iPod Junior

Back when Command-Tab first started, I did a hack where I managed to connect a full size hard drive to a 3G iPod. I’m happy to present today a much easier solution — the “iPod Junior” — using a laptop hard drive and a nearly pre-built adapter. The end result is an iPod with an attached 2.5″ hard drive with next to no soldering.

In my earlier hack, I noted that the 1.8″ hard drive inside the iPod runs on 3.3v (see for yourself) instead of the 5v used in slightly larger laptop drives. Again, some external power source will need to be connected to power the drive, as the iPod alone can’t even spin up the laptop drive, much less a full desktop-sized drive. What I discovered is that the hard drive caddy inside IBM ThinkPad 240 laptops are almost a perfect iPod-to-laptop drive adapter, with the exception of power. On the front of the adapter is a female 1.8″ hard drive plug normally used for connecting to the laptop bus, and on the back is a standard female laptop hard drive connector. With some slight modification to route in the correct power, this modified adapter can easily attach a laptop hard drive to your iPod’s ribbon cable — ready for formatting and use.

You can see more photos of the modification in my Flickr photoset. To do the hack yourself, you’ll need to acquire a ThinkPad 240 hard drive caddy off eBay, like I did. Cut the +3.3v power trace that leads to pins 41 and 42 on the 2.5″ hard drive bus, and also scrape some of the green coating off both positive and ground traces. With the positive lines cut and some bare copper exposed on both traces, you can then solder on whatever power connector you prefer to run 5v to — I used two simple pins from a pin header, as a floppy drive power connector will easily plug onto them. From there, connect everything up, power up the drive, and then the iPod. Format and use. Rinse and repeat.

iPod Junior

24 thoughts on “iPod Junior

  1. DarkS7orm says:

    In response to #4,

    I’m pretty sure the Addonics adaptor only goes from 1.8″ to 2.5″. It seems like the male and female ends are opposite for what you would need, plus I e-mailed them awhile ago and they said it couldn’t do that : ). There is a place that has the ThinkPad 240 adaptor, if you don’t mind paying $30.00 plus shipping. It’s over at pchub.com

    No idea how reputable these guys are, so be careful.


  2. Stevezasycho says:

    Sweet mod man.. I am gonna do a similar one.. However one issue looms on my horizon: Powering the seagate 160GB Notebook drive: Powering it.. I have an idea, and perhaps you ca shed some light (Seeing as how youre really the only one with an insight here..)

    I had thought of getting a stand-alone battery for the drive itself, and running it on the same line as the iPod’s battery for charging purposes.. I really want to make one of these, and I am unclear on just this aspect.. After that, it is smooth sailing.. Thanks for any help you can give me..



  3. Sayyad says:

    Even though it’d be a bit bigger than a normal iPod I’d gladly trade size for capacity. 100GB could *just* fit my music, I’d really like room for some movies so 120GB would be minimal for my use. Of course this ends up being two of the high-end 60GB iPods. I wonder if it’d be possible to get a drivedead 3G iPod, a 5v lithium polymer battery, a fairly large laptop hard drive and a cigar box to make a sort of FatPod…


  4. Ed says:

    Great mod and lots of useful info for podhackers – keep up the good work! I was given a 3G ipod with a dead drive and I have a 512MB CF card – any ideas how I can use the CF card in place of the 1.8 inch Toshiba hard disk. Thanks!


  5. Danny says:

    just for clarification – is the HD adapter specific to that Thinkpad model, or might any other Thinkpad models have had similar adapters?

    also, is the adapter part of the Thinkpad’s primary internal hard drive, or is it from the more generic Ultrabay external HD caddy? (ie could I scavenge it from a Thinkpad 240 sold “for parts”?)

    (can’t find the 240 part on ebay)


  6. As far as I know, only the 240 and 240X has this adapter. I’ve yet to see it on any other ThinkPads. You’ll probably get one if you buy a trashed 240 on eBay, but you may want to ask the seller before bidding — often they pull drives, caddies, adapters, RAM, and other small goodies before selling the bulk of the machine.


  7. chase says:

    I have a problem with my ipod and the problem is that I installed a new bootloader for it by ipodlinux and when I turned it on after I installed it it froze at the default apple firmware and I can’t do anything with it. Can someone help me with problem?


  8. Kristopher Yang says:

    i have been trying to create your project. but fail a number of time
    can you give me the pin to connect from the ipod side to the other side?


  9. Erik says:

    Well I’ve been researching this for 2 days now. I bought a new deck for my truck that had a usb port thinking oh I could hook up an external HD to it. Turns out no My specific deck (Sony CDX-GT930UI) can only support 512 songs on a thumb drive/usb source. (WTF sony?) Anyway I’ve had this 4th gen 20GB ipod that has had a dead drive sitting around and so I’m going to try and hook up a ZIF to SATA adapter to it from a vendor on ebay


    and hook up the 500GB SATA 2.5″ drive I bought to the adapter and the adapter to the ipod. My ipod had a 1.8″ drive that had pins (not ZIF) but had what looks like a zif to 1.8″ IDE ribbon cable going to the drive. My hope is that I can just eliminate the whole cable and instead have it go from the ZIF port on the ipod to the zif to sata bridge board and then to the sata drive. I’ll be using an external 5V 2A power source for the drive itself. I am skeptical but hopeful this will work. If it does I’ll post it here.

    I’ve spent hours on google digging up as much info as possible on doing this and relevant results seem difficult to come by. Like other posts by users on here having a 500GB+ ipod that will make it so I don’t have to parse out my mp3 collection is way more useful to me. Any info would be great.


    1. @Erik: I don’t believe the port on the iPod motherboard is ZIF in any models, whether they shipped with a ZIF drive or not. I think it’s a relatively custom connection. I don’t know for sure that it’s not, but I’ve never once heard that it is ZIF. It would be interesting to know!


  10. Erik says:

    Well the connector on the ipod has 40 pins. The connector on the other end where it goes into the HD has 44. The adapter on ebay for the ZIF to SATA looks like it has 40 as well. Are the pins going to be all reversed since this adapter is designed to go from sata->ZIF not ZIF->SATA. Heres some pics of my ipod and the connector:

    Is there any limit to the drive size you can use on ipods? As I stated the drive will be under its own power so that will not be an issue. But is there any maximum address ranges the ipod will reach or something?

    Also I might be able to get my hands on one of those Thinkpad drive caddy boards. Have you had good luck with those?


  11. Erik says:

    I called IBM today hoping they might have the part available. After calling like 6 different 800 numbers cuz they are all a bunch of morons I finally was told this part was $407 and has been discontinued. Dead end. I wish I could find someone that is selling this part.


    1. @Erik: Your best bet might be to find a cheap and/or broken ThinkPad 240 and scavenge the adapter from it, instead of hunting down the part itself. If all else fails, email me, and I can probably dig up mine.


  12. Erik says:

    I ordered some parts that may work. Although I’m doubtful. That would be incredibly cool if I could get yours. Whats your email address?


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