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Common iPod Problems Fixed

My iPod Will Not Turn On | It Locked Me Out | Exclamation Point Madness | My iPod is Unhappy | iTunes Isn't Syncing | Music won't play on my iPod | Web Resources

Well, actually, I can even do a little bit better than basic. To be honest, iPods aren't really all that complicated, but when something happens to them and they stop working, it could mean the end of the music world for some of us and we certainly don't want that to happen. So, it's very important to understand what's going on with your iPod so you can get it fixed as quickly as possible.

Below, you'll find four of the most common iPod problems, including the "locking up" issue mentioned in today's question. The explanations of these problems really should help out a lot of you music lovers out there. Oh, and of course, I'm going to give you some tips on how you can go about actually fixing those problems too. Okay, here we go!

My iPod Will Not Turn On

This can be caused by several possibilities. Check each one in this order to find out what's wrong.

Make sure the "hold" switch is off.


  1. The hold switch is located on the top of the iPod. When it's pushed toward the headphones jack, you'll see an orange patch. This means the Hold switch is on and you need to turn it off.
  2. Slide the hold switch away from the headphones jack.
  3. Press any button to turn on the iPod.

Make sure the battery is charged.


iPod won't turn on if the battery is empty. Instead, a low battery screen will appear for about 3 seconds.

  1. Connect the iPod to the Apple iPod power adapter and plug that into an electrical outlet, or connect iPod to your computer's built-in firewire port.
  2. Wait a minute, and then turn on iPod by pressing any button.

Remember: If your battery is completely dead, it will take up to 4 hours for your player to charge completely.

Reset your iPod.


If the above fail, you must reset your iPod.

  1. Make sure the remote's hold switch is off.
  2. Connect the iPod to the power adapter.
  3. Connect the adapter to an outlet.
  4. Press and hold both the PLAY and MENU buttons for 5 seconds, until the Apple logo appears.

It Locked Me Out

Like the person who wrote in and asked this question, I'm sure many of you have run into this same problem too. Your iPod just locks up and no matter what you do, it will not respond. Well, there are several things that could cause this to happen. If you carry your iPod with you while doing various activities, it could put it into a bit of a shock. For example, exercising, jogging, jumping, dancing and even dropping it or running it into walls, etc. could cause your iPod to freeze up on you.

If the iPod is worked too hard, it will automatically activate its protection controls and it will just shut down the hard drive. The best thing to do when this happens is reset the iPod. To do this, hold the Menu and Play/Pause buttons together for approximately 10 seconds. Now, this method is a little different for the various types of iPods. If the suggestion above doesn't work for you, check in your iPod's manual. There should be directions for resetting your specific type of iPod in there. Once the reset is done, you will see the iPod name and Apple logo come up and you should be all set.

Exclamation Point Madness

imgIf your iPod shows a folder icon with an exclamation point like this one:

  1. The battery may be low. Recharge your iPod with the Apple iPod Power Adapter or the computer cable that came with it.
  2. You may have the wrong version of the iPod software. Try updating or restoring the iPod based on the instruction manual that came with your player.
  3. It may just be locked up. Try resetting.
  4. Fourth, you may need to consult some extra help. If the exclamation point isn't going away, take your iPod back to where you purchased it from. They should have some tech support there that can help you get your iPod up and running.

My iPod is Unhappy

imgIf you turn on your iPod and all you see is a frowning smiley face, don't panic, but this usually isn't a very good thing. The first thing you need to check on is to make sure the computer you're using to hook your iPod up on meets the system requirements of the iPod. If your computer has an older operating system, etc., you may run into some more problems. If your computer does meet the requirements, your iPod just needs to be restored. This, unfortunately, isn't really anything you want to do on your own, so take it to the store where you bought it and get some additional help.

This is never a good thing. Before you do anything drastic, verify that the computer to which you’ve connected the iPod meets its system requirements. If it does, the iPod must be placed into disc mode and restored.

iTunes Isn't Syncing

When you're syncing your iPod with your iTunes music library, you might end up with an error message that reads something like "An unknown error has occurred (-36)." This type of error can happen at any time and on any type of iPod. It basically just means that iTunes is not able to write the information you want it to onto the iPod.

You may see an error message that reads, "An unknown error has occurred (-36)." This happens when iTunes can't write information to the iPod. Here are some things that can cause this:

  1. Outdated operating system software. Make sure the iPod has the latest updates, including improvements for device connections. Check your computer’s operating system for updates too.
  2. Software interference. Some software can prevent iTunes from writing files to your iPod. If you have recently installed any software on your computer, try disabling it.
  3. You may have imported a damaged file. If a music or photo file is damaged, iTunes will display the -36 error when transferring that file to the iPod. If you can identify the corrupted file, try deleting and re-importing it.

Music won't play on my iPod


  1. Make sure the hold switch is off
  2. Be sure the earphones are plugged in all the way
  3. Try turning up the volume
  4. Check to see if the player is on pause


Web Resources

The device was out of warranty, and Apple would not fix it free. So he left it in a drawer until he happened to read a blog posting on CrunchGear.com that described how he might fix it — with a small, folded piece of paper. Mr. Ironside celebrated by posting thanks on the blog: “I’ve been on CDs for months. You saved my life (and my iPod).”

