New Battery or Bust

Your iPod will die, maybe sooner than you think; bring it back to life (and other unsanctioned trickery).
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Dept.: Void Your Warranty

Investigators: Casey and Van Neistat

Personal tech: iPod

Cost: $50 to $100

Time: ~2 hours

It wasn’t just the fact that his iPod’s battery was nearly dead after 18 months that got Casey Neistat so mad. The filmmaker had worked with enough electronics to know that lithium-ion batteries (like the iPod’s) could only be recharged 300 to 500 times before their run time declined. It’s a given: Batteries die, you replace them. What irked Neistat was that the iPod’s battery seemed to be inaccessible, sealed up tight in that gleaming silver and white case. But figuring Apple must have a solution, he went to the company’s Manhattan retail store — where the staff told him there was nothing Apple could do: his iPod’s one-year warranty had expired. But they would be happy to sell him a new model to replace it.

Not believing a smart company like Apple could have designed in an irreplaceable battery, Neistat says he called AppleCare customer support. The company line was repeated: No way to replace it, why don’t you just buy a new iPod? Still not convinced Apple was declaring the iPod disposable, Neistat mailed his broken baby straight to the Man in Black, Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The employee who called back “on Mr. Jobs’ behalf” apologized, then told him the same thing.

That’s when Neistat lost it, and decided to vent his anger publicly.

Instead of buying a new iPod, he and his brother Van bought spray paint and made a stencil. Video camera in hand, they canvassed downtown Manhattan, tagging dozens of Apple ad posters with their message: “iPod’s unreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months.” Then the brothers edited the stunt into a 2-minute movie called iPod’s Dirty Secret and posted it on the Web. By the next day, they had over 50,000 hits. Around the same time, Apple introduced a $100 iPod battery-replacement program, which the company says was in development long before the Neistats made a stink. But Casey’s story was everywhere: blogs, news sites, even The Washington Post.

Eventually, Casey tried fixing the problem with a $50 DIY battery replacement kit from, but his iPod didn’t survive the operation. (He thinks he killed the hard drive as he tried to pry the old battery loose.) A few weeks later, PopSci gave him another third-party battery, this time from ($60), and another iPod from a staffer with
the same problem. That one survived and went back to its owner. And Casey ended up spending $400 on a new one.

1. Replacing the battery

Using a small flat tool, begin prying open the case. Then wedge the tool inside and use another to undo the case clips.

2. With the case off,

use the same tool to gently pry the battery (left) from the hard drive.

3. Gently pull

the power cable to disconnect the battery from the iPod. Do not remove the rubber pad on the hard drive.

4. Now plug in

the new battery, place it over the original glue spots on the hard drive and snap the case back on, bottom-first.

5. With the iPod reassembled,

plug it in and charge the new battery for 3 hours to find out if you have a resurrected ‘Pod or a real pretty paper weight.

Things to know if your battery begins to die:

The AppleCare Protection Plan for the iPod extends your
warranty by one year and costs $60. If the battery (or anything else) fails in that period, Apple will fix your iPod for free.

Apple does not return your iPod when it replaces the battery; it sends a refurbished model instead. For $68, will install a third-party battery and give you your iPod back.

While new Apple batteries have a claimed run time of 8 hours, Neistat’s third-party replacement lasted only 6 to 7 hours.

New iPods are harder to crack open than earlier models. No word yet on how hard it is to bust open an iPod Mini. (Update: the Mini has been cracked. Read about it here.)

More ‘Pod Tricks

Not all hacks void your warranty, but according to Apple, cracking the case and modifying the internal software are off-limits. That said, in the words of one AppleCare technician, “how much you disclose about how it broke is up to you.” Translation: Even the gutsiest hacks will only get you in trouble if a) you screw up and b) you admit to it.


Hardwire your car. Eliminate cable clutter with an in-dash mount that allows you to power your iPod from your vehicle’s battery and play your tunes through the stereo without an adaptor. Hard, first- and second-gen iPods

Charge on the go. You could drop $70 on the external Belkin Backup Battery Pack or you could build your own with two AAs, two 9-volts and the box from a deck of cards or an Altoids tin. Intermediate, first- and second-gen iPods


Colorize the screen. The tough part of this hack is cracking open your case. The easy part is slipping a piece of colored acetate behind the screen. Hard, all iPods

Colorize the ‘Pod. Tired of bland white conformity? Send your iPod to the folks at ColorWare PC, and for less than $50, they’ll give it a shiny, seamless coat in your choice of 22 colors. For $19 more, they’ll do up your dock to match. Easy, all iPods


Cheat the breakout game. This level editor lets you change the number of blocks or the size of the paddle. Intermediate, first-gen iPods

Port Linux to your iPod. Sure, songs sound worse, and none of the other functions work, but hey, at least the little penguin appears on the start-up screen! Read more about this ambitious and ongoing open-source effort. Hard, all iPods

Korkers Guide Wading Boot
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