Introduction: Upgrade Your IPod Mini With Flash Memory - No More Hard Drive!

Picture of Upgrade Your IPod Mini With Flash Memory - No More Hard Drive!

Instead of a hard drive, your new upgraded iPod will use flash memory with no moving parts for faster boot up & access times and lower power consumption.

(I ran my iPod continuously for over 20 hours on one charge!).

You will also get enhanced shock-resistance! Thousands of iPods have died an early death because they were dropped and their hard drives were damaged as a result.

So, if you have an iPod Mini with a bad hard drive or just want to hotrod your existing unit this Instructable is for you.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Picture of Materials & Tools

Ideally, you will need the following items:

Small Phillips Driver
Small Flat Screw Driver
Plastic iPod Opener Tool (optional)
Popsicle stick or other flat wooden stick
Hot Glue Gun
Xacto Knife or Razor Blade
Fully ATA compatible Compact Flash Card (2Gb min)
2nd Generation iPod Mini. If you use an iPod with a bad drive, just make sure that the unit is otherwise fully functional.

Step 2: Opening Your Ipod Mini

Picture of Opening Your Ipod Mini

Unlike the standard iPods which have two halves, the shell of the Mini is a single piece of aluminum with covers on the top and bottom.

Although you could use the "brute force" method of prying open your iPod with a screw driver, there is a little-known but very elegant way to open your iPod that will leave virtually no signs that it was ever opened!

First, put your iPod on "hold" by sliding the switch. Heat up the glue gun and place a small amount of glue on the top cover and glue the stick to the cover.

Don't worry, the hot glue, when dry will come right off without leaving a mark!

Step 3: Disassembly

Picture of Disassembly

Once the top and bottom covers are removed, taking the iPod apart is easy.

Carefully slide the complete assembly out of the case by pushing from the bottom with your finger.

Step 4: Replacing the Hard Drive

Picture of Replacing the Hard Drive

Using your iPod tool or other flat instrument, disconnect the hard drive connector from the motherboard by pulling the connector up from the back of the ribbon cable as shown. If you pull from the side, you risk tearing the connector from the ribbon cable!

Take your Xacto knife or razor blade and remove the tape and plastic bumpers from the hard drive. Be careful not to damage the ribbon cable in any way. Now remove the connector from the hard drive pulling slightly from one side and then the other until the pins come out completely.

Now take your ATA compatible CF card and plug into the HD connector "face up" just like the hard drive.

You don't need the rubber bumpers or tape but you will need a small piece of double sided foam tape to attach the card to the motherboard and keep it from rattling around inside your Mini.

Step 5: Restoring the IPod's Firmware

Picture of Restoring the IPod's Firmware

Place the "naked" unit face up on a non-metallic surface and plug into your computer. Either a USB or Firewire connection will work.

Once iTunes is up, allow the program a couple of minutes to recognize the iPod. After recognition, iTunes will ask you if you want to restore the "defective" iPod. Click yes and iTunes will restore the iPod.

Once restored, the iPod will restart and iTunes should recognize the new iPod! Download a couple of songs into the unit and eject the iPod. We're almost done!

Step 6: Finishing Up

Picture of Finishing Up

Disconnect the iPod from your computer and re assemble the unit by reversing the steps outlined earlier. Be patient, don't force the unit back in its case. Button everything up and test using your headphones.


Plug back into your computer to recharge and enjoy your better-than-new iPod Mini!


Eilermoon (author)2016-11-29

Hey guys, I have an old Mini 2nd gen. lying around. I replace the battery and HDD with a micro SDXC 128GB using a Micro SDXC Adapter. All looked great until I went to restore the ipod and it fails. Itunes will go through the process of restoring but it just won't work after it's done. No error message or anything. Here's the adapter I'm using:

Is this incompatible? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated, thanks!

S4gunn made it! (author)2016-09-28

I just made one of these devices using a 64GB micro-SDXC card because that's the "sweet spot" in terms of cheap mem as of Sept 2016. I think I paid <$15 for one of these cards at a promo price from Frys Electronics.

