Earlier this week, after arriving in San Diego for a tradeshow, I was struck with the real horror that my 60 GB iPod Photo had died. It had frozen up, and when I manually reset it, I was greeted with a “Sad iPod” icon, and a […]

sadipodEarlier this week, after arriving in San Diego for a tradeshow, I was struck with the real horror that my 60 GB iPod Photo had died. It had frozen up, and when I manually reset it, I was greeted with a “Sad iPod” icon, and a URL instructing me to visit Apple’s iPod support site. No manner of clicking or key combos would change the fate. Charging the iPod didn’t make a difference, nor did connecting it to my laptop in a futile attempt to load its contents.

I was sure I had lost it for good. (See: Today, My iPod Left to a Higher Place) One friend of mine even said I should just take it in to the Apple Store and get $35 from Apple to recycle my dead iPod.

Another guy, laughing, said “Did you slam it on a table? That worked for me.” Right. That’s like checking out a used car by kicking the tires. Yet, yesterday, after I had convinced myself I was ready to upgrade to an 80 GB iPod Video, I tried something just like that. I dropped the iPod.

When I dropped it, the screen flickered to life and went into Diagnostic Mode. A few clicks later, and I had my iPod back to life as if nothing had ever happened. Despite six days of assured fatality, it had come back. I hurriedly connected to my PowerBook to back up any data I didn’t have. While on first connect it said the iPod was potentially corrupt, I unplugged and connected again, and we were back in business. Not because I went to the Genius Bar or ran any kind of software utility, but because I had given it a vertical free-fall.

Relaying my success, I called one unnamed Apple Store Employee, who said, “Of course. Banging it on the table works with the 3rd gen and 4th gen iPods, but not the 5th.” Needless to say, I didn’t see anything about dropping my iPod on Apple’s Support pages, but it did work. Now, I’ll continue backing up my data ever more frequently, but I’ve emotionally moved on past my current iPod. After all, it tried to leave me.

  1. That’s too funny. Good ole’ American engineering. Or German… I fixed a VW taillight by kicking it once. Maybe this can be called iPod CPR: Central Processor Recovery.

  2. i had the same a while back. It was already 2 years old so i got myself a nano. curiueus to see the inside i opend my ipod and when i put it on my computer it just worked:D.

  3. dropping it is a good way to break it worse…just slap it against your palm firmly (and don’t drop it) I fixed many many 3&4 gens as an Apple employee this way, as well as my own iPod…

  4. Back in the late 90’s, I worked for an online gaming company and we had some SGI refrigerator boxes running the games. We had some issues with some IBM HDD’s were we had to “whack” the drives to get them working again. We would take the drive out, hit it against our leg a couple of times, then place it back in the box.

    This is what the SGI servers rep did and told us to do. We looked at him in horror, but sure enough, it worked. This was a problem with the IBM drives we had in the SGI box. It’s just not something you would expect to hear from a service rep.

  5. Colin, you’re right to mention the delicacy of slapping the iPod versus dropping it. I should admit that I had intended to smack it against the counter, but managed to drop it first, and that’s what actually fixed it. Call it dumb luck.

  6. The term ‘fix’ is erroneous in this case. The problem here, typically, is that the swing arm heads of the HDD in the ipods are getting stuck to the platters due to excessive heat. Smacking, slamming, and dropping the iPod can sometimes jar it loose, but you do risk further damaging the mechanisms of the drive. You should take this as a sign that perhaps it is time to a) perform a backup or frequently backup, b) buy a replacement drive as these iPods are easy enough to crack open and swap out drives, or c) get that new iPod. Don’t count on that thing running forever!

  7. I did this, too. My 4th Gen iPod did the exact same thing, sad face and all. A friend had a bandmate that had dropped his iPod, resulting in bringing it back to life as well. So I figured “What the hell?” and tried it since my year was up and I forgot to add AppleCare (first mistake). I hit it hard on my hand a few times and eventually dropped it on the coffee table from a very low height, with my trusty Timbuk2 case still around it. It worked for several months, but eventually died completely as the hard drive still clicked and whirred until it never worked again.

    I wouldn’t expect yours to be a permanent fix, but hopefully it keeps going for you. I eventually had to get a 5th gen video.

  8. My 4g non-color gave me the folder exclamation point, I dropped it flat onto a table from about 4 inches, and it worked until I tried to put some new music on it, when it did it again. Then I tried slapping, hitting, dropping, and various combinations thereof until I finally ended up with non-stop hard drive clicking. RIP, iPod.

  9. methodshop.com has a great tutorial on getting any iPod into diagnostic mode. It’s helped me out more than once.


  10. Same thing here … but mine eventually died. Had a 30gb iPod Photo that started the click-whir thing, sad iPod icon, all the same. Smacking it on my hand worked well. Also sometimes, plugging it into the wall power source did as well. Plugging it into my Mac never helped as it wasn’t recognized by the Mac as even been attached to it.

    Eventually smacking it, nor plugging it in fixed it. Funnily enough, I dropped mine while I was smacking it the last time, and it split into pieces. I’m using an old b/w 2nd gen now awaiting a time when hard drives in iPods are no more.

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