iPod Super

What is this about?

Ultimately, I’d like to get a regular 3.5″ hard drive working with an iPod. The fact that it would be huge will simply be a novelty.

Why do this?

This project came about after I dropped my 40 GB 3rd generation iPod and killed the hard drive in it. I decided to open up the iPod and see what I could do with it. I could do so without fear of breaking it, since I’d already broken the most expensive part in it.

Disassembling the iPod

It’s not terribly hard to open the iPod if you know how. Since I had owned my iPod for some time, it had a little wear, and the seam where plastic and metal meet was open just enough to push my fingernail into. Sliding it down, I was able to stick in a nylon pry tool like the ones from RadTech. After getting the tool in there, you can pop the plastic catches and the top comes loose. OWC suggests squeezing the two halves of the iPod together at the side edge until it clicks. It looks a little scary to me, but I’ve never tried their method. I’m sure it’s perfectly valid, too. After that, detach the small white connector opposite the hold switch, and the two iPod halves separate. After moving all the loose items like the hard drive out of the way, they all disconnect without much of a problem — just be careful with those thin ribbon cables. Work slowly and don’t force things to come apart. If something’s resisting, it’s most likely because there’s a catch or screw that you overlooked.

Hard Drive Connections

After opening the iPod, I took a look at the hard drive that no longer worked. I had a 40GB Toshiba MK4004GAH. I looked up the drive on Toshiba’s site and found a pin diagram of the connector. The top-right pin in the following image is pin 1, and below it is pin 2 — the pattern continues in an up-and-down fashion. I remembered reading somewhere that 1.8″ hard drives used an ATA interface, but I wanted to confirm this. Another search yielded a diagram of a standard ATA/IDE connector. Except for four pins dedicated to logic and power, the two diagrams had the same connections.

Building the Adapter

Now that I knew the hardware would match up fairly well, I needed a way for the iPod to connect to a bigger drive. A post on the ipodhacks.com forums revealed a foreign company that sold an adapter similar to what I needed, but I couldn’t read German to figure out the site, much less order from them. Examinging the ribbon cable that connects the 1.8″ hard drive to the iPod, I saw that there was an open area at each pin where it connected to the actual pins that went into the hard drive. I spent the next several minutes cutting and stripping rather thin 30 gauge wrapping wire. I was going to simply solder wires onto each of those points and run them to a regular IDE connector. With the wire cut, I decided I should look into finding the other end of the connector before I began the tedious soldering task ahead of me.

It didn’t take long to dig up an old dead hard drive whose S.M.A.R.T. status indicated it was ready to go belly-up. I unscrewed the Torx screws on the drive’s circuit board and separated it from the metal housing. Desoldering all 44 pins would be a chore, so I took the easier route and just ripped through the circuit board with a Dremel. I also considered using an IDC connector from an IDE ribbon cable, but I figured that a female IDE connector would allow me more options when it came time to attach the iPod to other devices — I could use an IDE cable and run it to a hard drive, instead of requiring that two parts sit so close together. The next step was to spend some time soldering all 44 tiny wires and testing the connections with a continuity tester. A bead of hot glue was added to hold the wires more securely, and it was finished. Though not part of my plan, this adapter can also connect an iPod hard drive to an IDE bus if necessary.

Preparing the Hard Drive

At this point I read up on how the iPod’s hard drive is formatted. There are basically three partitions: the partition map, a 32 MB firmware partition, and the rest of the disk is where your music is kept. However, the first two aren’t normally visible. Even Disk Utility will only show you the third partition. I found a lot of good info on this page, including this explanation of the partitions:

1: The first partition of the hard drive (partition no. 1 above) is necessary to make the hard drive mountable, it contains the partition map for the disk. It’s size is 63-1 = 62 in blocks which equals 32 KB. This partition is known as ‘master boot record’.

2: The second partition ‘firmware’ from block 63 to 65599, 65536 blocks in total (equals exactly 32 MB), holds the firmware of your iPod. The type is ‘Apple_MDFW’.

3: Finally, the partition ‘disk’ is of type ‘Apple_HFS’ and is keeping the data on your iPod. The size of the last partition is [number of blocks] – [base of partition ‘disk’] which is 4.74 GB of the iPod used in this example.

