How-To Geek

Upgrade Your old iPod with Rockbox

If you are tired of trying to keep up with Apple’s new iPod releases, upgrade your old iPod for free with Rockbox. Rockbox allows you to upgrade your aging iPod with new themes, fonts, games, and more.

Rockbox is a replacement firmware for the iPod, iriver, Cowon, and many other devices. What the firmware does is extends the functionality and features of your current digital music player.

Installing Rockbox

The first thing to do is download the Rockbox utility from their website.

Rockbox provides prebuilt binaries for Windows, OS X, and Linux so just download the one you need and run the program. The first time the software loads you will need to plug in your iPod and autodetect the model. If you know the model you can also browse to a mounted drive and then just select your model from the provided list.

Note: You may need administrative rights on the computer you are running the utility from to write to USB devices.

Installation is a one click affair. Simply click the complete installation button and the latest files will be downloaded and installed onto your iPod.

Note: The installation will not erase all of the music and pictures you have on your device. If everything works the way it should, it will simply replace the bootloader and add its own OS files where needed.

Once Rockbox is installed you can install any optional playback themes from the built in theme installer.

Or you can also install fonts or games from the Rockbox utility.

Using Rockbox

Once everything is installed, disconnect your iPod and reboot it. It should automatically load Rockbox. Usability of the iPod should be fairly the same with one of the big differences is now you will have some more utilities and menus. You can browse for pictures and music from the files browser or if you have your music tagged you can also use the database browser.

You can change the theme to one of the ones you installed by going to system -> themes and selecting the theme you want. The menu should change automatically and you will also notice the new theme during playback.

Some of the extra utilites are found under the plugins menu. If you go into that menu you will find any additional software and games you installed.

Of course, the option to play Doom is there if you installed the games option in Rockbox utility, and have a supported device. You will have to figure out how to actually control playing on your own.

Uninstalling Rockbox

If you want to switch back to the default OS that came with your iPod you can hold the menu+select button (menu+play on some devices) to hard reset the iPod. Once the iPod starts to boot again turn on the hold switch and the original OS will load.

If you actually want to remove Rockbox completely then you can go back to the Rockbox utility and just click uninstall.

So next time you are tempted to throw out your perfectly working old iPod because Apple told you it would be a good idea, try out Rockbox. It may have the missing apps you were looking for.

Rockbox homepage

Justin Garrison is a Linux and HTPC enthusiast who loves to try new projects. He isn't scared of bricking a cell phone in the name of freedom.

  • Published 09/2/10

Comments (7)

  1. Spooter

    Interesting post, I may try it on my old ipod Nano at some point.

    On a side note. Its disappointing how many ads appear on howtogeek these days. For a website which used to be so against them its a shame.

  2. Wayne

    What ads?

    Firefox + AdBlock Plus FTW!

  3. Roi

    Are iTouches compatible?

  4. squeeky

    For a Touch, jailbreak it to install themes etc.

  5. gyffes

    I don’t block the ads b/c I don’t want to deny sites I appreciate their chance at revenue, but my eye’s so trained to ignore them that when I take surveys for Sports Illustrated (for either their online or the mag I get), I have to confess that though I read the issue cover-to-cover, I can’t recall a single ad.

    When I saw your whining comment, I had to scroll back up — in surprise — b/c I just hadn’t noticed any.

  6. dantes666


    I used to think the same way, but since my ISP started metering data use and I get charged for going over I now have to block out as much as I can to keep data use down.

  7. Mia

    When I did this to my iPod nano 2nd Gen, my iPod would just display a message telling me I need iTunes to restore my iPod. Lucky I had SharePod to back up my songs at the last minute.
    Why won`t it work on my iPod?

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