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How to buy a good used iPod

First, Do not use eBay as a means to locate an iPod. It is too easy to have the seller send something that they legitimately thought was working and arrives to you in an un-working order.

Video iPods: Remember, the drives in an iPod are engineered to be in a laptop computer. A laptop hard drive is used in iPods and iPods are given a lot more rigorous use than a laptop which stays stationary. You will never really know how badly the drive has been treated.

The first thing to look at in a used iPod is the docking port on the bottom. Flip the device up so you can see the bottom docking port. Tilt it back and forth slightly so you can all of the connecting pins. They should lay flat inside the grey base plastic. If they are lifted or lifting or bent up and back into the port you may have already lost permanently your data or recharge battery/power connection.

The seller will not tell you they've bent the connection pins and rely on you to see that the device plays and appears to work, but you will never be able to change the songs on it or recharge the battery.

If you see any of the pins are lifting or bent, pass on the device.

The next thing I check is to see that I have a good drive. You do this by hearing. Press the center button on the iPod and then bring it up to your ear. The platter in the drive spins in the clockwise direction, if it's works well there will be a slight push anti-clockwise in your hand know as "gyroscopic precession". In your hand as you are raising it, look for smooth "gyroscopic precession". This is the feel of the drive wanting to move in the counter-clockwise position in your hand. You don't want to feel rumbles or grinding. Listen to drive, if there is clatter from excess armature movement, the drive is "weak". It has a number of known bad blocks that it is trying to avoid using and is working around. Excess armature movement, will sound like.... then repeat. If there is grinding pass on the device, you know why they are selling it.

The next thing I look at is the screen, is there appearance of fracture in the screen? If so they may have dropped it and it needs to have the screen replaced. If I find a damaged screen I merely lower what I am willing to pay by $70 since I will have to repair it. In your case you may want to pass on it. Do I have good contrast on the screen. This is more important in Black and White models but LCD screens have a tendency to wash out over time and you need to hike the contrast. If the screen is washed out, try to adjust upward the contrast using the Settings function under the mail menu. If the contrast can be made to give you good visibility then it's passed that test.

The next thing I test is that there is good sound coming from both sides of the earphones. If the device has been dropped with headphones plugged in there is a good chance the iPod landed on the plug. When that happens it pushes the plug so far into the jack that it permanently damages it's ability to present sound in the right headphone. So bring your own headphones. Turn the device on and start to use the menu to find a song, perhaps one you know already. Insert your earbuds hit the Pause button to return it to Play mode and listen to hear that you have good noticeable sound from both sides. If you have crackling while you perform a slight wiggle on the plug then it was dropped but not bad enough to damage permanently the right channel. That crackle from the looseness will drive you crazy if you bought this iPod, pass on it. So you want good sound with no plug looseness.

You will never be able to check the life of the battery, just hope it's okay.

There you have it. Notice you can perform none of these tests if you shop on eBay.

What should you pay?
For a Video iPod 30GB, in good to perfect order I've paid $120 to $150. All the parts I described have to be in good order for me to pay that. I pay more (toward the $150 price) if it comes with a USB cable and earbuds and the box it was originally sold in.

I pay less if none of those things are included with it and it has a fairly scratched face plate.

Recent purchasing experience...
Video iPod - 30GB

A mountain biker bought two 30GB Video iPods, one to use and the other as 'back up' in case he spilled on his bike and it seemed he would be without one. After 9 months he hadn't damaged his primary system so he me sold me his back up, in the factory box with cable, slip cover and sealed headphones for $150

A woman bought a 30GB Video and then a few weeks later found herself between jobs. She was to start another with Motorola in a few days and needed to sell her Video iPod for cash to bridge her expenses for the week. In her case it came with a Agent18 polycarbonate shell case the USB cable and earbuds for $150

A 12 year old has a 30GB listed on Craigslist. I contact and set up buying it from him. He says its complete and wants $125. He arrives with Dad driving him in a $40,000 pick-up. The Dad is a known contractor in the area and not subject to economic reversals. The kid hops out and shows the device. It passes all my tests, but the earbuds aren't included. I notice that his own iPod is on the Dashboard of the truck so he's not selling his. In my mind I imagine he may have won it in a poker game. Since he doesn't have the earbuds I offer him $120 a very fair discount on the missing item.

In the case of Nano's...
A first generation (has the Black or White face and the chrome back plate), a working 2GB model should sell for $70 to $80, a good working 4GB model should sell for between $80 and $95, a good working 6GB model should sell for $95 to $130

A second generation Nano (extruded aluminum tube in Silver, Black, Blue or Red) a working 2GB model should sell for $90 to $100, a good working 4GB model should sell for between $100 and $125, a good working 6GB model should sell for $125 to $160, and a good working 8GB model should sell for $150 to $170

Which model should you buy?
First read the web page on the site here "iPod Theory". Very few people know how to use an iPod effectively, why not join the group of people that do?

If you use your iPod while you are active... out running, at the gym, perpetually moving with the device then you need to strongly consider the Nano. It uses a solid state memory system and less subject to many of the problems the Video iPod is. Less subject to getting the screen cracked and broken, appropriate battery for use and decent screen. If you are a runner like me, you will want to get the Nike + iPod running/training kit ($30). It is a perfect way to train for running or walking. More elsewhere on the site about that.

If you use your iPod in more sedentarily... take it on trips, bring it with you in commute traffic or on a plane then the Video iPod series is more appropriate for you. It will give a nudge larger drive so you can store movies. How to take a DVD and rip it into a an iPod movie is taught here on the site. Look in the left navigation.

Read the "iPod Theory" page.

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    Frank Walburg
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