How To: Rockbox installation on iPod Classic (new bootloader)

How To: Rockbox installation on iPod Classic (new bootloader)




Since I wrote my previous article on installing EmCore and Rockbox on to the iPod Classics, there has been some great work done in this area and in effect creating an integrated bootloader installation method for Rockbox.

Currently in Beta, but the new bootloader installation method works really well and with the new DesignWare USB driver introduced in to the code – the USB funtionality is impressive – very fast transfer speeds and (so far) no filesystem corruption or (usb) device dropping.

Anyway the guy who has been doing this great work has posted a link, there is an installation video as well as links to the latest builds and useage documentation.

I think this is a great solution for people who own 6g iPods which have the LBA28 limit of 127Gb. Rockbox and this new bootloader will open up the extra storage available when installed with higher capacity solid state storage.

The following video shows the entire installation process and the extra steps necessary when using with an iFlash board and larger than 128Gb storage …..

Go get the latest build from the link above – I suggest the Designware USB build and the zip file, which you should extract to a suitable location on your computer.

UPDATE: Many people have been asking me, while it is not shown/mentioned in the video this same method can be used for the iFlash-Sata as well as all the other iFlash adapters.

As always this process is messing around with the underlying firmware installed on the iPod, so there is a risk of bricking your device – you have been warned. If you choose to follow this guide you do so at your own risk!!

NOTE: After making the video it occured to me that when you run the Rockbox utility the first time, you can just select the bootloader installation, then re-partition/re-format the storage, then on the second run of the Rockbox utility, install Rockbox and related files. This will save a little time.

78 thoughts on “How To: Rockbox installation on iPod Classic (new bootloader)

  1. Justin Bye

    Just wanted to offer some genuine thanks and praise for your excellent service and products!
    Have given a new lease of life to my 120GB Silver iPod Classic (MB562) using the iFlash-Quad flash loaded with 3 x 128GB micro SDs (and a new ribbon as it turns out that the original Apple ones are quite delicate and easily broken!).
    I can now get my entire collection on the single iPod in FLAC format with space to spare.
    Thanks again team!

  2. Karl

    @saratoga: I fully understand. Big up to all the rockbox devs.
    @Support: So you mean the Rockbox code of the iRivers supports your adapters? It was tempting to upgrade the storage of my iPod using your adapters, but seeing that it doesn’t work well was very frustrating.

  3. saratoga

    @Karl Rockbox is an Open Source project run people on the devices they own. If someone wants to add support for the iFlash adapters, they can submit the code and I (or someone else) will review it. If no one wants to do it, then they will not be supported.

    @Support You don’t need to change your hardware, rather you need to provide a driver that works for your adapters. It is unfortunate that you have an article titled “How To: Rockbox installation on iPod Classic” without actually providing source code necessary to make that work reliably. As a result people seem to think that the iFlash adapters are going to work with Rockbox, and then come to us when they do not.

  4. Karl

    @Support – thank you for the response, I fully understand. It sadly seems, that nobody from the Rockbox developers is working on this issue, so It would be great if some skilled person provides a patch.

    1. Support

      @Karl – Our test build for the iPod Video’s seems to be working very well – in our tests the transfer rate over USB is as fast as the Apple OS with no corruption or hang-ups, but sadly the 6g/7g build of Rockbox uses it’s own ATA drivers so our changes cannot apply to that.

      Many people use our board in iRiver players with Rockbox, we have not had any reports of issues or problems. So the issues seem very specific to the ATA code used in the iPod builds.

  5. Karl

    @Cataclem: Thanks for your response, but it would be great if the iFlash adapters work flawlessly with Rockbox. I am currently struggling with an iPod mini which I modded with the iFlash SD-CF Adapter. OF works fine, but Rockbox panics with Ver. 3.14 and current builds.

  6. Karl

    Any plans to make the adapters work better with Rockbox ATA driver? Writing to the SD cards using Rockbox results in file corruptions. Maybe this could be fixed with a future hardware update?

    1. Cataclem

      I was having the same problem under 5. But tarkan told me to transfer under apple software and since except a few glitches (that means large files)all is ok

    2. Support

      @Karl – That is not going to happen, we are not going to change hardware to fix what is an software issue – ATA driver in Rockbox is sensitive to the underlying SD structure, so some cards work, some work with a few issues, and some do not work at all (e.g. Kingston). Our boards are designed to meet SD & ATA standards if we move away from that we may cause imcompatibility with future SD cards and compatibility with the original Apple OS.