Formatting the New Disk

Using the information about pdisk and dd on the page mentioned above, I was able to format a 3.5″ drive as the iPod would expect to see it.

Booted

With a 2.5 inch HD

Update:

Here are some iPod articles from Apple that might be of use:

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iPod Super

182 thoughts on “iPod Super

  1. Paul says:

    Hi, I would like to change to a 2.5″ HDD instead of 3.5″, can you tell me if power is still required or the iPod can power it like 1.8″ HDD?

    Thanks.

    Like

  2. Hi, I would like to change to a 2.5″ HDD instead of 3.5″, can you tell me if power is still required or the iPod can power it like 1.8″ HDD?

    Any hard drive larger than the original will draw more power and either be unable to run at all, or run for a significantly shorter period of time.

    Like

  3. arved says:

    hello,

    had anyone maked that with a windowsformated i-pod?

    Ive got a broken 10GB 2G IPOD and a windows-pc
    i buy a thoshiba 20GB and a adapter to ide from
    http://www.adapter-king.de
    now iam not shure what to make exactly.
    i make the 2 partitions (win) on the i-pod
    but the ipodupdater cant find him
    and i realy dont know how to put the firmware on the i-pod
    could anyone help me?

    Like

  4. Mko. says:

    To me, the biggest implication of your (oustanding) work is: I believe you’ve now made it possible to go out and buy any “non-apple” formated 1.8″ HD, and plug it into your Ipod, and make it work.

    As I understand it, previously, the only option was to buy an “apple-formated” 1.8″ HD that used to ‘live’ in another Ipod.

    I have an older 3rd Gen 10Gig Ipod, and would like to upgrade to a larger HD. Can anyone post their experiences in upgrading their HDs? If you do, can you post your experiences, and HD models that work?

    Even better, step-by-step instructions for the masses would be absolutely excellent.

    You might have spawned an industry of DIY Ipod HD Upgraders!

    Like

  5. Sean says:

    I need a 3.5hd connection cable and powersupply for my ipod, where can i get it?I did the same thing as this guy last night. I got pissed at my ipod and punched, though Collin dropped his, i broke the hd. I have or lets say had a 3g 40gb ipod as well. I was wanting to do this exact same project and i was browsing for a harddrive conncetion cable to a 3.5hd and i stubbled upon this site. So what im getting out, where can i get a premade cable for my ipod to 3.5hd, is there a limitation w/ space?(120,200,300gb??) and where can i obtain a reliable powersupply? Do i have to make this, or can i buy this somewhere? thanks.

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  6. Hey so after some trial and error i got the cable working with my Gen 1 iPod, and the ipod updater worked, and i got some tunes on the hard drive, but when i try and play the song, the ipod just konks out! And when i unplug all the power from the ipod , it still does this trying to reset thing, flashes the screen with a black screen or a battery alert…. so it looks like its getting powered from the hard drive :/ anyone got some suggestion?

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  7. i built a 3rd gen ipod external hdd connector… and it works a charm ^^ i just need a usb dongle for it (or firewire) and a mac to partition the hdd.. but im gonna turn this once 15gb ipod into a 30gb ipod via laptop hdd ^^ and power it off of a RC car Racing battery pack (7.2volt NiCd 1200mAh) maybe even power the ipod of of it too and im gonna keep it portible ^^
    i have pictures of my sucess well two of the final cable project but i need a good place to host them with the bandwidth. collin of you could host the images here Email me ill send them along ^^

    Like

  8. stephen says:

    um….BATTERY LIFE?? Yeah, this is a cool hack…but it doesn’t seem so neat when the battery lasts only 30 minutes.

    Like

  9. Paul says:

    Hi Collin,

    I’m planning to keep my iPod portable after upgrading using 2.5″ HD, powered by a car adaptor to the iPod.

    But my question is how do I power the 2.5″ HD? Can you tell me which pin (HD) to which pin (iPod)?

    Thanks!

    Like

  10. Kat says:

    hey, mine works and last longer than 30 mins. alright, it lasts 1hr 40 mins but id dropped mine too before. it makes it bloody heavy though and not portable.but i have the fattest iPod around. so im happy. thanks :-)

    Will it work on a mini?

