3 accessories that can squeeze some extra life from a “dead” iPod - Macenstein

3 accessories that can squeeze some extra life from a “dead” iPod

Sadly, as with all electronic gadgets, there will come a day when your iPod will eventually die. I know, I know, we don’t like to think of such things, but death is an unavoidable side effect of life. However, much like cutting off your deceased grandfather’s head and freezing it, there ARE ways to extend the life of your “dead” iPod, and most cost far less and are far less disturbing to think about than the grandpa thing.

The first thing to consider when contemplating repurposing a dead iPod is “Just how dead is it?“. As Miracle Max would tell you, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. For instance, a hard drive failure is pretty much all dead when it comes to the iPod. So if your screen and click wheel are fine, but your drive won’t boot, then go ahead and say your goodbyes, because there’s not much you can do for the little guy. But for iPods that are MOSTLY dead, such as iPods with burnt out screens, malfunctioning/unresponsive clickwheels, and batteries that cannot hold a charge, there are a bunch of iPod accessories out there that can add years of service to a hard worker cut down in its prime.

Timex iControl watch for iPod ($125)
To use, your iPod needs: To hold a charge for as long as you can exercise.

The first accessory that comes to mind is our recently reviewed Timex iControl watch for iPod. In my case, I had a 4th gen iPod that was mostly dead, meaning the clickwheel and the screen were non-functioning. This made the iPod pretty much useless in most situations, as you could not really select songs, or even hit the play button. However, when plugged in to a computer, iTunes recognized it. I could sync playlists, and I could use it in disk mode. In fact, I was basically just using it as a portable 40GB hard drive for a month or so.

Then we received a Timex iControl watch for review, and I realized the retired 4th gen workhorse could be put back into the workforce. Since I happen to be a runner, I found the 4th gen could be made to serve as the perfect workout iPod by using the iControl to handle the malfunctioning clickwheel’s job. First, I stripped out all the playlists on the iPod save for my “workout” playlist – thus assuring only my workout songs would be heard on the iPod. Then I simply connected the iControl to the iPod, and I was off and “running”.

I was able to play/pause, skip songs and adjust the volume of the iPod without having to touch the iPod itself. An “exercise iPod” was a good use for this particular iPod, as sometimes I felt bad running with my newer 5th gen model. I’m sure shocks, vibrations (not to mention sweat) aren’t great for an iPod (and perhaps contributed to the 4th gen’s failure) so using a “broken” iPod as a workout iPod made me feel better. The only problem I had with this solution was there was no way for me to get the iPod into “shuffle song” mode, since I couldn’t see the screen or use the menu (although, using accessory 2, I was able to work around that). But if your “mostly dead” iPod happened to die in shuffle song mode, you’re all set.

DLO’s Home Dock Music Remote ($129)
To use, your iPod needs: Pretty much nothing, just a working hard drive.

The second iPod accessory that may help breathe new life into your dying iPod is DLO’s Home Dock Music Remote. This cool device allows you to dock an iPod into a charging cradle (hooked up to your home stereo), and then control the iPod from pretty much anywhere in your house. The cool thing about the Music Remote is that the remote itself has a digital display that mimics the display of your iPod. This means even if your iPod’s screen is no longer working, you can use the remote to easily navigate your playlists, songs, albums, artists, etc.. In this scenario, you are basically using your iPod as a poor man’s audio server. You can still hook up your iPod to your computer, run iTunes to manage playlists and add songs, then dock it with the Music Remote and enjoy listening to tunes and navigating your mostly dead iPod’s menus from throughout your house.

Another cool thing about the Music Remote is you can use it to set your iPod to “shuffle” mode, and it will stay set that way when you undock it. Using this knowledge, I was able to set my dead 4th gen iPod mentioned above in the Timex section to “shuffle” so I got some variety in my workout playlist.

DLO’s Home Dock Deluxe ($149)
To use, your iPod needs: Pretty much nothing, just a working hard drive. (5th gen iPod with video recommended).

Our final accessory is another offering from DLO, this time their Home Dock Deluxe. Somewhat similar to the Music Remote, the Home Dock Deluxe consists of a docking cradle you hook to your TV which allows you to navigate your iPod’s playlists on your big screen television. The real benefit here is you can also play video and photos out of your iPod (assuming you have a 5th gen iPod – I do not believe the latest iPods work iwith the Home Dock) but even an older iPod (like my broken 4th gen) works fine for audio-only playback. It more or less turns your iPod into a non-streaming Apple TV.


To be sure, there are other/similar solutions out there which may work, depending on the degree to which your iPod is malfunctioning. These three are just the ones I am personally familiar with and feel comfortable recommending.

Of course, when considering these or any other options, it is important to keep in mind the price of the accessory, as sometimes they approach a good percentage of the cost of a brand new iPod. However, if you have the money (or an upcoming birthday or holiday list you need to fill a space on) all three of these accessories are great pieces of iPod gear that can greatly enhance functioning iPods as well (I personally love the DLO Homedock Deluxe, and leave it set up in the kids playroom as a sort of media server running off our 5th gen 60GB iPod). If you happened to be contemplating buying one of these but needed one more reason, keep in mind the extra benefit of their hidden ability to breathe new life into a “dead” iPod.

5 Responses to “3 accessories that can squeeze some extra life from a “dead” iPod”
  1. Alan Douglas says:

    along the same lines I have a Goodmans GCE7207I a car CD player that has a dock cable coming out the back. It’s a bit bargain basement but have had one since christmas and it has worked fine. Mine was a reconditioned one from ebay that cost about £40. http://www.goodmans.co.uk/productdetails.aspx?pid=GCE7207I&language=en-GB

  2. Alien Cole says:

    if you have a dead hard drive all is not lost, you could try doing this:

  3. Bob says:

    Software isn’t the only means of breathing new life into an old iPod. Just buy a Firewire cable and install OS X on it. I did that and also installed DiskWarrior and TechTool Pro, as well as other utilities. Now it serves as a backup for when I need to do some heavy-duty maintenance on my aging iMac G5.

  4. Bruce says:

    I was going to try to just use my 3G ipod (with the 4 round ‘buttons’) as an external HD. The ipod’s HD is fine, but none of the control buttons or scroll wheel work anymore.
    But what I found is that it would never turn off. In the Apple design world, there is no OFF switch on the ipod. Only Hold — which simply means ‘keep doing whatever you are doing now.’

    So my experience was that it would only work when it had been charged up, and then it would just continue to spin the HD for hours even after unmounted, till the battery ran out. Then I would have to charge it up before next use… If I continue in that mode, I am sure the battery life will be gone soon.

    Anyone know how to make the 3G ipod HD stop spinning?
    Any way to give it an OFF switch?

  5. Doug says:

    Dead click wheel and screen ipods are great for car stereos like Alpine with a dock connector and ipod controls on the stereo. It is how I am using my 3g ipod with a dead battery.

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