Repair Bricked Ipod Classic 80 Gb




About: This author has not updated their profile. They might or might not get around to it sometime. If the kid wants a unicorn... Dangit, we're gonna make that happen. What little I know is dangerous, the rest I...

Itunes 9 update 1.1 bricked my kid's ipod Classic 80 gb. Would you like to update?  Spin the wheel of chance with Mr. Jobs.

Caitlin had "misplaced" her ipod for a long time and wanted to take it along on our summer vacation trip.  She found it and plugged it in and charged it up with the wall wart. Everything worked fine.  Until we tried to sync it up.  Hmmmm, looks like it needs an update and itunes needs to be upgraded.  Install itunes9, it sees the ipod, clicked to update and waited.  And waited. Finally got an error code and look that up.  The usual charge it up, connect disconnect, reload latest itunes and install, etc.  Try again and wait. And wait. But now it is stuck at the apple fruit logo and won't do anything. And it made the clickey sound like it was accessing the drive but nothing.  The update locked the drive in a loop.

Look up help on the internet.  You are now the proud owner of a bricked ipod classic 80 gb.

This rots, to the core.

UPDATE: I was going to install itunes on my new "refurb" laptop that I just got. But it has Vista Business sp1.  I think I am screwed again.

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Step 1: Plan of Action

Bricked is a term used to describe something that has taken on the condition of being useless as a brick where something can only be used as a doorstop.

You can search "bricked ipod classic" and see all of the other horror stories but apparently I was not the first to encounter this.  And it also seems, in my humble maker opinion, a hushed corporate topic suppressed by the giant Apple machine.  Software updates are always inherently dangerous but collateral risk for a few is acceptable.

There is no known fix. 

1.  The ipod is out of warranty and was given as a gift.
2.  Apple already has it hands full with iphone problems.
3.  Ipod was never subjected to any usage outside of  Apple's Terms of Service.
4.  The most likely fix is to replace the hard drive to see if you can get it running again.

I could have taken it to Apple or an authorized repair to get it "fixed" but they will not acknowledge it is a problem as their fault and charge you repair costs.  A service center will charge more than what it is worth to get a new ipod.

I am lucky nothing on the ipod was valuable or sensitive data.  Back up your data, people!

Caitlin's uncle had pity and was kind enough to get her an itouch to replace the bricked ipod. Thanks.

So, I am left with a bricked ipod to toy around with.  

Step 2: Is It FUBAR?

Yep, every time I tried to plug it and unplug it, it would hang so you could not power it down.

Itunes is no help in trying to click on restore.

The constant apple fruit logo was always displayed.  The screen is unlit most of the time.

So I tried all the other tricks that are out there.

Reset by sliding hold switch back and forth.
Press middle and select button until display blanks out.

Reset by sliding hold switch back and forth.
Press middle and left side button to get it into diagnostic mode, run checks
Disk size shows 0 bytes

Reset by sliding hold switch back and forth.
Press middle and bottom play button to get it into USB disk mode.

USB drive is not recognized or shows up with 0 byte size on a Windows XP and Macbook.
Cannot format the drive through any OS.

Cannot format the drive with the HP USB format utility.

No known Linux fix.  I saw one where you tried to replace the ipod bios but that still needed to access the harddrive.

Really, Fn FUBAR.

Step 3: Tighter Than a Clam's...

I was going to replace the harddrive myself and gamble the cost of the replacement harddrive that it would work.  If not, find a use for a brick.

I found a replacement harddrive on Eb@y.  Seller said it shipped from USA but got confirmation emails from Hong Kong afterwards.  I got a refurb unit for $65US that did ship from a local supplier.  New drives go for around $100US and some even come with two plastic tools to help open the case.  My no frills order was just the bare drive.

I had the replacement drive in hand.  And this is my adventure in cracking open the nearly impossible to open ipod classic case.  Same deal if you want to replace the battery while you are at it.

Armed with a few micro flat tip screwdrivers, a big ratcheting flat tip screwdriver, a flashlight, and a few guitar picks...I was set.

This instructable was not intended as an instructable at the time but plenty of other detailed guides to reference if you are iffy about the procedure.  I looked up a few to see what I was getting into.  Some use paint scraper blades, flat bars, etc.

CAUTION:  Do not attempt if you are worried about coming out with a scarred war-torn unit.  You really need to destroy the case in the process as it seems it was designed as a seal-it-once-and-never-open-it-again deal.  Besides, that's why you can order replacement faceplates or clamshell backs. 

