iFixit on your iPhone

October 18, 2011 Repair Guides, Site News — Matt

The days of lugging around clunky service manuals are coming to a close. We need our documentation to be as mobile as we are. We need to be able to get into tight spots without having to flip pages. And we need to be able to travel without having to bring a library of documentation with us.

We at iFixit heartily believe that our manuals should keep pace with our mobility; we’ve worked ’round the clock to make this belief a reality. You’ve tasted the first fruits of our labor a while back: the iFixit App for the iPad, as well as one for the HP Touchpad.

We’re excited to announce that the iFixit app is now available for the iPhone and iPod Touch as well! Access all of our guides in a stunning native view wherever you go. You can search by device to find all related guides quickly and easily… But it gets better.

The new app now lets you browse iFixit repair guides even if you’re offline. Just favorite or bookmark a guide and it will be downloaded to your iDevice for offline use. So the next time you need to change the spark plugs on your hog out in the Mojave and you don’t have internet access, you needn’t fear. You have a library of repair in your pocket — but without all the heft.

iPhone screenshots of an iPad battery replacement guide.

iPhone screenshots of an iPad battery replacement guide.

Simon Says: “Learn to Solder”

August 29, 2011 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Matt

If you read the title of this post and thought that we spelled “soldier” wrong, then you’re in the right place.  We’ll teach you the basics of soldering and provide you with an alternative to practicing on your iPhone — a nifty little “Simon” game!  Along the way, you’ll learn what a capacitor does, how to interpret those enigmatic, colorful bands on resistors, as well as which way a diode goes on a circuit.  Not sure what a diode is?  You’ll learn that too.

Who knew that hunching over and squinting at a 1.5″ x 2″ green board could be so much fun?  Not to mention that you’ll get to have your way with some hot stuff… Seriously, soldering irons get very hot, so be careful as you brandish that fiery weapon.

We’re convinced that by the time you’re done creating this nifty little device, you’ll have the burning desire to be an electrical engineer at heart. And if you finish soldering this cool little game, and you come to realize you don’t like taking orders from Simon, you’ve picked up the skills along the way to unmake Simon.  Just grab some desoldering braid and have at it!

 

iFixit announces the world’s cheapest repair manual: the HP TouchPad

August 20, 2011 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — bruce
Tidy little black box.

Tidy little black box.

When HP announced the TouchPad, we were excited. We enjoyed ripping apart the Palm Pre, but decided to wait until WebOS caught on before taking apart the new TouchPad. Now that it is at the height of its popularity, it’s high time to pay the little-tablet-that-could-have-been-great some attention. Because if we don’t, no one ever will, and that’s sad. So without further ado—and before HP takes the TouchPad out behind the barn and shoots it—we’re launching a full set of repair guides and a native iFixit WebOS app!

The hundreds (possibly even single-digit-thousands?) of people who’ve spent their hard-earned money on a TouchPad are about to be joined with at least a few thousand more users. Rumor has it HP is sitting on excess stocks of 200,000 unsold units. To clear the excess stock—and drive the last nail into their stillborn child’s coffin—HP just announced that the TouchPad will be sold for $99 this weekend.

So we have decided to repurpose the TouchPad as a dedicated repair manual. For $99, you could head down to AutoZone and buy a couple outdated service manuals. Or, for the same price, you can get a brand-new Touchpad and have all of iFixit at your fingertips. Imagine: the largest online service manual, always up to date, and completely portable. Your workshop might never be the same!

But it would be unconscionable for us to recommend you buy a tablet that has already been discontinued without a plan for making it last. Yes, the TouchPad is the cheapest repair manual the world has ever seen. But it’s also got a built-in battery with a finite life and a fragile glass screen. HP cut this machine off at the vine before it bloomed, and it would be insane to expect them to help you service it. Buy the TouchPad, and you’re on your own. But we can help.

Fixing your TouchPad

Tablet computers are the best money-making compromise the tech industry has ever seen: they combine raw computing power of a full-size PC with the “discard-every-year-or-two” promise of the cell phone in one tidy package. This allows the manufacturer (whether HP, Apple, or another) to effectively keep selling updated, high-profit tablet PCs to consumers at a steady rate.

