How to disassemble and clean your iPod’s mechanical scroll wheel [UPDATED]

This post was getting so much traffic on my old site, I thought I would repost it here and add the fact that I also bought iCleaner to get rid of the scratches on both the plastic and the metal.

The iCleaner worked more or less as advertised, however it did *not* return my iPod to a factory-like finish. Also, the cleaner has now separated eight months on, so I’m not sure how effective it would be cleaning an iPod or iBook now. The short shelf life of iCleaner is disappointing and the results are mediocre. Think long and hard about it before you spend your $20…


Guess who got an old-school iPod for Christmas? That’s right. And what was the first thing I wanted to do? Restore it to factory conditions. I have *not* followed this article yet to clean my iPod, so proceed with caution.

From iPodlounge.

Warning: Do not attempt to disassemble iPods with non-moving, touch sensitive scroll wheels. The following methods are only for iPods with mechanical, moving scroll wheels.

Step 1
Here you have your iPod, Looking pretty and in one piece. Not for long.






Step 2a
Get yourself a length of tape. We are using Pressure Sensitive Scotch Tape, but masking tape will work just as good. Place the tape either top-to-bottom or side-to-side covering the scroll wheel as shown in the photo at left.





Step 2b
Gently pull the tape taught from both ends until the scroll wheel “pops” up.






Step 2c
As you can see this is an easy, safe method for removal. We spotted this method at iPodingand tried it ourselves and liked the results. I’m sure you’ll agree once you give it a try.






Step 3
Here you have the disc and center button completely removed.






Step 4
A closer view of behind the scenes. Notice the steel ball bearings in which the scroll wheel tracks on.






Step 5
Take a look at how thick the disc is. Suprising build quality. Now your ready to clean your scroll wheel. I recommend using a can of Dust-Off or Endust compressed air for electronics. Spray the compressed air in short bursts to remove any dust. If there is any dirt or grime, clean it with a slightly damp (with water), soft cloth then dry it off completely. You can also use the can of compressed air to dry it. Give a quick cleaning to the inside of the iPod with the can of compressed air. Now it’s nice and clean and ready for reassembly. Note: You can buy Dust-Off or Endust at any large electronic stores.






[Update August 2006]

Three further posts that might be of interest to you:

1. Sony MDR-EX71 Review
2. Shure Ec2 Review
3. iPod HiFi Review



  1. You might want to try a soft reset (hold down menu and select buttons simultaneously for 10 seconds).

  2. Only part of my ipod 4 gen. 20 gig scroll wheel works. Like if I’m attempting to turn up the volume only the upper right side will move the cursor what can I do?

  3. Please explain how to remove the original case. I purchased Swarovski case and I don’t know the procedure. If anyone can help me would be much appreciated. Thank you

  4. Andrew,

    If you’ve got a 4th gen iPod it should still be under warranty. Take it back immediately. It sounds like you have a defective scroll wheel. I’m using a mini ipod now and if you’ve tried the soft reset I suggested to Tommy and that doesn’t work, take it back and get a new one.

    Hope you solve the problem…

  5. Thanks “asdoifug”. If you’re going to use language like that, you should at least post under your real name.

    Btw, line 2 says the following: “I have *not* followed this article yet to clean my iPod, so proceed with caution.”

    I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. If you broke your pod, I’m sorry about that, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you…

  6. My 4th gen ipod got a little scartch in its sensetive touch wheel, and so far the button and wheel haven’t worked, is there enything I can take off or do to make it work again??

  7. How do you clean off the dirt and grime that accumulates on your scroll. I have an ipod mini, it’s 3-4 generation…so i don’t have the mechanical scroll.

  8. Hey,
    Okay, my iPod 10GB’s buttons (the one’s you just touch) won’t work. At all. They were working *okay* when I got it (used) but they would freeze up from time-to-time so I’d just tap it and it was fine. Now, they won’t work. Period. Battery’s charged and working, songs can be downloaded.
    Please help me!!

  9. i found a way to fix the touch/click wheel on ipods that works. (or at least works on the ipods i fixed. i had a 4th generation and the top left and bottom right quarters of the wheel didnt work. to easy way to fix it without taking the ipod apart is to take a pen cap and use pressure in the dead spots by rubbing it around. if that doesnt work try to use something a little harder but not to hard or it will scratch it. and a way to keep the wheel sensitive all you have to do is carefully clean the wheel with regular hand soap. after I did this ive never had any this problem whith any ipod ever again.

  10. Hi, I just took apart my iPod mini 1st Gen to replace my battery. I replaced my battery just fine but after I reassembled it my touch sensative wheel and buttons dont work. Has anyone had this problem? is so have you fixed it and how?

    Thank You

  11. you are so amazign i wish there was a guy like you for everything in the house well you made me life a whole lot happier if there is anythign i could do to repay please let me know (i was just saying that to be nice i really wont get you anything lol)

  12. Hi, I have a 4G ipod, the middle button on the wheel seems to have dirt/grim under it. Sometimes I have to push it another time to get it to work. I was wondering if I can clean it by taking off the wheel. Or if I should just send it back to Apple.