Step 4: Phasers on Stun

You probably couldn't even lasercut this one open.

Using your tools, you have to go around the entire faceplate to unlock it from the bottom shell.

All around are little metal spring tabs that protrude from the side of the metal band that is on the inside of the bottom shell.  Also, you have no idea where they are placed so you are going by feel or using the flashlight to peek down.

These tabs lock into notches from the top faceplate.

Compounding the problem is tabs from the top faceplate locking down to the bottom shell.

The further you pull the top cover up, the metal side tabs dig deeper into the top cover and you cannot push the metal side tabs in to release.  

WARNING: Use of sharp implements can cause injury when the tool slips.  Use a towel to hold the slippery ipod and protect fingers and veins/arteries.  Be careful you don't scratch or break the LCD display and anything inside is fragile.

Start at the bottom where the cable connector is.

Slide a micro flat tip screwdriver in the tiny gap between the white connector trim ring and the brown metal cover part for the connector, try not to damage the connector or housing itself.

Try to push up to get the top cover to separate.  You might end up mangling the bottom shell but bend it slightly to give more room to work with bigger tools in prying up the top cover.

Start going all around with the guitar pick to try to loosen the cover all around.  I did not know if there was any glue seams to crack apart.

Try to wedge the guitar pick and pull up on the faceplate to see if it will budge.

Alternate going around and probing to push back the metal side tabs and pull up on the faceplate.  You might have luck in getting one corner released a bit first.  Bottom first, then try to open the sides.

I had to further deform the sides to see where my tabs were getting stuck.  Notice I was getting dings or cuts in the faceplate where I tried to leverage the screwdriver.  It won't be pretty afterwards, but it might be working.  

I had thought about putting some tape over the faceplate to protect it but no matter...

So, there are two faceplate tabs on the top and bottom to contend with.  Then the side tabs upper and lower.

It took me about an hour fiddling with everything before I got the case open...and a lot of cuss words.

Step 5: The Ipod Is Your Oyster...

It finally opened to reveal it's jewel.

Notice bits of plastic guitar pick and shards of metal scrapings.  Make sure you clean that all up.  You can use a bit of sandpaper to smooth out any dings.

So the case and faceplate wasn't mangled up too badly.   You can bend things back in a little afterwards but it won't be perfect.

Gently open and flip the faceplate over.  Be careful of the the wiring.

This long cable I think was the power cable.  I think I accidentally pulled it out while trying to manipulate the hard drive in reference to another guide I was viewing.

Release the cable lock first by pushing it up with a micro screwdriver.

Yeah, yeah, try to ground yourself first before working inside any sensitive electronics.

There is another cable to undo if you want to release the tension while you are working on the hard drive but don't mess with it if you don't have too.

Step 6: Prep Patient for Transplant

The trick to doing this is mis en place.  Layout the stuff exactly in the way and order you removed it so you can put it back together again.

The ZIF zero insertion force socket, if that is the proper term for it, if not look it up int McMaster-Carr catalogue...can be operated by flicking up the black plastic bar that goes across the tiny contact wires.  Be gentle.  Pushing up will release the hard drive ribbon cable that is inserted into the socket.   At first I though this was a normal ribbon connector header where you have to maybe release the tabs on the white plastic part.

Note the orientation of the ribbon cable.

Now note the orientation of the foam pads on both sides.

Now note the orientation of the rubber bumpers.

Remove the foam pads and bumpers to reuse on your replacement hard drive.  Carefully peel or scrape the foam pad off in one piece.  There is some adhesive on it.

Put everything back in place.

Insert the ribbon cable into the replacement hard drive socket.

Push down on the cable lock.

Reseat all the foam pads and bumpers in place.  You may need to reapply the foam pads with a bit of electrical tape or just hold it in place.  Clean off the debris from hacking the case.

Reconnect the power cable and lock.

Step 7: Testing 1 - 2 - 3, Testing

With everything connected inside, fold up the case but don't snap it closed.

Test to see if it works.

Wiggle in the Apple USB connect.

Fire up itunes.

It sees it and wants to do a restore.


Sync up a few tunes.

It works.  Dang you Apple.

