Apple's iPod comes in five different models, each with its own set of generations: as of March 2011, the iPod nano and the iPod classic are in their sixth generation the iPod shuffle and the iPod touch are in their fourth generation and the iPod mini has two generations. If you're trying to identify exactly which MP3 player you have, narrowing down the possibilities can seem difficult. Fortunately there are clear characteristics for each of the different types of iPods, so in only a few steps you can identify what generation your iPod is.
Look for a camera lens on the front and the back. If yours has a camera lens, it's a fourth-generation iPod touch.
Find the model number below the engraving on the back of the iPod.
Compare the model number against the system Apple uses. Third-generation iPod touch models have A1318 in the model number, and second-generation units have A1288 in the model number. If you can't find either of those identifiers, it's a first-generation iPod touch.
Check the relative size of the shuffle. Fourth-generation iPod shuffles are only slightly wider than they are tall; they're nearly square. All earlier generations are clearly rectangular.
Identify the controls on your shuffle. If you see only a switch that can be set to either (1) an off position, (2) an option to play all music in order and (3) an option to shuffle the music, your shuffle is third-generation. If you also see volume, skip, play and pause controls, your shuffle is first- or second-generation.
Identify the serial number of your shuffle, which is either on the back of your shuffle in the lower right corner or on the inside of the clip. If you see any of these identifiers, your shuffle is second-generation: 1ZM, 1ZP, 1ZH, 1ZK or 1ZR. If yours doesn't have any of those, it's a first-generation shuffle.
Compare the size of the nano's screen to that of the entire iPod. Sixth-generation iPod nanos have screens that are very nearly the same size as the entire iPod; all earlier generations have screens close to the same size but significantly larger casings.
Check for a microphone and a camera on the back. The fifth-generation iPod nano is the only one that has these.
Observe the basic size of the nano's display. If the display is obviously taller than it is wide, it's fourth-generation. Third-generation iPod nanos have screens that are a bit wider than they are tall, and first- and second-generation units have screens that are basically square.
Look for a hold switch on the bottom of your iPod nano. Third-generation iPod nanos have the hold switch on the bottom; earlier units have them on the top.
Check the casing of your iPod nano. Second-generation units have an easily identifiable anodised aluminium casing, and first-generation units have a very different plastic casing.
Look for your iPod's serial number near the bottom of the back. If you observe one of these identifiers, your iPod classic is sixth-generation: YMU, YMX, YMV or Y5N.
Check to see if your iPod can play movies. Press the "Menu" button and look for a Videos option; if there is one but you don't have one of the sixth-generation serial number identifiers, your iPod classic is fifth-generation. If it doesn't have a video option, it's fourth-generation or earlier.
See if there are any controls on the Touch Wheel itself, like play, pause, and "Menu." If these controls are on the Touch Wheel and not above or to the side, it's a fourth-generation iPod classic. If you see these playback controls all in a row above the Touch Wheel, the iPod is a third-generation unit.
Locate the FireWire connector port on the top of your iPod classic. This port is rectangular, and it's the port you use to connect the iPod with your computer. If your iPod has a cover for the port, it's second-generation; first-generation iPods do not have a cover at all. You can also check to see if the wheel on the iPod is a Touch Wheel or a scroll wheel. The latter physically turns and is not touch-sensitive; only first-generation iPod classics have that type of wheel.
Locate the description and technical information on the back of the iPod mini.
Check the capacity of the hard drive in that information. Only second-generation iPod minis specify the capacity, and the only two choices are four and six gigabytes.
Compare the colour of the word "Menu" on the click wheel to the colour of the entire iPod mini casing. Second-generation iPod minis have text with the same colour; first-generation units have grey text.