Introduction: Convert Your 4th Gen IPod to Use Flash Memory

Picture of Convert Your 4th Gen IPod to Use Flash Memory

We all have or know of someone who has an iPod with a dead hard drive. Of course you can simply buy another drive but you're back to the same power-hungry, failure-prone, fragile rotating media. Instead, upgrade your iPod to use Flash Memory. Sure a hard drive can hold all 30,000 of your songs, but even a 4GB card can hold over 24 hours of music - I usually change out songs often enough that I don't need to carry 20+ Gig of songs at all times.

Before you comment, I know there are a few people out there who have already done the upgrade. I don't claim to be the first to do this but I am the first to write an instructable for it (I think).

You can also check out my new Bluetooth 5G iPod Video

Let's get started!

NOTE: If you're looking for my instructable on how to add Internal Bluetooth capability to your iPod, click here

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

1) Unlike my other instructable where I showed How Do Upgrade Your iPod Mini With Flash Memory, you cannot simply replace the hard drive with a flash card. The 1.8" drive and CF interfaces are similar but you will need an adapter to bridge the interface from the card to the HD connector on the iPod.

I purchased the adapter for under $15 from an Asian vendor on eBay. It is not pretty but it works.

2) You will also need some cardboard and some hot melt glue or double sided foam tape.

3) iPod-Opening tools (non-marking plastic tools and/or flathead screwdriver.

5) Your iPod wall charger unit

5) Of course, you will need a fully ATA-Compliant Compact Flash card. Any size will work, but you can now get 8GB cards for under $70 as of this writing. I've had good luck with Transcend and Sandisk. Check the specs, not all cards will work.

Step 2: Open Your IPod

Picture of Open Your IPod

There are literally thousands of DIY guides and tutorials on how to properly open up your iPod, so I won't go into it here. I will assume that if you're actually willing to do this hack to your iPod you already know or can easily figure out how to open it up.

Step 3: Remove Hard Drive

Picture of Remove Hard Drive

Be careful here, don't just yank out the old hard drive!

First, unplug the battery from the circuit board to prevent any accidental shorts.

Next, carefully remove the drive by slowly separating the drive from the connector. Use your fingernails or a small screwdriver to gradually separate the two. A little on one side and then the other until it is out.

Step 4: Prep and Install the Flash Card

Picture of Prep and Install the Flash Card

Once the drive is out, use it as a template to cut out a small piece or cardboard. This will take the place of the hard drive and prevent the adapter and connector assembly from bouncing around inside your iPod.

Next, plug in your flash card into the card adapter and plug the adapter into the HD connector as shown.

Use some hot melt glue or foam tape to secure the adapter to the cardboard and the cardboard to the logic board.

Plug the battery back in and get ready to test it!

Step 5: Test the IPod's Functionality and Restore

Picture of Test the IPod's Functionality and Restore

Carefully put the iPod pieces back together but don't snap closed just yet.

Plug your iPod into the PC using the dock connector. If iTunes does not automatically open up, do so now.

At this time, iTunes should recognize your iPod and will give you the option to restore the iPod to its original settings. Click OK and wait for it to finish.

Once the restore process is complete, your iPod will display a message telling you that the unit needs to be plugged into its wall charger to complete the process. Plug in the iPod for a few minutes and check to see that your iPod works as it should !

Step 6: Before and After

Picture of Before and After

Some of the differences between the old HD unit and my new flash version:

iPod now weighs 22% less! 5.5 oz vs. 4.3 oz

iPod is now much more rugged and will no longer suffer from shock-induced hard drive failure.

Oh yeah, I'm still tallying up the battery gains but you can imagine how much less power the CF card will consume compared to the hard drive.

Now go and make yourself a Custom iPod Boombox!


nick71 (author)2017-01-10

Hello, thanks for the instructions, but, even thought the ipod works fine when I try to connect to an amplifier or the car's stereo it cannot connect. I get a message "not recognized"

Any idea what I should do in order to listen music from the ipod in the car?


bansuri (author)2016-12-30

Such a sweet mod! Worked perfectly with suggested adapter.