Tablets are tidy black boxes that scream “toss me” at the first sign of trouble. And although they haven’t been around that long time, we’re seeing the same disturbing disposability with tablets that we’re accustomed to with cell phones.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have repair guides for the TouchPad. Even though at a glance the tablet is a screen with a magic cover that “just works,” there’s tons of repairable stuff to be found inside. If something breaks, you don’t need to buy a new one—heck, you won’t be able to. Instead, use our repair guides to fix it yourself! Keep one more device from joining the rest of its brethren in the landfill.

Opening the TouchPad.

Opening the TouchPad.

Repair stuff with the iFixit WebOS app

So you took our advice, rushed down to Best Buy, and bought a soon-to-be-defunct tablet. Well done! Now you can hop onto the WebOS app store and download our app, thanks to a certain Ben Tattersley! Using our open API, he single-handedly created a free WebOS application to display our guides. He did a bang-up job—the app is really quite good. Which is a shame, because most of you reading this will never know it. Yet the thriftiest 1% of you that do buy the TouchPad at fire-sale prices will get always-on access to thousands of iFixit guides. (There’s no web link, because HP apparently never got around to it. But trust us—buy a TouchPad, tap the ‘HP App Catalog’ icon, and search for iFixit.)

Tablets are the best way to use repair manuals: you can take them almost anywhere, their long battery life ensures you can make good progress on your repairs, and touch scrolling means you can navigate easily even with dirty hands.

We open source all our mobile apps. Ben set up a Github repository for the iFixit app, just in case you’re interested in contributing to the code. Or not. Decide for yourself whether you want to join us in embracing a dead platform.

The iFixit WebOS app

The iFixit WebOS app

P.S. If you want to buy a tablet that you can use as something other than a repair manual, get an iPad. We’ve got a native app for it, too.

How To Fix Your AirPort Express Base Station

October 6, 2010 Repair Guides, Repair Stories, Site News — Miro

Disclaimer: We debated at length whether this writeup should be a repair guide or a blog entry. Given the very destructive nature of the repair, as well as the iffy probability of your device working afterwards, we decided the writeup was to remain a “hey, look what you could possibly do” blog post, rather than a specific set of instructions on how to fix your AirPort Express Base Station. If you still attempt to do this at home, consider yourself gently warned.

One day I came into our office and there were three AirPort Express Base Stations sitting on my desk, all labeled “Non-working.” I couldn’t believe it, so I plugged them in. Alas, they did not work, just like the Post-its instructed.

Word spread around the office regarding my new-found treasure, and one of our mechanically-inclined enginerds, Andrew, took it upon himself to fix a unit or two. After all, our site is called iFixit, not iThrowItAway.

He came across problem #1 very soon: merely opening the plastic suckers. Both of us tried all sorts of tools to neatly open them, to no avail. We kept increasing our force, and finally succeeded with two different methods. Andrew used a heat gun and Dextered the case using Exacto knives and flat-head screwdrivers, while I went the light-saber route and melted through the case seam with a soldering iron*. The method that Apple engineers used to adhere the two halves of the case produced such a strong bond that the plastic surrounding the case cracked, not the seam itself (in Andrew’s attempt, at least).

And this is why we’re not making it a repair guide:

Kind of like opening a clam, but much harder.

Inside were two separate PCBs. On the left was the power supply for the base station, on the right the AirPort Express card and sound board. Note the jagged edges around the case perimeter, evidence of the destruction needed to open it.

Two halves make a whole.

The power supply, which we suspected was the cause of our troubles.

Andrew handled the repair from this point. He immediately focused on the power supply, as none of the AirPorts were powering on. After a bit of unscrewing and unwrapping, he quickly realized the problem: both units contained burnt components in the same exact part of the power supply, rendering them useless.

Our problem is indicated by red markup.

Turns out the board was almost completely burned through near an inductor on the top side of the board. On other side there were two SMT resistors that also bit the bullet. It was not a pretty sight.

Resistors, well done.

Inductor, which we believe caused all the shenanigans in the first place.

As Andrew found out, fixing the power board proved to be a futile exercise. The inductor had continuity between its contact points, and it was assumed to be somewhat functional. He soldered new resistors on the other side of the board, but no amount of manipulation would fix the board. So he tossed it aside and focused on providing an alternate source of power to the AirPort card inside the unit.

Some astute readers may have noticed the output power ratings on the Samsung sticker Andrew removed from the power supply. This crucial piece of information allowed him to analyze the problem further. Apple usually doesn’t give out carrots like these, so they must have thought that nobody would be crazy enough to open up an AirPort Express Base Station. Silly Apple.

