Do you have an old iPod Classic lying around just collecting dust? If so, why not put it to use. Most of the old iPod Classics have a lot of hard drive space, for instance mine is over 7 years old and has a whopping 80GB of space. It’s scratched up, has been dropped more time than I can remember, but still works like a charm as an external portable drive. It also doesn’t hurt than it’s small enough to fit in your pocket.

The iPod Classic kind of got left behind now that we have the iPod Touch, however just because it’s old and somewhat outdated doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some tricks up its sleeve. I’ve used my 80GB heavy weight iPod Classic as an external portable drive for years now. And it’s also a tank, I had an ex once throw it at me once; she threw like a girl… so obviously she missed :P … but it still hit that wall really hard and probably would have knocked me out if it had collided. It still works perfectly fine though.

Of course since you can use it as an external hard drive it’s also possible to make backups with it.

It can even be used as a boot disk for Mac OS X Mountain Lion, but I’ll cover that in another article How to Boot and Run Mac OS X from an iPod Classic.


How to Format the iPod

how to format ipod classic with disk utility

Format iPod

To format the iPod, use Disk Utility. It can be found in the Application/ folder or by searching for it in Launchpad or Spotlight. Of course make sure the iPod is connected to your computer, then select the iPod from the list on the left. Click on the “Erase” tab and you’ll be presented with the window that is used to format.

Here you have to decide which format you want to use to format the iPod. If you want to use it for a Windows and Mac computer select ExFAT (or NTFS if you have a 3rd party application like Tuxera installed), if you want to use it just with a Mac select Mac OS Extended (Journaled). There are more options and reasons why you may want to choose a different format; you can read more about them here, under “Understanding the Different Formats“.

Once you’ve decided on the best format, give it a name and click the “Erase” button on the bottom right. This will go through the process of formatting the iPod Classic.


Enable Disk access without Formatting

enable disk mode itunes 11 ipod classic

Enable Disk Mode

If you use your iPod Classic to play music and still want to be able to use it as a portable storage device all you have to do is enable disk mode. There are two ways do it. To enable disk use:

  1. Open iTunes and Plug your iPod in.
  2. Go to the iPods device summary page.
  3. Under “Options” make sure “Enable disk use” or “Manually manage music and videos” is selected. The difference being that “enable disk use” will automatically sync your device where as “Manually manage music and videos” won’t.
  4. You may have to press sync to finalize it.
  5. An icon will show up on your desktop or in finder. If on a PC it’ll show up on the desktop or in Explorer.
  6. Simply drag and drop files and folder onto the iPod.

Another thing about choosing between “enable disk use” and “manually manage music and videos” is that if you planning on using it to share files between friends you should choose “manually manage music and videos. This is mainly because if your friend accidentally presses the sync button on the device, it will restore (erase everything).

Also remember, now whenever you unplug the device you have to eject the iPod Classic in iTunes (or by right clicking on the icon and selecting Eject) before unplugging it. This is because your computer will now recognize it as an external hard drive and it could harm the drive if you unplug without “ejecting” it first.


Final Thoughts

I find it works great for sharing large files, it’s still somewhat slow though. It can be used as a local backup “solution”, however I’d recommend still going with an actually external hard drive. I’m not sure how well it would handle under the stress of being a constant backup solution. Also when you plug it into your computer, the iPod will still tell you that you need to restore it in iTunes. Just ignore it, it can’t be removed.

Another thing I feel I should be clear about, if you still plan on syncing music to your device you have to use iTunes. Simply dragging the music onto the device in Finder or Explorer will not work. The device will see it as a data file and not as a playable music file.

If you do ever want to go back to using it as a music player just restore it in iTunes.