  13. WOW JASON BALL thank you for your comment to tommy about soft reset, I thought my ipod mini was completely fragged and just a hunk of silicon when i couldnt restart it by hitting menu and PLAY simultaneously, turns out it was menu and SELECT?!!? THANK YOU I HAVE A HOUR CAR TRIP THROUGH TEXAS TO MAKE AND WAS TERRIFIED THAT I WOULDNT HAVE MY MUSIC. much love man, much love


  15. Thanks for the instructions. I couldn’t figure out a safe way to get the scroll button off, let alone how to fix the unresponsive issue i had. Thanks for the help.

  16. My daughter has a first Generation Ipod (20 gig?)
    bought used, worked fine for several months. NOw, if you navigate thru the menu (from genre, to artist, to album, to song title) she is unable to get *BACK* to the root menu by pressing on the menu choice. She has to shut off the iPod, and then it goes back to the root menu. *sometimes* if she presses repeatedly on the ‘menu’ button, it will go back… but rarely. I tried to a reset, etc. No dice.

    Is this just a dirty scroll wheel/button thing… should I just try the above procedure (remove wheel) and clean out? Or is this the … end?
    Hope u can help!


  17. You’ve been so amazing,I cant express my happiness!
    Thanks a million for your helpful words..Now my clickwheel is back in position…I used your tape idea…i was a little sceptical but anyways the iPod was dead so i tried and it worked…
    Thanks princess (I would be glad to help but i doubt i could ever reach your level)

  18. hey there, came across your page after my mini’s scroll wheel decided to start playing and pausing randomly, did the tape trick (which didn’t pull the wheel out, but might have fixed it if it was a mechanical sticking problem) and also did the soft reset, it seems ok now. I say to you sir, thank you.

  19. okay where do I start..I’m so upset I think my ipods had it. Iv got a 4gb Ipod with one of the touch sensitive wheels. Its completely froze on me. It doesn’t even let me charge it..wont switch off..its just froze-permanent pause.

    I would be so grateful if anyone knew how I could fix it. I’m actually lost without it!!!

  20. Jenny,

    I would suggest connecting your iPod to your PC (or Mac!), then running iPod Updater. Select the option to “restore factory settings” then resync with itunes. That tends to flush out any problems.


  21. hey everybody!
    i have a 3g 20gb pod. today the fragging touch wheel broke and wont respond….the other buttons(play, menu, etc) work fine though. really gutted as i cant change songs or volume…..any ideas? much appreciated!

  22. hi- my son’s out-of-warranty ipod mini was showing sad face, battery and file errors so naturally i tried to disassemble it. broke the connector at the bottom that needs to be disconnected to remove the innards.

    any idea how to replace that ribbon with conector?

  23. hi,i spilt water on mi ipod (20gb 1st generation) and it still turns on but i have to plus it into the battery…touch sensitive wheel and selector button wont work at all!!..
    any help?
    i think i lost my warranty and what not.

  24. Timo, unfortunately, no I do not know how to fix the connectors. You might be able to solder them back on though.

    Tricia, you might want to try a full reset. If that doesn’t work, it might be curtains for your pod…

  25. Hi there I have a 4 Generation 20 Gig ipod/clickwheel. Can I do what you have shown up above with the tape to my own ipod?

  26. Could you please have the warning a little bigger and maybe red?

    I remembered the tape method from an article I’ve read two years ago and today was the time for me to try it on my 1G iPod with touch sensitive scroll wheel. Yeah, right, touch sensitive scroll wheel… the one you shouldn’t do this with. Just did a quick google to verify the tape method and BINGO! I had the wheel in my hands. Then I began to wonder, why the back of the wheel on photo 2c looks a little different than this broken circuit board in front of me…

  27. Sweet. That shining red will hopefully save somebody from suffering the same damage. The clamp that holds the flat cable on the rear of the touch wheel’s circuit board is broken – but thankfully not ripped off. Actually it’s possible to remove the wheel of those iPods equipped with electronic touch wheels, but one should rip the tape from right to left, so that the wheel will come off on the right side (FFD button) first. As the cable is connected on the left side (RWD button) one may open the wheel like a door, peek behind it and open the clamp that holds the cable.

    However there was very little (close to none) dirt behind my wheel and since there are no moving parts that could be affected by dirt it isn’t really of any worth risking the damage.

  28. Nano question, I have a 2 year old 2 gig nano, and the play button doesn’t work at all, I can use the wheel just fine with full motion however the play button doesn’t activate anything, I can still use the center button to choose a song to play but unable to turn nano off I have a work around but just wondering if I should chance the tape/button removal to see if there is anything I can do to get the play button to function again,

    And yeah I have already tried the master reset/restore several times though have not formatted the device to see if that gets it, which is what makes me think it’s hardware

  29. Well, if you read aaaaaargh’s comment, ripping off the wheel isn’t such a great idea. Drop into an apple store and see if they can offer any help/suggestions. In all honesty, I would do a total reset/reformat before anything. My iPod mini went crazy for a few days until I did a total reformat- which cleared things up.

