I was handed what appeared to be a truly bricked iPod touch 2G the other day. The screen remained blank and the device would not power on with any combination of buttons. Most of the troubleshooting steps I could find online assumed that the device was able to display something – a low battery or an Apple logo. The general consensus was that most iPods displaying some sort of boot problem could be fixed by holding down the Sleep/Wake key and the Home button, as described on the iPod touch: Basic Troubleshooting page. I tried all of the recommended steps, but still the device did nothing – it showed zero signs of life. I couldn’t be sure it was charging while connected to my computer, or that the battery was still good. The one positive thing was that the headphone-jack Liquid Contact Indicator was not activated, although I couldn’t rule out some sort of physical damage.
Connecting it to a Windows computer caused a “USB Device Not Recognized” balloon to pop up. A look in Device Manager (devmgmt.msc) showed an “Unknown Device” in the Universal Serial Bus controllers.
While it was connected to the computer, I was able to invoke the “USB Device Not Recognized” balloon by holding the Sleep and Home buttons down for a few seconds, which didn’t give me much cause for hope, other than those buttons seemed to be working. This is as much life as the device exhibited.
Holding down the Sleep/Wake and/or Home buttons and then connecting the USB cable did nothing new.
I read somewhere that the “Apple Mobile Device Service” needs to be running for the connection to be established, so I opened the Services snap-in (services.msc) and started the “Apple Mobile Device Service”. I reconnected the device, but no joy.
More reading turned up that the iPod should show up in Device Manager as “Apple Mobile Device USB Driver” in the Universal Serial Bus controllers, so I also manually updated the Unknown Device to use the Apple Mobile Device USB driver, following the instructions at iPhone or iPod is not recognized properly by computer when USB drivers are not installed properly or are out of date.
This was only partially successful, as the Unknown Device was now labeled Apple Mobile Device USB Driver, but with an exclamation point next to it, indicating that the device was not functioning. The driver wasn’t able to fully install because “the device failed to start”. As a side note, there are a few other interesting possible drivers that can be selected, and I tried them all, but none of them installed successfully.
Things were looking pretty bleak. But I had fixed a USB drive that was unusable, unformattable, and reporting 0 bytes capacity a few months ago by running a reformat/reimage application, so I felt I had one last resort.
Turning the corner
I finally found a thread describing a situation like mine that didn’t (a) peter out unresolved, (b) conclude with a fix using steps I’d already tried, or (c) end in a product return/visit to the Apple Store. One poster claimed that the jailbreak software redsn0w was able to restore the iPod even when Windows wouldn’t recognize it. I was already headed down the jailbreak route, and was considering Pwnage.
While I was downloading the 3.1.2 firmware, I started scanning the instructions at http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com/2009/06/20/tutorial-iphone-30-unlock-redsn0w/
One of the steps was to connect the iPod while it was turned off (which I couldn’t be sure of). Then hold down the Sleep/Wake button for 2 seconds. Without releasing the Sleep/Wake button, also hold down the Home button for 10 seconds. Then, without releasing the Home button, release the Sleep/Wake button but keep holding the Home button for 30 seconds.
Without much hope, I just jumped ahead and followed those instructions. For some reason, by the time I had counted to 10, Windows had detected a USB device, but this time it successfully installed the Apple Mobile Device USB Driver. I held down the Home button for about 40 seconds and then released it, but nothing else happened.
Another look in Device Manager (devmgmt.msc) showed an “Apple Mobile Device USB Driver” in the Universal Serial Bus controllers, but this time without an exclamation point. This was progress.
As the firmware was still downloading, I walked away for about 30 minutes, and when I came back, an iTunes window had popped up (though I can’t remember if iTunes was already running at the time):
iTunes has detected an iPod in recovery mode. You must restore this iPod before it can be used with iTunes.
Bingo! iTunes was now displaying ‘iPod’ under Devices on the left side. In the Summary tab, it showed an iPod touch with Capacity: n/a, Software Version: n/a, and Serial Number: n/a. Under Version, it read:
Your iPod software is up to date. iTunes will automatically check for an update again on 2/19/2010.
If you are experiencing problems with your iPod, you can restore its original settings by clicking Restore.
So I did.
I agreed to all of the legalese and the software update began. About 20 minutes later, the iPod’s screen lit up and an iPod window opened on the computer, which read “Preparing iPod for restore…”. The iPod then displayed the Apple logo. A few more device driver balloons appeared.
A few minutes later, and I was left with a fully functional and factory-default iPod touch 2G.
With new-found confidence in my ability to resurrect an apparently hopelessly broken iPod, I checked eBay for other likely candidates, but found that most of the broken iPods for sale have had their liquid submersion indicators tripped. Even these have a number of bids, and the ones that seem to be in better condition aren’t that much cheaper than working ones.