Thanks for posting this!!!!!

dunnsrb (author)2016-12-15

I am using an iPod 4th generation. I am using he most up to date iTunes and iPod firmware on an iMac running Sierra. I am using the same converters and CFs as pictured in this article. I have replaced the battery which is charging well and holding its charge. I am using the original iPod charger cable on a Y splinter so that there are two USB ports supplying power. I have tried every combination of formatting and button choices on iTunes. iTunes recognises the iPod and can see the CF but it will not restore. iTunes says cannot restore iPod cannot be found. What am I doing wrong?

Faultsinlife (author)2016-12-01

I tried this conversion and ran into an issue with the restore process, my computer recognizes the ipod and starts the restore but upon completion every time my ipod reboots to the damaged folder icon instead of the power block icon. I tested 3 different cards (im using a CF to SD and another CF to micro SD adaptor, I have both) and got the same results with all 3 regardless if I used a micro sd card or regular of different capacities. I tested it in another ipod and used 3 different usb sync cables, I also know the ipods ribbon cables and main board work fine, I swapped parts to double check. I also have 2 of the micro drive adaptors and using the second one didnt make a difference either. Im stumped at this point and cant think of what it could be, if anyone has any idea of what could be causing this I would highly appreciate some help.

Update on above post, the ipod still isnt working but after using a program called easeus partition manager I found out after the ipod crashes during the restore it wipes the card and leaves it unallocated regardless of what it was formatted to before hand. Yet again im stumped as to why and still cant think of a solution to get this ipod working. Please help!

RobertB506 made it! (author)2016-08-19

Thank you for this instructable!

I see people having compatibility problems with their adapters (mainly those using SD cards) so here are the components I used (from AliExpress):

-This CF to SD adapter (7.28$)

-This CF to 50 pin 1.8 inch hard drive adapter (3.98$) You just have to cut the small plastic edge on the right (really easy) and ignore the first pins on the left (see the "Pin 1" indication)

-->Total = 11.26 $ including shipping

This worked with my white 20Gb 4th Gen iPod (model No: A1099) and a 32Gb micro SD card formated in FAT32 (you'll need a micro SD to SD adapter).

Pro Tip: Use a guitar pick to open the iPod.

Futsal_PHFL (author)2015-12-09

I'm trying to convert an Ipod Classic 4G to flash memory. The mod seems to work OK with an 8gb CF Card, but once I use an adapter with an SD card (64gb) the Ipod will not restore. I've tried formatting the SD card but no change... Anyone else had this problem and a fix?

JeffN47 (author)Futsal_PHFL2016-06-13

I've used this one ( in my iPod Video 5G (200GB micro SD) and iPod Classic 6G (128GB micro sd). The iPod classic required a special ribbon cable ( but both worked perfectly with the CF Adapter.

RickH51 (author)Futsal_PHFL2015-12-18

Your CF-to-IDE adapter might not be compatible. Some seem to work while others do. Not sure why. Search Amazon for "CF to 50 pin" and check the reviews to see if people have had success. I THINK this is the one I have, but I had to order a few to find one that worked, so I'm not sure:

KaplanA (author)2016-02-24

This was not as easy as advertised.... but it least its working for now. I had to reconnect the cable a couple of times, do the whole enable disk trick and charged it for a while. I recommend to get the old firewire cable if you can cause that seems to do the trick better then a newer cable. Someone in the comments talked about how firewire sends power differently.

But it worked. By god it worked. I only have one album on it until I can get back home to my full library. This was an excellent Valentine day gift even if its a month late

KaplanA (author)KaplanA2016-02-24

4th Gen ipod classic HP invent model for above comment

AlvarM (author)2016-02-18

I have attempted this modification on a 4th Generation Classic iPod. New battery, plus a 128GB CF drive.

The CF drive shows up when plugged into a USB card reader, but more than one Apple (and a PC) cannot read the iPod at all. I've tried every trick (Disk Mode, Fire Wire), but I cannot get iTunes to recognize the iPod with the drive in it. I have tried two different adapters as well. These are the ones with the two diodes (a white and a red) which flash if you don't put the pins in right. Or am I missing something?.

