Taking apart the iPod mini

Taking apart the iPod mini 1

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.

pic
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.

Conclusion:

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!

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  1. best deal on iPod that I can see is for $225 posted on [url=http://www.dealsofamerica.com]http://www.dealsofamerica.com[/url] It is $250 at target.com and there is $25 coupons to take it to $225 level.

  2. The CF card poses a couple interesting questions.

    Most importantly, is the core software ( the stuff that decodes and plays the mp3s) on the CF card?

    Second is it possible to substitute the microdrive with a CF wireless or Wired ethernet card and some other software that provides the illusion to the ipod that it is a filesystem. This fake drive could mirror a drive somewhere on a network, and serve as near unlimited storage capacity…

  3. advice: if you want a 4gb microdrive, dont take it out of anything. it will work at first, but long use of it WILL ruin both the microdrive AND the device its used in. you can pick them up for about $240~ on ebay new. i personally use one in my asus PDA for movie and song storage.

  4. this whole idea is great. i’d love to rip out the drive and put in a cheaper flash to ultimately use the 4 gig elsewhere… just an fyi, some of you guys trying this on the cannon digitals may want to make sure the cam has the latest firmware. i’ve heard some will not read fat32 wwithout an update of firmware…

  5. >Most importantly, is the core software ( the stuff that >decodes and plays the mp3s) on the CF card?

    Well it’s a hardware decoder, but the operating system is on the drive.. it’s a 32mb partition at the beginning of the disk (right after the partition table).

    >Second is it possible to substitute the microdrive with a CF
    >wireless or Wired ethernet card and some other software
    >that provides the illusion to the ipod that it is a filesystem.

    Not bloody likely on the mini. You can replace it with another CF card and get it to boot and play music that’s already on the drive, but not talk to anything (iTunes, the restore app, disk util, etc).. so far.

    You would probably have less difficulty replacing a regular iPod’s drive with a 3.5″ drive, that will give you upto 128gb. Or you could buy something actually suitable for the job and not a craptastic hack, like a SliMP3.

  6. mfnickster (or anybody with a broken ipod–

    You’re probably getting a lot of these requests,
    but here I go:

    what do you want for the broken ipod?

  7. [url=http://www.hgst.com/hdd/support/mddwnld.htm]http://www.hgst.com/hdd/support/mddwnld.htm[/url] you ever think of downloading the drivers from hitachi?

  8. Hi Guys,

    I’ve had lots of experience with swapping hard drives (standard, micro, and notebook) with Compact Flash based solutions – I actually do it as a job for General Motors :P. I’m pretty sure its going to be dead simple to replace the card in the iPod mini. Unfortunatly, the iPod mini isn’t released in Australia (AFAIK), and I don’t really have a need for a 4gb microdrive :P. If anyone is interested in following this up, drop me an email – it should be a pretty simple procedure with the proper equipment.

  9. Surely that Ebay quote must be BS… It would either work or not. If it’s not a CF pin out, then it wouldn’t work. Ever. If it wasn’t a CF pinout, it probably wouldn’t be packaged as a CF drive – after all you’re not supposed to see it, so why would it look the same as the one you can buy as a stand alone drive if it was a custom OEM item..?

  10. The 4GB microdrive may not work in the canon rebel 300d with the current firmware, as i am not sure it supports cards above 2gb (FAT16).

  11. Its been noted elsewhere that replacing the battery in standard iPods is something you can do yourself.
    The article above describes how it hard it is to get the iPod mini case open in the first place – let alone replacing the battery. What is going to happen when the mini’s battery does (eventually) die???

  12. I wonder why the OEM’s don’t put old fashioned custom drives in their units. Maybe they get better sales from people buying them just to take them apart? 😉

  13. I removed the MD from my iopd mini and it can be read in a usb cf card reader, but it will not be recognized if I put it directly in my XP laptop with a cf to pcmcia adaptor. It also cannot be recognized in my pocketpc. I formatted with fat 32 using the usb cf card reader, but outside of the reader it cant be used. Any idea why?

  14. i bought the ipod mini, but couldn’t bring myself to listen to music out of a makeup compact so needless to say, the drive works happily in my canon 10d. and i am happy with with my new rio mini and my friend dave is happy with his new ipod mini guts.

    the ipod mini is fruity as hell. they should start giving the old purse looking ibooks out with ipod mini purchase.

  15. [url=http://marketwatch-cnet.com.com/2100-1041_3-5164444.html]http://marketwatch-cnet.com.com/2100-1041_3-5164444.html[/url] could this be one of the reasons that it is rumored that there will be a soldered/non-removable muvo2? I[url=http://www.apartmentnexus.com/] [/url]know this was rumored for the iPod mini on macrumors.com, so will it follow that the muvo will[url=http://www.kingrealty.com/] [/url]follow this too. It doesn’t sound like something that will be happening soon, just something[url=http://www.collegemodelsusa.com/] [/url]in development to lowere costs.

  16. how many of u guys have an ipod mini are they good? or would u prefer a normal ipod take not 4GB is enough space for me
    r there any lil extras?

