Playing Whack-a-Pod with my 4G nano, any ideas?

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Code Monkey

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I've got a 4G nano that's been in service for a bit over 18 months. It locked up two days ago for no obvious reason, went to reset it, just froze on the Apple logo. Multiple resets all the same: locked up on Apple logo. If you leave it alone, it stays on the logo until the battery dies. Went to restore and had to put it into disc mode to do so since iTunes doesn't recognize it in the locked up state; no luck, it was still locked up as soon as the restore process finished. Repeated the restore process multiple times, no joy. Everything normal in diagnostics mode and iTunes reports no problems moving files on and off the iPod once in disc mode. Found some people with same issue on the Apple forums. Figured the iPod was FUBAR...

Yesterday morning my 5 y.o. daughter gamely goes to show her dad he just needs to reset it (paying attention is not her strong suit ;)) and, instead, knocks it off the bookshelf I'd set it on about 1.5 meters off the ground. Smack! onto the hardwood floor... and the darn thing snapped back to the normal menu. Sure enough, the iPod keeps locking up on me for no clear reason every few hours, but a sound thwack onto my desk or steering wheel and it starts up again.

Now, as fun as it is to play "Whack-a-Pod", I'm trying to figure out what exactly is wrong and if it can be repaired myself or if I just need to put up with this as long as I can keep it coming back to life:

- When it's not locked up, it behaves 100% normally.
- When it locks up, the iPod light will come on at my touch of the clickwheel, but no other input to clickwheel is accepted.
- If the iPod was playing when it locked up, it keeps on playing as though nothing changed but, of course, I can't pause, change volume, etc. and the display does NOT update even though the backlight comes on.
- If the iPod was paused when it locked up, well, it's just froze on whatever it was doing last.
- The button presses to invoke a reset, disc mode, and diagnostics mode work just fine when it's locked up. Disc mode and diagnostics mode work as expected but, as described, a reset is stuck at the Apple logo.

There is nothing obviously wrong with the iPod and, being allegedly solid state electronics, you've got to wonder why a firm whack is jolting it out of its locked state.

Any of the more mechanical and technical minded people out there got any more clue than me?
 

Sparkee

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Kind of odd, I have not had an issue with my 4G nano other than the occasional lock ups all my nanos have done. Even though the post you linked to suggests a software issue you would think more people would be reporting this issue.

Since "whacking" it seem to fix your's I would think it's a hardware issue. One of the ways to look for bad solders or loose connections in electronics is to lightly tap the components with a screwdriver handle or similar insulated tool looking for a reaction. I wonder if something is shorting out in the click wheel or internally possibly against the aluminum body. This type of a defect may show up over time on older devices.

Another thought might be the possibility the solid state memory starting to fail. Although I can't see whacking it fixing it unless the memory chip has a bad connection with the main-board.
 

Code Monkey

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Since "whacking" it seem to fix your's I would think it's a hardware issue.
That much I assumed as well. Right before bed last night it really started locking up like nuts and was not responding to whacking except by brute force and ignorance so this morning I proceeded to disassemble the thing (once again, thank-you iFixit for your handy disassembly guides). Figured it couldn't hurt and maybe I could track down what was shorting out or otherwise making my life less pleasant.

After taking almost everything apart (I left the screen hooked up since it was the only way to tell if what I was mucking with was having any effect on the lock up issue), I eliminated ribbon connectors, screen, hold switch, etc.. Discovered the source of the problem is a short or some other form of faulty connection between the dock connector to the logic board. Deflecting the dock connector slightly to the back of the nano would un-lock the iPod. Guess the whacking was similarly deflecting this part of the iPod enough to un-lock it. I was able to jury-rig a paper shim to hold it in the slightly deflected position and, for now at least, it's lock up free.

It's not a pretty or elegant repair and I have no idea how long I can keep it functioning, but it appears better off than it was yesterday, and if I can keep it working until September me and my bank account will be happy. Since you can't even find replacement 4G logic boards (and probably not cost effective when you can still buy refurb 16GB 4Gs with warranty for $120), looks like this is the best I'm going to get.
 

Code Monkey

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It's not a pretty or elegant repair and I have no idea how long I can keep it functioning...
Answer: about 5 more days (with each day growing more unreliable), then the bugger locked up never to unlock again shortly after my morning workout yesterday. Battery is now drained and I'll be tossing it in the mp3 player recycling bin at the local Target soon.

Fortunately, I was bright enough to put in an order for a 8GB 5G nano refurb on the 30th that showed up this afternoon. Loading it with stuff as I type. Kind of hate the 5G nano next to the 4G model and could have had a 16GB 4G refurb for only $20 more, but given that I hope to only be using this thing until the fall 2010 update, grabbed the 5G so I can turn my toddler loose with it when the new iPods come out (that internal speaker that I absolutely HATE my kids absolutely love, go figure). His big sister has a 5G nano and he loves to watch Charlie & Lola and SteveSongs concert DVD on it, so he'll have his own soon enough.

The biggest lesson learned is just how important video content has become over the past couple of years. I'd ordered a 5G "video" iPod the day they came out and eventually gave it up for a 2G nano - never found the video element compelling and with my smartlist system it was just a giant brick in my pocket compared to the little nano. Fast forward to these past days where I found myself using that 2G nano as substitute iPod (the kids killed the 5G iPod unfortunately). I was about to go into withdrawal not being able to watch my video podcasts.
 

Sparkee

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I was about to go into withdrawal not being able to watch my video podcasts.
You know you have an addiction when you must have a spare iPod for when one dies. :) My touch comes in handy quite often when I forget my nano at work. I also still have the 2G with a funky dock connector I can get to work if I'm desperate.
 

Code Monkey

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You know you have an addiction when you must have a spare iPod for when one dies. :)
Like I needed this to show me I'm addicted :D

I wound up with the 2G nano when the 5G iPod needed a repair and I couldn't go the week without it (wound up preferring it to the full size iPod and the 5G became the backup). At least things weren't so bad I dug up the 2G shuffle we've got around the house somewhere. That would be addiction :p
 
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