Best iPod Classic Hacks: DIY Upgrades and Alternative Uses

By James O Malley on at

iPod Classic hacks can breathe new life into your once-beloved gadget, now rendered all-but obsolete by smartphones. The click-wheel iPod may no longer be the coolest kid in town, but the device that saved Apple still holds a special place in our hearts, and can actually still be useful.

If you don't want to use Spotify or Apple Music, but want to carry around your entire music collection, then the Classic still has its place, with storage capacity going up to 160GB. In fact, as we reported earlier this week, it is even possible to upgrade your iPod's storage to use a SSD of up to 1TB in size, which is far beyond even the top iPhones.

But what else can you do? It turns out there's a vibrant community devising DIY iPod Classic hacks, working tirelessly to improve the veteran player. Here are some of the best hacks we've seen for iPods with clickwheels - including both earlier generations of iPod right up until the 6th generation iPod Classic.

Build in Bluetooth Headphones Support to Your Old iPod

Avoid getting your earphones tangled by using Bluetooth. The hack uses accessories that already exist, and builds them directly into the iPod's shell to make it completely seamless.

In order to make room for the Bluetooth transmitter, you'll first need to switch out your hard disk for a much slimmer SSD, and in any case you'll need to use a soldering iron to connect everything together. So this mod perhaps isn't for the fainthearted.

ipod classic hacks
Pic: Robert Menes on Flickr

Replace Apple's OS with Rockbox

Apple's iPod operating system is pretty limited in scope, so why not expand it? Rockbox replaces Apple's software entirely and does the hard work of playing music itself. It is much more powerful than Apple's OS (if significantly less polished), but will let you browse and play music as before with added controls, such as crossfades and so on.

What is quite cool is the ability to add playback skins, to customise your device's interface, making it much more colourful than Apple's white-and-grey minimalism.

For the audiophiles out there: Rockbox also supports playing lossless FLAC files without needing to convert them to Apple's own lossless format. Helpfully, you can always switch back to Apple's default software if you want to, which means there's no need to worry about Rockbox breaking your whole device.

ipod classic hacks

iPod Classic Hacks for Games and Apps

If you install Rockbox (see above) there are loads of games and apps that you can install. None are particularly sophisticated compared to what we're used to now, but if you want to play a bootleg Puzzle Bobble or a knock-off of the Mastermind board game this is your chance.

Install Emulators

The iPod Classic can even run a Game Boy and Game Boy Color emulator. You can find instructions on how to install it here, but as we're sure you're aware, you should only be playing home-brew ROMs rather than old Nintendo games.

ipod classic hacks

Use a NES Controller to Select Tracks

This is brilliant. If your iPod Classic is out of reach you could always use a modified NES controller instead. The hack essentially uses the same technology as headphones use for the buttons on-wire to send commands to the iPod, but instead of being attached to pair of earphones, the controls are instead soldered to the buttons of a controller.

Use Your iPod Classic as a Massive USB Storage Device

You don't even have to mess with your iPod's innards for this. Simply put your device into disk mode and you can use it to store files just like a normal USB thumbdrive... but with much more storage than you would usually get on a USB. You can boot applications from it when it is plugged into your computer, which is great if you want to carry around a portable web browser that saves all of your bookmarks and settings for use on a wide range of different computers.

If you don't mind breaking your iPod as a music player, you can even use the device to boot an entire operating system.

ipod classic hacks

Replace Your iPod's Guts With Hi-Fi Quality Cables

Sadly this isn't a DIY hack, but RedWineAudio is offering to replace the connectors inside your iPod with Hi-Fi quality cables, with its iMod. The company claims that the hack will give better bass sounds, a richer "more seductive" (!) midrange, and "superior treble extension".

The mod apparently builds in a Wolfson Digital-Analogue Converter (DAC), which is favoured by audio pros, bypassing the iPod's analogue stage entirely. The exact hardware modifications depend on which version of the Classic you have: the 5th Gen version retains the headphone socket for use on the go, for instance, but the 4th Gen version removes it in order to support the DAC.

Does it Play Doom?

One of the most common questions in the hardware hacking community is "but does it play Doom?", with the classic 1993 shooter acting as a de-facto benchmark for the capabilities of device, and the capabilities of the hacker.

The iPod Classic is no exception, and you too can play it by using a plugin for Rockbox OS (see above). We imagine controlling it might be a little tricky, with the clickwheel used for steering, but as a proof of concept it is undeniably impressive.

iPod Classic Hack to Install Wikipedia

There's no rational reason to want to do it but heck, why do people climb Everest? Because it is there. With that same spirit, you can install the entirety of Wikipedia on your iPod Classic using iPod Linux. Unlike the app for phones, it obviously doesn't update when pages change, and rather than a touchscreen you have to make do with a click-wheel, but at least it works offline.