On a recent MacMania cruise I attended I had the opportunity to learn, first hand, about the advisability of using an iPod shuffle as a USB key drive.
In short: Not such a hot idea.
As often happens when geeks get together, files were being swapped between a couple of colleagues and they were using one person’s shuffle as the vehicle for quickly moving those files between one PowerBook and another. After the completion of one such swap, Person A ejected the shuffle, passed it back to its owner, and when the iPod was plugged into Person B’s laptop, the shuffle’s get-down light showed briefly and then flashed amber time and again.
Person C—a nearby instructor—saw the telltale blinking lights and pronounced, “You can stop fiddling with it right now. I’ve been there. It’s dead.”
Person D—the resident iPod expert (me)—was called in, in the hope that they’d missed some super-secret way of accessing the iPod (which, apparently, carried unique data not on the owner’s laptop). I tried:
1. Switching the shuffle on and off to reset it.
2. Mounting the iPod with Apple’s Disk Utility.
3. Looking for the drive in Apple’s System Profiler.
It was there as a USB device, but I already knew that. There was no way to manipulate the shuffle from within System Profiler.
4. Plugging it back into Person A’s PowerBook.
5. Perusing the gray matter trying to recall if there was some way to flip the shuffle into Disk Mode using a secret button combination.
This is the one iPod that lacks such a button combination.
6. Checking the shuffle with Alsoft’s Disk Warrior.
The utility refused to see it.
7. Giving up on data recovery, plugging in the shuffle and attempting to restore it with the latest iPod Software Updater.
Negatory. The software also refused to recognize the shuffle.
8. Cursing like a sailor.
Did nothing for the shuffle but impressed a passing crew member.
To sum up, the shuffle was dead, dead, dead and nothing I or anyone else could do was going to bring it back.
Lesson learned? Given that Costco will let you have a 1GB USB keydrive for around $50, it strikes me that trusting your data to a more complicated device that contains not only a hunk of flash memory, but a battery and circuitry to play music, may not be the wisest course. Were I to use an iPod to hold a backup of important files—something I often do—I’d be sure that the files were duplicated elsewhere and that I used an iPod that was a bit more flexible in regard to data recovery (meaning one that I could attempt to mount by resetting and then holding down Center and Play when the Apple logo appeared).