Recycle Old MP3 Players

I’ve commented several times on the number of portable music media players that have come into my life since first acquiring a parallel port connecting, Smart Media reading, Samsung Yepp player as a prize in a drawing at the 2000 Comdex. The original 5GB iPod from December 2001 is at my brother’s house, retired because the FireWire connector is loose and no longer syncs. When the battery on my 20GB Archos Jukebox Multimedia stopped holding a charge, I tried in vain to extend its life looking for a battery equivalent to what was inside. Despite searching everything from battery specialists to Tawain wholesalers, no battery replacement could be found on an English language site. In vain, I gave up and packed the Jukebox away along with the rest of the growing collection of relics.

More recently, as I was reorganizing bins full of spare parts and cables, I decided to revist the Archos Multimedia Jukebox. The battery went bad, but AC power still powered the unit, so I know the 2.5-inch hard drive still functions. Visions of an external hard drive danced in my head. The warranty on the Jukebox is long since dead. Without battery power, a portable player isn’t very portable, so I really have nothing to lose in tearing it apart, except for the possible submission to the Smithsonian 100 years from now.

I fearlessly tore into the case, removing several screws and bending part of the metal case to extract the drive. For a portable player like the Jukebox Multimedia, you have to be careful not to cut yourself on some seriously sharp metal edges when pulling the drive out. With the case bent back out of the way, removing the drive is as simple as sliding it out, although the compact space required the assistance of some tweezers to get it started.

During the transformation, I tried two different case options before finding one that worked well. The first case supported both FireWire and USB 2.0 requiring a power connection to make the drive work. Turns out none of my machines liked that case configuration, rejecting the drive before it ever had a chance to properly connect to Windows XP. The main reason I wanted to create an external drive out of the Jukebox was to have a backup for audio recording on the road, with a portable form factor. In addition to the wonky issues with the case, an extra power supply in my backpack takes away some of the portability factor.

At one point I considered using Compact Flash to fill the backup role, but the price point on 4GB and larger CF cards makes this Frankenstein drive look like a better option.

Case number two is from Norwood Micro and pulls power from the USB 2.0 connection. There’s no power cable required, but the downside is there’s no FireWire option either, which means slow transfer if I’m stuck using a USB 1.1 machine at any point. Installing the drive in the enclosure was ridiculously easy. In fact, The case is just a housing for the drive and a little board with all the components.

This time I achieved success. The white casing around the drive makes my new external drive look like it should complement an iBook and iPod, but it functions as expected. To remind me of it’s origin, the drive still bears the name Jukebox. I realize not everyone owns one of the overpriced predecessors to the new Archos PVR, but I hope I inspire at least one person to find a new use for an expired gadget stashed in a shoebox or closet. If you’re curious about other ways to create external drives, take a look through the tutorial I did on creating a full-sized external drive from a 3.5-inch internal hard drive and a drive case.