iPod, Troubleshooting Your iPod

There are some common issues that plague iPods at some time or other and thankfully, there are user prescribed fixes for these issues. All of the iPod range, at press time, contain Microdrives with the exception of the iPod shuffle and nano which store your tunes on a flash drive. One of the first things to check when your iPod begins to behave strangely, is the physical condition of your iPod and this applies mainly for Microdrive-based iPods.

The process is simple. Simply lift the iPod to your ear, placing the backplate of the iPod on your hear and listen. If you hear clicking and gnashing sounds then there is a high likelihood that your iPod’s Microdrive has suffered a hardware failure stemming from a failed Microdrive. Such damage is not user fixable and must be brought to an authorised Apple Service Provider for inspection followed by the necessary considerations either for repair or replacement.

20051115083322461_2Repair or replacement can usually, only be brought into the picture if your iPod is still within its initial 1 year warranty period (proven by producing your receipt) otherwise, its a good idea to protect your substantial iPod investment by purchasing an AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod, which extends both the initial 1 year warranty and 90 days telephone support to 2 years. This AppleCare package must be bought and implemented within the 1st year of your iPod purchase.

Aside from a total physical hardware failure, there are some software troubleshooting methods that iPod users can attempt to carry out before making that laborious call to AppleCare or visiting your local Apple Service Provider…

Common iPod Ailments

The list of issues that can arise with iPods is non-exhaustive but in this article, we attempt to deal with some of the more common issues that iPod users tend to face including:

  • not being able to see the iPod on their system;
  • a folder icon blinks on your iPod screen when the iPod is activated;
  • iPod appears to have hung; not displaying feedback despite depressing all the button interfaces on the iPod;

The user applicable remedies described hereafter are listed in ascending order of the level of intrusiveness and response to the severity of the iPod issue. Try the earlier solutions first before heading down the list.


Resetting iPod

It is a non-destructive remedy, in that the contents of the iPod (your tunes, contact and calendar details) are preserved after the reset process. This action also does not require interaction between the iPod and a Mac/Windows system but can be carried out using only the iPod itself.

It is usually carried out by holding down a combination of the iPod interface buttons, varying between different models and generations of iPods. Nevertheless, the combination usually involves a pair of either the Menu/Select/Play or Pause buttons on the iPod. Details for resetting your iPods in the table below.

When to do this: This is carried out when the iPod itself appears frozen or non-responsive to interactions with its user interface.

Although, this may sound redundant but before resetting your iPod, its probably a good thing to check that your iPod’s Hold switch is NOT in the locked position — this can be a cause for the seemingly non-responsive iPod.

iPod Appearance Version of iPod Reset Combination Buttons
20051115083322461_3iPod With Click Wheel iPod mini, iPod mini (2nd Generation), iPod with colour display (iPod Photo), iPod (Click Wheel), iPod nano, 5th Generation iPod (iPod Video) Toggle the Hold switch on and off. (Slide it to Hold, then turn it off again.) Press and hold the Menu and Select buttons until the Apple logo appears, about 6 to 10 seconds. You may need to repeat this step.
20051115083322461_4iPod, iPod (scroll wheel), iPod (touch wheel) and iPod (dock connector) iPod mini, iPod mini (2nd Generation), iPod with colour display (iPod Photo), iPod (Click Wheel), iPod nano, 5th Generation iPod (iPod Video) Toggle the Hold switch on and off. (Slide it to Hold, then turn it off again.) Press and hold the Play/Pause and Menu buttons until the Apple/iPod logo appears, about 6 to 10 seconds. You may need to repeat this step.

If identifying your iPod still seems sketchy then it taking a peek at the Apple Kbase article on identifying different models of iPods might leave you with a clearer view.

Note: if the iPod doesn’t seem to respond to the reset and persists to stare back at you without any reaction, there is little chance that the proceeding remedy will be able to work. As painful as it sounds, you might have to leave the iPod until the battery is completely drained (since the battery cannot be physically removed) and attempt to perform either a reset or restore later.
Flashing iPod Firmware (Restoring Your iPod)

This is more a ‘last resort’ remedy when all else fails as it is a destructive process which returns your iPod to its factory default settings. Effectively destroying your data and preference settings contained within your iPod.

To flash your iPod’s firmware you will need the latest version of the iPod Software Updater (see: Diagram 1.2). Apple preiodically releases newer versions of its iPod Software Updater which can be used both to ‘update’ and ‘restore’ your iPod. The iPod Software Updater can either be acquired through the automatic Software Update function in Mac OS X (click Software Update in the Apple menu in the top left hand corner of your Mac OS X screen) or by manually downloading it from the Apple iPod Download page.

Some important points to note when using the iPod Software Updater:

  • ‘update’ -simply updates the software that controls iPod and may also update the firmware for the hard drive. Update does not affect the songs and files stored on iPod’s hard disk
  • ‘restore’ – erases the hard disk and restores iPod to its original factory condition. Because Restore erases all of the songs and files on the hard disk, make sure to back up your songs and files first
  • the iPod Software Updater can be used on all versions/generations of iPod

When to do this:

  • not being able to see the iPod on your system;
  • a folder icon blinks on your iPod screen when the iPod is activated;

iPods have had an almost flawless interaction with Mac systems but a reputation for complexity when it comes to Windows. Despite Apple’s best efforts, most Windows systems are comprised of a smorgasbord of Original Equipment Manufactuer (OEM) bits and pieces, making it difficult to ensure adherence to industry accepted standards and that’s without even mentioning the follies of the operating system itself. In some cases, the iPod may, for all intents and purposes, appear to have been recognised by the Windows operating system (appearing in the list of devices in Windows’ Device Manager interface) but fail to appear in iTunes or listed as a mounted hard drive in Windows Explorer. In such instances, flashing the firmware (restoring) the iPod has been known as a viable remedy.



If you have already acquired the latest version of the iPod Updater Software through the automatic Software Update feature of Mac OS X, you can launch the application from the Application/Utilities folder. Once the application is launched follow the steps outlined in Apple’s Kbase article, Restoring iPod to factory settings.

The remedies outline above is good enough to fix most iPod issues. Anything that cannot be remedied using the above methods usually requires the intervention of AppleCare or an Apple Service Provider.
Related Apple Kbase Articles:

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