NordicTrack customers hacked their treadmills to watch Netflix until the company blocked them

Like a growing number of high-end home workout devices, the $4,000 NordicTrack X32i treadmill is built to work with subscription workout software for $39/month. Its iFit software integrates directly with the treadmill to offer "infinite training possibilities," according to the NordicTrack website. But not all users wanted to be limited to iFit, so they employed a bizarrely easy way to make the system work for them. Wired told the story of JD Howard, one of the customers who accessed the OS.

To get into his X32i, all Howard needed to do was tap the touchscreen 10 times, wait seven seconds, then tap 10 more times. Doing so unlocked the machine—letting Howard into the underlying Android operating system. This privilege mode, a sort of God mode, gave Howard complete control over the treadmill: He could sideload apps and, using a built-in browser, access anything and everything online.

While NordicTrack doesn't advertise privilege mode as a customer feature, its existence isn't exactly a secret. Multiple unofficial guides tell people how to get into their machines, and even iFit's support pages explain how to access it. The whole reason Howard bought the X32i, he says, was because he could access God mode. But the good times didn't last long.

Since October, NordicTrack has been automatically updating all of its exercise equipment—its bikes, ellipticals, and rowing machines all have big screens attached—to block access to privilege mode. The move has infuriated customers who are now fighting back and finding workarounds that allow them to bypass the update and watch whatever they want while they work out.


The issue raises a debate of right-to-repair and software laws that don't allow people to tinker with their gadgets. It has also inspired NordicTrack communities to come together to get about the block.

If all else fails, I suppose they could always park a basic treadmill next to a TV.