Mac Lab Report

Replacing Your iPod's Battery: A Bit of Work, a Big Money Saver

- 2006.03.02

I recently replaced my iPod's battery myself. After many months of articles dealing with poor iPod battery performance (mine's a 3rd generation), following the information about Apple's battery replacement suits and subsequent settlement, I decided it was time to replace the battery, as mine had become essentially useless without a power plug. The thing wouldn't even finish booting up before it would click once and die.

At Fry's electronics (a west coast electronics store), I found a 3rd generation iPod battery replacement from Premium Power for $39.99. Yes, I could have taken it to the Apple Store, but then there would be a delay of indeterminate length - combined with a higher price - for the replacement.

I was eligible for Apple's battery replacement settlement, but I lost my receipt. So I'm the target audience for Premium Power's product.

The battery came in a package that had a helpful image of a 3G iPod on the cover (which it refers to as the Slim model, a term I'd not heard before). This helped me figure out that I had the right battery. The reverse of the package includes step-by-step instructions right where you can read them. I thought they were pretty clear. The package even included a tiny pocket screwdriver to be used to do the replacement.

Of course, I wound up scratching the case in the process (Step #1), but I figured that would happen going in, and my iPod's already kinda dinged up.

The instructions say to go in 6 cm (2.4") from the end and basically push your screwdriver in the side until you can pry up the metal backing. I bent mine ever so slightly, but it snapped right back into shape upon reassembly. I left about a half-centimeter (0.2") nick in the white plastic on the side, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be when I first started.

It took me about five false starts to get the lid loose. Once started, it wasn't loose enough to fall off, but gentle prying with the flat-blade screwdriver got the job done.

I would suggest to the manufacturer that they put a 6 cm ruler on the back of the blister pack just to complete the nicely done photo-based instructions.

The back, hard drive pad, hard drive, etc., came off without any difficulty. Some ribbon cables remained attached, so I didn't try to disconnect anything but the hard drive, which was required.

The only other slightly tricky thing is that you must route the new battery wires under a little peninsula of the motherboard containing the battery jack. The replacement wires were thicker and stiffer than the original. Eventually I loosened a star-driver screw nearby so I could slide the power wires under this little tab and plug the new battery back in.

Everything went back together easily. On a scale of difficulty, this is harder and more delicate than plugging in a PCI card, but not as bad as disassembling a laptop. A mild squeeze to the case, and everything popped back into place.

I let it charge overnight before playing anything (even docked); the directions recommend 3 hours. The next day I used the iPod off and on for about 3 hours before writing this article, and the battery is just about half-drained on the indicator. Battery indicator response is not usually linear, so I expect to get about 4-5 hours of steady use out of it.

Summary: Good product, clear instructions, performs as expected. Downsides: Instructions include a tool but not a ruler, and a ruler is easier. Power cables are a bit thick to fit easily under the motherboard tab.

I'd recommend it to anyone in a similar situation who is looking to save a few bucks or just loathes paying others to do what you can do yourself.

Oh, and by the way, if you need to justify your iPod purchase, remember it can be used as an external emergency boot drive - I've repaired two of my colleagues' machines in this manner.

You can also use it to move around enormous files too large to fit on a USB flash drive.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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