Here are some specific tips that I discovered via trial & error:

1) Most micro-SDXC cards ship with SDXC adapters but you will need to seek out an SD to CF adapter that specifically supports SDXC cards. I had an old SDHC to CF card but I kept getting errors when trying to Restore IPOD. As a measure of desperation, I went out and paid $20 (aka full retail) for an SDXC to CF adapter just to see if that was the issue. It turns out that this was the problem. On eBay, there seem to be adapters in the $7-10 price range that say specifically they support up to 128GB SDXC cards.

2) Windows will try to format the 64GB SDXC card as exFAT so you need a tool that can format/partition the drive as FAT32. I first encountered this problem with a Raspberry Pi so this issue didn't stump me.

3) It probably goes without saying but be VERY careful when you reinstall the metal retaining clip at the bottom of the IPOD Mini. Try to install the clip on the side that goes over the control dial's connector first. I stupidly used a small screwdriver and when that slipped off the retaining clip, it punched a hole in the ribbon. This was a $10 mistake (which money wise isn't a big deal but it's kinda annoying when I only paid $15 for the IPOD itself).

4) Minor annoyance. Test the IPOD with your PC while outside of the case to save you having to assemble/disassemble the unit multiple times. I was so excited that I got the SDXC card working that I forgot to test the headphone jack. This caused me to have to disassemble and reassmble the ipod one more time (further risking damaging the control disc ribbon cable again) because of my impatience.

Bottom Line: I wanted a cheap IPOD player with 64GB or more of storage and it totally annoys me that the current gen IPOD nano doesn't allow for expandable storage OR WIFI streaming; I have a $7 cheapie cell phone I use as WIFI android mini-tablet for my streaming needs by my wife complains that all the android music players which can stream from a PC share have AWFUL UIs.

This device cost me $15 (IPOD), $20 (SDXC-to-CF), $15 (64GB SDXC), $10 (replacement control disc), $5 (new battery) = $65 to store our entire music collection. Totally worth it.

kramerh (author)2015-11-05

So I tried this with a SanDisk 32gb compact flash and everything went well on dis-assembly and re-assembling but itunes will not recognize the ipod. I tried using iTunes 9 and that wouldn't work either. I tried flipping the HD over and reconnecting it and then I get a sad face icon instead of the exclamation folder icon. I tried unplugging then re-plugging in the battery and still no luck. I tried to set the ipod into disk mode a few time too, but still no luck. Anyone have an idea?

QiuBerryT made it! (author)kramerh2016-06-08

I have this done and succeded, but before I installed on my ipod, I formatted the Compact flash 32GB with PC+Card Reader (USB 3.0). after that I connected my ipod with itunes and it asked me to restored the system on my ipod.

I use 2 systems on my ipod. First is the original ipod software, and the second is Rockbox (to play the .flac format).

Gelfling6 (author)kramerh2016-01-15

I'm prepping for the mod, too.. However, I plan on cloning the contents of the microdrive, to a 32GB SDHC card, plugging that into a SDHC->CF adaptor. It may be missing the data from the iPod_Control & "System Volume Information" directories. If you still have the original drive, and a CF reader handy, plug the old drive in, and copy the content to the flash drive going into the iPod. (I'm using Linux, and I always have the Hidden files showing. Look-up the text file manager, Midnight Commander (mc), and use it to copy the files exact (F5) from the drive to the card. (If using a CF card, copy the files to a hard drive, then move from the hard dive to the card.)

Gelfling6 (author)2016-01-15

I'm prepping to do the mod myself.. I am using a Linux machine to do the copying, and I'm finding a odd anomaly.. There appears to be a2 partitions, 1, claiming to be blank, by Fdisk, 41mb in length, followed by the 2nd partition, which holds the data files..

