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How long does it take before an iPod battery diminishes in its ability to hold a charge?

I've had my iPod for about six years, and I feel like the battery is failing to hold its charge as long as it used to. I have a lot of music product accumulated on my 80 GB device. What kind of deterioration can I expect, and what can I do to safeguard the items I don't have backed up in a central location?

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