Taking apart the iPod mini | iLounge Article


Taking apart the iPod mini

Apple has crammed a lot of stuff into the anodized aluminum enclosure of the new iPod mini, and taking it apart is no easy task. I’m an industrial designer with lots of experience pulling back the curtain and meeting the wizard in PDAs, Mp3 players, stereos, watches and all sorts of other gear. I am usually pretty good at it, having not broken something in years (lots of bug hunts for tiny parts on the floor though). Except my brand-new iPod mini, where I screwed up big time… twice!

The Procedure:

Tools needed:
(1) Wiha 1.5mm flat head screwdriver
(1) Wiha Philips #000 screwdriver
(1) Needle nose pliers or medical (Kelly type) hemostats
(1) Hair dryer

To help illustrate my disassembly adventure, view the iPod mini autopsy photos and follow along.

To begin with, make sure the ‘Hold’ button is locked into the ON position (showing orange) to prevent the internal components to be turning on while you are taking it apart.

The plastic top and bottom plates are glued into place with a tacky adhesive that will soften considerably when heated so use the hair dryer on a low setting to heat up the top plate. Work the area until it’s very warm to the touch. Now turn the mini around so you’re looking at the Apple logo and squeeze the two rounded edges together at the top, causing the enclosure to bow a little bit in the middle. Insert the flat bladed screwdriver between the plastic and the metal (in line directly above the Apple logo) and gently pry the plate straight up. Work around the edges, leaving the area around the ‘Hold’ button till last. When you finally do get to the ‘Hold’ button area, pry carefully and pull the plate STRAIGHT up. Behind the ‘Hold’ button are two plastic standoffs (sort of like tabs) that extend down into the case and push the real switch on and off. If you pry the thing out at an angle, you will break one of these standoffs. That was mistake #1 for me. The actual ‘Hold’ switch soldiered onto the main board broke, so the ‘Hold’ switch no longer works.

Now perform the same procedure on the plastic bottom plate. When it is removed, you will see a shiny sheet-metal plate held in place under spring tension by 4 tabs inserted into reliefs machined into the enclosure. At the end of each of these tabs, you will see a round hole. Use the Philips #000 in these holes and carefully pry each tab out of its slot. The sheet-metal plate will come right out.

Next, you need to disconnect a ribbon cable that connects the scroll/click wheel assembly to the main baord. This ribbon cable is on the bottom of the mini on the left hand side. It is orange. You can’t miss it. Use the 1.5mm blade screwdriver to pry it apart. If there isn’t enough slack in the ribbon cable, don’t worry, as long as you get the connector loose, you have done your job here.

Turn the mini over, looking back into the top, you will see two tiny philips head screws on either side of another metal plate. Remove these with the #000 screwdriver carefully and put them in a safe place (don’t drop these on the floor, you will never see them again).

Now comes the fun part - gently push on the 30 pin connector at the bottom of the mini and all of the main components (on an assembly I call the component sled) will slide right out the top. It is a bit tight, but if you meet major resistance, back off and INSURE you have the ribbon cable disconnected. This is where I messed up and killed my iPod mini, I forgot to check and I pushed with all my might, ripping the ribbon cable off of the male connector. Oops.

The component sled contains nearly all of the iPod’s internals; the main circuit board, battery, LCD display and hard drive. While the LCD is held onto the ma inboard with 4 plastic tabs, the battery and HD are held in place simply by the tight packing within the enclosure. Feel free to disconnect the battery or remove the HD, they simply unplug from the main board. The LCD disconnects from the board easily, but the electrical connection is EXTREMELY delicate. I wouldn’t mess with it.

Looking through the bottom of the mini, you will see the scroll/click wheel assembly has a long black plastic tab that connects to another machined relief in the aluminum. You will need to use needle nose pliers or the hemostat to pull on this tab while depressing the Play/Pause button on the scroll/click wheel in order to remove the assembly. The problem is that you will probably scratch the scroll/click wheel when you remove and reinsert it. Then again, it IS on the face of the iPod, so it will probably end up getting a few scratches from everyday wear and tear…

Some Parts in Detail:

Enclosure: The enclosure is a single piece of extruded T6-6061 aluminum that has had some finish machining on the top and bottom. It has been Type II Class 1 anodized (for the silver models) and Type II Class 2 anodized for the colored models. This is a really excellent finish, though, having designed and manufactured lots of parts finished in the anodizing process, I can say the silvers will withstand slightly more abuse than the colored models. Also, I would keep the colored ones out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time as the dye used to color them has a tendency to break down over time (it takes a LOT of sunlight though, but I know a lot of iPod mini owners are probably outdoor types, so hence, the caution).