Disk /dev/sdx: 3.8 GiB, 4095737344 bytes, 7999487 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x20202020

Device Boot Start End Sectors Size Id Type
/dev/sdx1 63 80324 80262 39.2M 0 Empty
/dev/sdx2 80325 7999486 7919162 3.8G b W95 FAT32
Disk /dev/sdi: 3.8 GiB, 4095737344 bytes, 7999487 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x20202020

Device Boot Start End Sectors Size Id Type
/dev/sdi1 63 80324 80262 39.2M 0 Empty <------<<
/dev/sdi2 80325 7999486 7919162 3.8G b W95 FAT32

Though, i is NOT 100% Empty.. It has some data, a lot of &h00's, and some binary data.. When I do the mod, I plan on cloning the exact content of the partition to the SD card (Yes, you can partition flash RAMs, just like a hard drive.) and doing a complete copy (hidden files as well) from the old drive, to he new SD card. (Yes, I'm going the SDHC to CF adaptor card route.)

ErikD4 (author)2015-06-02

I did this - awesome! Thank you. I don't know why my previous comment disappeared, but I'll try again. Instead of glue gun (mislaid) i used packing tape - worked fine, and you can use the rubbery thingy from around the old micro drive to hold the new memory card.

Good tutorial, thanks!

posmodernismo (author)2015-01-08

I'm confused, would this work on a second gen Mini? Some of the comments below seem to indicate that 2nd gen Minis are incompatible with CFs.

msanstx (author)2014-01-12

Great tutorial. I couldn't get mine recognized in iTunes or in disk mode until I realized that the CF card fits "backwards". After opening up the mini again and flipping the CF card, it worked like a charm. I used Transcend TS8GCF133 8 gig and when inserted correctly, the orange Transcend label faces out from the board.

okusare (author)2013-07-24

Hi, will this memory card work with a 2nd gen?

Any help gladly appreciated

cody777 (author)okusare2013-10-30

Yes, but id suggest this because of price.

gob15 (author)2013-09-07

Anyone have an issue with waking their iPod mini back up after it falls into a deep hibernation after performing this mod? I can't wake the iPod up unless I plug it into a dock connector for a brief moment. I should also state that the iPod also won't wake up from or complete a manual reboot (menu + center button hold.)

bullsbay (author)2013-06-26

Great work, I was able to follow along and had great success. I bought a 4g Ipod mini with a weak battery for a few bucks. A new battery, a generic 16gb card, and your Instructable brought it back to life. Thanks!

spin498 (author)2013-02-25

I had mine 'professionally' serviced once before. Looks like the jerk glued the ends on mine back on. No amount of pulling on the stick would dislodge the top.

frackin b (author)2013-01-07

I advise that you don't try removing the top cover (step 3). Just slide the innards out with it on once you've removed the screws and the bottom cover. I say this because on the iPod I was working with the output jack was screwed in from the inside. Now I have a suped up mini that can't be listened to. :(

spin498 (author)2013-01-02

Excellent tutorial. My battery is down to holding just 15 mins of charge. So new battery on order from Amazon. I have several CF cards from my photography kit so I'll give that a go too.

jacobsteel (author)2012-12-29

Good instructable! I've done it a few times and the only thing I would add is that covering (e.g battery) cables with a piece of cellotape makes them slide in/out easier.

I just put a 64GB Dolgix CF card and a new battery in the old FireWire iPod mini (1:st gen, I think). Works perfectly, takes about 1-2min/GB to fill it with songs.

Bought the card here:

ProSeriesRacing (author)2012-10-03

Hello I got this to work on a 2nd gen 4gb Ipod mini with a 64gb Transcend 400x CF. I had several issues to get this to work. What helped is using Transcend Autoformat program. Then I restored the ipod and after reboot it froze up so I disconnected the cable and rebooted the ipod and put it into disk mode and reconnected cable and Itunes started to sync the music. And it is working great know. Now I ordered a Dolgix 64gb Compact Flash from Amazon for $64.95 shipped.

jmantoo (author)2011-09-26

I actually have upgraded a pink 2nd gen iPod with dead drive to a 32 Gig using a transcend 32gig CF card.

