Thursday, March 09, 2006

Journal: iPod repair

Since I got my 4G 40gig iPod for Christmas of 2004, my relationship with it has been characterized by long stretches of intense love and intimacy interrupted by brief episodes of intense frustration and alienation. A few times, it has gone on the fritz, with no logical explanation that is apparent to me, and no obvious fix, even after hours and hours of time invested. Suddenly, however, last night, my iPod and I made a breakthrough.

I'd plugged it in to my PC (Win 2K, firewire port), and it started to happen again: the iPod whirred to life for several seconds, made a clicking sound, then fell silent for a few seconds, then started the process over again. This is how my iPod problems start. I plug it in to sync and recharge, the clicking starts, and iTunes never acknowledges the iPod. Further, I can't get Windows to stop the process and disconnect from the iPod. The only way to stop it is to reboot the computer and the iPod at the same time.

So last nite, it started again, as I was about to go to bed. I restarted the computer and rebooted the iPod and unplugged the thing, and started over. When Windows finished restarting, I plugged in the iPod, and it started again. What I did next I did on the basis of the hours of research I'd already conducted and on my keen knowledge of engineering principles: holding the iPod in my right hand, I smacked the thing sharply against the palm of my left hand, as a smoker smacking a pack of cigarettes. The clicking stopped, iTunes happily acknowledge my iPod and it synced up. I went to bed, feeling as if I'd just won $400 (the original price of the iPod) on a scratch ticket.

I'd read, on an Apple support forum and a couple other places, that people had "fixed" their iPods by dropping them or smacking them, read speculation about stuck drive heads and so forth, but I was convinced that it had something to do with upgrading to the latest version of iTunes. The last time I'd had trouble was after upgrading, when I'd ended up trying to do a full restore. I'd get a few hundred songs onto the iPod, and suddenly get a 'delayed write failure' message or other stuff that suggested a hard drive problem, but the HD check with the iPod's diagnostic mode always came back OK.

So after hours of frustrated Google searches, hundreds of restarts, and some marital strife occasioned by my obsessive attempts to fix the thing, it turns out that the way to fix my iPod was to use the technique one might have seen one's father use with the 1968 RCA black-and-white TV in the family room: whack that sucker and show it who's boss.

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