From past experience, most readers don’t seem to care much about the iPods’ hidden diagnostic modes, but since we’ve been playing around with them, we figured that a few pictures and details might be of interest to some of you.

Apple has been tossing diagnostic modes into iPods for years; the only model that doesn’t let you access diagnostics is the iPod touch, which like the iPhone has an icon-based hardware diagnostic screen, but completely hides it away. On Click Wheel iPods, including the fourth-generation iPod nano and 120GB iPod classic, you access this mode by holding down the center and Menu buttons at the same time until the iPod resets to an Apple logo screen, then immediately holding the center and reverse track buttons until the iPod boots into the Diagnostic screen shown below.


The iPod nano’s version of this screen has 10 menu options, while the classic’s starts with 2, expanding to 7 when you select “manual” test mode. Click on the title of this article for a list of what’s vaguely interesting inside.

Both devices let you check and see if the iPod hardware is working by using button presses to select from numerous unusual phrases and technical abbreviations. The nano’s test screen lets you check its power management, deep sleep mode, headphone port, video-out, LCD screen, accessory port, memory, Click Wheel, accelerometer, and general “About” statistics. Perhaps the most interesting mode is the LCD test, which lets you try test patterns like the ones above; most of the other tests are there to see if there are specific problems with a given part of the nano.


The iPod classic’s menu lets you test all of the same components, seven of which are within an NTF section of the menus, with memory, IO, power, accessories, and “SysCfg” (About) under the main menu, along with a Reset command. There are also hard disk tests, which let you see the drive’s SMART data and specifications. Note that our photos of the 120GB classic are taken alongside photos of the 160GB classic, which uses older firmware but basically looks identical.


Boring? Yes. But if you’re looking for a way to put up a colored TV test pattern on your iPod’s screen, this is the easiest way to do it.