The author of the blog post, Matt Hickey of Seattle, says that using paper as a shim to put pressure on the hard drive has worked on about 70 percent of the failed iPods he has encountered — even though he is not sure why it works.

Gadget-fixing is adapting to the modern era. Neighborhood repair shops are all but gone, and along with them the repairmen who could offer casual advice, even when that advice was whether it was worth repairing the device. But Web sites can help users find and share solutions that can save a device from the landfill. If the job is too tricky, a number of Internet-based firms offer highly specialized repairs via overnight mail.

Some sites like macfixit.com, fixmyxp.com and macosxhints.com are devoted to a single product, while others like avsforum.com sponsor debates on a big product area, in this case home theaters, televisions and stereos. People with laptops that have suddenly gone blank can turn to www.notebookforums.com or notebookreview.com, and there are even a few sites like www.highdefforum.com for fixing TVs.

Yaniv Bensadon, the chief executive of fixya.com, started his site after he moved back to Israel from the United States and found that his electronics would often malfunction in the new environment. The manuals and the support offered by the manufacturers rarely helped.

His site groups questions and answers to problems and organizes them according to product type, brand name and model number. The page for the Microsoft Xbox 360, for instance, lists more than 100 questions with answers. Most provide a single solution, but one common problem, overheating, has 81 posts debating the best fix. All but about a dozen of the questions had answers, although some were a bit brief. (Microsoft has offered to fix those overheating Xbox 360s.)

“Like any other consumer out there, I had problems with my Xerox printer, Palm Treo 700, Belkin wireless router and even Sony portable DVD,” Mr. Bensadon said. “On each of the problems I posted, I received a great solution within 5 to 10 hours.”

Fixya rates the people who offer advice. Anyone can claim to be an expert on a topic, but their rating will rise or fall with the quality of their answers. The site also offers paid services from users who charge about $10 to $20 a problem.

Knowledge is only half of the battle. A number of sites specialize in providing spare parts but also provide the information on how to install them as the incentive to use the site. PDAparts.com, for instance, sells replacement screens, batteries, cases and other parts for Palm Treos, iPaqs and other P.D.A.’s. Videos describing the process of opening the cases — probably the trickiest part of repairing today’s electronics — can be downloaded from the site.

Most other gadgets come with batteries that are easy to replace without custom tools. Replacement batteries for cellphones are often marked up by the devices’ manufacturers, while third-party replacements are often available for 60 percent to 80 percent less. Companies offering replacement batteries for iPods often offer better batteries with higher capacities and longer lifetimes. Ipodjuice.com, for instance, sells a 1,200-milliamp-hour battery that will replace the 600-milliamp-hour battery that shipped with a fourth-generation iPod — an improvement that lets the Web site claim that the repaired iPod will “last 100 percent longer.”

Most replacement kits include small tools for popping open iPods and video instructions for swapping batteries.

For those who do not want to get their hands dirty or wait for an answer, dozens of businesses specialize in fixing some of the most common problems. Ryan Arter, the president of IResQ.com, said his company has been fixing Apple products since 1994. Today, hundreds of iPod, iPhone and iBook owners send their broken machines by overnight mail to his shop in Olathe, Kan., where technicians repair them.

Prices depend on the item and the damage. Replacing a screen on a fourth-generation iPod, for instance, costs $94 for parts, labor and overnight shipping in both directions. Replacing the battery on an iPhone costs $79.

You can take the device to an Apple store for a new battery, and it will cost only $65. But you may not get the same device back, a concern if the gadget is personalized.

“They’re definitely worth repairing,” Mr. Arter said. “Sometimes they’re engraved and they have some special meaning.

“Are they disposable?” he said. “No. They’re little computers. They’re a big investment.” But he says that it makes little sense to fix a device if there are two or three problems with it.

Shannon Jean, the founder of TechRestore.com, a competitor in Concord, Calif., says that the data on a device can be more valuable than the gadget itself. An iPod or a laptop may carry thousands of dollars worth of music and a immeasurable amount of documents, spreadsheets or other information.

“When there’s data involved, that defines what people will pay, especially when there’s downtime involved,” he said.

Among the sites offering help with repairs, it is hard to find one that tells you whether it makes economic sense to pay for the repairs. But some decisions are easy. Basic DVD players are usually cheaper to replace. So are PCs with outdated operating systems like Windows 95. For everything else, especially when a new device costs less the one you bought, the choice is harder. Is it wise to pay $80 to repair a $300 digital camera that now costs $100? Unlikely.

Deciding between repairing a gadget or replacing it with a newer, often better model is a bit of a gamble. Most sites caution that they cannot fix every problem. Some problems like a cracked screen can be easy to estimate and straightforward to repair. Random glitches and odd behavior, however, may be impossible to pinpoint, leaving the user with a bill for ineffective repairs.

Chris Adamson, an editor at O’Reilly Media in Sebastopol, Calif., offers a cautionary tale. He shipped a faulty iPod that was failing on planes to an online company, which he does not want to mention by name. It took a week for the service to diagnose the problem before suggesting replacing the hard disk for $120. The solution, however, did not address the basic problem, and he now finds himself asking for a refund, which the company does not want to give.

He recommends thinking of the devices as having a short life span, perhaps three or four years. “If it fails after that period, accept that you’ve gotten your value out of it and get something new,” he said.


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