    Like

  11. Hi Collin,

    It is amazing with what you did with your broken ipod.
    My case is actaully very similar, but I am not sure whether my hard drive is broken or not. Any suggestion to how I can check it? Please note that I have taken my ipod apart already !
    Secondly, I have an idea but I am not sure whether it works or not. Do you think I can take apart a cf card reader and plug the pin to the reader and operate it as a removable drive?

    Thanks a million,
    Orempre

    Like

  12. iPod Super

    Collin von command-tab.com hat einen wunderschönen Hack auf seinem Blog veröffentlicht: Ein 3G iPod mit 3,5″-Platte. Falls die Platte meines iPods ebenfalls mal den Geist aufgibt, werde ich das mal nachbauen….

    Like

  13. Tom says:

    There’s a whole article over at MacUser in the UK (free reg perhaps required) concerning replacing the iPod HD, with 3rd and 4th gen being most successful. It seems that afterwords, fw no longer works, usb 2.0 recommended?

    http://macuser.pcpro.co.uk/macuser/features/67347/replacing-your-ipods-hard-disk.html

    Alternatively, I googled and used pricegrabber.com and found a 20 GB 1.8″ Toshiba MK2004GAL for $91

    http://www.ewiz.com/detail.php?name=T20MK2004L

    Like

  14. jase says:

    If you have installed a NEW HARD DRIVE in your iPod — here’s the easy way to get iPod Updater to successfully install the iPod Operating System. I screwed mine up, and my friend helped me out — he posted on MacOSXHints regarding how we fixed it. Here is the URL: http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20050309134113686

    Here is the nutshell (partitioning as “Free Space” is the KEY!!!:
    QUOTE

    So, we opened Disk Utility, highlighted the iPod in the left sidebar, switched to the partition tab, and chose “1 Partition” from the “Volume Scheme” drop-list, then chose “Free Space” from the “Format” drop list, then clicked the partition button.

    When it was done repartitioning the iPod, we ejected it, reconnected it, then opened the iPod Updater and chose Restore. About 1 minute later, my friend was putting songs back onto his iPod. You may need to follow this same procedure if you try to replace the hard drive in an iPod as well.

    END QUOTE

    Hope this helps. It took too many days for Todd and I to figure this out. I sure hope it helps others avoid the mess.

    Jase.

    Like

  15. Pope Ipod says:

    To enter the diagnostic mode on the iPod, first of all reset it. When you see the Apple logo, hold down
    Next, Previous, and Select. When the Apple logo goes away, release the buttons. You’ll see the coolest
    thing ever: a backwards Apple logo, as if you were inside the iPod looking out. If it’s a 3G, you’ll hear
    the iPod emit a little squeal, like you were pinching it. Diagnostic mode contains stuff used by
    engineers, technicians, and factory folks to test out the iPod.
    The iPod mini is slightly different. For this model, again reset the iPod. When you see the Apple logo,
    hold down Select and Back. When the Apple logo goes away, release the buttons to see the famous
    backward Apple and get into diagnostic mode.
    When you enter diagnostic mode, you get an ugly, non-iPod-looking screen with a list of eight
    diagnostic tests. Each test is marked with a letter, A through H. You might expect to use the wheel to
    select the tests, but it doesn’t work. Instead, use the Next and Previous buttons to move up and down
    the list. Press Select to run the highlighted test. While a test is running, press Play to return to the
    menu. If you scroll down past test H (or up past test A), you’ll see a second screen, items I through P.

    Like

  16. Klamath says:

    Man if u geared that up with an amp in your car and modded a double-DIN dash blanking plate u could have one SWEET iPod head unit in your car!!!! ;)

    If i had the cash to buy another ipod id do it…but i feel bad screwing up a perfectly good pod just for this ;)

    Well done tho ;)

    Like

  17. Alexander Gallus says:

    I have an 20 GB Ipod but the harddrive crashed. I want buy the same 1,8 harddrive, but can anyone tell me how to format it that it will work ? The link above is dead.

