Modding an iPod to Disconnect from the Internet

A picture of an iPod on a counter.
Photo by Ruijia Wang / Unsplash


I used to be a really bad doomscroller in high school. I wanted to be an influencer so bad. I would spend hours a day on my phone looking at various social medias, not really gaining anything of value.

(Side Note: Delete Social Media. Thank me later)

So, I quit social media. The only things I browse now are on desktop (I don't browse on my phone anymore) and I only really consume things from my RSS Feed (News, HN, Reddit Communities), and YouTube Subscriptions.

So, I've dropped my phone usage significantly, however I still find myself getting distracted with it, even with all the mitigations I've put in place like using grayscale, and more.

The Boring Phone
How I keep my phone boring to stop wasting time.

I wanted a device where I could specifically listen to music, and nothing else. Years of watching DankPods made this a non-starter, I wanted an iPod.

If it runs on electricity there’s a chance I’ll yell at it.

An iPod allows me to do nothing but listen to music. There's no connectivity to the outside world, as said by DankPods himself, "What I love most of all is no one can call you on one of these [...] I'm the one who presses pause."

Apart from disconnecting from the internet, I'm sick of music being pulled from streaming services. I've lost tons of music to the dreaded grayed out "track unavailable" on Spotify.

A screenshot of 3 grayed out songs on Spotify with a popup "This Content is not available."
All 3 of these songs are unavailable now, because the artist/Spotify said so.

However, I can't get too mad, because I never actually "bought" those songs directly. I just rented them. Jeff Geerling has an excellent article covering this exact problem.

Forget spaceships; I just want my music | Jeff Geerling

I now hoard all my important music on my Home Server with Lidarr + Deemix, using Deezer to download FLACs so I always have the music I care about the most.

The iPod

So I bought an iPod 5.5 Gen for it's DAC (I'm personally unlikely to hear the difference but it wasn't much more expensive) and ease of modding, as it's casing is plastic so it should be easier to open! Maybe I'll get some decent headphones and can take advantage of that DAC!

Photo of iPod, opening tools, and iFlash Board, SD Card.
The Setup: an iPod 5.5 Gen, iFlash Solo, and a 256 GB SD Card

For the Flash Mod, I chose an iFlash board for their reputation. Everyone says they just work which is what I want. I don't want to fuss with anything, I just want a music player. This allows me to replace the old hard drive with an SD card, increasing reliability, battery life, and storage. Sounds fantastic right?

To start the process, you have to open the iPod. I was really nervous about this part for some reason but it went well. Following the iFixit Guide made this way easier.

iPod 5th Generation (Video) Hard Drive Replacement with a CF or SDHC/SDXC Memory Card
This Guide will show you how to replace the 1.8 HDD with a CF or SDHC/SDXC memory card. This might be useful to many people because a 1.8 HDD is…
The Open iPod - Opening it wasn't too difficult but I got it after a bit.

I had to re-seat the iFlash board a couple of times but eventually I got it to boot up and show up in Finder.

I plugged it into my Mac and had to restore the iPod. Luckily macOS built this into Finder so even 23 years later it worked flawlessly! (How's that support for the Zune, Microsoft?)

Native iPod support in Finder.

However, I don't want to use the stock software. Having to plug my iPod into my computer, copy the music from my server to my Mac, then import into, then syncing to the iPod sounds miserable.

That's where Rockbox comes in! Rockbox is a free replacement firmware for digital music players.

Rockbox - Free Music Player Firmware

Mainly, it allows drag and drop music support, so I can plug my iPod into my Home Server directly and rsync the music over. I can make a script to automate this, so when I add new music to my library it's just one command to sync it over to the iPod.

However, when I tried installing I was told it wasn't compatible with macOS formatted iPods, so I went and formatted with a Windows device. Then I was able to install Rockbox.

An error message from Rockbox saying "Rockbox only runs on WinPods [windows formatted iPods]
IpodConversionToFAT32 < Main < Wiki

The wiki linked in case you need it.

Rockbox also has themes! The default theme I'm not a big fan of, but they have several iPod-lookalikes so I just put one of those on there and we're good to go.

Rockbox - Wikipedia
Default Rockbox Theme
iPod-lookalike Theme

Another thing Rockbox supports is integration. You might ask, how does that work if the iPod doesn't connect to the internet? Basically it writes your scrobbles to a file on disk and you then upload that file to through an application/website.


Scrobble .scrobbler.log files to


With this mod done, I now have a completely silent jukebox to throw around and use to keep me distraction free when I just want to listen to some music.