How my own stupidity killed my Sansa Clip

So my last MP3 player (the much-lauded but ultimately disappointing Cowon iAudio 7) died because of a manufacturer error (even though Cowon claimed the repair was not under warranty). This time, I killed my MP3 player (my 2 GB Sansa Clip) with my own stupidity.

The long story
I love Ubuntu, and I keep coming back to it, but every now and then I get distro cravings and have to try something else. I hadn’t had a distro craving in probably over a year. I kept reading all these great things about Mandriva, though, and how well it works with the Eee PC 701.

So I tried downloading it to my bootable USB “key” (i.e., the Sansa Clip) and extracting the .iso the way I did for Ubuntu and eeeXubuntu. No go, though. I got a boot error of some kind (I think it was some busybox thing). When I read up online about how to install Mandriva on the Eee, I found out you have download some premade all.img file and install via FTP. So I dd‘ed the all.img to my Sandisk player, knowing all would be overwritten and thinking I could restore anyway. None of my Ubuntu adventures had affected the Sansa Clip adversely, so I wasn’t worried.

As a sidenote, Mandriva’s installer made me really appreciate the simplicity and speed of Ubuntu’s installer. The Mandriva installation took literally hours, and the first mirror I selected for doing the FTP install kept having trouble fetching packages (with no easy way of switching to another mirror). It also had this annoying Windows-like habit of asking you a question, doing some processes that took an hour or so to execute, and then asking you another question, and then doing more processes. Why can’t it just ask you all the questions up front and then do all the processes?

After Mandriva finally installed, I wasn’t that impressed, but I thought I’d at least give it a go (and I will). Even though resume from suspend worked with the prepackaged Xandros, I couldn’t get it to work with any *buntu flavor, and I’d heard it would work out of the box with Mandriva. Not so. When I try to wake up the computer with a keystroke, nothing happens. If I press the power button quickly, it looks as if it’s about to wake up but then shuts down completely. Very disappointing.

So my next task was to get my Sansa Clip back to its previous state. I realized that the all.img file I dd‘ed over was extremely small, so even though the Sansa Clip was officially 2 GB, it made my drive appear to GParted to be only a few MBs in size. GParted couldn’t recognize the full size, so I thought if I deleted the entire partition and created a new one, that’d be fine. But Mandriva’s GParted, for some reason, doesn’t let you create FAT32 or non-Linux partitions (I’m sure there are packages that could be installed that could add that support—I had no idea what those were).

For a quick fix, since it was nearby, I opened up my wife’s Macbook Pro and used the Mac Disk Utility to erase the Sansa Clip drive and format it as FAT. Bad move. The Disk Utility wiped it out completely, including the firmware!

So when I finally ejected the Sansa Clip and then tried to plug it into my Eee PC, it would not be recognized. It was totally dead. It wouldn’t turn on. It wouldn’t show a little display on the screen saying it was connected to a computer. fdisk -l on the Eee side also showed nothing connected. Same deal when I plugged it back into the Macbook Pro. And finally, same deal when I plugged it into my Windows PC at work.

The real shame of it is that it probably still works… or would work if I were able to get the firmware back on there, but without the firmware installed, the Sansa Clip doesn’t know when it’s connected to a computer, and I need to connect it to a computer to get the firmware installed.

It’s official: I’m a moron. Mandriva, I hope you appreciate all I went through to get you installed.

The short story
I erased the firmware off my Sansa Clip, and now it’s totally useless. Good thing it was cheap.


  1. i had a similar situation in my hands not too long ago.
    while i was uploading some tunes to my audio player the electricity went out for a little while, long story short the partition on my player was erased (the player wouldnt turn on, my computer could detect the player and charge it but couldnt open the contents in nautilus) and the only way i could re-create the partition was with windows xp’s installer.

    you mentioned that your player is totally bricked but since you have nothing to lose, you might want to give xp installer a try.

  2. You are a life saver, kef. Thanks! I didn’t realize there was software that could help. I used the Windows Sansa updater thing, and it worked. It’s now restored to factory settings.

    Thanks again!

  3. Great ending to your saga. I am glad that you were able to recover your Sansa clip. I have similar feelings about Mandriva. It is a long installation and it is not as good as Ubuntu, but better than many RPM based distros.
    I am looking forward to Intrepid. I have used the alpha and just downloaded the beta to try. It is smoking fast to boot up and applications seem to run faster, too.
    Thanks for you blog. I look forward to reading more.

  4. What I am impressed about with Mandriva is the graphical frontends it has for configuring things. That’s one of the biggest complaints that new Ubuntu users have, and with Mandriva’s Control Center, you can tweak just about anything.

    That said, I’ll play around with this a bit longer but will probably switch back to some kind of *buntu. Maybe I’ll even give Xandros another spin, if only for its super-fast boot time.

  5. I’m a moron too.

    I did almost the same thing. I recently bought a tiny Sansa Clip 1GB and had “a few issues” with it and my Ubuntu Hardy Heron. So I dug into the online forums at SanDisk, and UbuntuForums and read repeatedly that if all else fails, just reformat the Sansa Clip.

    I took that advice literally unfortunately, and used gparted to put a new disklabel (MSDOS) on the device, created one single partition and installed a FAT32 filesystem, thinking that the Clip’s own firmware would repopulate the new filesystem with the direcories and files it would need.

    Well, no. So I have a cute little plastic brick that I have been looking woefully at for a few days, having posted several pleas for help at various forums and to SanDisk tech support without response.

    So now I read that perhaps SanDisk’s little Windows-only Sansa Updater utility might be able to not only install new firmware, but restore the entire flash memory of the Clip to factory specs?! That’s great. I’ll find the nearest Windows computer and try it. Thanks very much for posting this story and helping others in the same situation!


  6. I’m just as big of a moron as you guys are! I washed my clip in the washing machine with a couple of jeans, I took the thing apart and left it in the sun to dry, after I had dried it, the firmware on it was corrupt(probably because over heating on the flash chip) and I had to download the firmware manually, and so I downloaded and installed a wrong version of the firmware and now my player won’t charge! Stupid me downloaded the firmware for the Clip+ and not the Clip… ROFL!

  7. Hey guys, I might be 7 years too late, but did you guys try using rockbox for your Sansa clip?
    It comes with an installer. Best opensource operating system for music players

    1. I’m wondering…How did you guys resetup the partition? I killed my Clip by formatting on my EEEPC because XP said I had to. Microsoft is mean. I’ve moved to Linux now. At least it doesn’t force you to do operations.

    2. Well the problem is that if you have no firmware in your Sansa, rockbox cannot even find it and you can’t update it. I formatted the player and now it is useless.

  8. guys i have the same issue
    i formatted the sansa clip and now there is only one directory named “System Volume Information” with 2 files in it.

    what tool do i use to get it back to factory settings?


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