The Reports of My iPod’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Twenty-four hours after I believed I had cratered my iPod whilst trying to restore it resale, it appears to have come back to life, fully functional, and back at factory defaults. Here’s what transpired.

From iTunes 8, on both my MacBook and MacPro, I tried to restore my 5G iPod to its original state. From both machines, I got the message Ipod could not restore. An unknown error occurred 1418. And after the last time it happened from the MacBook, the iPod would no longer function. It acted as through the firmware or hard drive were corrupt, leaving the iPod in a state where it couldn’t be seen by iTunes, and couldn’t be seen by either of my Macs or Darla’s Windows XP machine or my VMWare XP environment. After a lot of frustration, I wrote the thing off as a loss.

Tonight, Apple had an OS upgrade sent out, and I thought it’d be worth a try to see if that upgrade would help any. It didn’t. I saw the same things. I googled my error message, along with some other pertinent keywords, and I found someone describing how a hard drive replacement is done in an iPod, and he mentioned Disk Mode.

Disk Mode allows the iPod to act like a portable hard drive to the OS, and was mentioned by Apple as one way to help force a restore of the iPod. This guy had figured out the hidden iPod command keystrokes necessary to do a hard reset of the iPod (Select+Menu), enter diagnostic mode (Select+Play/Pause) and enter disk mode (Select+Prev).

I decided to confirm that things were working ok, and entered diagnostic mode. Sure enough, everything seemed to check out, so that ruled out anything insidious like a hard drive or logic board failure. (BTW, eventually, the diagnostics will eventually ask you to plug in a firewire cable. The 5G iPod isn’t supposed to support firewire, and I gave away all my iPod firewire cables years ago, so I couldn’t comply. I just did a hard reset at this point, and figured everything was ok.)

Upon the reboot from diagnostics, I held down Select+Prev…. and there was Disk Mode! I plugged the iPod into the MacPro, and the MacPro promptly complained about the hard drive being in some funky unformatted state. This was the first time in 24 hours that my iPod had been recognized by any system. Leopard was even nice enough to offer to format the drive, which I politely declined, favoring instead to let iTunes manage putting the Hands of Steve on my iPod, exorcising its demons.

I cranked up iTunes, and it promptly told me that I appeared to have a damaged iPod, and that it would be happy to restore it. I allowed it, iTunes starting shoveling bits down the USB cable, and in just a couple of minutes, my iPod was whirring happily, charging, and being the happy little dude it used to be.

This was quite the recovery for me, as I had really written this iPod off, and just lucked into finding the right information I needed to recover. I guess the lesson here is to make sure all your homework is done! Now I have an iPod to sell, and can recoup some of the costs of….. waitaminute! I can’t talk about that yet! 🙂