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rockboxMy MP3 player is five years old. It doesn’t have a colour screen, isn’t capable of connecting to the internet and the only thing it’s really good for is playing music. The day it dies you will see a grown man cry, drop to his knees and emit a Darth Vader-like “Noooo!” before scouring eBay Shop Like a PRO: 7 Tools to Crack eBay Shop Like a PRO: 7 Tools to Crack eBay Read More for the same model.

I have an iRiver H-140, and several years ago I waved goodbye to the quite frankly awful proprietary firmware on the device. With a bit of fiddling I installed a third-party unofficial “warranty voiding” firmware called Rockbox. It was like owning a brand new MP3 player whilst retaining everything I loved about my ageing jukebox, and I urge you to do the same.


If you’re the kind of guy (or gal, let’s not be hasty) who often feels let down by manufacturers who make solid hardware with ropey software, then Rockbox might be for you. This open source gem is a complete rewrite of digital audio player firmware, adding some mind-blowing features and improvements along the way.

The list of compatible devices has grown incredibly over the years, and it is now possible to load Rockbox onto a variety of players including those from Archos, iRiver, Apple, Sandisk and Toshiba. If you’re interested, you can check out compatible players on the releases page on the official website.

rockbox

As Rockbox operates differently on different devices, there isn’t a definitive list of improvements that can be guaranteed for every device (some are better than others in the first place). Battery life is one thing the Rockbox developers have strived to improve, and evidence of this can be found on the iRiver release where the battery life has leapt from around 14 hours to 21 hours at the top end.

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One area in which the firmware will excel on all players is the decoding of audio. Gapless playback makes an appearance, meaning you’ll now be able to listen to those Pink Floyd albums the way Syd intended. Additional audio formats that are supported include OGG Vorbis, FLAC (one for the purists), AC3, MP4, Apple Lossless, WMA (on your iPod 50 Free Tools to Make Your iPod Better and ... 50 Free Tools to Make Your iPod Better and ... Read More ) as well as good old MP3 What Is MP3 Format & What Is Its Origins? [Technology Explained] What Is MP3 Format & What Is Its Origins? [Technology Explained] Read More and WAV.

Digital audio players with support for recording will see the benefit of improved recording controls, including volume-activated recording, automatic volume control and pitch control. Add to this the powerful file browser, which allows for the deletion and renaming of files from the device itself and your DAP can keep itself organized fairly easily too.

If you’ve got the battery life to spare, there’s a full set of games included with the release which provides some charming clones of classics like Snake, Breakout and Tetris to entertain whilst you listen, and customization is easy as pie with hundreds of themes and fonts to download and choose from. You can even make your own themes, including changeable Now Playing screens so you only get the information you really want.

rockbox

For an even more long-winded look at the included features and how they improve on original firmware, check out the official feature comparison table.

Installing Rockbox is also easier than ever before. Back in the day you’d have to download a version specific to your hardware and manually unzip to your device. Those of you who still want to do this can of course, but for everyone else there’s the Rockbox Utility.

Available for Windows, Mac and Linux the utility allows you to install and manage your newly Rockbox’d DAP. Simply download, extract The Top 3 File Compression & Extraction Softwares The Top 3 File Compression & Extraction Softwares Read More and run the application. The first time you run you’ll be prompted to configure Rockbox by choosing your manufacturer and model, there’s even a handy auto-detect if you’re really stuck.

install rockbox

Once you’ve chosen you’ll need to install the bootloader (in order to bypass your existing firmware) and the Rockbox software itself. Choose Complete Installation in order to install Rockbox and all the extras (fonts, games and themes). Click OK to proceed past the warning.

install rockbox

You may need the original firmware in order to install the bootloader. These are quite easily downloaded from your manufacturer’s website, and if you’re like me you might have a backup somewhere anyway (I keep mine on my device, saves crawling the web).

Locate the file and Rockbox will be installed.

install rockbox

Congratulations, you have a nice new toy to play with. You should notice improved battery life, the ability to take your obscure files with you and the ability to customize your player using the included theme, game and font manager portion of the Rockbox Utility.

rockbox download

Have you tried Rockbox on your device? Will you ever look back? Any favourite themes and games that keep you occupied? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Alfaxs
    August 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I've been using RockBox on my Sansa player for some years now and never looked back.

  2. Alfaxs
    August 28, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I've been using RockBox on my Sansa player for some years now and never looked back.

  3. Dobriensd
    August 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Does anyone know of a firmware upgrade for Sony players? I hate the fact that I can't delete from the player. Anyway Rockbox neither has or has plans for Sony machines. Ohh well, such is life.

  4. Jp26
    August 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    It says it doesn't work with my iPod video because it only works with WinPods. What can I do?

  5. Dave Allen
    August 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Fantastic, myiplayer will be used properly gain.

  6. William
    August 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I play audible audio books on my ipod that are copyright protected. Does Rockbox handle this?

    • Tim Brookes
      August 27, 2010 at 8:22 pm

      I've scaled the FAQ and unfortunately it doesn't look likely!

  7. Davin Peterson
    August 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Unfortunately, Rockbox does not work for the Creative ZEN players. However, A hack for the Creative ZEN has been made to install different background/themes and fonts Creative's ZEN players are compatible with more file types than Apples iPod

  8. Tim Brookes
    August 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    That depends on what you use your MP3 player for, of course. But if you're sick of Apple's way of doing things and being limited to certain filetypes then yes - it probably is worth it.

    The manual for your specific player is here: http://download.rockbox.org/da... so I'd recommend you take a look and see what you think.

    It's the sort of software that breathes new life into your old gadgets :)

  9. Kapil Gupta
    August 26, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Is it worth installing on my Apple Ipod Nano 2GB 1gen. will it make a remarkable difference?

    • Tim Brookes
      August 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

      That depends on what you use your MP3 player for, of course. But if you're sick of Apple's way of doing things and being limited to certain filetypes then yes - it probably is worth it.

      The manual for your specific player is here: http://download.rockbox.org/daily/manual/rockbox-ipodnano1g/rockbox-build.html so I'd recommend you take a look and see what you think.

      It's the sort of software that breathes new life into your old gadgets :)

  10. Tim Brookes
    August 26, 2010 at 11:50 am

    It will differ per player, but yes as Rockbox installs a bootloader it allows you to choose your firmware. On my iRiver I hold down the "Record" button whilst starting up the player.

    If you check out the manual specific to your version, I'm sure you'll figure out which button to hold. All the manuals can be found here: http://www.rockbox.org/manual....

    Hope this helps.

  11. CPMechEng
    August 26, 2010 at 8:13 am

    This is awesome!

    Is it possible to revert back to the manufacturer's software if we didn't like Rockbox?

  12. CPMechEng
    August 26, 2010 at 6:13 am

    This is awesome!

    Is it possible to revert back to the manufacturer's software if we didn't like Rockbox?

    • Skyler Huse
      August 26, 2010 at 6:45 am

      When I was using Rockbox on my iRiver h10 (yeaaaaaaaaaars ago), I could boot int the normal firmware by holding a button.

    • Tim Brookes
      August 26, 2010 at 9:50 am

      It will differ per player, but yes as Rockbox installs a bootloader it allows you to choose your firmware. On my iRiver I hold down the "Record" button whilst starting up the player.

      If you check out the manual specific to your version, I'm sure you'll figure out which button to hold. All the manuals can be found here: http://www.rockbox.org/manual.shtml

      Hope this helps.

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