iPod Classic failing hard drive

ipod classicI’ve been keeping an iPod Classic in my car for years now. Mine is one with a 80GB hard drive which can easily carry all my music so no matter what I want to listen to when I’m on the road, it’s just a few clicks away. The iPod is now close to 7 years old and has survived quite some abuse (extremely cold and hot temperatures since I keep it in my car, the occasional drop on the ground when I take it out for a sync with iTunes every now and then) over the years which obviously is bad for the hard drive but I was lucky enough that it kept working fine until a few days ago. I started noticing that I wasn’t able to skip through songs as fast as before and it started taking a few tries to properly sync with iTunes even when it only had to sync a few new songs. Things got worse and the iPod randomly stopped syncing, making iTunes hang and I had to force iTunes to close and disconnect the iPod. Even my Windows 8 machine started telling me that the iPod might have some issues with the hard drive, giving me the option to scan the drive and try to fix the errors. The occasional device reset by holding the Menu button and the Select button did not resolve everything so I had to do some research and indeed everything points to a failing hard drive. It had to happen sometime…

Currently I’m in the midst of trying to get my iPod’s hard drive to start working properly again. Fingers crossed. What I’ve learned when you start encountering issues with in my case an iPod Classic is the following:

  • Try to simply reset the device by holding the Menu and Select buttons until the device restarts when it is not responding as it used to or even hangs.
  • If that doesn’t solve anything connect it to iTunes and restore the device, makes it start from scratch. Of course you would have to re-sync your library after that.

Is your operating system telling you that there might be problems with the iPod’s hard drive or are you experiencing other issues as I have described then your best bet is to:

  • Make the iPod restart by holding the Menu and the Select buttons and as soon as the Apple logo appears press and hold the Select and the Back/Previous buttons. Release these buttons as soon as the screen turns white. You will start the iPod’s diagnostic mode. From here look up the hard drive SMART status. Large numbers of Reallocs or Pending Sectors would suggest your harddrive is indeed failing and that you may need to repair or replace the harddrive in your iPod. You’ll see something like this (but with higher numbers or course):

ipod smart diagnostics

  • Restart the iPod again by holding the Menu and the Select buttons and as soon as the Apple logo appears press and hold the Select and the Play/Pause buttons. This will put the iPod into it’s Disk Mode. Then connect the iPod to your computer and format the hard drive. Make sure you uncheck any “Quick Format” option or start a low level format.

low level ipod format

This will overwrite the entire hard drive which will hopefully reallocate all sectors. After this is done (this will take a while) restart the iPod again by holding the Menu and the Select buttons and reconnect it to your computer. Try to restore and/or re-sync your iPod.

Same issues as before? Then I guess it’s time to either buy a new iPod or replace the hard drive.

UPDATE: The low level format tool encountered a lot of errors while formatting the hard drive, it took so long when it reported error after error that I simply decided to stop the process. I did try one last sync with iTunes though and I was surprised that the iPod synced without a problem! It seems to be working perfectly again, for now. I know it’s a matter of time before the same problems will reoccur or even worse, but for the time being I can enjoy listening to my music again.

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