I actually found the iPod in the ditch while working in the field one day. it appeared someone tossed it out their window after it no longer functioned, due the the dead drive. After borrowing a power cord and a quick search of the error that was popping up. I figured out that the hard drive was bad. I found a site that similar to this one that explained how to replace the micro drive with a CF card. I happened to have a 1 gig laying around and tried it. The iPod worked great so a quick order on Newegg of a 32 gig CF card for $60 and a $12 power cord from radio shack and I was in business with a 30 gig iPod for only $72. Way cheaper than any 30 gig MP3 player on the market and it had no moving parts. Definitely couldn't complain.

garget guy (author)jmantoo2012-07-24

I just installed a 32GB card (transcend) - before putting it into the Mini, I confirmed it was a 32GB card in my computer - but now it only shows up as a 4GB card after I restored the device.

Can anyone offer any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!


jmantoo (author)garget guy2012-07-24

you may have a generation 2 Ipod witch from what i have found out has issues with CF cards. mine was a gen 1.

garget guy (author)jmantoo2012-07-25


Initially it only recognized 4GB of storage (and the rest was sitting in Unallocated). I resized the primary partition using Partition Wizard, restored the device a 2nd time through iTunes and it works!


dairyfarmer777 (author)2012-04-19

I got everything working but the center button. I test it outside of the case and it works but when its inside it doesn't seem to properly make a connection to the main board. I'm just going to keep playing round with it if one knows how i should approach this problem.

nfemail (author)2012-04-10

Does this work with the 128GB CF card ??

I hear the adapter makes a difference .. what adapter would you recommend ??

rcontreras1 (author)2012-03-14


Can you recover a 20gb ipod classic with this trick?

ichunddu (author)2012-03-04

I just did this successfully with an iPod Mini 1st Gen running OS 1.4.1, using a 4GB Transcend card bought for 15 Euros at Amazon. Thanks a lot for publishing this!


iroque (author)2012-02-15

Thank you for this tip, it worked perfect, i replaced the microdrive with a CF ADATA 8 16 GB and replaced the battery, the ipod its working as new.

jchioda (author)2012-01-23

This worked for me. My daughter dropped my iPod mini about three years ago and it never worked again. I could tell my hard drive was probably the culprit because when I turned the iPod on, I could hear a small "spinning" noise turning on and off. As for the instructions, I followed all of them, went to Wal Mart and picked up a 4 GB compact flash card for $24.99. I installed it and as soon as I connected the iPod on to iTunes, I received a message about restoring my iPod. Was shocked that I could actually do all of this myself. Works great and battery still holds a charge even though I haven't plugged it in in over three years!

kgiallombardo (author)2011-10-29

This process works with the first gen running 1.4.1

daiatlus79 (author)2011-09-28

great tutorial. i used a cheap Fidelity 4 gig and it worked fine. as long as the card is ATA compatible i think things should work well

sillyzombie666 (author)2011-08-25

why wont this work on the model 1 mini? since you have it stated you must use the model 2

fstedie (author)sillyzombie6662011-09-03

Firmware issues, it just doesn't work.

sillyzombie666 (author)fstedie2011-09-03

is there any work around to this like using ipod linux or rock box

thestar007 (author)2011-09-03

I have successfully replaced the HDD with a transcend CF. The iPod works and the songs will play but every now and then the iPod would crash with the folder and exclamation logo on it. iTunes would then ask to restore the iPod. Any idea what i am missing here?

fstedie (author)thestar0072011-09-03

Whenever that happens to me I simply reboot it by holding down the Center and Menu buttons for a few seconds. Don't know exactly why it happens :(

thestar007 (author)fstedie2011-09-03

Thanks, but it can be quite a PITA to do it every time you want to listen to the iPod. I was looking for a more permanent solution. The fact that it works with the flash card tells me that the iPod is more or less ok but its more a file system issue, I could be wrong though.

vanprez (author)2011-08-08

what battery do you recommend? brand etc.

sillyzombie666 (author)vanprez2011-08-27

there are no "brands" every thing i've found is just a cheap nock off from china just buy from a seller or site with good reviews, i just bought on on ebay with a screwdriver kit for $6 so i wont know how good or bad it is till i get it

vanprez (author)2011-08-06

my sister just gave me the" pink " Ipod. Is this 1st gen. or what?

sillyzombie666 (author)vanprez2011-08-26

look on the back if it says 4 or 6 then its a second gen, if it doesn't state the storage than its a first gen.

