Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Free Knowledge: Windows iPod Tech Support

I'm going to provide the solution to this problem so that it's now public knowledge since I couldn't find it for hours yesterday.

First, background on the problem:

I run out of USB ports on my laptop docking station, so I go to buy a USB hub. While at the store where I am buying the hub, they are "giving away" (by mail-in rebate) a multiple-format flash card reader, so I get one of those as well. Everything arrives, I plug in the hub, plug in my wireless keyboard, plug in the flashcard reader, and my personal server folder disappears. Why did this happen? Because the flashcard reader had overridden the drive letter designation of my mapped network drive. No big deal, I re-mapped the network drive to a different letter and re-synchronized my offline files. Two days ago I went to put some songs on my iPod and got an error message saying ""one of the usb devices attached to the computer has malfunctioned," when I plugged in the USB cable. However, iTunes still booted and I had an iPod icon called "RAID5" with no songs or playlists on it. I ejected and unplugged the iPod several times to no avail.


1. Call Apple support. THIS IS NOT THE SOLUTION. According to discussion groups, if you call Apple regarding this error message, they will tell you to send the iPod back to them.

2. Buy a firewire card. I DIDN"T TEST THIS SOLUTION. I bought the card and then realized my USB/firewire combo cord only had the firewire port so that you can charge the iPod while it is transferring data. Please read solution 5 below and why I think this firewire card solution might not work.

3. Go to Windows Update and choose the USB fix for Windows XP SP1. While probably a good idea for me to do in general, THIS DID NOT SOLVE THIS PARTICULAR PROBLEM.

4. Update the iPod firmware. I went and download the firmware update, installed it, rebooted, and the firmware update couldn't recognize my iPod. The only option available to me was "Restore," which deletes everything -- didn't want to do that. So while I did eventually wind up being able to update the firmware, THIS DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

5. Look at your drive designations. Do you have a hard drive or mapped network drive occupying the "i:/" slot? If so, this is the problem. The firmware on the iPod sets its drive designation to "i:/" and for some reason, either a bug in Windows or in the Apple firmware, the drive designation is not dynamically reassigned if there is already a drive at "i:/" The consequence of this error is that the iTunes software realizes there is an iPod attached somewhere, but pulls up the hard drive or network drive name as the name of the iPod and shows no music on the drive. THE SOLUTION IS TO ENSURE THAT THE "i:/" DRIVE IS ALWAYS LEFT AVAILABLE for the use of the iPod. Once I did this, my iPod mounted with no problems, I was able to update the firmware, everything worked fine via USB. I then tested the firewire card and again had no problems, but the iPod still occupied the "i:/" designation (which is why I don't think buying a firewire card is the solution to this problem, but I can use my card for other things).

Feel free to contact me if you are having a similar problem and I'll do my best to help you out.


Unknown said...

HI Ross,

Can u tell me is it a problem with Windows XP or Apple iPod?
If it is ipod problem, can u please tell me how can I update the firmware when it is not recongnized by the USB? Or let me know how to do "Restore"
Is Restoration OK if I don't want any existing music in the ipod? In my system, there are no drive designations start with i:/, so I have to look for 4th option of you? Please reply ..Thanx in advance.

Ross said...


It's been quite some time since I've used an iPod with a Windows machine -- I've switched almost exclusively to Macs.

You may wish to go into the Hardware Manager and see if you can delete the iPod drivers so that they have to load via PNP the next time you plug it in. Further, you may just want to uninstall iTunes and all of the iPod updates from your system, restart, and perform a clean install of the latest version of iTunes.

I don't believe that you can do a firmware update on the iPod if it is not recognized as a USB device. Furthermore, the software restoration function is built into either iTunes or the iPod update standalone software (if you're running a really old version of iTunes) and requires that the iPod be recognized by the computer in order to run the restoration utility.

One way to determine if you are having an issue with just your machine would be to plug it into a friend's Windows machine and see if it's recognized; if it is, then you know that you have some sort of hardware and/or software issue to diagnose on your machine.

Good luck!