The iPod Mini at 16 Gigs!

Meet Green Maureen.  Green Maureen is an iPod mini from 2004.  Originally, she was a 4GB.  Today, she’s got four times the storage!

I picked up this mini through GameStop; they sell “scratch and scuff” iPods along with better-condition refurbs. I didn’t get a choice of color (although I really wanted the green one anyway) and it while not in the best shape, it wasn’t bad for what I had in mind.  Mainly, I was looking for something I could keep in the car, that could hold a decent collection of songs and wouldn’t be missed if it got lost or stolen.

When the box arrived, inside was a green mini (with “Happy Birthday Maureen” engraved on the back), a new set of cheap earbuds and a dock cable with a USB charger.  While the mini worked, its battery didn’t hold more than a 30 minute charge.  Off to Amazon I went for a no-name, $3.99 replacement battery.  Using an iPod repair book from my local library, I performed the minor surgery required to give it better battery life.  About 20 minutes later, she was back together. I charged her overnight, then played her for a full day (almost 10 hours) at the office.  Impressive!

But I wasn’t done there. I’d read that the memory in iPod minis were actually Microdrives — tiny hard drives in a Compact Flash form factor.  I also learned that the 4GB Microdrive could be replaced with a larger capacity CF card (note: this only works with a 2nd generation mini).  So a little bargain hunting later, and I found a 16 GB Maxell CF card for $11.99 at B&H Photo in NYC.

Before doing the next round of surgery, I put the CF card into my card reader and ensured the format was FAT using Disk Utility.  Then I opened up the mini once again, carefully removed the MicroDrive and replaced it with the CF card (unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the process…there are plenty of good explanations on the web for this, with detailed photos).  Once back together, I plugged Green Maureen into my Macbook Pro, fired up iTunes and ran the “Restore” function. Within a few minutes, the mini was back to life.

The screen showed that it did, indeed, have 16 GBs of memory.  I proceeded to load about 3,700 songs onto it (letting iTunes do its “compress to 128kbps AAC”) and still had 2.3 GBs of space left.

So now, I have an iPod mini, that cost a total of around $35, that can carry almost 4,000 songs and play for 10 hours.  A fun project with a good outcome — I think I might build another!