There are few products more popular than the iPod—except when it comes to battery life. The batteries in early iPods fail after a time (300 to 500 charge/discharge cycles or about two to three years) and just won't hold a charge. Even worse, there's no easy way to change the batteries. Angry owners sued and now Apple has agreed to some restitution ( www.appleipodsettlement.com ).
That's good news if you're the owner of a third-generation iPod: You're eligible for a free battery replacement or (at Apple's discretion) a replacement iPod, providing you still have your proof of purchase and file a claim by September 30, 2005. The news is not so good if you have a first- or second-generation iPod: You can choose between a check for $25 or a $50 store credit to use on Apple products (excluding iTunes). Well, at least that's something. But you're still stuck with your dead battery. What can you do?
The simple (and costly) approach would be to go with Apple's iPod Out-of-Warranty Battery Replacement Program ( www.apple.com/support/ipod/service/battery.html ). Send in your dead iPod along with a check for $99 plus $6.95 shipping and you'll receive an equivalent new or refurbished model with a fresh battery in one to three weeks. Besides paying more than three times the cost of a battery, which can be obtained online for around $30, you're not even guaranteed you'll receive your exact iPod back in the mail.
Why not avoid all of Apple's service fees? You really can replace the battery on your own: We'll show you how. Sure, you'll void the warranty in the process, but isn't that part of the fun?
Opening the iPod
We'll use Apple's standard 20GB third- generation iPod, though a similar process applies both to earlier generations and to subsequent versions, like the iPod 4G (fourth-generation) and iPod photo.
The best tool to open your iPod with is some type of stiff plastic wedge. The metal case can be permanently bent and the plastic on the case will scratch easily, so care and patience must be applied. Don't use a metal screwdriver, as the risk of damaging the case is much greater. Kits, including a battery and an implement to aid in opening your iPod (such as the wedges we'll use here), can be purchased from PDASmart ( www.pdasmart.com ), Laptops for Less ( www.laptopsforless.com ), or many other online resources. Make sure to choose the correct battery type for your model.
One thing you'll quickly notice is that there's no obvious way to open the case. There are no visible screws, tabs, or anything of that nature—just a sleek metal plate somehow affixed to the back of the iPod. The two halves of the iPod are held together by a series of plastic tabs that run along both sides of the case, holding the metal half of the device securely in place. Unfortunately, this ensures that taking the iPod apart, which isn't supposed to be done by consumers, is a tricky proposition.
First, work the plastic wedge along the seam on the side of the iPod until you are able to insert it between the metal back and the case (Figure 1). Slide the wedge along the gap you've created and pop out the tabs holding the case together (Figure 2). Your goal is to push each of the tabs inward until they are released from the metal half of the case. You should now be able to separate the back of the iPod from the front half (Figure 3).
Warning! The metal half of the case is connected to the top of the unit with a thin ribbon cable. To avoid damaging your iPod, carefully place the two halves of the case close to each other on a flat surface.
Removing the Hard Drive
With the iPod now open, you'll need to remove the hard drive, which sits on top of the other iPod circuitry, buffered by a piece of blue rubber (Figure 4). A small ribbon cable connects the hard drive directly to the motherboard. Slowly lift up the hard drive to disconnect this cable and set the hard drive aside (Figure 5).
Now that the hard drive has been removed, you have easy access to the battery. Carefully use a small screwdriver to pry the battery from its compartment. Be careful not to make contact with the circuit board below the battery, because you could damage it. Before the battery can be completely removed, you will need to disconnect the power cord, which is wrapped around part of the circuit board (Figure 6). You can use the same small screwdriver to help get the wires out from underneath the board.
Disconnect the battery from the motherboard by gently pulling the connector straight up. With the old battery removed, you can now plug in the new battery. The connector will fit only in one orientation; do not force it into place.
Now you can essentially follow the process in reverse and reassemble the iPod. But before you can place the battery into its compartment, you must wrap the battery power cord around the tip of the circuit board. Next, place the battery into the compartment, reattach the hard drive connector and the hard drive, and snap the two halves of the iPod together.
Be sure to charge the battery for a minimum of 3 hours before enjoying your "new" iPod!