Nothing lasts forever, and iPods are no exception. Like all electronic devices, your iPod will eventually take a trip to the big Apple Store in the sky. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still use it. There are many components that can die in an iPod: the hard drive, the flash memory, the screen, the backlight, or the actual digital signal processor (the chip that converts bits and bytes to notes). You can also ruin your headphone jack, making it impossible to listen to music by that route. Failures to any of these components can result in a dead iPod but, in some cases, even without going for a fix-up, you can still use the iPod in some way.
1. Use the iPod, but with limits
If you’ve got an iPod with a hard drive and the drive has cashed in its chips, then you won’t be able to do much with it. It’s probably best to go to an iPod repair service and have the hard drive replaced (or go the DIY route). However, in some cases, you can still use it—at least partially. I recently broke an iPod classic, dropping it on the floor (the first time I’d ever dropped it). Something happened to the hard drive, and when I try to load music, it now stops after about 20 GB of files. So I can still use it, at least for now, to play music; just with less capacity than the full 160 GB. If you drop yours, maybe you’ll be lucky and get access to some of the hard disk.
2. Use it during the day, or under lights
One element that can fail is the iPod’s backlight. If this happens, you’ll still be able to see the screen if you hold it at the correct angle (though not in the dark—get into shuffling your songs!). If the screen itself is dead, you can get it fixed, and probably should if the iPod is recent enough. If not, you may still be able to use it to store files (see below).
3. Use an iPod as a source for iTunes
If your battery is dead—by far the most common failure on an iPod, and one that can happen after a few years—you may still be able to use it. (And you can replace the batteries easily on many iPods, either on your own or by sending them to iPod repair shops.) Since all such an iPod is missing is juice, you can connect it to a computer and use it as a source, say to play music from your home collection when you’re at work. Just connect it and launch iTunes, then check Manually Manage Music And Videos. Click the disclosure triangle next to the iPod, then click Music to browse your library, or choose one of the playlists it contains, and play the music the iPod holds through iTunes.
4. Use it as a source for your car
Just as in the above tip, you can connect your iPod to any source that provides power and use it for playback. If your car has a powered iPod connector (using the dock connector), just plug it in and turn up the music. The dock connector both provides power and handles music output. A cigarette-lighter adapter can also provide power if you’re still using a cassette adapter or FM transmitter to play your music.
5. Connect the iPod to your stereo
Even with a dead battery, you can use your iPod as a source for a stereo, at home or in the office. You can connect it to any type of powered dock—either a standalone dock/speaker, or an Apple dock connected to a charger—then to a stereo, and your iPod can be your music source. In all three of these tips where you use the iPod as a source, you’ll still be able to sync to it, because when you connect it to your computer, the iPod gets the power it needs.
6. Use your iPod to store files
Most iPods—except the shuffle, touch, and the iPhone—let you mount them as if they were hard drives. On the Summary window in iTunes, when the iPod is connected, check Enable Disk Use. This lets you use the iPod—even if, for example, the screen is broken and you can’t navigate at all using the device’s interface—to carry files from one location to another. Just like a USB thumb drive, your iPod can serve as a portable file receptacle. If you do this, you’ll probably want to remove all its music first; the best way is just to restore the iPod and wipe it completely.
What have you done with dead iPods?
[Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog