The wife’s new 8 gig iPod Mini

This Christmas, the wife was dropping hints about how she might like a 4 gig iPod Nano as an upgrade from her current 4 gig iPod Mini. Seeing an opportunity to both bring a new gadget into the Wisdom household and knock out a big chunk of my Christmas budget for her (my new iPod with Video was considered an early Christmas present and therefore set the bar for our budgets), I jumped on apple.com, whipped out my company-sponsored discount and got one before they went into backorder.

Then a day or so later, a piece on a homegrown 8 gig iPod Mini comes across my RSS reader. Damn, I thought to myself, that”s pretty freaking cool. I showed the piece to the wife, who also thought the idea of a pimped-out, higher-capacity Mini was quite awesome.

She loves her Mini – it”s the right size and damn near scratch-proof. Plus the green is “pretty”. Her only complaint is the 4 gig capacity. She spends more time that she would like adjusting her playlists.

But with the shiny new Nano sitting in the office closet upstairs, I figured I”d go ahead and give it to her and offer to return it in favor of Frankensteining up her Mini.

As TCL mentioned (when I unsuccessfully tried to pawn the Nano off on him pre-Christmas), it sure seems like turning the Mini into an 8 gig player for the same amount of money ($250) would be a better idea than simply “upgrading” to a 4 gig Nano.

I figured the wife would probably go for the 8 gig Mini option, but chicks tend to like shiny new things, so if she”d rather keep the Nano, that would be fine. It didn”t take more than a few minutes for the wife – a geek at heart – to realize a pimped-out 8 gig Mini would be a super-cool thing to have and that the Nano is probably too small for her to keep up with. Other than the super-small form factor (if you”re in to that kind of thing), I personally don”t see a lot of appeal in the Nano. The color screen is nice, but I tried displaying some album art – which was barely distinguishable on the small screen.

So Christmas night I sold the Nano to a friend of hers (who had the same model on backorder somewhere) and promised her the most Mack Daddy iPod Mini the world has ever seen.

[editor"s note: this is the point in the story where we"re transitioning from a piece about The Cap"n and his wife being geeks to a rundown of how to make an 8 gig iPod Mini - like how From Dusk Till Dawn turns from a crime/road movie to a vampire movie when they reach the Tittie Twister.]

The story on the homegrown 8 gig Mini laid out the required components and the how-to, so I ordered:

- The Seagate 8 GB CompactFlash Photo HD from Amazon.

- The high-capacity iPod Mini battery from Sonnet. Not only is the battery upgrade a good thing to do (for just $30!), but the new battery ships with tools to get into the Mini as well as an instructional video. This makes the drive switch much easier.

I was a little put off that the guy who said he did this didn”t provide much proof that he really did it and that it actually works, so I had a slight concern that it might be a load of B.S. But it does work, and I took pictures during the operation as more guidance to anybody who might want to undertake this upgrade.

If you”re looking to do the upgrade, follow the Sonnet instructions carefully to get into the case, and just be very careful when you”re removing the old hard drive and installing the new one. The last thing you want to do is rip out ribbon connectors, bend the data pins, etc.

Here we go.

The Mini pre-op:

On the right are the 8 gig drive and new battery. On the left are the tools provided by Sonnet. If anybody”s going to try this, be real careful with that little blue plastic tool. It”s essential for the job and is rather flimsy, so don”t break it.

The Mini taken apart:

There are only a few plates and screws that need to come free to liberate the Mini from its case. A hair dryer is required to heat up and loosen the faceplate adhesive and not messing that part up is key. Go slow and be patient opening the Mini.

Backside of the naked Mini:

Factory battery (blue thing) and 4 gig drive nestled in place waiting to be swapped out with the new stuff on the right.

Fully disassembled:

Note the piece on the right. This is a rubber cushion that helps protect the hard drive. Untape it carefully from the 4 gig drive so you can re-tape it to the 8 gig drive. And take a look at the tape configuration before you start the swap. The tape holds the cushion to the drive and also holds the drive to the pin connector. Take your time and don”t screw up the drive connection.

New drive installed:

The new 8 gig drive taped up and plugged in just like the 4 gig had been. Again, go slow and be careful when making the swap and your new install will be just like the factory one.

New battery ready to go:

The actual battery swap is simple. One connector to pull out (carefully, please) and then just plug the new battery in.

Back together:

The new 8 gig drive and battery are installed – the original components are at right. Again, follow the Sonnet instructions to get the thing back together. This will involve the hair dryer again.

7.4 gig capacity:

That”s right – an 8 gig drive gives you 7.4 gigs of usable space. The 4 gig gave you 3.7 gigs of usable space, so deal with it.

And that”s it. The entire operation took about 90 minutes, then I had to go through the iPod Software Update process to get the OS on the new drive and let the new battery get its initial charge for a few hours. But overall, a quick and easy upgrade. Total cost was $248.99 including Sonnet”s shipping and sales tax (why is a company in California charging me Georgia sales tax?).

Some of you may be saying “Jesus, what a stupid thing to do – just buy a new 30GB iPod for $300 and sell the Mini on eBay!”. A very valid option, but the wife loves her Mini for all the reasons mentioned above and just wanted to be able to get more music on it. And it”s just cool to have a 8 gig Mini.

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