KaplanA (author)AlvarM2016-02-24

I too have a 4th gen ipod classic and I cannot get the flash drive to work properly. I can't get past the restore ipod, always crashes, any ideas why?

AlvarM (author)AlvarM2016-02-18

(or it is also possible the drive is too big for this particular iPod to handle?)

maccapen made it! (author)2015-11-01

I have just completed this process on a 7th generation Ipod classic

I used an adapter from this UK site it may cost slightly more but it fits perfectly with rubber bumpers and all.

I also bought an SD card adapter from the same site and was able to use a cheap Scan disk 64 gb Ultra Micro SD SDXC $34. I could have just as easily used a 128 gb for $89. After putting it back together (see numerous guilds and photos online). I plugged it into my Windows computer started up ITunes 12 and ran restore.

The Ipod runs noticeably faster, transfers files faster, uses less power and is lighter. :)

maccapen (author)maccapen2015-12-22

note Tarkan no longer sells these I think he's passed every thing over to

also he doesnt seem to sell iPod 4th adapters my mistake. The 7th is a zif connection (ribbon), 4th is micro ATA (pins)

maccapen (author)2015-12-22

after having outrageous success with my Ipod 7th (still running well) I bought a cheap Ipod 4th this time I got my 1. SD card (micro with adapter) 65 gig for $19 from Ebay Aust (seller item 281578038026) and a 2. flash card adapter for $9 and a 3. CF to IDE adapter $2.26 (crazy).

But sadly even though the 1. Sd and 2. flash adap work will with windows Ipod wont see it. Thanks RickH51 I'll try a new 3. CF to IDE (at that price be worth the effort).

RickH51 (author)2015-12-18

Is there a limit on SD card size or speed? I've been using a PNY 128GB 90MB/s card since this summer, and it's been working beautifully. Now I'm trying to upgrade to a PNY 256GB 95MB/s card, and the restore won't complete, and while iTunes goes through the motions of syncing, when I unplug it the iPod doesn't show my music. Wondering if the card is incompatible or if there's something else I need to do.

Nicky Carts made it! (author)2015-07-15

After some minor roadblocks, I finally completed this hack yesterday and figured I'd post what happened to better help those that have yet to do this great hack.

Issue 1) As "timquadrat" mentioned a few posts before me, if you purchase the connector that the original poster of this hack suggests, you will have a little work to do in order for it to fit properly. That being, cutting the plastic edge on the pins (easy) and then shortening the pins (mildly easy) for the master/slave selector.

Solution 1) I managed to find an connector/adapter on eBay that fits much better and works just as good. It's slimmer and only requires you to cut the plastic edge. Just do a similar search on eBay and find shown below.

Issue 2) While doing this hack I was using an old version of iTunes ( and tried to do the "Restore" part of this hack but was getting the error message "The iPod software update server could not be contacted" (shown in picture below).

Solution 2) I simply updated to the newest version of iTunes, did the restore, and then reverted back to my old iTunes which I prefer since its less of a memory hog.

Misc. Tips:

1. Be sure to have you battery well or fully charged before attempting this hack.
2. Have your wall charger adapter on hand.
3. Use the slimmer CF-to-1.8hd adapter I've shown below.
4. Use the latest iTunes when doing the "restore" part of the hack.

Enjoy and thanks to the OP for the hack.

pocockn (author)Nicky Carts2015-10-06

I bought a brand new sd card, do i have to format it? If so what do I format it to?


Nicky Carts (author)pocockn2015-10-06

Start by returning it. Apparently you didn't notice but this hack involves using a CF flash card, not a SD card.

timquadrat made it! (author)2015-05-10

Works perfectly here with a 128 GB SD-Card in my iPod 4G 20GB! :)

I used these components:

A few additional comments:

1. I've lost my original charger a while back, so I've used the one from my iPad Air 2. I'm pretty sure any iPhone- or iPad-USB-Charger will do a perfect job.

2. I suggest you charge your iPod battery prior to this operation.

3. See pictures for adjustment of adapter (the connector of my adapter needs to be adjusted to the right side as it has got more pins than the hd-connector of the iPod).

4. I had to cut the plastic edge at the right side of the connector of the adapter and the metal pins of the master/slave-jumper on the bottom side.