    Like

  18. In response to a comment on hack-a-day about people not having the firmware for the iPod…

    The iPod’s firmware is available from Apple inside every iPod Updater Utility (Mac), or can be extracted from it with the iPodWozard app (PC). On the Mac side, you can access the firmware by control-clicking on the iPod Updater application bundle, choosing Show Package Contents, and navigating to Contents/Resources/Updates. There you will find all the firmware files for all the iPod models supported by that updater (latest of this writing is iPod Updater 2005-03-23), as well as nifty icons of all the iPod models. The firmware files contained are as follows (along with iPod model information gleaned from various sites – may be incorrect. Please do your homework if you intend to do more in-depth hacking.)

    Firmware-11.4.1 (?)
    Firmware-2.2.3 (?)
    Firmware-7.2.5 iPod mini (2G)
    Firmware-5.4.1 iPod photo (4G/click wheel)
    Firmware-3.2.5 iPod mini (1G)
    Firmware-1.1.5 iPod (1G/scroll wheel)
    Firmware-6.2.5 iPod mini (2G)
    Firmware-4.3.0.2 (iPod 4G/click wheel)
    Firmware-10.3.0.2 (iPod 4G/click wheel; identical to 4.3.0.2)

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  19. ejonesss says:

    you need a 1.8 to ide converter

    the one on comp usa is only a laptop to ide converter.

    ipod drives are not standard laptop drives.

    however you may be able to unsolder the connector from a broken ipod drive or hardwire the pins from the ipod connector to an ide cable or to a standard laptop drive connector.

    Like

  20. Would it be possible to buy a 1.8″ external hard drive case and put a Toshiba MK4004GAH into it, plug it into my powermac and format it into the three partition using disc utilities? In fact could I just create two partitions, the first a 32meg ‘Apple_MDFW’partition and the second an “Apple-HFS’ partition with the rest of the hard drive and the utility will create the third partition of the master boot record directory like it does with all other hard drives you format. Then put it into my ipod hook it up and run updater and install firmware? It seem easier than using terminal since I’m not sure about how to just format a new hard drive from your article, unless I just do the last part. If it doesn’t work I just stick the old hard drive in and away I go I suppose.

    Gary

    Like

  21. Curtis says:

    When I first came upon your site, I was overjoyed. I have been a tinkerer and a case modder for a while, and I am going to begin work on my very own Ipod super sometime soon. I decided it would be nice to fit it in some sort of elegant, home theater style case, and use it with a larger stereo. The only problem is that it is hard to reorient the cabling going to the screen and controls. If anyone has any ideas regarding a good case design and what not, it would be great to hear about it.

    Like

  22. Curtis says:

    I finished my adapter today, and it works great! It is not constructed as well as yours, but its functional. I am a lot of trouble with the firmware. I have been playing around with two western digital drives, one 2.3gb and one 120gb. I get through the partitioning using pdisk, but on the 120 I can’t copy the firmware, I just get an IO error. On the 2.3gb it copies over, but I am not sure where to go from there as the iPod updater doesn’t work. Is there a specific version of the iPod updater I should try?

    Like

  23. Curtis says:

    Well it turns out that different hard drive behave in different ways. After toying with two western digital drives, I switched to a 160gb Maxtor. With this drive, I didn’t get an error with the iPod updater, but when the ipod was reset after the restore, just the apple logo appeared. I don’t have the time to play around with more drives, so I’m just going to sell the parts. I think I am going to put the adapter on eBay, and if anyone is interested email me at curtis.layton@valley.net

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  24. stephanie says:

    I replaced a HD in a 2nd gen 10 gig iPod with a non Apple braded HD…NO GO since 2nd gen do not allow for USB connections (only firewire and as it stands, there is no cross “platform” usb-firewire adapters or cables which i kinda figured). If you have read anything here it is that one you replace the HD with a non branded iPod (in a 3rd or 4th gen iPod) you can no longer use firewire and need to use USB which will not work in 1st or 2nd gen iPods.

    SO: the drive showed up in Disk Util but not anywhere else. The current iPod updater would run and stop just as other posts have indicated on MANY sites.

    Just thought I’d let you know that the only way to replace a HD in a 1st or 2nd gen iPod is to buy an apple branded HD, not merely a “replacement” that fits into the iPod shell. I found apple branded HD’s at http://www.ipodreplacementparts.com. SUPER fast shipping if the guy has it in stock. He basically has most iPod parts so email him to see if he has what you need and good luck.

