iPod Mini Microdrive Replacement
This article covers replacing the iPod Mini Hitachi Microdrive with a standard flash based Compact Flash Card. The replacement covers both the first and second generation iPod Mini. Replacing the Microdrive with a standard flash based card is an inexpensive way to fix a broken Mini.
Tests have been run on a first generation Mini with a 512 MByte PNY card, a 256 MByte CompUSA generic card, a 64 MByte Lexar card, a 96 MByte Lexar Card, and a 1 GByte SanDisk
Ultra II card. Of the cards, only the SanDisk
Ultra II card worked. The initial guess why the Ultra II card is the only card that works is the iPod Mini requires the full TrueIDE spec implemented on the card.
Topram 32GB card worked in 2g Mini.
A-Data 16GB "speedy" brand CF worked on a 1g Mini.
Hama High Speed "pro" CF 8 GB card worked on a 1g Mini.
Transcend 32GB 133x CF card worked on a 2g Mini using procedure found in geektechnique.org (see below) for OF; then installing Rockbox using 2g bootloader found in FS#8901 (r18006).
Komputerbay 128GB CF Card 600X worked on a 1g Mini. Detects in iTunes as a 128GB Mini, on the device detects as 120GB. Transfer rate in Windows ranges from 2MB/s to 6MB/s, takes 3 to 6 seconds to prebuffer/begin playing songs in Rockbox v3.1.3. UPDATE: It seems a bit buggy. On boot it shows the Apple Folder error. The way around this is: On reboot hold the select button until the backlight comes on then release. This will boot Rockbox. Hold the Menu button to boot OF. [6/22/2013]
Regardless of which CF card is used, you may first have to upgrade the iPod via iTunes to a firmware more recent than version 1.3 (something in the iPod flash boot that doesn't work with CF in early software).
Additional tests have been run by Primož Kranjec on the second generation Mini. His results are in the email correspondence below.
Tests showed the Apple OS operating as expected. Rockbox froze after about 10 seconds of drive inactivity. When Rockbox sends the ATA sleep command the flash drive stops responding. The patch below resolves this issue by disabling the ATA sleep command as is done on the iPod Nano.
Current SVN should now be compatible with CF cards, and this patch should no longer be required (not tested, let us know) -- PeterDHoye
- 19 Mar 2008 (this predates current "stable" 3.6-3.7)
Note that if intense database activity seems to "freeze" Rockbox with stable 3.7.1 and older: the drive icon appears, and the player becomes unresponsive. If this happens to you, a hard reboot should solve it. You may need to trigger a database upgrade, but at this point it should complete successfully. This can be caused by a corrupted file system (FAT32 is notoriously fragile), and also the playback time stats (this bug was solved at the very least in SVN, in 3.8.1 too probably).
In short, a full install for a CF card should be thus:
- update your iPod Mini to the latest Apple firmware (meaning connect Mini to iTunes, complete the upgrade, then plug into a wall socket for the Mini to do its thing)
- turn it off completely and lock it, then disassemble the Mini (several tutorials are available: see below)
- replace the original drive with the card (you will need to remove the stickers from the drive, then the CF connector): mind the orientation! Sticker on top!
- if you've gone that far, you may also want to replace the battery now...
- reassemble the iPod (at least until you've reconnected the clickwheel, you can forego the top screws for now)
- restore the Apple firmware (same as first step)
- See if your Mini works with the original firmware: send some music, and start playback.
If it doesn't, ouch: your CF card is incompatible. Stop here, and revert to the other drive (or try another CF card). Otherwise, continue:
- do a complete format of the drive ( important! Especially if the CF is new! It'll take a while, but bear with it)
- install Rockbox as usual - stable version 3.8.1 or later recommended
- copy your music to the drive
- trigger a database generation (cached in RAM, reduces amount of disk access)
- start playback, at least a full album; if it has very long tracks, it's even better.
If all of this happens without problem:
- finish reassembling the Mini: the top screws, and plastic covers can go back in.
Congratulations, you now have a Flash-based Mini! Enjoy 3 times more playback time than before!
Links to other documented drive changes:
These Links were dead and have been revived via The Internet Archive:
The information below comes from Primož Kranjec regarding the second generation IPod Mini. I will just post his messages for now (unfortunately I lost my replies, but his emails contain the substance):
- Email 1 (8/20/2006):
I would like to ask you a question regarding this topic:
Here you wrote that you changed the microdrive in the
ipod mini with a compact flash card. I would like to
ask you, which generation of the ipod mini do you have
(the 1st or the 2nd generation), because I am trying to
do the same thing and it doesn't want to work (I tried
with a 1GB Kingston card and two Sandisk ones (64
and 128MB) (it doesn't connect to the computer under
linux or windows)). The best result was when I
partitioned my CF card under linux (with a card reader)
and put the original firmware onto the card. The ipod
booted (Apple OS) and I could choose the language,
play games,... But it doesn't connect to the computer
(windows or linux). Also when I reboot the ipod I have
to select the language again. Could the reason for the
cards not working in the ipod be that I have the 2nd
generation one (others that tried to do this with a 2nd
gen mini were also unsuccesseful, while the ones that
worked don't say if it is a 1st or 2nd gen mini)?
- Email 2 (8/21/2006):
One of the Sandisk cards is old and one is new
(assuming by the picture on the front). I ordered one
Ultra II card on eBay (there are a lot of fakes around,
but I think I'll get an original). The weird thing is, the
card can be read and it plays music just fine, but it
cannot be written to (via the ipod).
P.S.: I'm starting to think my 64mb Sandisk card is
a fake, as it has got all of the "faults" (it has got some
things written on it that shouldn't be there, and it
hasn't got some things written on it that should be
there. Also the image on front is not centered.). I'll
check my 128mb card later.
- Email 3 (8/31/2006):
I received my CF card from Hong Kong today, and it
works! I updated it, and iTunes is loading some music
onto it right now. 1GB card for 35$ USD shipped, that
actually works in a 2nd generation ipod mini :). I think
this information should be posted somewhere, so
people can know, that they can put a CF card into
both generations of ipod mini.
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