Also, there is a clear plastic window glued into place that protects the LCD screen. I have not been able to remove it as of yet…

Battery: The unit is manufactured by Sanyo and is marked as “Li-lon.” The model number is EC003. The excess wire coming off of it tells me that it is probably a complete off-the-shelf unit, and not something Apple had made just for the mini (if it was custom, there would be no excess wire).

Hard Disk Drive: Manufactured by Hitachi, it’s really very tiny. The model is HMS360404D5CF00. The part number is 13G1768. It is wrapped in electrical tape and when I removed it, there were 3 Delrin bumpers fitted around the corners. I was rather surprised to discover that the drive is actually a CF card! I tried to mount it in my Lexar FireWire CF Card Reader but with no luck. My Canon Digital Rebel didn’t recognize it either.

Click photo for larger version

iPod mini autopsy. Clockwise from top - Hitachi 4GB Microdrive, Li-Ion battery pack, plastic top plate, two tiny screws, LCD display on main board (PortalPlayer chip under white label), anodized aluminum enclosure (Silver) and plastic bottom plate.


Don’t take apart your new iPod mini. My excuse is that I am looking to start a service where you can have your case re-anodized in the color, colors or even images of your own choosing. I learned a lot taking this apart, and if I can only overcome the problem with the clear plastic window being glued into the enclosure, it might even be possible. We will see!

« iPod mini battery tests

How the iPod Ended the OS Wars »

Related Stories



Oh my,

this really breaks my heart -:-)

But luck with the start of your service-enterprise.

Posted by Estecado on February 23, 2004 at 3:37 AM (CST)


I took one apart also…  The Hitachi drive works fine in my Sandisk USB reader.  I can delete partitions and reformat it, etc. However, my Digital Rebel just turns the Red CF light on and sits there.

Posted by Kent Marshall on February 23, 2004 at 5:17 AM (CST)


omg you’re so barbaric! =P

oooh… good luck with the re-anodizing business.

Its definitely got potential mate.

Good luck
Redux out

Posted by Redux on February 23, 2004 at 7:44 AM (CST)


Wow, you murderer.

I’m sitting here, waiting with great anticipation for my own iPodmini, (silver of course) and you’re destroying it right in front of me O_o

Heartless bastard.

I can only hope it’s for a common good.

Posted by Brian Andersen on February 23, 2004 at 8:27 AM (CST)


what is the REAL battery use like, i remember all the ipod reviews saying 10 hours, but in reality it wasnt…i’ll wait a while..it took a while for the real reviews to come out on ipod..will the battery die in a few months?, will the battery power run out even when not using it..etc etc..

Posted by wayne on February 23, 2004 at 9:56 AM (CST)


Excellent dissection. If you reformat CF card, will it work? Does it have a standard CF interface? [can’t tell from photos]

Posted by charles on February 23, 2004 at 10:08 AM (CST)


I feel sorry for your iPod mini, but on the other hand I want to thank you because I just wanted to see how such a piece is looking on the inside.

Posted by Cochrane on February 23, 2004 at 10:20 AM (CST)


The CF card really intrigues me.  Hell, for $250 for a 4gb microdrive is a pretty sweet deal if I could get it to work on my canon 1d-s.  Unfortunately I don’t have the guts to dissect my mini to test it out, but if it turns out you can, I’ll be picking up an extra mini or two.


Posted by bmarvin81 on February 23, 2004 at 10:49 AM (CST)


As to the CF card:

- Yes, it has a standard CF card connector. The ribbon cable simply goes from a standard CF card pins into a high density, verticle pin connector on the mainboard. For some silly reason, I didn’t realize it was a CF card when I took the picture, so I didn’t remove the cable.

