Is my iPod dead?
April 2, 2006 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Is my iPod's hard drive dead?

A few months ago my 4th gen 40GB click wheel HP iPod stopped playing in the middle of a song and the controls stopped responding. The hard drive started making a clicking noise, very soft but a definite shouldn't-make-this-noise kind of clicking. After letting it sit for 10 minutes or so it resumed playing normally. This happened three or four times, weeks apart from each other, but always resumed playing.

Last weekend it stopped playing and showed the folder with exclamation point icon. After letting it sit for a bit, the icon went away, all of the controls respond properly, and it pretends to play, but no sound comes through the earphones. If I put the iPod up to my ear, it doesn't sound like the hard drive is spinning, but if I shake it (when the power is off) there is a teeny tiny rattling sound, as if there is a loose piece inside.

If I plug it into the computer, either my computer at home or at work (WinXP and Win2k, respectively), using either the USB or Firewire ports, it will charge and give me the "Do Not Disconnect" message, but iTunes does not recognize it. And the hard drive clicks like it did before. It appears in My Computer as a drive letter, but I cannot open the drive.

I have reset it and tried restoring it with iPod Updater, but the software doesn't recognize it, either. I've put it into diagnostics mode and all of the scans, including the HDD Scan, report that all is A-OKAY.

It is one year and three months old, and therefore past its warranty. Is it really dead even though it pretends to work? Should I try prying the cover off to see what might be rattling? Should I just toss it and swallow a few hundred and get a new one?
posted by rhapsodie to Technology (12 answers total)
...if I shake it (when the power is off) there is a teeny tiny rattling sound, as if there is a loose piece inside.

FWIW they all do that, even the good ones.
posted by markmillard at 3:23 PM on April 2, 2006

Yup, sounds like your HD is dead. Too bad its out of warranty, I've had this happen to some friends (while under warranty) and Apple sent them new replacements. Toss it (or sell dead iPod L@@K on ebay, sure someone will have a use for it) and get a new one.
posted by special-k at 3:40 PM on April 2, 2006

from what you've described, the drive is definately dead. it's not uncommon for them to go out fairly slowly like that. you can replace the drive but it'd probably not be cost-effective. best to get a new one and sell the old one on eBay. someone might buy it for the electronics and/or case if it's in good condition.

the rattle sound is normal - my fifth-gen 30GB does it as does my 4GB mini. it is very faint, though. many laptop hard drives make the same noises.
posted by mrg at 3:46 PM on April 2, 2006

My iPod, about the same age as yours, did the same thing a few months ago. One piece of advice that I found online was to drop it on a hard surface from a few inches (once you've determined that its not going to get any more dead). I ended up whacking the hell out of it on my desk and restoring the software. I was mostly doing so out of frustration, but after several whacks, it worked. According to the comments on the page that suggesting this iPod abuse, this seemed to be a miracle cure fomany.

Now, it's started to go out sporadically again. I'm sick of all my music anyway.
posted by bibliowench at 5:14 PM on April 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Mine did this and for various reasons it sat unused for a few months. Then I found the original charger and plugged it in and it started up and has been working fine for the better part of a year.
posted by fshgrl at 5:28 PM on April 2, 2006

Mine died last week once I finally changed the dying battery out. Now I hear the same death rattle, and get same error message.

Looks like there is still a reasonable value if you post on ebay.

//waiting for the new Ipod to be released
posted by vaportrail at 5:45 PM on April 2, 2006

I don't want to start a debate here, but how soon is too soon for such an expensive machine to die? How do other players compare in regard to life span?
posted by i8ny3x at 5:56 PM on April 2, 2006

Mine did a similar thing - it was not being recognised by i-tunes and causing crashes on my computer. I ran it flat a couple of times over a week, plugged it again and it was recognized by the iPod updater. I immediately reformatted it and now it works fine. No idea if the running flat achieved anything at all...

i8ny3x - I'm starting to have suspicions about the iPod myself. Maybe this cool piece of technology is actually a piece of crap - there seems to be an awful lot of malfunctions. But then again maybe it is just teething problems - after all, we are now carrying around hard drives for the first time in history...
posted by meech at 7:50 PM on April 2, 2006

Mine periodically does exactly the same thing, and I have found that thumping it reasonably hard on one side or the other gets it back on track and playing normally. It has been taking this abuse for months now, and a hard enough thump has worked every single time, with no other detrimental effects.
posted by mayfly wake at 12:01 AM on April 3, 2006

I had the exact same problem with my 4th gen 40gb iPod. The problem started after rebooting the computer without unmounting the iPod first. It would periodically work, then die, then come back to life. On one of its good days I did a full reset and installed the latest iPod Updater. It's been working great since.
posted by chrisch at 12:38 AM on April 3, 2006

When you hear a nasty grinding noise, then the HD really is dead. The clicking is usually caused by a bad sector somewhere in the 32MB firmware partition that is right at the start of the disk or in the file allocation table within the main song partition.

The way to fix this is to completely reformat the drive and map out the bad sectors. The problem is that the Apple updater, which recreates the partitions, does not do a surface scan to find and map out bad sectors.

The best solution is to do a complete format of the disk using a lower-level utility. It's better again if you remove the drive from the iPod and access it using a direct interface and not go through Apple's rather fussy removable USB interface.

The reason that 2nd hand iPods have quite a high resale value on eBay is because it is so easy to fix this "click of death" problem.
posted by meehawl at 3:56 AM on April 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Follow-up questions (provided anyone will look at this again):

If I chose to try and format the disk completely (even though the sound is more of a crunching than a clicking), how would I go about a low level format?

If I do choose to sell it on eBay, is there any legal issue with the files still on the hard drive but may or may not be accessible?
posted by rhapsodie at 1:13 PM on April 3, 2006

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