A few weeks ago, a forum reader pointed out that the Creative MuVo 2 was selling, on average, for about $40 USD on eBay. The retail price of these players are normally in the range. Of course, the catch was that there was no hard drive packaged with the MP3 player. These MP3 players use the Hitachi 4GB Microdrive that run for about OEM, and about $100 more for retail. Given the relative low price of the MuVo 2, people were snatching up these players and removing the drives for other uses.
The reality is, these microdrives are pretty much just Compact Flash (CF) memory cards on steroids. What people have figured out is they can remove the uber expensive Hitachi drives, and replacing them with much cheaper (and lower capacity) CF cards. Seeing as to how I have a couple spare CF cards lying around, I headed over to eBay and bidded on one of these MuVo 2 shells. Final price? $38 USD, plus shipping.
I was pretty happy that I got my package so quickly, especially since the seller quoted two to three weeks. Other than the obvious signs of tampering (he removed the Hitachi of course), the rest of the kit was unused. The factory adhesives for the rest of the kit was still intact, though this may not be the case with other kits being sold. If this mod works, I'll consider myself real lucky that I scored this deal, since at the height of some bidding wars, the MuVo 2 was being sold in the upper $60 USD range.
Lucky you say? Yes, that is what I said. Although the success ratio has been good with installing an aftermarket CF card, this is not set in stone. A search on Google has shown that the MuVo 2 is finicky about some CF cards, and it would be a good idea to stick with a brand name. I initially used a 256MB Sandisk Ultra, but I kept getting errors when trying to configure it. Not to say that all Sandisk Ultra's will have this problem, but using a 64MB and 256MB Crucial CF card (separately of course) did work. It'll be a good idea to do a bit of research before embarking on this journey.
Here at VL, Crucial 2, Sandisk 0.
Ed. Note: Just to point out that we're not dimissing Sandisk (or any other maker). I got at least 18 emails with people having luck with the 1GB Sandisk (non-Ultra), and 2 with success with the 512MB Sandisk Ultra. One person even got it to work with a generic 256MB CF card.
Although the rest of this article will explain the procedure in restoring a Creative MuVo 2 to a working state, the first part of the dismantling steps can be used to remove the Hitachi drive should you have purchased one of these brand new.
Taking the MuVo 2 Apart
Creative didn't do much to make it difficult to disassemble the MuVo 2. Simply lie the MuVo 2 on its face, and you'll find on the top rear, two screws. Open the battery compartment's door and there are two more screws. All four of these need to be removed in order to take off the rear shell.
The Phillips screws are very small, as is the opening to get to them. I used a Phillips screwdriver #00, but you will also need to make sure your screwdriver has a narrow neck in order to get to the screws.
It'll take about 5-6 rotations counterclockwise to loosen the screws enough to remove the back panel. Just a FYI: If you're taking the MuVo 2 apart to remove the Hitachi drive, you'll have to break a warranty sticker covering the lower right screw. This will void your warranty. ;P
Now that you have exposed the PCB, use a small flat head screwdriver and gently pry the PCB. Do not yank the PCB off as it is attached to a second PCB beneath it.
To the above left, you can see the second PCB. If this is a new unit, you'll be able to see the Hitachi drive through the holes. On this PCB, there are four more screws holding it down. The first three are visible, but the forth is hidden under a square piece of black tape.
Simply peel it back to remove the screw. Once all four screws are off, carefully remove the PCB from the MuVo 2 shell. You have now disassembled the MuVo 2. Assuming you had a good work area and the right tools, this procedure should take no longer than five minutes.
The Memory Card
As mentioned earlier, we'll be using a 256MB Crucial CF card for this mod. It doesn't matter if there's data on it, as we'll be formatting the drive after it's installed.
For those of you trying to get to the Hitachi drive, you'll see the drive's connection when you removed the innards from the shell. With a small flathead screwdriver, gently pry the drive free. Unless you're planning to toss the MuVo 2 into the trash, make sure you take your time or you'll snap the pins.
In order to install the new CF card, it's as easy as inserting the pins into the holes of the CF card. The proper installation method has the "top" of the CF card facing the front of the drive. For our Crucial card, this was the correct procedure, and I don't expect it to be any different for any other CF card. If you do put it in backwards, the MuVo 2 will not boot properly, but no worries. Just take everything apart and install the CF card correctly.
Re-Enabling the MuVo 2
You'll need to run the latest firmware of the drive to get it back up and running. The firmware can be . It is actually recommended that you run this firmware before removing the Hitachi drive. If you're buying this off eBay, it may be a good idea to ask the seller if he/she has done this. What if the firmware wasn't updated first? I really can't say, as our firmware was up to date, but I've read that it is just more complicated to get up and running, but not impossible.
After putting the MuVo 2 back together, you can plug in the power (or put in the battery if it has been charged) and the unit will automatically turn on. It will report a media error, and kick into recovery mode right away. Cycle through the options and select reload firmware. At this point, you should use the USB cable and connect it to your PC.
Double click the firmware update and allow it to scan for your MuVo. Select "Upgrade" and wait a few moments.
Once the firmware is finished updating, the MuVo 2 will reboot. Once it comes back up, it will give another media error, and go to the main menu. On the MuVo 2, cycle through the menu until you have the option to format. Select the checkmark, and allow the drive to reformat. Power off the player.
After a couple seconds, power it up and you should be presented with a no music message. If you get that, it works. Load up your MP3s and you're all set.
For those of you in the hunt for a 4GB drive, picking up a MuVo 2 and taking it apart is generally cheaper than buying the drive itself. Selling your MuVo 2 shell and accessories after can help recoup some costs, making this a better bargain.
For the rest of us, if you're going to go through the eBay route, make sure you're picking one of these up from a good reseller. Personally, $40 - $45 is the max I would pay for everything, minus the drive. Ask the seller if the firmware has been updated, and if possible, to tell you which version. I'm afraid I don't have much info to provide about the importance of this, as it may be a non-issue, but any reseller worth their eBay rating will help you out.
A quick look on PriceGrabber shows us that 256MB MP3 players run from $120 to $200. The quality will be a YMMV (your mileage may vary), but several reviews of the MuVo 2 have been quite positive regarding sound quality. Considering I picked up the kit (without the drive) for $40, and added a 50$ 256MB Crucial CF card, this was quite a bargain. If you have access to a larger CF card, even better.
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