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Fix Folder Exclam Error

My iPod fails to complete booting up
My iPod fails to complete booting up - at the of the Operating System load I see the "Folder and an Exclamation Mark Warning Error". Can you fix or correct this?

Pretty much yes, about 80 to 85% of the time through just software techniques at a total cost to you of $40.

This error seems to have two forms... hard drive corruption and mechanical failure but does not reveal which has caused the error to appear.

In about 75 to 80% of the cases the "folder/exclam" error indicates a drive corruption. This drive corruption can be anything from one or a few bad blocks on the platter that have critical information related to the boot process or it can be a missing 'master boot record' or a 'sector zero error'.

The Master Boot Record Corruption
The Master Boot Record also known as the sector zero/zero track is the area of the hard disk that keeps the device operating system and a map of where the data on the drive is located. If this part of the drive becomes corrupt, it gives the impression the entire drive is corrupt because it doesn't know where to locate any of the files. You know this when you hear it. The arm keeps sweeping back and forth. You both hear and feel a click/click as the drive keeps "seeking" the zero track.

Single or Multiple File Corruption
Another error of disk corruption in this case might be single or multiple file corruption because several blocks on the hard disk's platter surface (or surfaces.. these are read top and bottom) have bad magnetic read write capability. In these cases again, mapping the bad blocks so they are not part of the useful area of the drive is the approach and perfectly doable.

About 15% of the time, the hard drive has actually suffered mechanical failure. There are three forms of mechanical failure in a hard drive. Most of these come from dropping the iPod while the hard drive is playing a song or video.

The armature stops sweeping the platter for data. The armature is a pivoting arm the moves from the outer perimeter to the center of the hard disk as it spins. At the end of the arm at the top and on the bottom are tiny magnetic read/write heads. These heads magnetize and de-magnetize microscopic areas of the drive's magnetic platter when they "write" data to it.

The heads also 'read' data that has been been written to the platter previously. This is what is happening when you are "playing" a song on your iPod.

So an armature failure by pivot bearing failure or magnetic pulses that move it to it's fixed position will yield a drive permanently broken.

The drive has a "head crash". While the platter is spinning drive is twisted rapidly which leads the platter to "flutter" (rotate on its spindle but a bit wildly). The edge of the platter momentarily loses it firm gyroscopic orbit and moves up and down slightly. While the platter is wavering at the edge the armature moves the heads toward the edge of the platter and the read/write heads actually grind into the 3200 RPM (Mini) or 4200 RPM(60GB Video iPod)

The 60GB Video iPod hard drive for example has two platters that rotate in the same spindle and uses a multiple headed single armature that sweeps an arm between the platers to read and write the top and bottom of the platters. There is a arm that sweeps the top of the upper platter to read and write to it. There is another arm that sweeps beneath the bottom of the lower platter with a head facing up to read and write to the bottom of the lower platter. All this happening... four heads moving at the same time sandwiched around two platters rotating at 4200 RPM.

You can see why they are a bit delicate with no stress but dropping while the disk is in motion can create problems.

A very rare occurrence is a spindle problem. The platters have a single spindle through them that grip and revolve the platters. Sometimes the spindle has a problem.
  1. The more well known type are when the maker uses grease at the top and bottom of the spindle that are higher in viscosity (thicker) than they should be and the hard drive motor is unable to get the platter spinner because of the thickness of the grease at the spindle ends.

  2. A scenario is a bearing failure at one or the other spindle ends leading to audible grinding and mechanical failure.

About 5% of the time, the Folder/Exclamation error really is masking a logic board failure. Only after you take the drive out and replace it the system with a "known good drive" do you see the error on the screen finally evolve to the "Starry Eyed Sad Face" which is 95% of the time a logic board hardware failure.

The important part of all of this - I can fix it for the $40 labor fee almost all the time.

Call 707-544-4400


email me at with questions or to set up a repair.


Monday through Friday from 10am to 7pm, and Saturday & Sunday noon to 6pm.

I'm in Sonoma County... Northern California wine country,

    Frank Walburg
    Service Court
    Santa Rosa, Ca 95403-3139

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