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.

35 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. Honestly, it should work in Finder/Music. I synced music over on my M1 mac running Monterey. In fact, it still works with the 1st gen iPods (but you need to stack many adapters…)

      2. Check out Rockbox. There’s a simple installer on the official site, it’s really painless. YMMV depending on which iPod you have but my 5.5th gen with Rockbox runs FLACs beautifully, so long as I keep audio effects to a minimum. I find I have to reboot the iPod into disk mode for the files to sync properly, so I have my download rig set up to dump any new files in its */Music folder onto an “Unsorted” folder on my iPod when I plug it in.

        You’ll likely want a new battery and maybe SD card storage, check Elite Obsolite Electronics if you’re in the US. They worked closely with DankPods when they were both starting out
        They have some pretty wild case mods as well as more useful stuff. Tons of spare parts as well.

      3. Copytrans on windows lets you drag and drop onto any apple device that has an itunes requirement, I am shocked nobody else is mentioning it because it is a lifesaver and I have been using it for years

      4. Just use a Windows VM (or a physical Windows computer if you have one) to convert it to a WinPod, then use the rockbox installer on it. Rockbox allows you to put music on it using drag-and-drop. Then, return to using it with your MacBook.

    2. I have my 2nd iPod 160gb Classic that I bought in 2004 (the first one fell in the trash, (bought a week or so earlier) I’m guessing) on a mission in Iraq. It still plays as long as it is sitting on my Bose speaker bought at the same time, but dies almost immediately when I take it off. Where could I find a new battery for it and the memory upgrades? Would it still work with iTunes? Will have to check for the other places, Rockbox? Will have to look this stuff up. I don’t want to get rid of it, it is nearly 20 years old and does still play.. Would like to be able to download my Audible books to it as well. Sometimes you just don’t have wifi or internet to listen to and would make so much easier to listen to. Have any suggestions?

      1. The iPod Classic has a battery life of approximately 4-8 hours. If it’s running through a speaker without it’s own power source the iPod battery will discharge quickly. Always have a power source for the iPod when listening. If you use in ear headphones you’ll have have to charge it every other day. By the way Candy…thank you for your service. Stay safe.

      2. You can easily get a battery from Ali express or ebay. If your on tour then best of use ali express but if your in thr US you can get them from EOE. Goog le it them or ebay you can get them all over the world. They should cost you $15. And follow a youtube guide to easily open and change one.. you can easily do the harddrive after that. Once you have change a battery or done the harddrive you will easily be able to do other things like change the front, back, screen. It only takes a few months and yourll confident on most things.

      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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