i just got a free hot pink ipod (lol) so im looking to upgrade and paint it

eboehm (author)vanprez2011-08-12

That is the one that I am using. Pink 4gb mini. Got it from my daughter when she upgraded to an ipod touch. Works great with this procedure. Upgraded it to a 16gb with a transcend 16gb cf card( has it for $23). Also had worked with a 8gb Kingston CF card. Also upgraded battery while I was in there. Can find one on ebay for around $5 by doing a search on ipod mini battery.

pkhare3 (author)2011-08-14

This worked for my second generation mini ipod (4Gb.) I installed the 16 gb transcend card which i bought off amazon and i also replaced the battery at the same time which i bought off ebay.

Orkekum (author)2011-08-11

Probably your players software is built to notice only 8GB, so how big you ever put, it will only find 8GB

eboehm (author)2011-07-21

Found out that changing the "name" of my iPod after doing a restore gave me the extra 8gb. I guess it was restoring my iPod to the last saved configuration. Bingo 16gb. Sweet!

dpierri (author)2011-06-02

Thank you for your instructions! first I thought it was the battery - got a cheap replacement that came with a set of tools to open the iPod mini 2nd gen. The hair dryer trick is actually easier since it melts the adhesive on the plates. After changing the battery I still had the sad face - bummer. So I got a CompactFlash card (Kingston CF/4GB) at my local Micro Center for $17.37 with tax. Knowing to be careful with the ribbon helped, I used a razor to cut all the tape off the micro-drive which has a rubber bumper. Once all the tape was off, I pried carefully the old HD from the tiny pin board with a mini flat head screw-driver. It helps to disconnect the battery to avoid having any electricity accidentally running on the board. Once the drive was separated, I taped the rubber bumper to the CompactFlash card and carefully connected it back carefully making sure that the CF card was face up. It fits snuggly in the same space where the HD was. Replaced the battery and carefully connected it to my Mac Mini. At first it gave me a folder image with an exclamation point, no more sad face (that is a good sign). After iTunes opned, it read (do not disconnect) and recognized the iPod right away. It reset the name and now works like new.
I took a gamble with the Kingston CF, and read all about how ATA was automatically added to all CF cards prior to adding accelerators. I also looked at the Dane-Elec 8GB that Wallmart sells but you need to order it online and have it delivered to your nearest store. They don't carry the card. I checked Dane-Elec's site and it is an ATA compatible card. Not bad for $20 bucks. BTW, I used my Nano Mini's cord to connect the 2nd gen iPod Mini, my iPhone cord would not work for me.
Thank you for the instructions once again.

bchiang1 (author)2011-04-20

I have an ipod mini 2nd gen with a sandisk 4gb ultra and whenever i look at the screen it has a sad face and whenever i connect it to the computer itunes doesnt pop up and whenever i put it into disk mode it just goes bacc into the sad face ive tried everything even taking the cf and formating it seperate from the ipod and reconnecting it but no good my computer is also windows 7 =[

Coggz (author)2010-01-15

I have tried this previously with a 6GB 2gen Mini, and a 16GB Kingston Pro Elite x133. Unfortunately I seem to be having the same issue as a few others online in that I need a copy of the ipod control folder to get iTunes to recognize the drive. The original drive is broken so there is no way of getting the folder off the original ipod, so can anyone on here possibly give me a rip of your system folder. All i need is the parts of the control folder which contain system things. Please could someone send me a zip/rar of this please!

bchiang1 (author)Coggz2011-04-11

me too

mluzon (author)2011-03-12

I used this card on my iPod mini:

Like other people here, I'm getting the folder/exclamation point icon on the screen every time it boots up, quickly followed by the "Do not disconnect" screen. Is this because I'm using the wrong type of CF card? If so, which CF cards nowadays will work on an iPod mini? I'm just looking for a 4GB card. Thanks!

fstedie (author)mluzon2011-03-12

Your card MUST be ATA compatible. Some of the cheaper cards are not and without this feature it will not work. Chances are that if it doesn't say it is ATA compatible, it is not.

Try using a Transcend or Sandisk card.

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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