- Currently, I have no way of reformating the CF card as I can’t even get it to mount. Lexar says their FireWire CF Card Reader won’t read a 4gb card and my Canon Digital Rebel SLR won’t even turn on with it in. The CF read/write light just stays on the whole time.

- Blake: I believe Creative has a $190 player that uses the same Hitaci 4gb Microdrive, but feel free to spend the extra $60 at Apple!

- I figured out how to remove the plastic LCD protector window and reinstall it…

Since many people seem interested, if you know what I could do with the 4gb Microdrive to see if it would work in other applications, please email me to let me know and I will try to get it to work so I can report back to you all.

Posted by GregK on February 23, 2004 at 11:19 AM (CST)


iPod battery life wasn’t exaggerated at all. My first gen iPod, rated at 10 hours, ran for 12.

My second gen iPod was similar, though it’s getting old and only get 6 hours now. I’m going to replace the battery eventually, and I hope to get the full 12 hours again!

Posted by Michael2k on February 23, 2004 at 12:15 PM (CST)


Does the iPod still work (even though it is disassembled)?

If so, can you try putting a flash-based CF card in there and see it it will work with it?


Posted by Leo on February 23, 2004 at 12:38 PM (CST)


i’m quite interested if you can pull the CF card out and use it elsewhere. i just think that would be funny that a 4gb flashcard inside the mini is cheaper than buying one by itself

Posted by Tristan O'Tierney on February 23, 2004 at 1:38 PM (CST)


Y’all think the mini is expensive. Check out the price for the 4gb microdrive: It retails for $599.99 and is on sale for ONLY $488.95. You could make a profit just buying mini’s at retail and selling the drives on ebay. Here’s proof: http://www.flash-memory-store.com/4gbibmiitins.html

Posted by bob atkins on February 23, 2004 at 1:48 PM (CST)



If you want to extract a microdrive, just get Creative’s MuVo2 for less than $200.  Its easier to take apart, and ALSO, you can put a normal CF card in there and still have it be an mp3 player.  MANY people have already done this :-)

Hopefully you can do this with the mini, but no one has tried.  If it was not such a hassle to take apart, I would have done it by now.

- Leo

Posted by Leo+ on February 23, 2004 at 2:36 PM (CST)


Since the storage is a CF Card, shouldn’t it be basically skip-free, like a flash-based player.  Apple advertises it as a HD player with 25min skip protection (?)

Posted by Jason on February 23, 2004 at 2:42 PM (CST)


It’s actually not a CF card but a Microdrive which has a CF interface. It’s actually a mini (pun not intended) hard drive with moving parts.

Posted by Philbert on February 23, 2004 at 2:46 PM (CST)


Reviewer sez: “I know a lot of iPod mini owners are probably outdoor types”

Well, I’d like to spend more time outsoodrs, but the crappy battery life on my 3G means I have to lunge indoors for the nearest wall socket to recharge.

Anyone know if the Mini gets a longer play time?

Posted by yeah i wish on February 23, 2004 at 2:46 PM (CST)


GregK -

Can you get the MD to mount under Apple’s disk utility? (if you use a Mac that is - sorry new here.)

Posted by Philbert on February 23, 2004 at 2:48 PM (CST)



Really? many people have already done that? Interesting because I did a price grabber search and it is not shipping yet. To places are taking pre orders for $210 and $220.

I would guess that in a few months we will see 4 GB CF drives selling for less than $150 and everyone can stop thinking about ripping apart the iPod Mini.

Posted by Doug Petrosky on February 23, 2004 at 3:44 PM (CST)



Oh yes, there have been many many people that have done this.  The reason it isn’t “available” is because the MuVo’s are sold out everywhere (from people wanting to do the Microdrive extraction).  I have no clue why places like Amazon state “not yet released”—ESPECIALLY since mine is arriving tomorrow from an order that I placed with Amazon.

Anyway, check here:



and for a hell of a lot of info, check:

Enjoy :-)

Posted by Leo+ on February 23, 2004 at 4:51 PM (CST)

iLounge Weekly

Recent News

Recent Reviews

Recent Articles

Sign up for the iLounge Weekly Newsletter

iLounge is an independent resource for all things iPod, iPhone, iPad, and beyond.
iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, Apple TV, Mac, and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc.
iLounge is © 2001 - 2018 iLounge, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy