Convert Your 4th Gen IPod to Use Flash Memory




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

About: 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 and modify them to suit my needs. As evidenced from my Instructables, I've been int...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

4 People Made This Project!


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209 Discussions

I’ve done all the steps above and I’m unable to restore my iPod Classic 4th gen .. when I plug it to my mbp it’s not even detected or show up and I’m unable to restore it any help?


1 year ago

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?


Such a sweet mod! Worked perfectly with suggested adapter.

Thanks for posting this!!!!!

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?

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.

1 reply

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!

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?

2 replies

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.

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:

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

1 reply

4th Gen ipod classic HP invent model for above comment


2 years ago

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?.

2 replies

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?

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

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).

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.

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.

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

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.

1 reply

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.