  17. how here has an ipod? r they good would u recommned a mini or an normal ipod take not 4GB of space is fine for me r there any features like games and stuff

  18. Ensure and insure are synonyms in American English and in old English, but generally in modern English ensure means to make certain, while insure means to protect oneself financially by insurance.

  19. yoyoyoyoy wait up a second, after the battery dies we gotta open it up and replace the thing right? Hell if you cant how are we going to?!

  20. Well…I did it! I opened up my iPod mini and put the drive in a LaCie HexaMedia USB reader. The 4G drive mounted and I could format it however I wished in my PB 12″ G4.

    However, I can’t seem to do a straight install of Panther on it.
    I know the mini wasn’t bootable…what I DON’T know is why. Is it the coding of the interface or the drive’s firmware? Or ?

    Any ideas? Please email if you have any suggestions.

    I did manage to get it out in one piece. I have an older 340MB Microdrive I’m likely to test in the mini case…but, I fear that drive may get too hot for the enclosure. It’s DEFINITELY not as cool as the 4G is. 🙂

    BradM

  21. Well…I did it! I opened up my iPod mini and put the drive in a LaCie HexaMedia USB reader. The 4G drive mounted and I could format it however I wished in my PB 12″ G4.

    However, I can’t seem to do a straight install of Panther on it.
    I know the mini wasn’t bootable…what I DON’T know is why. Is it the coding of the interface or the drive’s firmware? Or ?

    Any ideas? Please email if you have any suggestions.

    I did manage to get it out in one piece. I have an older 340MB Microdrive I’m likely to test in the mini case…but, I fear that drive may get too hot for the enclosure. It’s DEFINITELY not as cool as the 4G is. 🙂

    BradM

  22. Why would you try to take it apart, it can ruin it. I wouldn’t do that to a $249.99 item because you can ruin it. that was a really big chance you took to see if it could work or you might have lost $249.99.

  23. photo exploration of a successful harvesting of 4GB Microdrive from a Creative Nomad player

    [url=http://www.andymack.com/mylog/pivot/entry.php?uid=standard-868]http://www.andymack.com/mylog/pivot/entry.php?uid=standard-868[/url]

  24. Greg,

    If you’re reading this thread, I’d be interested in your continued results.

    Being an incorrigible DIY tinkerer, my immediate thought on learning that the iPod mini was anodized aluminum was to get myself one and re-anodize it a cooler color than Apple’s pastels.

    Much to my surprise, I was given a mini for my birthday yesterday. I won’t mess with this one, what I’d like to do is buy a broken one that somebody’s dropped or something, and use that one to practice taking it apart a few times, then strip/desmut and re-anodize its case. And only only once that’s done and I’m confident in my ability to disassemble/reassemble, replace the case on my own mini with the newly colored one, keeping the original around as a backup.

    So I’d love to hear how your project progresses, particularly with respect to removing the window. I’d think if nothing else you could break the old one, remove the bits, and cut a new window to fit after you’re finished anodizing.

    Stay cool.
    Ev

  25. Greg,

    If you’re reading this thread, I’d be interested in your continued results.

    Being an incorrigible DIY tinkerer, my immediate thought on learning that the iPod mini was anodized aluminum was to get myself one and re-anodize it a cooler color than Apple’s pastels.

    Much to my surprise, I was given a mini for my birthday yesterday. I won’t mess with this one, what I’d like to do is buy a broken one that somebody’s dropped or something, and use that one to practice taking it apart a few times, then strip/desmut and re-anodize its case. And only only once that’s done and I’m confident in my ability to disassemble/reassemble, replace the case on my own mini with the newly colored one, keeping the original around as a backup.

    So I’d love to hear how your project progresses, particularly with respect to removing the window. I’d think if nothing else you could break the old one, remove the bits, and cut a new window to fit after you’re finished anodizing.

    Stay cool.
    Ev

  26. I am look an ipod for my birthday. my friends have it and say it good but the newspapers are saying other wise. could you please tell me if it is good or bad…..

  27. you sir andrew is sad. How the f**k did you do that to a ipod?

    More importantly Ipod mini okaY! I ordered one yay for paiser <– claps for paiser!

    ANy ways 3-5 weeks. No heck no sir I aint going to wait that long

  28. Do you know who makes the connector on the bottom of the Ipod and Ipod Mini and its PN?

    Do you know where I can buy them?

  29. is there anywhere right now that reanodizes minis??? how does it work, is it like spray coating on car parts? and is there a CF card bigger than 4 gig so you could swap it out with the one in the mini and increase the storage size but keep the neat looks?

  30. thanks alot, i need to take mine apart cuz it fell in a puddle while i was running for my life in a storm, and hasnt been working well since. had to dry it out.

  31. I can not say that i understand this need for stripping gadgets like you did with the ipod, but i can fancy the childish enthusiasm you people have for these things. So keep up throwing money out of the window. Hello

  32. I’m going a bit crazy since I see all these pictures of stripped minis when I have one on order that will take 6 more weeks to come and I am trying to get it for my girlfriend’s birthday which is in about 4 weeks.

  33. Here is a quck link to finding [url=http://www.dealsites.net/livedeals+index-mode-search-query-ipod.html]the best deal on an ipod.[/url]

  34. Here is a handy link for nice deals on ipods and accessories:

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