Written on the power supply in all caps: OUTPUT: “+5V @ 0.7A,” and “+3.3V @ 1.21A” — score!

Since there was one cable connecting the two boards together, Andrew had little trouble figuring out where the power was coming in. The tricky part was to figure out which wire provided the 3.3V and which the 5V input. Kind of like “do I cut the blue wire or the red wire” on a bomb, but with less explosive potential results.

The second problem of the day was finding a ~3V power supply. We had a generic 5V, 1A phone charger laying around, but nothing near 3V. So Andrew did what any other self-respecting enginerd would do: solder two AA batteries together. A short while later, he had mockup #1 emitting an orange light.

If you look really hard, you can see the two orange LEDs near the top-right of the PCB.

Great news! Except not really. Even though the AirPort Express Base Station powered on, it would not retain custom settings once we tried to set it up properly. The second unit exhibited the same exact problem. No amount of tinkering by either Andrew or yours truly would alleviate the problem, so we abandoned the project for the remainder of the day.

That night I got a text message from my persistent co-worker, who took the project home to work on it in his own time. It read: “I guessed wrong. Swapped the wires and it works!!!” We had discussed swapping wires earlier in the day, but figured that the unit wouldn’t power on at all, and that something else was the problem. Sometimes we shouldn’t overthink things and just do them.

So here is the correct wiring setup:

  • Black wires: ground. All three should be connected to the two ground wires from the power supplies.
  • Red wire (middle): 5V, 0.7A power input.
  • Orange wires (two on the right): 3.3V, 1.21A power input.
  • If you have trouble discerning the wires in the image below, check it out in full-res.

    The AirPort board is the only one worth saving, since it most likely works fine.

    Andrew wanted to do things proper the second time around — no AA battery funny business anymore — so he went to Radio Shack and acquired a 3V/4.5V/6V/7.5V/9V/12V switchable power supply. The final setup, which I’m listening to while typing this, looks like this:

    Not pretty, but it works.

    R-Shack wanted a steep $20 dollars for that fancy power supply, but convenience is king. For our other soon-to-be-fixed units, we found some great cheapo power supplies on Ebay that should work just fine. We won’t know until a couple of weeks from now, so we’ll keep on rocking with the R-Shack power source for now.

    Final power supplies that we used for our gizmo was an R-Shack 3V, 1A and a 5V, 1A power supply. We also put the AirPort card back into its half of the plastic shell. This is how it looks like when in use:

    It keeps quite cool.

    So far our AirPort “Bass” Station has been working consistently for four days with no problems. Still, we unplug it at the end of the day, just in case it decides to light on fire one of these days…

    * By the way, the soldering iron is the way to go when opening these things, as long as you do it in a well-ventilated area and don’t mind potentially destroying a soldering iron tip. It’s also relatively safer, given that the Exacto blade can stab you in the heart really bad.

    Game Console Repair

    August 29, 2010 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News, Tools — Kyle

    On Monday, iFixit is changing the game console industry forever.

    Repair—for devices of all kinds—is stuck in the 20th century. iFixit is methodically changing one industry at a time: we started with Apple repair guidesreplacement parts, and tools, and now we’re empowering game console owners in the same way.

    The bottom line:

    • We are releasing a free, community-authored repair manual—composed of hundreds of step-by-step guides and thousands of photos—for every major game console.
    • Simultaneously, iFixit is launching a repair parts and tools store for game consoles.
    • To celebrate, we are going to publish five retro game console teardowns showcasing the roots of today’s consoles.

    The game console industry is hostile to consumers: goliath manufacturers have shipped hundreds of millions of units to consumers with no information on how to maintain or repair them. Console owners are left with few options when their warranty expires, causing many to throw away broken units.

    That changes now. We are releasing a free, open source, community-authored repair manual for every major game console.

    Console Repair is Go

    We have just published repair manuals for 32 game consoles written by over a hundred volunteers. The manuals are available online immediately.

    The manuals walk you step-by-step through performing 206 different repairs and upgrades. Each device has a troubleshooting page to help diagnose what’s wrong and what to do to fix it.

    These manuals represent thousands of hours of community labor: gamers working to help gamers by sharing what they know. A number of engineering students even pitched in as part of their technical writing courses.