5. I've formatted the SD card in my Mac Mini (1 partition with the total capacity, Mac OS extended, journaled).

6. After formatting I inserted the SD card into the adapter, connected the iPod to my Mac and had it been recognized by iTunes almost immediately. In iTunes I completed the dialogue for a new iPod and clicked "Restore" ("Wiederherstellen"). When asked I disconnected the iPod from my Mac and connected it to the charger mentioned above. Since the reboot I've got a fully functional 128GB iPod 4G.

I'm totally happy that I've done that!

As a final update I've ordered a new battery at iFixit, as my original one has worn of a little after 10 years of usage.

pocockn (author)timquadrat2015-10-06

I bought a brand new sd card, do i have to format it? If so what do I format it to?


Dashing Rainbow Dash (author)2015-08-10

You could also add a larger battery. With the original hard drive out of the way, you could really extend the life of the device.

Bulk FlashD (author)2015-06-30

Flash memory is a type of non chargeble memory that erases data in units called block. A block stored on a flash memory chip must be erased before data can be bulk flash drives. thanks

Petra007 (author)2015-01-25

After I have read here. I decided to pimp my IPod 4th gen too. After some studies, I orderd a MXSSD1MNANO50-240G SSD. Now this SSD works since 1 month in my IPod. I formated the SSD with ITunes and used Winamp to store my mp3s back to the SSD. Now I have 147GB mp3 on it and 75GB free.

nizzehult (author)Petra0072015-06-08

Interesting. I have a Samsung EVO 840 mSATA 250GB card and have also bought a ZIF->mSATA adapter but realized that I also need a 40pin ribbon cable so I ordered that yesterday. Is everything pretty straightforward then? My model is a A1099 and the original hard drive is bad, takes hours to open up.

jonathang11 (author)2015-06-01

I recently tried this and got everything but as soon as i turned on my ipod I received a folder icon with a website to contact support. Did anyone encounter this problem? If so, how did you go about this. Some things to point out, I tried the compact flash to sd adapter with a 32 gb sdhc. Any help would be welcomed. Thanks!

doyle.mcintosh.3 (author)2015-04-24

I got this to work! Thank you for laying everything out! For less than $50 I brought it back to life! Used a Lexar 32 gb cf! Wish it was 64 but didnt want to spend that much! Biggest problem was the master/slave thingy was pressing against the screen. After trying several things, i just bent the damn thing down! Problem sloved! Not to mention, the adapter and card came from China and took forever to get!

baptiste.robin (author)2015-04-03

I tried this with my iPod 4 gen 40GB and it works :-)

I used the CF to IDE adapter and a SD to CF card adapter, as SD cards are cheaper than CF cards.

I bought both on ( and

For the moment it works fine with a 4Gb SD card, I'll try if it does too with a 128Gb SD card when I'll receive it.

metrocon (author)2014-11-01

Thanks! I just put a 128GB compact flash card in my old 60GB iPod Photo. I had some small issues that were sorted out by putting it into disk mode before iTunes would see it, and I used the original firewire charger for the restore. Currently have synced over 80GB to it with no problems.

Hurley98 (author)metrocon2015-01-24

So you have the full use of the 128GB? I thought iPod 4th gens has a cut of point of 60GB?

brunoaco (author)2015-01-06

is it possible to use a cfast card?

chuchunw (author)2014-10-10

@ Cmontagu.

Actually it is not your cables. Well, sort of, but not the quality of the cable. The reason you had trouble with the USB cable is simply that, it's a USB, and not a Firewire cable, read on.

To restore the 4th Gen. iPod classic, you need the higher voltage of the Firewire charger. Firewire (IEEE 1394) specs says up to 30V and Apple's implementation uses 12V on their dock and Firewire wall charger. There is a separate pin on the 30-pin dock connector for this 12v voltage (different pin from the 5v on the USB) and that's what the 4th iPod needs to be charged from after replacing the hard disk (or compact flash card). The USB charging cables/chargers, whether it's the genuine Apple or aftermarket, provides only 5v per USB specs. While they work well for normal charging, do not work for restoring the iPod 4g after hard drive.

So to anyone who's thinking about replacing the hard drive in the 4th gen. iPod Classic, make sure you have access to a Firewire charger or the original dock.

pras1011 (author)2014-07-27


Can you tell us which CF convertor to a zif to CF adapter you used?

cmontagu (author)2014-06-12

I just realized that the last person to post a comment was 4 years ago. I just did this hack. Everything went fairly smoothly, although there are some caveats that will definitely help you get through this. I upgraded from a dying 20gb to a 64gb Sandisk mini SD through a CF convertor to a zif to CF adapter. The install went well. I plugged it in to the ipod, and itunes asked to restore the ipod. After it went through the install, the ipod got stuck with a "plug into an outlet" icon. It took a couple hours, of re-formatting, trying other sd cards, and forced rebootings for me to come across the answer. The only thing that worked was to find the original power adapter that came with the ipod. The cheap usb to 30pin cables I had been using were not cutting it, even when plugged into adapters with higher amp ratings than the original. For whatever reason, when I plugged it into my old dusty firewire to 30pin power adapter, the ipod booted right up into the gui. It appears that the ipod is VERY sensitive to the quality of cable that you use when first doing this hack, and when transferring the songs. I'm currently loading songs onto it to see how things go. So far so good. Thanks for the instructions!

Dapper D (author)2012-04-19

I have completed the conversion as instructed but have a problem. iPod is model A1059, board is 820-1723A and I've used a Transcend 32GB 133x CF. All went well and I was able to restore the iPod. After the initial restore it said to plug the iPod to the power source. I did that and the restore completed. But when I connect the iPod back to my Windows 7 laptop computer, iTunes does not recognize it. Windows sees it as iPod formatted as FAT32 but cannot access it. Under properties it is shown as disk completely full with no data. I haven't been able to get iTunes or Windows to read it. The iPod says that it is formatted for Windows and has 29.7 GB available. When I take the CF and use a card reader the CF is accessible in Windows and that there is 29.7GB available. I also cannot get the iPod into disk mode or diagnostic mode. It just restarts and goes to the main menu.
Is there a way to do a forced restore?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

lococacho (author)Dapper D2012-05-20

@Dapper D:
I was having the same issues you are having. I have the same ipod model and I'm using the same CF card. I have found a work-around in order to load your music from itunes and keep it from freezing.
-You have to enable Disk Mode in order to load music without any issues
1. Before placing the iPod into Disk Mode, verify that it is charged.
2. Toggle the Hold switch on and off (set it to Hold, then turn it off again.)
3. Press and hold the Menu and Select buttons for at least six seconds, until the Apple logo appears.
4 .When the Apple logo appears, release the Menu and Select buttons and immediately press and hold the Select and the Play/Pause buttons until the Disk Mode screen appears.
5. Connect your ipod to your computer and it should be immediatly recognized.
6. Transfer your music
7. Once done, disconnect your ipod from your computer
8. Press and hold the Menu and Select buttons for at least six seconds, until the Apple logo appears, in order to reset the device and get out of disk mode.

That should be it.

mawx (author)lococacho2014-04-12

This worked for me too ! I plugged my brand new 32Gg CF Card from Transcend :) and the sync with iTunes works perfectly.

thank you btw for this instructables :)

rko31415 (author)lococacho2012-06-06

This worked for me. Thanks much, I spent hours (and $$$) trying to figure this out.

What I messed up the first time round when I read your comment was step #4. For future readers, be sure to press BOTH the Select and the Play/Pause buttons.

I'm cookin' with 32GB of listening materials on a 4Gen IPOD.


Dapper D (author)lococacho2012-05-22

Thank you so much, Lococacho! It worked!!

As I stated in my post I couldn't get the iPod into disk mode but because of your post I kept trying to get it into disk mode. I found that I must switch to the Select-Play/Pause combo immediately after the Apple logo appears, considerably less than the "at least six seconds" that Apple instructs. Maybe it's the difference between the CF and HDD.

Thanks again.

FunkyRelic (author)2012-09-24

Anybody tried using one of these KingSpec KSD-CF18.6-128MS 1.8" SSD drives in an iPod Photo 60GB? Seems like this would be ideal if it works.

shaoyen (author)FunkyRelic2014-03-10

Hi, I know it might be late, but I recently succeeded in this project as you mentioned. I use KingSpec CF interfaced SSD 32GB in a 4th gen none photo. Totally awesome. Make sure you use a CF interface one if you're using it on an older iPod like 4th gens.

Tommy Gunn (author)2014-03-07

As a follow-up to my previous post, I am still enjoying great success with the two mods I made using the Transcend 64Gb cards (TS64GCF400). They are fast (400x) and are UDMA 6 compliant (default setting).

So, ymmv, but that is my experience.

(and, cheato...please don't reply with any more math equations. zero value add...I knew I wouldn't get more than 59.5Gb capacity)

Tommy Gunn (author)2014-02-23

Have appreciated this thread and thought I'd give back by letting people know I was able to successfully install a 64Gb Transcend card into a 4th gen photo using the exact method detailed here. Capacity is 59.5Gb. Will likely end up putting this into a 4th gen non-photo, as I prefer that screen. FYI, I also upgrade these with Rockbox firmware. Stoked on this hack...only wish is that the firmware would accept cards > 60Gb (which I highly doubt and it's too expensive to experiment).


billyjeans (author)2013-10-11

Same problem here: folder icon with exclamation
Successfully solved with this video instruction:

laserwelder (author)2013-10-01


I have had this working before with 16GB and 32GB flash drives.

But since I ran out of space recently I upgraded to a 64GB flash drive.

Everything goes ok up to the point of restoring the iPod in iTunes. The PC locks up during the restore step.

I've tried two different iPods and two different flash to ide adapters without success.

Anybody get this to work with a 64GB flash? I'm wondering if there is some limitation of the 4th generation firmware that won't let it operate with a drive this big?

Honuhonu (author)2013-09-26

Hi everyone !
I was about to give up on this hack.
I have a 4G ipod and I bought a 32gb Kingston ultimate 266x CF card. I installed it using the cheap adapter that I bought from Deal Extrem.
When I plugged it in my computer the thing didn't stop looping (dead folder, apple logo).
I then tried to remove the ribbon cable then reattahed it. and voilà ! It works like a charm.
Try this if your card doesn't seem to work for you !

lokiju (author)2010-12-18

I realize that this is an old post but I just did this to my old and otherwise dead 4th gen HP branded 20GB iPod and brought new life back into it.

I bought the zif/1.8" to CF adapter from DealExtreme like most others here mentioned and bought a CF to MicroSD from Amazon for $17 shipped since I already had a few 8GB microSD cards sitting around not in use and CF is way to expensive for my taste. Since I already had the 8GB microSD card on hand, it only cost me $22 with shipping to get my old faithful up and running again!

I have an iPhone, Droid and 16GB 6th Gen iPod Nano but still can't help but try and breath life back into old gadgets that otherwise perform as desired.

I didn't see this site or post until after I had all the parts in hand and was trying to figure out if I should cut off the plastic piece on the iPod side of the cable or not but just wanted to share my experience with others in case it can be of any help.

Cool site btw.

pll02a (author)lokiju2011-02-03

I also have an iPod 4th gen revision 820-1723-A (2004).

I tried with the el-cheapo Deal Extreme 1.8 IDE to CF adapter, a 128 MB CF card that I had lying around, as well as with a CF-to-SD
adapter and an 8 GB SD card.

In both cases, iTunes tried but was unable to initialize the iPod, Disk Utility saw the iPod as an "Apple Computer" device but when I tried to initialize it I got an "out of memory" error (have seen similar errors when you use Disk Utility with an external drive whose I/O hardware is not supported). I tried partitioning the SD card via an SD reader and pre-installing the firmware from the iPod's original drive, but again, no luck.

I can always get the iPod into diagnostic and then disk mode, but otherwise the iPod always boots to a screen telling me to call Apple Support.

Any ideas what to try next? I am reluctant to invest in a 16 or 32 GB CF card if this isn't going to work.

About This Instructable




Bio: Hello, my name is Eddie. I'm one of those people that can't leave well enough alone so I'll inevitably take things apart ... More »
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