  30. I have a 4GB ipod mini that would not hold a charge for more than an hour, so bought new battery for it and followed the instructions on how to replace the battery every thing went great was very simple except now I can not get my scroll wheel to work on it???? Any suggestions before I throw it away??

  31. Uggh. Doesn’t sound good.

    Well, the basics of complete re-set and re-install. My scroll wheel used to do strange things with my 4GB mini. Other than that, you might have disconnected something when you replaced the battery. If you’re gonna pitch it, you might as well open it back up and see if anything has broken loose from the scroll wheel connectors.

  32. Hey. I have one of those 40GB iPods with the click wheel, and my problem is different than any I’ve found on here. I can’t get it to do anything at all. Do you know if there is a reset switch inside the iPod or on its circuits somewhere that would do a total system restore? I’ve tried everything, and I know quite a bit about electronics. I’m stumped, so I’m looking to (like I said) TOTALLY reset the iPod. I’m pretty sure that’s my last option before sending it in out of warranty… Any help at all would be awesome!!

  33. well. Im having a problem. The middle button on my ipod wont work. And I tried the tape thing. But that didnt work. So i would like some help please.

  34. I know you shouldn’t use this method with a touch sensitive wheel, like the Ipod Photo, but I have successfully done it. My Ipod wouldn’t go back using the menu key. So allow the battery to go flat and switch off. Very important. Remove the wheel with tape as above, but bear in mind the wheel is held in place by an adhesive film in the centre of the Ipod, it is not mechanically held in place, and you have to use gentle but firm lifting with the tape, and equal force. I found ordinary tape just pulled off, so used super sticky auto accessory tape, like what you use for sticking trim of body work, just large enough to go across the wheel only, not the Ipod case. Carefully cut the tape to cover as much of the wheel as possible, then, using duct tape over that tape, it will give a supper sticky grip and allow the wheel to come off, lift very gently. The object is to keep that disk completely flat when lifting off.
    There is a thin circular electronic circuit board under the wheel when it lifts off, with delicate electronic components, so be gentle with it. If you bend the wheel and crack components of circuit tracks that’s it. Caput…
    Once off, the four copper pads on the back of the wheel can be cleaned with baby buds and mentholated spirits or a clean spirit. DO NOT clean over the centre of the disk left on the Ipod or touch with your hands; this is the “sticky” bit that holds the wheel on. Once done, allow to dry and carefully replace the wheel, being sure of orientation.
    This operation is not for the faint hearted and if in any doubt about your abilities, DONT DO IT. You can wreck the Ipod. Only do this at your own risk. As my Ipod wouldn’t work I had nothing to lose. Please do not blame me if you wreck your Ipod. It is all in your hands. It can be done but be warned and good luck.

  35. I recently was using my 20gb 4th gen. ipod and the touch scroll wheel stopped working. im not sure why, but im sure it is something inside the ipod. i dont want to restore the ipod unless i have to. what can i do?

  36. I have a generation 4 ipod 40gb with clickwheel. my clickwheel does not turn but all the buttons work. how can i get the clickwheel off to clean underneath it since your method is for any ipod that is older than the one i have?

  37. I have an ipod mini and i changed the batteries a few months ago. it worked perfectly fine however as time went by the wheel and buttons started to lag, I had to press really hard for it to work. I opened it up to see if anything was broken – nothing. I cleaned the wheel and got nothing. Now the wheel and buttons don’t work except the play button. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  38. hey loser i just bought my ipod with my 2 year savINGS AND NOW YOU MOTHER F***** WANT ME TO OPEN IT????????????? WITH A TAPWE????????? MY BABY IPOD!!!!COMMON! GIVE ME A BREAK! (OR BETTER 2). I’D RATHER DIE BEFORE TOUCHING THIS MINI SPACE SHUTTLE.


  39. hi i have a problem both my earpieces work fine on other mp3 and ipods but from the same earpieces the right earpiece doesn’t work on my you think its the ipod or is there a way to make them both work on this ipod of mine. I tried to clean it but it didn’t make any diference. thx

  40. Goodday Sir,
    Please I’ll like to exctly know what could be the possible problems with my iPod 40G fourth Generation.
    It doesn’t come on at all even though its been chargefor many hours.
    Secondly, I could I possibly disassembe it?

  41. Lord B, I would suggest step 1 should be a soft reset (hold down menu and select buttons simultaneously for 10 seconds). If that doesn’t work, step 2 would be plugging in your iPod and doing a “restore to factory default” from within iTunes. If THAT doesn’t work, step 3 would be a visit to your local apple genius bar. And if they can’t help, then the happy step 4 is to buy a new iPod…

  42. Hi Jason,

    This post is super old – hope you can still respond. I cannot see any pictures in this post, can you add them back please? Also do you have any ideas on replacing 1G ipod headphone jack. Its fused into the motherboard.


  43. Nick – images restored 🙂

    Good luck with your gem. No idea on how to fix the headphone jack, supposedly you can still take them into the apple store though and they can fix them.


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