod we had to resist the temptation to ask if it could do this, or that, but even the name was recycled, twice. Steve Jobs was quite the Huckster, though.

  4. My 1st mp3 player took CF cards. I think the max was 512 MB. For my 2nd, I wanted something that could hold my whole collection with some room which meant > 50 GB. The iPod 5.5 was the most competitively priced.

    As a Linux user, iTunes protocol to add my music was intermittently working through upgrades & distro changes. I installed Rockbox to get rid of the stupid need for iTunes and I can just copy my mp3s over, as it should work.

    I don’t use it as much now because I’m usually able to get to my mp3s on my fileserver.

  5. Q: Can you access the card reader? How? The one picture of the 1tb back seems to have a plastic panel. Is that right? I couldn’t find anything like that on ebay. SD cards do fail, so being able to easily replace them would be a big plus. Thanks!

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