      Rockbox is open source software – changes could be made which cause our boards to stop working with it, so we cannot design our hardware around software that is constantly changing.

  7. Daniel Spoko

    Actually, a little playing with setting and I figured out in the setting menu there is an option to increase # in browser.
    :), 🙂

  8. Daniel Spoko

    Hi, I have 6G 160GB Ipod Classic thick with iFlash quad and 2 mini SD 128gb sandisk cards installed. I loaded about 1200 flac music files and it worked fine. However I have added another 400 or so flac files and now the system show me only 999 songs. What should I do have them all to be recognized? The quality of music is very impressive.
    Please help me.
    Thank you

  9. cataclem

    i have installed rockbox on a iflash quad with 200gb sandisk microsd (ipod 5 30gb video)
    it works ok, but my music skips after 20-30secs, or 1-2mins
    how can i remedy this?
    thank you

  10. rebelnfdg69

    I have a 6.5 gen iPod I got the iflash quad along with 4 new pny 128 cards when its plugged up to the computer opens iTunes about half the time asks for restore for some reason it never completes the reastore I have partioned and all when rockbox comes up it recagnizes the iPod but it will not identify what drive the iPods plugged up to, I’ve tried various drives on the computer (USB) thank you for any help

    1. Support

      @rebelnfdg69 – I would first restore using iTunes and confirm the iPod is working ok like that before attempting Rockbox. Also worth checking your MicroSD cards are ok use something like H2Testw (windows) or F3 (macs).

  11. Dan

    Just wanted to follow up with a solution I had to this problem. I had some very hard to diagnose issues with some (apparently) knock off memory cards. Avoid the whole sale packaging on ebay of 200Gb SanDisk Ultra Micro SD SDXC Class 10 UHS-I. This authentic cards will work, but I managed to get some fakes. I now have some 200gb Sandisk ultra plus microsdxc UHS-1 and they work like they should. The knockoffs had formatting issues with them. One had a bad sector on it and prevented the final FAT32 formatting before reload of the rockbox firmware and associated themes/games and such.

    All is good and Im loading up my music now.
    Thanks for this tech!

  12. Dan

    I’m having issues with an iflash Quad. Its a 6th gen classic with 2 x 200Gb SanDisk Ultra Micro SD SDXC Class 10 UHS-I. I can get it to work just fine with the iTunes firmware and the 128Gb limit(with the two 200Gb sdxc cards installed), but I splurged for the extra memory. I have tried several different avenues of attack. When I go to delete the (3)three partitions and go and install the rockbox firmware, games, fonts, and themes: the utility freezes. If I can manage to get the firmware on there and start it up, the boot screen will show: no partition found, +checksum issues with the rockbox.ipod, & will not start the rockbox program. I have tried differing combinations of: differing formats(FAT32, ExFat): differing card slots for the two cards, reformatting the cards individually, checking the partition for bad sectors, leaving the small partition on the SSD(s) when reformatting the partition(s), rebuilding the MBR on SSD, and other countless attempts.

  13. sduck

    I can’t get this to work with my ipod classic ver 6.5, either with windows or a mac. Maybe it’s an OS issue – I have high sierra on my mac, and am running windows 10 on it also via bootcamp. I’ve used windows and rockboxutility to set up various ipod videos ver 5.5 with no problem. In windows, the bootloader part of the installation fails after I switch it into DFU mode – it recognizes that DFU mode has been detected, but get an error message about there not being a DFU USB driver, install itunes or a WINusb driver – I have itunes installed, what the heck? On the Mac, I follow all the directions until starting mks5lboot, then get the message “command not found” – I’ve got the mks5lboot.dms file in the right directory and everything, it jut refuses to work. Anyway, no luck either way – maybe the instructions need to be updated for the newer OS’s?

  14. Support

    For Rockbox and iPod Video (5g/5.5g) users using our SD based iFlash boards – I have a modified build which attempts to resolve issues using the Rockbox USB Handler. It is an experimental build using the latest development code from 31/01/2018 – if you would like to try it and give me some feedback, use our contact form to send us a message – again this is only for iPod Video models 5g or 5.5g running Rockbox with SD based iFlash installed.

  15. Stephen

    I’m planning on upgrading my iPod Classic 7th gen 160GB to iFlash Solo with a 64GB memory card because my 160GB HDD is dying. Now, my question is, do I still follow this process or is this process just for people that are using more than one memory card or their memory card storage in total is bigger than 128GB? Thank you so much for writing this article.