    Oh and I replaced the battery and I now have a rock solid backup iPod to my 4th gen that I use in live during gigs. I’m extremely happy I was able to get my old one working (that only stopped due getting wet in the rain, blahhhh) for under $150 between the HD and battery. I still love the old school ones better than the new fangled but that’s just me.

    Have a GREAT day!

    Like

  25. Curtis Layton says:

    Great News!

    I got a 60 gig IBM drive from a friend, and it works. So I guess a tip for future iPod Super builders is not to use western digital drives.

    Like

  26. Well done. Ipod is a fantastic machine and it will be better to repair it himself than to pay for the reparation.

    Thanks for your advice.

    Like

  27. aldo says:

    Amazing piece of work! Have a question: think it’s possible to build a cable to connect iPOD to a CF iPAQ’s sleeve and have it as a giant storage card?

    Like

  28. I have a 3rd generation 15gig ipod that I am tring to upgrade to a 40gig. I bought a toshiba 1.8 40 gig hard drive from a 4th gen ipod but it was formated for windows. Tried a restore didn’t work.

    went to hack and tried to do partition in terminal but can’t find iPod_US_Firmware_201.bin anywhere to install. Can someone help me out. Also my partition map is always 63@1 not 62@1 is this a problem and how do I change it?

    Please email me at benok@dakotacom.net

    Gary

    Like

  29. john says:

    How can i best make a connection to a 3,5″ IDE disk?
    At this site there’s an explanation for connecting to a 2,5″ disk. How do i make the 5V for this disk? And how do i connect all this together? I got an ipod 1st gen and an ide cable. My problem is the power. Who can help me out?

    Like

  30. Edward says:

    I have a 2nd Generation ipod with a 20 GB hard Drive. I found out that Toshiba makes 1.8″ Drives that fit in the ipod. I want to know if anyone has tried to replace the original 20 GB HD with a 40GB or 60GB 1.8″HD. As well if anyone nas adepted to make a adaptor to connect the newer ipod stuff to an older ipod. If anyone has any ideas, knows how to do this process, or has websites that may help me please e-mail at

    Dinowarrior18@bellsouth.net or at Dinowarrior@hotmail.com

    I like to thank everyone in advance for the help.

    Like

  31. Pascal says:

    Hi 2gether!

    I’ve done a HDD replacement with a 2nd Generation IPod from 20 GB to 60 GB because my 20 GB HDD was broken…

    So I thought, I’ll just buy a 60 GB HDD.. ;-)

    I’ve read a lot about that replacement stuff and finally I succeeded…but there’s still ONE Limitation. I can’t use the firewire-interface! Well, too bad, because IPod 2nd Gen. has only firewire and no USB…So that’s my prob.

    I guess the problem is, that the IPod firmware blocks my HDD, because it’s not an “Apple-branded”. It’s obiously that it must be that limitation. So I can “load” music on my ipod, but only with my hdd-usb-adapter…if I put back the HDD into my Ipod there’s no prob – it goes as it should (unless firewire access)

    My question:
    – How can I clear that blockage?
    There are 2 ways:
    1. I modify the HDD Firmware
    2. I modify the IPod’s Firmware

    Has anyone any experience with that? Or generally with hex files? I’m a novice in that…
    Has anyone any idee how to solve that problem?

    Please mail at pasco[at]gmx.ch
    Thx in advance.

    Like

  32. iPod Super – 3.5″ hdd in an iPod

    Basically this guy broke his iPod’s hard drive and wanted to replace it.

    This project came about after I dropped my 40 GB 3rd generation iPod and killed the hard drive in it. I decided to open up the iPod and see what I could do with it. I c…

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  33. A reader sumitted (via Trackback) his completed iPod Super hack using an 80 GB Seagate drive, with pictures of iTunes using the drive as well. Check out his page and photos here.

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  34. P@sco says:

    Thx 4 this link. But this guy did it with an IPod higher than 2nd Gen. So it’s no problem via USB Interface..But I’ve got an 2nd Gen. So I can only use the Firewire Interface..I must. There is something about the HDD’s firmware, the product code or something similar must be altered..I’ve read it somewhere, but can’t find it anymore ;-(. And if I know I wouldn’t know how to reflash my S.M.A.R.T HDD with a modified Firmware via USB. Anyone knows a acurate application for that?! thx

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