Troubleshooting Your iPod

Delightful a device as the iPod may be, there are times when it won't cooperate. Here are the symptoms and cures for the iPod's most common problems:

Symptom: The iPod won't start up.

Cure 1: Check the hold switch to be sure that it's not on. Even if it appears to be off, flick it back and forth a couple of times. If you have a remote control plugged into it, be sure that its hold switch is off as well.

Cure 2: Plug it into a power adapter to charge it. The battery may be so drained that it won't boot.

Cure 3: If you can get the iPod to mount on your computer, restore it with the latest iPod Software Updater that works with your iPod model.

To restore the iPod, run the latest version of the iPod Software Updater, which is currently iPod Updater 2004-08-06. This updater contains the four updaters necessary to update all iPod models. To initiate the restore process, simply press the Restore button.

Note that restoring your iPod erases all the data on it -- music, contacts and calendars, and any files you've copied to it. If you want to keep the data on your iPod, back it up before restoring it.

Cure 4: If the iPod won't mount on the computer or take a charge, its battery may need to be completely drained. Put it aside for 24 hours and then try charging it.

Cure 5: If the iPod is over 18 months old and you use it a lot, the battery may be dead. If so, you can have it replaced for you by Apple for $99 or an outfit such as iPodResQ for $79, PDASmart for $68, or Small Dog Electronics for $50 (third-generation iPod only). All these companies (except Apple) plus Unity Electronics and Laptops for Less will sell you replacement batteries for your iPod, along with tools for opening it and instructions for performing the operation.

Cure 6: If nothing else works, contact Apple -- either by phone, by taking it into an Apple retail store, or by contacting them via the Web.

Symptom: The iPod doesn't mount or appear in iTunes or the iPod Software Updater utility.

Cure 1: Make sure that the iPod is plugged into a high-power USB 2.0 port or FireWire port. The iPod won't be recognized if plugged into a low-power USB port.

Cure 2: Make sure that the iPod is not on a chain of FireWire devices. The iPod requires just about all the power a FireWire port can deliver and if it's on a chain of devices, it may not get the power it needs.

Cure 3: Your iPod may be locked up. To unlock it, reset it by holding down the Menu and Play buttons on the first three generations of iPods (or the Play and Select button on the mini and fourth-generation iPod) for about six seconds.

Cure 4: If you're using a Mac, restart the computer with the Shift key held down to disable startup items. An iPod that responds well to this treatment should be restored (see Restoring the iPod ).

Cure 5: If the iPod still won't mount, reset it (see Cure 3) and then hold down Previous and Next on the first three generations of iPod (Play and the Select button on the mini and fourth-generation iPod) to place the iPod in Disk Mode -- a mode similar to the Mac's FireWire Target Disk mode that forces the iPod to mount. An iPod that mounts only when thrown into Disk Mode should be restored (see Restoring the iPod ).

Symptom: The iPod displays a folder with an exclamation point when it starts up.

Cure 1: Charge your iPod, it may be out of juice and confused.

Cure 2: Update the iPod with the latest version of the iPod Updater that's compatible with your iPod. An incompatible version of the software may have been installed on your iPod. If updating doesn't work, restore your iPod (see Restoring the iPod ).

Cure 3: This symbol can also appear if the iPod's hard drive was formatted with an incompatible utility -- for example, if you've partitioned it with a Windows or Mac disk utility. If this was done, restore your iPod with the iPod Updater (see Restoring the iPod ).

Cure 4: This symbol can also indicate a dead hard drive. If nothing else works, contact Apple.

Symptom: The iPod displays a battery with an exclamation point.

Cure 1: Charge the iPod.

Cure 2: Be sure you're charging it from a working power source. A USB 2.0 connection won't charge a third-generation iPod nor will an iPod charge when it's attached to a sleeping computer.

Cure 3: Your iPod may be locked up. To unlock it, reset it by holding down the Menu and Play buttons on the first three generations of iPods (or the Play and Select button on the mini and fourth-generation iPod) for about six seconds.

Cure 4: If your iPod won't charge even after your iPod has been plugged into a power receptacle for a long time, try a different cable. A damaged cable may prevent the iPod from charging.

Cure 5: The battery may be dead. See Cure 5 under The iPod Won't Start Up.

Cure 6: On a first- or second-generation iPod, the FireWire connector may be broken. If the connector "gives" when you plug in a FireWire cable, this is likely the problem. Such a problem requires taking the iPod into Apple for repair.

Symptom: The iPod displays the image of a spinning disk and magnifying glass.

Cure 1: Congratulations! You've managed to initiate the iPod's built-in disk scanning test. This is normally done on the first three generations of iPods by resetting the iPod and then pressing Previous, Next, Menu, and the Select button. This icon isn't available on the mini and fourth-generation iPods.

If you've initiated the scanning test and don't wish for it to complete, reset the iPod. If you'd like to complete the scan, plug the iPod into a power source as the test drains the battery quickly and takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete.

Symptom: The iPod displays a picture of a power adapter and wall plug.

Cure 1: The iPod wants to be plugged into a power outlet and won't proceed until you do so. You see this icon after you've restored your iPod and the iPod needs to update its firmware. This occurs only when you've plugged your iPod into a USB port or un-powered FireWire port (the 4-pin variety of FireWire ports found on some PCs).

Symptom: The iPod displays a sad iPod icon with an exclamation point.

Cure 1: Smile briefly when you see how cute this icon is and then start crying. Your iPod is broken and needs to be taken in for repair. In all likelihood, all data on it (and yes, this includes the music too) is lost.

Symptom: You turn the iPod on after charging and the battery display shows a nearly empty charge.

Cure 1: Upgrade to the latest iPod software. The battery display icon is more accurate in recent versions of this software.

Cure 2: Wait for a bit. It takes the iPod a minute or so to update the battery indicator.

Symptom: The iPod's screen gets dark after about 10 minutes of operation and the back seems hot.

Cure 1: You should notice this condition very shortly after you've received a new iPod. Termed "The Black Screen of Death," this condition indicates that the iPod is overheating and defective. Return it to Apple for a new one.

Symptom: Through your iPod's headphone you hear a sound as the hard drive spins up and then a second or so of static when a song begins playing.

Cure 1: This happens with some early fourth-generation iPods. Many claim the sound is more discernible with third-party headphones than with Apple's earbuds. If you can, take the iPod to an Apple Store and ask the Genius to listen to it. If the problem exists, Apple should replace it. Reports indicate that Apple's online tech support may be more reluctant to exchange an iPod that has this problem.

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