We recently published an excerpt from Macworld’s
iPod and iTunes Superguide
Soothing a Troubled iPod. In that excerpt and ebook I outline the basics for dealing with an uncooperative iPod. But there are times when the basics aren’t enough—when you must venture into the world of voodoo troubleshooting.
And by “voodoo troubleshooting” I mean techniques that work for reasons beyond the ken of mere mortals (Apple’s iPod team may know, but they’re not about to explain it to you and me). Break out the beaker of chicken blood and let’s begin.
In general, the court of last resort for a misbehaving iPod is to restore it with the latest iPod Software Updater. This restores the iPod to its default settings and makes any data previously on it inaccessible. The problem is that on very rare occasions the iPod Software Updater refuses to acknowledge the iPod. You’ve plugged it into your computer yet the Updater acts as if your iPod remains untethered. Throwing the iPod into Disk Mode by resetting it and holding down Play + Center does no good. What to do?
Try restoring it on a computer that’s running a different operating system. I (and others) have had success taking an iPod formatted for the Macintosh that wouldn’t restore on a Mac and restoring it on a Windows PC. The reverse is just as possible—Windows iPods that refuse to cooperate on a PC will sometimes restore on a Mac.
Once you’ve restored it on the other platform you can take it back to the computer where it normally resides and restore it for that computer’s operating system.
Another port in a storm
The original iPods supported FireWire syncing only. Today’s iPods allow you to sync only via USB. But in the middle there were iPods that would sync over either FireWire or USB. Specifically, we’re talking about the 3G and 4G iPods, iPod photo, original U2 iPod, iPod mini, and all the HP iPods.
Again, this is rare, but it’s possible that you’ll run across an iPod that refuses to sync one way—via USB, for example—but has no problem syncing the other. I have a 40GB 4G iPod that behaves this way. Plug it into a USB 2.0 port and it will stall out while attempting to sync. Attach it to FireWire and it’s happy as a clam.
Run it down
You’ve tried everything—resetting, restoring, Disk Mode, cursing—and nothing makes your iPod work. Here’s one situation where ignoring the problem may help it go away.
And by that I mean putting your iPod away for a few days, allowing its battery to run completely dry. Using this technique I’ve been able to temporarily resurrect an iPod that displayed the worst possible error—the Sad iPod Icon.
Open it up
Before punching the Comments link below to upbraid me for the following suggestion, let me emphasize that this is absolutely the last thing you should try and that you should never,
perform it on an iPod that’s under warranty.
If you’ve tried everything else—and I mean
(short of hurling it against a wall)—and your iPod won’t respond, you could try opening it up, disconnecting its battery and hard drive, letting it sit for a couple of hours, and then plugging the works back in. As with all the techniques I’ve mentioned I have no idea why this sometimes works. (In my perverse way I hope that there’s a little “survival chip” in there somewhere that realizes that I’m not fooling around and the next step involves a sledgehammer.)
The risks should be apparent, but I’ll outline them anyway.
• It may not work.
• You could injure yourself (I still bear the scar from a vindictive iPod mini).
• iPods—particularly the 3G and newer—are not easy to successfully take apart. If your iPod wasn’t already trashed there’s a good chance that you could send it over the edge by bollixing this up.
In short, before opening your iPod be fully prepared to never use it again.