Blog Post

iPod Death and Rebirth

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.

52 Responses to “iPod Death and Rebirth”

  1. Dropping the iPod after a frustrating trip to the Genius Bar (where I was told the hard drive was shot forever) was not only therapeutic–it fixed it! When I picked it up and hit the menu button, everything queued up as if nothing had ever happened. It’s charging happily on its stand, and I haven’t seen the iPod face of death since the fall.

    Thanks for saving me a couple hundred bucks.

  2. Just wanted to add that my husband used to work for Apple and when my 4th Gen photo died, I took it up to Apple and my husband and a fellow employee took it in the back and apparently gave it a good hard smack on a counter top and it sprang to life! I had to reload everything I’d put on it, but I got my iPod back. Even if it only bought a few more months of life, I’m happy because as soon as hubby gets the iPhone, I’m getting his 5th Gen video!

  3. Hey thats really funny I thought that I lost my ipod for good until I read about slamming it on the table… Well I did slam it and it came back on and I didnt lose any of my songs I had on it!!! Well I just want to say thanks for this information it really worked!!!

  4. rampancy

    Here’s another who can vouch for the technique of beating the tar out of a broken iPod. This is an old 1G of which I had the hard drive and battery replaced. While charging, I noticed that it would get very hot – it was then that I noticed the hard drive would fail. However, even when it cooled down it gave me either the sad iPod face or the Folder + Excalamtion Mark screen.

    One hard slam on my desk later (I recommend you leave it in an iSkin-type silicone rubber case of some sort!) it works, er…sort of…

  5. Thank you very much – my iPod did the same thing. I didn’t want to drop mine since it’s in near-perfect condition, so I put a towel on a table top and I banged the iPod on it’s back hard a few times. Shockingly it came back to life and it now seems perfectly fine. Thanks for the tip – Apple told me it couldn’t be fixed so I’m grateful now it works!

  6. Yes, this can work with any stuck hard drive (thought not all hard drive problems are caused by sticky heads). You can even do this with your laptop drives (but DO take them out of the laptop first!) So I found that claim that 5G iPods are immune to be incomprehensible. No hard drive is immune to this eventual form of failure, nor to possibly be revived by a good smack. (If just airing it out works, then it isn’t very serious YET. If you leave the hard drive powered up and going click-click-click for three hours, well, you have just delivered a wear and tear on that head (what is that, like 10,000 failed attempts to move itself? mechanical components don’t like this kind of thing) that is probably equivalent to dozens of hard raps, so just give it a single good rap and get it over with. Do NOT let any hard drive click away indefinitely for hours on end.

  7. Yo man, I have a 5th generation iPod (Photo iPod). I was having the exact same problem, and after reading this I neglected to read the very last paragraph which talks about how this technique would not work with a 5th gen; turns out I proved that theory wrong. I dropped that piece on the floor and it went right back to working properly. Good deal so far, hopefully it stays in working condition.

  8. I found myself in the very same predicament a couple of weeks ago. After a while, my iPod would only work if I held it on a certain angle. Subsequently, I gave it and purchased an 80GB Black iPod last week and I haven’t look back ever since.

  9. Yep. I’ve been having loads of problems with my 60G iPod Photo and every time it goes crazy on me I try a series of restarts, switching between a usb connect to my computers and a firewire connect, and failing these I will give that little jerk a few hardy slaps and the occasion, “oh… someone wants to fall out of my hand onto the floor… well… ok… oops *smack*” … The next thing you know, resurrection! I suppose it is comforting in some morbid way to know others have discovered a similar violent fix to these issues. Anyone want to buy an ipod? haha

  10. My 3rd and 4th Generation iPods stopped working a couple times in my life and the way I always fixed mine was very similar to yours. I basically just took an exacto knife and got right in between the white and the silver part of the ipod, opened the “pod” right up and let it air out all day. I closed it back up the next day and it was working perfectly again. : ) I’m glad yours is back to normal.

  11. Amazing – it really worked. I’ve had a 4G iPod laying dead for more than a year. I turned it on and slammed it on the desk twice, and it worked as described. The sad mac changed to the folder icon, and iTunes offered to restore it. I’m copying music onto it right now, and it seems to work – fingers crossed.

  12. DBL, I’m not in any state of misguided utopia. My hope is that I can extend the life of the patient for another product generation, or at least until Apple delivers a widescreen iPod (sans iPhone). If I bought an 80 GB iPod Video today, and the next rev came out shortly after, I’d certainly be disappointed. I like your idea of hoisting on someone else though. Maybe I should wipe the drive and eBay it to some poor sucker. (Not really)

  13. I had a 4G 40GB ipod stop working on me. I bought a 5g 60GB to replace, and the old one sat in a box for 4 months until I read somewhere that hitting it on the right side fixes most of them. It was a brick for me anyway, so I put a book on the table (didn’t want to damage my coffee table or floors) and gave it one good whack. It came up, and to make a long story short, needed it’s firmware reloaded. I now have a working 40GB that is a great place to back stuff up. Could it be that ipods are like cats, and they have more than one life?

  14. I’m sorry to have to tell you that this was just the equivalent of shocking the patient with paddles in an emergency room. Your iPod gets to live a little longer, but it still has heart disease. I would just be thankful that I got my data back and replace the thing immediately. Turn it in for the $35 (better than foisting it on somebody else).

  15. Yeah, I had something similar on my 3G. After not using it for a week or two, I hooked it up to my MBP. Nothing appeared on the screen, but I could hear the hard drive clicking inside. I considered it dead, but left it hooked up anyway.

    Three hours later, it whirred back to life.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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…

  23. Steven Jobs

    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.

  24. 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.