HOW TO – iPod nano hacking

The new iPod nano is out and while it’s not as hackable (yet) as its older cousins, you can do a few things like change the text strings, mod the font and even change the graphics (sorta). Here’s HOW TO mod a pod, a work in progress for the iPod nano….Dsc06006

Like everything else in the household here, the new iPod nano was quickly hacked and modded to see what was possible. The value of a gadget for us here is more than just features, style and function–it needs to be malleable to bends, tweaks and personalization. While the iPod nano isn’t as hackable as older iPods (run linux, record high quality, etc…) there are some things you can do. Here are just a few to get started.

Changing “strings” or text

Let’s say you don’t like what the text says on the iPod; maybe you’d like to rewrite the legal section for kicks, or put your name and address in your iPod. You can use a tool called “iPodWizard” for Windows PCs to change the strings on any iPod, including the nano. If you have a Mac, skip to the Changing graphic part of this article, it has the app you’ll need to use.

Download and install iPodWizard from The source code for iPodWizard is available too.

There are tons of forum posts, articles, HOW TOs and more on iPodWizard, so after you read this, the best source for iPod hacking/modding with iPodWizard is usually over there.

Also, while you’re downloading, grab “iHack” we’ll use this tool to make the special text.

Lately, we’ll need some Firmware to mod; the best way to get it is actually from Apple. Download and install the iPod updater from here for your Windows PC.

Start iPodWizard and click “Open Updater” it should be in the following directory – C:Program FilesiPodiPod Updater 2005-09-06

I usually make a copy of this file as a back up, that way I can always restore my iPod to a “clean” firmware if needed.
Once opened you’re going to choose a Firmware from the list, the iPod nano is IDR_FIRMWARE- 14.5.0. Click Load.

Here is a complete list:

  • IDR_FIRMWARE-1.1.5 –iPod 1st or 2nd generation
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-10.3.1 –HP iPod 4th generation
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-11.4.2 –iPod color / U2 / Potter?
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-14.5.0 –iPod nano
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-128.1.1 –iPod Shuffle?
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-2.2.3 –iPod 3rd generation
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-3.2.6 –iPod mini
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-4.3.1 –iPod 4th generation
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-5.4.2 –iPod Photo
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-6.2.6 –HP iPod mini
  • IDR_FIRMWARE-7.2.6 –Not sure, some black and white one it seems?

(please post in the comments if these are not correct).

Now some bad news: other iPod firmwares load in graphics to mod, but the latest iPod nano does not. But we can still edit the text on a PC as well as the fonts. You can edit the graphics, sorta, on a Mac–I’ll go over that later.

Once loaded, click the “strings” tab. This is all the text on the iPod, it’s fun to see all the things the iPod can display, poke around.


I’m going to change the word “iPod” at the top menu to MAKE. Type in iPod and click “Find Next.” It’s really far down the list; the ones that are iPod with a period (.) are not the same.


Now, open iHack. In this application you type what you want the iPod to say, it’s important that the new text “fits” with the old, for example, I chose MAKE since it’s the same number of characters as iPod.


Once typed in, click “send to active window” and click the i in iPod in the window. In a second or so it will replace the word iPod with Make. I also replaced a few other instances of iPod just to make sure I got most of them. Just be careful, there are ones that shouldn’t be changed, and you could mess up the iPod a bit. In the worst case, formatting the iPod in Windows or Mac OS will kill any mistakes and then you restore from a clean firmware you saved.


Next up, click “write.” This will save the changes to the Firmware file.


Once saved, open up the iPod updater, plug in your iPod and restore. This will erase all your data, so make sure you have back up and all that.




Once restored and the iPod reboots, you should see your text changes on the iPod nano.

The make pod.

Changing fonts
Some folks can’t read the iPod fonts particularly well, and others just like to change the look. Just like the text strings you can change the fonts; it’s a little trickier and I don’t think the results are usually that great, but here’s how.

Start iPodWizard and load in your firmware, 14.5.0 for the nano and click the Fonts tab. Here is a huge list of all the fonts on the iPod, most of them are for other languages, but the sample one I’m going to change is the main system font for the iPod “Podium Sans.” It is index number 29 in the pull down list.

You can make your own fonts by clicking “Make font.” This will grab one from your system, but you can also tweak parts of the fonts on a pixel level. This is pretty cool since there are tons of fonts out there, but most of them don’t really look that great on the tiny screen, so experiment!


Now that you’ve modded the font, click “write” and we’ll restore the iPod again.


Thin font iPod nano.

Mod vs unmod…

And this just about ends what you can do on a PC now with the nano; you can of course use IpodWizard to mod graphics on other iPods, just not the iPod nano at this time. I suspect that will change. To mod graphics for now, you need to use a Mac; here’s how I did it.

Changing graphics

For some reason the way the nano stores graphics is a little different than the other iPod; the modding software on the PC can’t see it, but on a Mac I was able to take the firmware off the iPod, view it and change it. For some reason it looks really odd, but that’s fun too, I suppose.

There might be a couple ways to mod the graphics and perhaps some work arounds, but this is the way I got it going…

On a Mac I need two applications to mod the graphics, the first is Alterpod (download it here) and second is iPod icons.

The first thing we’re going to is extract the Firmware from the iPod To do this plug in the iPod and run Alterpod.

In the first panel, click choose in the destination field and select a place on your system to store the iPod firmware.

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In about 1 minute you’ll have a new file called “ipod_firmware_backup”. Quit AlterPod and start up iPod icons.
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Choose “Import Firmware” in the file menu and select file, point it towards the firmware we saved with AlterPod.
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Once the firmware is loaded, you’ll see all the graphics, but for some reason they’re all weird, I’m not sure why. But you can edit them as well as as saving them back.
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Before we do that, you can also mod the text on the iPod nano here as well, just click text.

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To mod a graphic, select the icon and choose export icon from the edit menu. If you want to save it as a specfic type of format, like BMP go to the preferences and change the file format.

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Once exported, use your favorite image editing software to edit the graphic; just keep it the same size and expect it to look weird. I make a MAKE logo, a red one, and it came out green, but I think this is how it will be until the firmware readers update for the nano.

Select the icon you want to replace and choose import icon.

Here’s MAKE. Now choose export firmware in the File menu and save it to your local system.

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Choose “create new firmware file” and give it a name.

Go back to AlterPod and in the first panel choose the firmware file and click restore.

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Once restored, eject the iPod; it will reset and here’s the modded MAKE pod!


You can also use AlterPod to mod graphics, text and fonts–but for now, I just wanted to do it quick and easy style.

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As the hacks get better, we’ll update the articles–for now it these are just a couple of the things you can do with a nano! Happy modding.


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