'Not factory recommended'

I’ve already told you about the saga of my misbehaving iPod —how the device would reset itself every time I pressed Play and how I used Senuti to retrieve the music stored on it. Now here’s a postscript to that story.

I didn’t try to use the iPod again until my trip home from San Francisco; I just left it plugged in and charging in the hotel each night. When I got the iPod out on the flight back, I noticed that the battery level was down near 10 percent, which made no sense, given that it’d been plugged in all week.

Finally, someone hit me with a large “Obvious!” stick, and I realized my iPod didn’t have a hard drive problem, it had a battery problem. My iPod is a third-generation 30GB model, and I’ve owned it for over three years. (We purchased it in May of 2003.) When I got home, I did some experimenting, and it was obvious the poor thing had very little useful battery life remaining; even a full overnight charge did little to move the battery status indicator.

Quite conveniently, the Monday I got home, I received a press release from Sonnet, touting lower pricing on all its iPod replacement batteries. No longer $39.95 or $29.95, all their batteries were now only $19.95. Add in shipping, and I was still looking at less than $25 to hopefully extend the useful life of my iPod. So I dove in and ordered the battery late Monday afternoon. I was very surprised when it arrived on Thursday—I had chosen three-day shipping, and fully expected it to be Friday or even Monday before the order could be fulfilled and delivered. But nope, it arrived less than three full days after I placed the order. I was impressed.

So the other night, I sat down to undertake my second-ever “not factory recommended” Apple product upgrade. The first, as some of you may recall, was when I chose to add some RAM to my Core Duo mini. After correcting a purchasing error, the process actually went quite well, so I was feeling bullish about the iPod project.

Sonnet includes everything you need in its replacement kits: the battery, a CD-ROM with video instructions for the battery replacement, and tools to help you split the iPod’s case. My only real complaint about the kit is that the videos are presented at 320-by-240 resolution; I had to run them double-size in order to get a better sense of what each step entailed. I also found this online thread useful, as it clarified the initial case-splitting step. (I found the Sonnet video a bit confusing about the actual prying directions required to split the case.)

Once I had a small split in the case, I inserted the Sonnet plastic tool, and slowly ran it around the edges of the iPod. Very quickly, the case was off. From there, the process is quite simple—flip up the hard drive, carefully remove its connector, then remove the battery, insert the new one, replace and reconnect the hard drive, and close up the iPod.

Overall, the entire process took about 20 minutes, and some of that time was taken up answering questions from my inquisitive three-year-old daughter. (“Daddy, what’s that blue thing inside that shiny metal thing?”). Perhaps the trickiest bit is routing the wiring for the new battery such that it doesn’t get pinched when you reassemble the case.

After I had everything back together, I was thrilled when the iPod powered up. From there, it went directly into its charger. After a night of charging, it seems I have a revived iPod—the battery status indicator is completely full, and the iPod hasn’t had any reset issues.

So for only $25, I’ve now greatly extended the useful life of my iPod (though I was half-hoping I’d break it during the surgery, as that would require purchasing a new replacement unit). For anyone that’s considering this, I found it to be easier than I expected, at least on my third-generation iPod. Sonnet’s kit makes it about as painless as possible (though larger videos would be a welcome change).

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