Because they’re computers, iPods can crash. By initiating the iPod version of a reboot, you reload the iPods software, hopefully writing over the troublesome spots in memory.
On the majority of iPods, holding the Menu and Select buttons (Select being the middle button of the Clickwheel) for 6 to 10 seconds will force the iPod to reboot, clearing the memory and bringing it back to life. The first couple generations of iPod have their own button sequences, but they’re just as easy to actuate.
Apple recommends a few other steps if this doesn’t remedy your problem, including plugging the iPod into a different port or computer, restarting your PC or Mac, and reinstalling the iPod desktop software. If these actions don’t restore your iPod to full functionality, then the problem lies deeper and more drastic steps are needed.
If your iPod worked fine the day you got it, but is now acting possessed, then it’s possible it has a problem with its file structure or software. This cannot be remedied by resets, as the problem is static between boots. This means that the problem has to be manually deleted from the iPod, which, sadly, means it will take all of your content with it. Fortunately it’s a painless process, and if you keep your iTunes updated, then re-syncing after a restore brings you up to speed quickly. To really make this go well, you should make sure you’ve got the most recent version of iTunes installed. Plug your iPod into a USB port, just as you would to sync with iTunes. When it shows up in the left-hand pane of iTunes, you’ll see a button in the main content window that says restore. Click it. You’ll be warned that you’re going to erase everything, but you know that already. Select Restore and Update to kill the troublesome code in storage and bring it up to the latest factory settings. This works. After it’s updated, it’s simply a matter of syncing with iTunes, and you’re hopefully good to go.
If nothing else works, and the hard drive is still not working correctly, then it’s probably toast. The Achilles’ Heel of the iPod is the hard disk; they’re smaller than the HD in your laptop or desktop, and with mini-drives come maxi-problems. The good news is that now that you know how to get into your iPod, it’s pretty easy to replace this component. You will need, however, a donor disk drive. You can find them used on eBay, but we recommend getting a new disk from iFixit, as they’re guaranteed to be compatible and they come with a warranty. If you’re doing this kind of work on your iPod, you’re going to want to make sure your new drive works, right? To start, open the iPod back up, remove the coaster (you wanted that number, anyway), and lift the hard disk from the top end of the iPod. Remove the blue rubber bumpers and white plastic top (shock absorbers) and carefully pull the drive a quarter-inch to the top of the iPod. You’ll note a thin ribbon cable at the “bottom” end of the drive. Using your screwdriver, carefully work the ribbon out of the drive. This ribbon carries the data and power to and from the disk, once it’s detached, the disk should slide out easily. Remove the foam and find your donor disk. Put the rubber bumpers and foam onto the new disk and put it right where the old one was. Carefully replace the ribbon to the drive and close the iPod up. At this point, you’ll need to do another factory restore in iTunes to write the iPod operating system and software onto the new drive. Once it’s done, sync it up and you’re good to go.