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    28 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Very handy guide. I had a black 80gb classic a while back (it was stolen out of my car later) but I was able to fix this problem by banging it on my desk a bunch of times and cussing at it :P

    This method seems much nicer though.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    The first time my old one did this, I went through all the tips and tricks I could find online, and the very last resort was, "Hold it like this, with this edge out and this side facing your palm, and whack the ever-loving crap out of it on the very hard and firm edge of your desk." Which I did to it every few days for months until I got a new one. Old one is still in a box, I'll have to try fixing it up.


    8 years ago on Step 7

    I had the same problem with my 80gig iPod classic. I think I am going to try this on it.


    If you have another ipod to play around with, you should try the cf card mod. Bit expensive but you do get much better battery life as a result.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet. Nice work and a great instructable too. This is good news and bad for me, meaning it's great that you can get one open to change the battery on a working iPod if you don't want to drop $200+ for a new flash memory based one, but sad that the hard drive had to be replaced, that would be the cutoff for me. At first I got the impression that the hard drive was good and that the software update just hosed the OS or the boot sector on the drive, but when you mentioned the drive went clickity click, I knew the update update failure was the result of the coincidental hard drive failure, there is no endless loop that will cause the ominous drive click, I'm pretty sure that's pure hardware failure. I have a friend with one that doen't turn on at all, we're hoping his is a circuit board failure so we can do the opposite, extract the hard drive and pray that the drive still works so we can recover his data.

    4 replies

    Well, for the conspiracy theory folks, the hard drive was coincidentally locked on several other instances found on the internet supposedly after the itunes update. I could get the ipod back in usb drive mode but something else prevented it from reading and writing data to the hard drive.. I guess if I had another ipod to transplant the drive to I would have fooled around with it a bit. Good luck on your repair.

    Wow, that is a very interesting theory indeed. What makes it so interesting is if the update were corrupting the firmware on the iPod itself, it would no longer be able to access any drive, so I doubt that is what's happening, if anything, the update corrupts the boot sector of the drive, and that makes me wonder if there is an adapter that would allow you to access the drive directly, like an external drive. If so, you could certainly run UNIX commands via a terminal window that could restore the boot sector to an unformatted drive with no partitions, thus making it usable again. Of course all data would be lost, but it might save drive replacement. I have no idea if the adapter exists, but it sounds like one heck of an instructable if it doesn't.

    What is interesting is the existence of "silver bullets". The cable TV company every once in a while sends out codes or "updates" to render unauthorized equipment on the line useless. I think they fuse a bit in the chips or lock up the firmware. Maybe a bit of errant code happened to get pushed out with the update having the same consequences. I'm not really that uptight about Apple but I wouldn't put it past them having that in the playbook.

    I have no doubts that Apple builds in obsolescence, despite the fact that they build very high quality hardware. An error in coding is certainly a possibility, and some errors wouldn't necessarily affect all models either because all electronics manufacturers change chipsets regularly. Sometimes even in midstream of a model.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I've got one that has no display, but I don't know if it is a bad display , drive , or just a brick now. Someone, who shall remain nameless, but I've been married to her for 40 years, let some liquid into it. Any ideas? I finally bought a new one, so I can play with the old one.

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I assume you have done the normal resets available that will usually fix it.
    if so try to replace the battery or at least give it a good power source.

    good luck!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmmm, I guess you would might treat it like a cell phone dunking.   Of course, if it one of those accidental drops in the toilet, take extra precautions.  You have to make sure the insides are dried up before powering it up. You might be able to crack it open for the challenge fun of it  Dry out and reseat the internal cable connectors.  Check the voltage of the battery.  Clamp it together to see if it fires up.  It does cost more to just get it checked and serviced than it does to get a new one.  Good luck.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Luckily it wasn't the toilet, but I think it was worse. I priced getting it fixed and the price of a new drive, then decided to get a new one. I was without one for a year and am really surprised at the capabilities. Wow. Thanks for your help. No need to respond.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    wait - there is a spinning hard drive in an ipod? i thought it was flash.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    There was a similar instructable out there about how to fix a bricked ipod touch. Basically, you had to get a new copy of the firmware from the internet. Then you plug it into itunes and when it tells you that the ipod needs to be restored, hold down shift and hit the restore button. This will deliver you to a pop up file navigator where you can navigate to your newly downloaded firmware.

    This is the link

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, but my ipod Classic 80, 6th gen is a different animal older than ipod touch. Although, I do not know if that Shift and Restore function works on a Classic.