    1. Support

      @Stephen – Rockbox is an alternative operating system for the iPod, it an option some people prefer. To carry on using the Apple operating system and iTunes, just install and restore/sync using iTunes – the 128GB limit you mention only effects 6th Gen iPods, if you have a 7th Gen 160Gb model, then you can upgrade above 128GB without issue.

  16. Matthias

    Dear Support, I am confused now; does the 6G 160GB have a 128GB limit (as stated in the compatibility chart) or not? Many thanks for an answer.

  17. David Bathe

    Something is confusing me slightly. I’ve just fitted a iFlash Solo to my 6th Generation iPod 160GB classic with a test 32GB SD card. It seems to be working well so now I was going to get a bigger memory card. I’ve read that 6th Generation iPod can only access 128GB of memory, but how can that be when the original HDD was 160GB?

    Is the limitation on iPod 6th Generation with a HDD smaller than 128GB?

    Can I fit a 256MB card because my 6th Generation iPod had a 160GB HDD?

    1. Paolo

      You can.
      Now my iPod has a 512gb SD card and works great but NOT using apple original firmware.
      You must install Rockbox and the whole SD will be available.
      The installationn is fairly simple, just be careful with the SD card you buy. I had problems with Kingston and works perfectly with SanDisk Ultra. I suggest buying it from Amazon so if you have any issue you can sand it back and buy a different brand.

    2. Support

      @David Bathe – The 6th Gen models due to the restrictions set by Apple only work as LBA28 devices hence why they are limited to 128GB, the 160GB 6g models use CE-ATA hard drives and Apple use this to allow LBA48 addressing, which is how they can work at that capacity using the original HDD.

  18. sacocats

    I put Rockbox on a 6th gen iPod and it froze often on song skip and it would require a hard reset. It wasn’t specific songs because the song that got skipped would play after reset.

    If anyone else out there was having a similar problem, the fix for me was putting on the legacy version of the bootloader (v8) instead of the stable (v1_0). Now it works like a dream. 8+ hours of playback with no freeze yet.

  19. Adrian

    @James T

    The link you provided at step 2 got me on the right path, thanks! Here’s what I did to make it work:

    1. I completely restored my iPod with iTunes, stopped ihelper in the task manager.

    2. Downloaded from here and run RockboxUtility.exe and follow the steps in app

    3. At boot It will fail saying it can’t find rockbox

    4. Abort and restore the ipod again using iTunes BUT NOT COMPLETELY just to get it to connect to USB (this means: don’t install the apple firmware, just do the first part of the process) so you can copy the .rockbox folder manually

    5. Copy the rockbox folder and restart the ipod. Alternatively you can try using the RockboxUtility.exe again and install just rockbox with it, not the bootloader

  20. paolo.tavazzani

    After installing the HW iFlash-Dual, have followed your tutorial to prepare a Kingston SDXC 512gb card (which from the compatibility list is supported) by formatting it as FAT32 and followed your extremely. Lear tutorial to install Rockbox in it.

    During the first installation, after installing the new bootloader and more or lesse around the last part of the downloading and installing phases windows 10 complained about the disk corresponding to th iPod Classic (6g 160 GB Thick) being disconnected and had to abort the procedure.

    After reconnecting the iPod it I tried reinstalling Rockbox but kept having some disconnections of the disk in various phases of the process. After a few formatting/Rockbox installing I managed to complete the process but once I disconnect the iPod immediately got a Kernel Panic for missing partition and on rebooting went back to the USB mode due to a missing partition,

    I tried to restart the process by reformatting the card directly on PC according to preparation instruction, reassembled the iPod and reinstalling again Rockbox. This time the process completed with no issues so I tried transferring 2gb of music through Intrernet Explorer and again had a disconnection after some 20% of the file transfer.
    Now when disconnecting the iPod from pc and rebooting again I get stuck in the bootloader in USB Mode. Windows sees the disk and the contents of it (both Rockbox folder and the partially transferred music but cannot start Rockbox.

    Any suggestion on how to fix this situation?

    Another question, how can I reinstall the original Apple bootloader to reinstall Apple firmware and check if the HW is working properly in a pure Apple environment (which stupidly didn’t test after installing the HW)?

    Thanks for any help you can provide me.

    1. Support

      @Paolo – The known working list of SD cards is for the iTunes/Apple OS – it does not mean it will work with Rockbox.

      To get back to the original Apple OS, just place the iPod in to DFU mode (hold down menu+select for 7 to 10 seconds until the iPod appears to go dead, while connected to the computer) and run iTunes to recover / restore iPod.

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