questionsis it possible to emulate ipod software on an…

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The question here is whether your car's iPod connector is using the iPod as a mass storage device or whether it is actually controlling the iPod itself. If your head unit is doing the work of decoding the music and whatnot, then it might be feasible to see if there is an actual USB connection somewhere in the radio, and if so you could likely plug a USB drive into that. I'm not sure if there will be enough power to spin up a hard drive though, so you might want to test that.
However, if the head unit is using the iPod APIs to simply control an iPod and display the iPod's data onscreen and whatnot, then you will not have any luck. A hard drive can't run software unless it is more than a hard drive.
If the latter is the case, I might just suggest trying to find a second hand iPod classic and using that.
Good luck!
-=C=-

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It sounds like you have iPod 30-pin connector to hook into? Not sure how to go about using that. I have an auxiliary input in my car that uses a standard 3.5mm jack. I keep a Sansa clip in there with my music on it for the auxiliary input.

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@curtise: Not sure which. The iPod itself goes white and says "Accessory connected" and I have full control over it through the dash. I can go through all my folders and such in a similar way as to the device itself. That's why I was thinking I needed the iPod software, so I could trick my car into thinking the hard drive is an iPod and all of my music would just be organized the same way.

@90mcg112: Sort of? There's an aux/ usb port in the car. I have a cable that's both usb/ aux on one end, and a 30 pin connector on the other.

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@thedogma: Hmm, if that's the case, have you ever tried to plug in a USB thumb drive into the connection? The external hard drive may require a powered connection, though.

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@90mcg112: My understanding is that it should work, though I'm not sure I'll have the same level of control. What you mentioned is why I was thinking of using a hard drive that can run off the USB, though I could just get an adapter that would let me plug the hard drive into the cigarette lighter thing.

I'll actually try that with a spare flash drive. If it works the same way as an iPod, that right there would be a solution.

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A lot of receivers can read MP3 off an external hard drive or even a smaller thumb drive. It depends on if your stereo can do this or if it only has iPod control. Quite a large number of them do both.

I know for sure that mine does. No special cables - just connect a USB cable from the hard drive to the stereo (assuming the stereo has a usb port on the front).

If it's a built-in factory original stereo, what model of car is it?

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If the car has a USB port, like most newer Fords with the SYNC system, just get a large-capacity USB thumb drive and plug it in. The car's system will be able to browse and play the music on the thumb drive just fine.

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WARNING most car's USB ports have a warning in the owners manual to unplug devices before turning the car on or off. I had a USB thumb drive die/get completely corrupted since I didn't know of the warning ahead of time, and I assume a hard drive with moving parts would be even more susceptible to damage.

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@baillard: I hadn't realized this, thanks! I feel like if my iPod can be plugged in and be okay, a flash drive probably could as well, but this is definitely something I'll want to consider/ test before I go and waste $80 on an external.

@omnichad: It's a Kia Rondo. Before I got the special cable doohickey, I was able to use the iPod through the aux, and charge it through the usb. Worked just as well, just couldn't control the iPod through the dash.