    Here is a brief overview of the consoles covered:

    There are a massive number of manuals to browse. Here are some particularly interesting guides:

    This outpouring of community effort is a clear message to manufacturers: people want to be able to service their own hardware. With these manuals they are going be able to do so, whether Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo like it or not.

    New Console Parts Store is Online

    But service manuals aren’t the whole story: people also need access to tools and parts. So iFixit is also launching a comprehensive store for modern game console parts and tools. iFixit is now an all-in-one solution for both Apple and game console repair.

    We can’t quite keep up with our community, so we don’t have repair parts for everything just yet. We are currently selling over a hundred repair parts and all the tools you need to disassemble consoles. We will be adding dozens more repair parts over the next few weeks.

    Here are a few of the game console parts that we’re now selling:

    Repair is Finally Moving Into the Future

    This game console milestone is a bold step forward. We are working towards a world where every person has access to a service manual for every thing that they own. Far fewer consoles will end up in landfills now that people are able to fix their own hardware.

    iFixit started out with a simple, yet successful model: we wrote Apple repair manuals and sold parts alongside them. Millions have used our free information to fix their Macs. But there is far more demand for manuals than we could ever possibly fill. So we gambled on the community: The future of iFixit will require a global community of technicians sharing what they know. And they are definitely sharing! Since we launched our repair wiki in April, the community has doubled the number of repair manuals on iFixit. Doubled!

    The future of repair lies in the community. Manufacturers were not willing to share repair information with their customers, so the customers wrote their own manual. These crowdsourced game console manuals represent an uprising of the masses: people are sick of being sold disposable devices with short lifespans and limited repairability. People want to buy quality products that they can repair themselves, and having an open source repair manual enables them to increase the value and useful lifespan of their hardware.

    We are ecstatic to watch our community make the world better, one repair manual at a time.

    iPhone 4 Repair Guides

    June 25, 2010 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Miro

    We’ve had the iPhone 4 in our hands for only a couple of  days, which happens to be just enough time to create a comprehensive set of repair guides! We hope you never have to use our guides, but we’ve got you covered if you do.

    During our teardown, we investigated the repairability of the front and back glass panels. It turns out that you’ll be able to replace the back glass with little effort, but you won’t be able to replace the front panel without also replacing the LCD. The LCD, glass panel, and digitizer come as one unit in the iPhone 4, and they are inseparable without damaging the device. We’re going to keep investigating to see if there are some methods of separating the LCD from the rest of the front panel, but the “outlook [is] not so good,” so to speak.

    The good news is that whatever goes wrong with your beautiful iPhone 4 — whether you crush the home button, damage the front-facing or rear-facing camera, or short out the iPhone logic board while taking a swim — you can fix it, and we can help.

    Removing the rear panel

    Replacing the rear camera

    Replacing the front panel assembly

    Replacing the logic board

    MacBook Pro 15″ LCD Guides

    January 12, 2010 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Miro

    Taking out the MacBook Pro LCD

    You no longer have to replace your non-Unibody MacBook Pro display assembly in order to fix a faulty/cracked display. We’ve released a set of guides that show you how to remove the LCD from the rest of the assembly, and switch it out with a new one.

    The entire process is relatively straightforward, but not for the faint of heart — it requires the user to separate the bezels from the LCD using a spudger, albeit from an LCD that’s already presumed to be broken.

    This procedure can be performed on model A1150, A1211, and A1226/A1260 MacBook Pros; if you’re unsure which laptop you have, feel free to use iFixit’s laptop identification system!

    Also make sure to choose the correct LCD type, as the A1150 and A1211 LCD differs from the A1226/A1260 model.

    Introducing iMac and Mac mini repair manuals

    November 19, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Kyle

    We are proud to announce the release of over two hundred repair guides, covering every Mac mini and most iMacs produced by Apple since 2004. All iMac and Mac mini repair manuals are immediately available for free on iFixit.com.

    The repair manuals include in-depth disassembly guides, model identification tips, troubleshooting techniques, and upgrade information. The 241 new repair guides use 1,452 photos to clearly communicate each step of the repair.

    iFixit repair guides are well known for world-class photography and clear, concise step-by-step directions. We are also launching an iMac parts store with hard drives, RAM, power supplies, disassembly tools, and more.

