Tony Lukasavage

Caffeine. Whiskey. Code. Mostly the last one.

RockBox: Make your old MP3 player cooler than it ever was

Rockbox is an open source firmware for mp3 players, written from scratch. What does that mean? It means you can take your old mp3 player (like my 1st gen iPod mini for example), install Rockbox, and make it cooler than it ever was in the first place. How cool? Cool like playing “Doom” on my 1st generation iPod Mini, that’s how cool.

Aside from the slightly impractical Doom gaming there’s some pretty neat stuff you can also do with Rockbox installed. Here’s just a peek at some of the stuff you can make your old device do with Rockbox:

  • Re-skin your player’s interface with downloadable themes
  • Run applications like alarms clocks, text editors, or battery benchmarking
  • Play games like Doom, sudoku, and solitaire
  • Edit playlists directly from your player
  • Access and view files on your player

Rockbox main menu

Rockbox plugins menu

So what do you have to do to achieve this level of coolness? You pretty much just have to connect your mp3 player to your computer and download the Rockbox installer and follow the instructions. Once downloaded, just extract the Rockbox Utility program and run it. It should then guide you through the steps necessary to get up and running.

Autodetect is your friend when configuring. Chances are if autodetect doesn’t work for you, you either don’t have a compatible device (supported devices) or your computer doesn’t recognize it. If you do encounter any issues, Rockbox has a user’s forum where you can search for troubleshooting info or ask questions of your own. Aside from that, I have a few tips here in case you run into any of the same problems I did.


  • Make sure that your computer recognizes your device as connected before attempting to install Rockbox. Try unplugging and replugging in your device to get it to show up.
  • If you get proxy or network errors it means Rockbox can’t download the necessary files to complete you installation. Stop goofing around at work and try it when you get home. ;)
  • If you get a popup that says “Your configuration is invalid” chances are that your device mapped to a new drive or that you don’t have it plugged in.
  • During the Rockbox installation onto your player, you might get an error that says “Failed to add bootloader”. Make sure you have selected the right device and version for the Rockbox install.
  • If all else fails, do a factory reset of your player and try the install again.

Have fun Rockboxing! Be sure to donate to the project if you find it valuable.