Can a 4G iPod work with a CF card instead of an HDD?
July 1, 2011 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Things to do with a lobotomized iPod 4G? I pulled out the hard drive, put an a CF card, and now, no matter how often I restore it, can't get it to work as an iPod, even though my PC can read and write to the drive. Can it work with this setup?

I have an old 4G iPod - the model just before it went color, so 40GB, clikc wheel, greyscale screen. Recently (by which I mean over the last couple of years - it's an old device), the 1.8" mechanical hard drive started skipping, locking up and becoming increasingly useless. So, having a bit of spare time last week, I cracked it open, pulled the drive out and replaced it with an 8GB CompactFlash card I had lying about using a generic adaptor.

I sealed it back up and turned it on, expecting to have to restore it (at the very least). It booted, showed the Apple logo, and then went to the sad folder icon. So, I plugged it in to my Macbook Pro (iTunes 10.3, OS 10.6.8) and restored it. iTunes can see it, restore it and sync to it, and when I activate disk mode I can see it in the drive structure as an iPod, but whenever I unplug it after restoring and syncing I get the sad folder icon again.

I've tried restoring it with Windows, putting Rockbox on it (install seems to work, but the sad folder again), YamiPod (doesn't recognize it) and iPodLinux (doesn't install due to an error reading firmware) - no luck so far. It connects, it goes "OK to disconnect", but then, when it restarts, sad folder icon again.

I don't need this device, but I am curious about what can be done with it. I don't seem to have killed anything with the dismantling and reassembly. Is it just that it can't cope with CompactFlash memory? I've seen this done with video iPods, but never with a 4G. Everything else seems to work on the hardware side, still - the screen, the click wheel and so on.

Am I missing something obvious, or should I just stop messing with obsolete technology and get rid of it. If so, is there anything else fun to do with an 8GB CompactFlash card? Or a memoryless iPod?
posted by running order squabble fest to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some potentially helpful information in the comments in this Instructable.
posted by quarterframer at 1:17 PM on July 1, 2011

The page he links to emphasizes that the CF has to be ATA compatible. A 8G CF sounds like it's pretty old, and it may not have that all-critical ATA compatibility.

Any chance of borrowing, or buying, a newer (bigger!) CF?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:25 PM on July 1, 2011

Response by poster: Other way around, I think - ATA compatibility is being phased out of CF cards in favour of SATA interfaces now. I was wondering about that ATA compatibility issue, but the drive interface seems to work fine - the drive syncs with iTunes and appears as a drive, which is what I'd expect to also be impaired by a lack of compatibility. I've popped the card, so I'll see if I can google it for specs - it's a regular Kingston card, and while I'm here I may as well see what happens if I put the old drive back in. If it works, at least insofar as it worked previously, then it's something about the card. If not, I may just have killed something while prodding it with a screwdriver.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:51 AM on July 2, 2011

Response by poster: Brief update - replacing the original, borked hard drive produces a sad iPod icon - which is what I was expecting. Which I think means that the problem is something to do with the ability of the iPod to read the folders on the drive, rather than the drive itself - which makes sense, given that the CF drive is completely readable and writeable in the file structure of any device it's plugged into. Basically, right now I have a very big and beautifully designed jump drive.

I think, having synced, resynced, formatted, reformatted and installed alternative firmware that the problem is somewhere other than the drive, and somewhere other than the adaptor card (although trying to work out which jumper position is master and which slave is an adventure in itself). I could test that theory, but I think only by trying either another CF card or another 1.8" drive, neither of which I have to hand...

(The only other thing I haven't been able to do is connect it to the original iPod power supply when restored - no idea where that's gone. This is from pre-USB-only days, when your iPod came with a mains-to-firewire adaptor...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:40 AM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: And... while fiddling, I killed that ZIF housing on the main board, so that's pretty much that. Ah, well. Thanks for the thoughts...
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:40 PM on August 1, 2011

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