    Pressed for comment, our CEO Kyle admitted that: “We have been pummeled with requests for iMac parts for years, and I finally couldn’t take it anymore. That’s right, we are now accepting money in exchange for iMac parts.”

    iMac

    • The iMac repair manuals cover all 17″ and 20″ machines manufactured since 2004, including both G5 and Intel models!
    • 184 iMac repair guides use over 1,000 photos to illustrate the process of diagnosing and repairing each machine. They cover all aspects of the iMac, including removing the glass panel, upgrading the RAM and hard drive, and replacing the logic board.
    • The iMac parts store includes RAM, hard drive, and optical drive upgrades, as well as replacement parts such as power supplies and glass panels.

    Mac mini

    • The Mac mini repair manuals cover all iterations since its inception in 2005. The list includes G4, Intel Core Solo, Core Duo, and Core 2 Duo machines.
    • Our experts have completed a total of 57 Mac mini repair guides. They cover accessing every part inside the Mac mini, including replacing the RAM, swapping out the wireless card, and removing the logic board.
    • Mac mini parts include RAM, hard drives, and optical drives, as well as enclosures allowing the installation of two internal hard drives.

    We’re super excited to announce this. Our technicians have been working hard all year to make this happen, and I’d like to thank the entire team for their wonderful work. I hope it’s useful.

    Updates to Three iPod Guides

    July 28, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — Miro

    We come across plenty of iPods and Macs on a daily basis. Over time we’ve become very proficient at opening them up, using techniques that we possibly didn’t consider when we originally made a particular guide.

    On the other hand, sometimes we get a tip from an Apple insider (or another crafty person) which makes us totally rethink the way we open a device.

    Either way, we understand that improved techniques are of great value to a person opening their device for the first time. That’s why we continuously improve our existing guides as much as we can, in addition to rolling out new ones on a consistent basis.

    This week we’re announcing revisions to the case opening guides for the iPod nano 1st Generation, iPod 3rd Generation, and iPod 4th Generation/Photo devices. We’ve grouped them together because the guides have similar modifications made to them:

    • Easier opening procedure. The text and pictures reflect an opening procedure that we’ve found to be easier than the one in the previous pictures.
    • Brand-new case opening pictures. We’ve upgraded our studio since the guides were originally created, and we now have a better setup. The new case opening pictures are definitely clearer and higher-resolution than the old ones.
    • Updated text. Coming back to a guide a while after making it lets us take a fresh look at the overall feel. Are the instructions clear? Where could they use improvement? Did we omit something important, or ramble on about something unnecessarily? We answer these questions and make any appropriate changes.
    • Less overall steps. Each step now has the ability to contain three pictures, whereas before we had only one picture per step. We are able to decrease the number of overall steps by putting related pictures on the same step. For these particular guides, we were able to have three support pictures showing the overall action of opening the case. That many pictures would have taken several steps in the old one-picture-per-step format.

    We certainly have a lot of fun sharing new ways of doing stuff with our user base. New methods pop up all the time, and we’re happy to include them in our guides whenever we can. Do you have a cool method you’d like to share? Let us know!

    New Soldering Guide!

    July 10, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides, Site News — Miro

    We’ve been working on an all-purpose soldering guide for our iFixit user base. Over time the electronics that have come through our doors have increasingly been devoid of connectors, instead using batteries and components that are soldered directly to the logic board. Newer generations of Apple products, such as the original iPhone and all generations of iPod nano and iPod touch, fall into this category.

    This trend makes replacing the battery a much harder feat than other iPod and iPhone models, who use connectors to attach the battery to the logic board. The procedure requires a lot more of the user’s time, patience, and material cost (soldering iron, solder, etc.) to do a simple battery replacement.

    We know that these products aren’t the only ones on the market that require soldering, and that soldering in general can vary depending on the size of the electronics (and type) being soldered. As a result, this guide is actually comprised of three mini guides. Each mini guide illustrates a different level of difficulty in soldering, and teaches that particular soldering technique:

    • Step 1: Beginning soldering. Focuses on large thru-hole components, such as cylindrical capacitors.
    • Step 7: Intermediate soldering — Focuses on small thru-hole components, such as battery leads and resistors.
    • Step 11: Advanced soldering — Focuses on small surface-mount components.

    This guide will come in handy to anyone who’s curious about soldering. How do you do it? How difficult is it really? What tools do I need? All these questions can be answered by a click of a link.

    Comments? Ideas? Let us know!