More on iPod batteries

Reader George Garner piggybacks on last Friday’s Mac 911 entry, iPod and over-charging, to relate his tale of iPod woe. He writes:

I read the recent Mac 911 about battery charging and had to share some of my problems. My iPod mini is about a year old, and, I admit, I’m a frequent song switcher. Problem is that after a year of doing this, my battery is not happy doing that. If I’m not plugged into a power source I might be able to switch a half-dozen songs, tops, before the battery dies out. This is with a full charge and a battery indicator at full. Sometimes, changing the volume on a song is enough to kick it off.

First, a correction. The iPod mini was discontinued in September 2005, so yours is at least a year and a half old. If you play and charge the thing constantly, it’s possible that you’ve exhausted the life of its battery. The Li-Ion battery plunked into iPods is good for, theoretically, 500 full charge cycles. Your mileage will vary—somewhere between 400 and 450 full charges is about right.

If you haven’t played and charged your iPod time and again, it’s possible that the battery is damaged. This can happen if you’ve exposed your iPod to excess heat for long periods of time—stored it in your car’s glove compartment during the summer heat, for example. Excessive cold can temporarily shorten a Li-Ion battery’s life but it performs as it should when you bring the battery to room temperature. The same can’t be said for heat. An overheated battery can become damaged so it’s worth your while to remove your iPod from a hot environment.

You can also shorten the battery’s life by draining it fully and leaving it uncharged for months at a time. These batteries like to have their electrons banged around at least once a month. If you plan to retire an iPod, create some kind of reminder to charge it once a month just to keep its battery in shape.

Okay, so now you understand why your battery may be failing. The next step is getting your iPod back into shape.

Because it rarely hurts to first try the easy and free thing, plug the iPod into your Mac and restore it—select it in iTunes’ 7’s Source list and in the Summary tab click the Restore button. This wipes all the data off the iPod and restores the hard drive to “factory-fresh” condition. With luck, it’s some kind of corruption that’s causing the power problem and restoring the iPod will fix it. (But, probably not.)

If the iPod continues to run out of juice almost immediately, it’s time to think about either replacing the iPod or its battery. Apple will replace an iPod’s battery for $59 plus $7 shipping. The advantage of doing it through Apple is that you’re guaranteed to have a working iPod back in your hot little hands. But other companies can do it as well. There are loads of them so rather than recommend a specific one, I’ll send you off to your search engine of choice and suggest you enter “iPod Battery Replacement” in the search field. Be sure that the company has a guarantee on its work and can return your iPod to you in short order.

If you’re handy, you can also replace the battery yourself. Again, lots of companies offer iPod battery replacement kits. As someone who’s replaced his fair share of iPod batteries I’ll tell you that replacing the iPod mini’s battery is more than a little challenging. I’ve destroyed a perfectly good blue iPod mini in the attempt. Frankly, were this my iPod, I’d have an expert do the job.

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