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iPod 3G Compact Flash Mod

post #1 of 107
Thread Starter 
I had an ipod 3rd gen lying around and wanted to do the compact flash conversion that everyone has been doing. From reading around, I thought it would be a simple mod (at least for the mini, 4G and 5G). But after replacing the HDD with a CF card and restoring it, the ipod displayed a progress bar and then restarted in an endless loop (apparently, a common issue with the 3G).

I found this guide, but in the end it didn't work for me either. After half a day of frustration and a lot head banging, I got it to work. To spare anyone who's interested in this mod a headache, this is what finally worked for me.

What you'll need:
- ipod 3G
- CF card
- CF adapter
- external charger
- a working HDD or the copied firmware from another ipod 3G
- a computer with Ubuntu (any Unix based machine should work, Mac included, but I'm not sure of the exact commands for them)
- iTunes

Make sure you have a fully charged battery before proceeding.

For those with a working HDD, otherwise, go to step 3:
1) Open iTunes and update to the latest firware.
2) Remove all songs from your ipod

3) Turn off you ipod and remove the HDD, and install the CF card. Depending on which adapter you bought, there may be 4 or 6 pins that will be unused. (Mine indicated where pin 1 was so I aligned it to that pin when I plugged it into the slot for the HDD.)
4) Connect to iTunes and it will ask you to restore the ipod. Once completed, it will ask you to disconnect the ipod and plug it into an external charger. Once you do so, the restore process will proceed, except that it will show the progress bar and restart in an endless loop.
5) Disconnect it from the charger and the ipod will turn off.

Now, you need to get onto a machine with Ubuntu.

For those with a working HDD, otherwise, go to step 12:
6) Remove the CF card and reinstall the HDD. The ipod should boot up normally once again.
7) Plug the ipod into the Linux machine.
8) Open up the ipod as a disk and back up all the folders on it. They should be small since you've removed all the songs. (Make sure to copy all the hidden files also if you're on a Mac.)
9) Open up a terminal and as root, or using sudo, enter

# dmesg | tail
Initializing USB Mass Storage driver...
usb.c: registered new driver usb-storage
scsi1 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
Vendor: Apple Model: ipod Rev: 1.63
Type: Direct-Access ANSI SCSI revision: 02
Attached scsi removable disk sda at scsi1, channel 0, id 0, lun 0
SCSI device sda: 39063024 512-byte hdwr sectors (20000 MB)
sda: Write Protect is off
sda: sda1 sda2
WARNING: USB Mass Storage data integrity not assured
USB Mass Storage device found at 15
USB Mass Storage support registered.
Note that the ipod is connected at sda1 and sda2

10) Now we will backup the firmware using the dd command. Normally it will be the first of the two partitions, but if the process takes longer than 30 seconds, hit Ctrl+C to stop the process. If it has copied more than 50MB, we're copying the wrong partition and try the other partition.

# dd if=/dev/sda1 of=backup_firmware
11) With the firmware backed up, safely disconnect the ipod and replace the HDD with the CF card.

12) Restart the ipod and it will ask you to plug it into the external charger again. Do so. When the apple logo appears, hold the FWD, REV, and SELECT button until the screen goes blank, when you release it, it will beep and put you into diagnostic mode. Use the REV/FWD buttons to navigate the menu and SELECT the USB DISK mode. Plug the ipod into the Linux machine and enter

# dmesg | tail
13) Check where the ipod is mounted, it was in the same location for me. Now copy the firmware back onto the CF

# dd if=backup_firmware of=/dev/sda1
14) Open up the ipod as a disk and copy the folders that you copied earlier back.
15) Safely disconnect the ipod. You're almost done. Scroll to RESET and restart the ipod. If things went well, you've got a working CF based ipod!

All that's left now is the diyMod
post #2 of 107

CF Adapter Part number

Does anyone have a part number and store where I can buy the CF adapter for a 3G iPod? Tarkan Akdam doesn't sell his Mk 1 any more.
post #3 of 107
Thread Starter 
You can get a CF adapter on dealextreme.com for $5.30 shipped.
post #4 of 107
Looks like a good mod.

I've read reports that once you replace your 3g iPods hard drive with a custom one, you will no longer be able to sync over firewire (e.g. Cannot charge 3G iPod via USB2, cannot use replacement drive in Firewire mode [Archive] - The macosxhints Forums). This leaves you with the problem of having to charge over firewire, but having to sync over usb. Can you confirm?

post #5 of 107
Great post. Thanks!
post #6 of 107
is there any vendors who can help to do the mod for it? v tempting :P
post #7 of 107
tiny tidbit of the day: a thin strip of electrical tape, just enough to cover the 2 middle contacts on the usb plug, is enough to fool the ipod into thinking that you're using an external power supply. so an external charger is unnecessary.
post #8 of 107
darkfury18, Excellent DIY post!!!

I have acquired a 16GB CF card, and CF adapter, but now stuck at step 6 because I do not have a working Harddisk to copy files from....

Can you post, or send me a zip file containing the files/folders backed up in step 8, and the firmware image dd'd in step 10 ?

Without these I'm hopelessly stuck as I don't have a friend with a working 3G ipod

Thank you!!!
post #9 of 107
Ok, I figured out how to get the CF upgrade to work on my 3G iPod WITHOUT needing to clone firmware and files from a working harddisk.

1) Follow steps 3 through 5 in darkfury18's DIY post. (This will successfully restored your iPod and update the internal boot flash, but at this point the ipod will be stuck in an update loop. The follow steps will correct this problem.)

6) Put iPod into Diagnostic mode. (HOWTO: With all cables disconnected from the 3G iPod, Turn on iPod by pressing MENU button, then as soon as the APPLE LOGO appears, simultaneous press REW / FFW / SELECT buttons and then release them before the CONNECTOR ICON appears. You may have to repeat the several times until you get the hang of it.)

7) Put iPod into Disk mode. (HOWTO: Use FFW key to scroll down until you see USB DISK MODE and then press SELECT button.)

8) Now connect iPod USB connection cable to you windows PC. iTunes should load and then indicate you need to restore your ipod. Just go ahead and cancel and exit iTunes.

9) Start up ipod wizard. (free download from iPodWizard) Select UPDATER tab and then select "Extract firmware binary from your iPod". And Save to a file. (The file size should be about 4MB, if not, try extracting a 2nd time as this is what I had to do.)

10) Load the saved firmware file into a hex editor and modify the byte at offset 0x4230. It will be 0x00, change it to 0x01. Save your modified firmware to a file. (Here is a free hex editor that works for this task Freeware Hex Editor XVI32 )

11) Use ipod wizard to write this modified firmware back to you ipod. (HOWTO: Select "Firmware" in the "Edit Mode" drop down box. Press "Open Firmware" and then select the modified firmware file. Then select "Write To iPod". And exit ipod wizard.

12) Now eject your iPod using "Safely Remove Hardware" in windows system tray, and then unplug you USB connection from the iPod.

13) Now reset your iPod. (HOWTO: For the 3G, press and holding iPod MENU and PLAY/PAUSE buttons simultanesouly until ipod reboots to APPLE LOGO and then release)

14) iPod should boot up to its menu screen now!!!

15) You can now reconnect the iPod to you windows PC and itunes should now allow you to setup and sync you iPod.

FYI: What we have done here is manually set a flag indicating that the iPod flash update is completed. For some reason the 3G firmware has problems doing this itself. It may have something to do with the compact flash modules head/sector/track defaults, ...my speculation. (Note that this is not a problem when putting a CF in an iPod mini, so seem something peculiar to the 3G iPod.) If in the future you want to do a Restore/Update in iTunes, you will need to do this procedure again.
post #10 of 107
Hey there,

I'm gonna try these steps with my 4G iPod, I think, because I cannot get it to work.. It just reboots in an endless loop, showing the apple logo, then the broken file logo then blank screen and repeat indefinitely. If I reboot it, it shows me the "battery dead" sign, even though the battery works.. Stupid iPod, I nearly smashed it, I'll try some of these steps but I don't hold out too much hope..

That CF adapter you have, darkfury18, looks exactly like mine! I got it from dealextreme. Is it the adapter's fault? Would I be better off just buying a better one?? Also, do you have it set to slave or master? Or does it not matter? And do the LEDs come on when it's working or when it's NOT working?

Ahem, ok, sorry for all the questions...
post #11 of 107
Also, do you have it set to slave or master?
Master. i.e., put on the jumper.

And do the LEDs come on when it's working or when it's NOT working?
LED on the adapter card is on when the CF card is being accessed. Does not indicated success or failure, just accessed.
post #12 of 107
Any updates? Success?
post #13 of 107
Thanks for the step by step, robertsp and darkfury18! I had a dead HDD in my 3g iPod and was bashing my head against the wall for a few days trying to figure this out. My once long dead (been sitting in my closet for almost three years) 15GB 3G iPod is now alive with the help of a 32GB aData (speedy) CF card! Now to install Rockbox and tote around some FLAC.

A quick question though, what's everyone else who did this mod getting for battery life?
post #14 of 107
Great work getting this mod to work on a 3G. This mod works the best on an ipod mini if you know someone that has one or you have one lying around. The mini-HDD pin attachments hooks up directly to the CF. I have mine with a 32gb CF and rockbox for my Flac files, and a larger battery. Apparently the audio out of the mini leaves a bit to be desired but using the lineout with a mod will negate most of the bad things I've heard about the headphone jack I think.

With Rockbox most people see the battery life halved from the standard Apple firmware. I'm pretty sure according to Rockbox the Apple firmware can do on-the-fly adjustments to the ipod processor speed saving battery power while Rockbox doesn't have access to the code to be able to do this so the processor stays at a locked speed the whole time. On my ipod mini I get about 5.5 hrs of battery life, but thats with a 900 mAH battery I think.
post #15 of 107
smrtby123: Thanks for letting me know what your battery life is. I've read a lot about the Mini being a good candidate, but I dislike the click wheel which is why I've not pursued another iPod since the 3G. IMHO, the interface and controls on the 3G makes it one of the best MP3 players ever made.

I just installed a new 850mAh battery and my battery life seems far less than what I was getting with the HDD which is why I asked the question. Who knows, maybe it just needs a few cycles to hit it's stride.
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