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.

Nexus One Torn Down

January 6, 2010 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We heard the Nexus One was developed by HTC under close supervision by Google. We wanted to see what kind of Google magic lay inside the device, so we took it apart and made a video slideshow!

Once we took the fancy wrapper off the phone, the Nexus One revealed itself to be very similar to other smartphones, albeit with stronger hardware. Its thoughtful internal design did impress us, as did its ease of disassembly.

Teardown highlights:

  • The 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is quite speedy. We had a Motorola Droid on-hand for comparison, and it seemed to us that everything went a bit more smoothly on the Nexus One — at least before we took it apart.
  • The unbelievably easy task of removing the plastic rear cover gives access to the replaceable battery. Hey Apple, take notes!
  • This phone is very nicely put together and has no visible screws. Yet, we were able to remove the battery cover, unscrew three screws, and take off the battery holder frame. Depending on the part, the phone can certainly be user-serviceable.
  • It’s quite a colorful phone on the inside. HTC/Google was nice enough to include greens, yellows, oranges, dark grays, and all sorts of other colors inside the device.
  • Nexus One chip winners include Qualcomm (QCOM), Broadcom (BRCM), Skyworks (SWKS), Texas Instruments (TXN), Samsung, Synaptics (SYNA), Atmel (ATML), and Audience.
  • The 3.7-inch (diagonal) WVGA AMOLED touchscreen is made by Samsung, the same screen supplier as for Microsoft’s Zune HD.
  • Qualcomm is certainly the chip winner for the Nexus One, having three of the largest-profile chips in the device: processor, power management chip, and RF transceiver.
  • The 802.11n capability gives the Nexus an advantage over the iPhone 3GS, which only has 802.11g. The Broadcom BCM4329 chip in the Nexus is the same chip found in Apple’s newest (3rd generation) iPod touch, and also has Bluetooth and FM transceiver functionality.
Taking out the logic board

Taking out the logic board

Complete disassembly

Complete disassembly

Answers Contest Winners Announced

December 31, 2009 Answers, Site News — Andrew Goldberg

Using a top secret algorithm originally devised to pick recipients of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, we’ve finally selected the lucky winners of our lightly tested Wacom Bamboo Touch and Zune HD!

As a disclaimer to the winners, the mail carrier delivering the package to your door will not be accompanied by a camera crew armed with balloons and a five-foot-wide check.

To have been eligible for the giveaway, users needed at least 100 reputation by the December 24th deadline.

Congratulations to our multi-continental winners!

Zune HD:
spikey2 in Australia  (795)

Wacom Bamboo Touch:
natalia47 in Virginia (103)

Want to win free stuff in the future? Keep your reputation up and answer some questions!

Next Christmas, give them something they’ve already got

December 23, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

The world is awash in gadget lust. But do you really need a brand-new shiny-curvy-not-bigger-but-better iPod nano when you’ve already got three sitting in a drawer? Next Christmas (or birthday), make something old new again and give the only gift that’s actually environmentally friendly: something you’ve already got.

We've all got a drawer like this. What's in yours?

No, seriously. Instead of buying someone a gift, dig through your closets and desk drawers and pull out those old gadgets. With a little ingenuity and some elbow grease, you can give them something that means a lot more than some sterile shrink wrap.

Christmas wasn’t always an elaborate festival of consumerism. People who lived through the Great Depression frequently recall joyous family bonding times during holidays where they couldn’t afford presents. Rose Guerra, a woman who lived through the Depression, poignantly summarized her memories: “Things don’t make you happy.”

I’ve put together three simple ideas for making your old stuff great again. None of them cost much, but they all require effort on your part.

iPod: Juice that battery

It’s easy to find a new use for an MP3 player even if you’ve got a new, shiny iPod. But the problem with most drawer-bound older iPods is the long-since worn out battery— so replace it with a new one for $15 and it’ll be good as new! Keep the extra iPod in the locker at the gym or give it to your kid. Or pair it with some computer speakers and use it as a kitchen music system.

Laptop: Digital picture frame

Laying out the internals of a Pismo sans case

I bet I have the only digital picture frame in town with a 300 MHz G3 processor and a built-in lithium-ion battery. We built this picture frame from a G3 Pismo that was long-since past its prime. Construction was surprisingly straightforward— we bought a deep picture frame from Michael’s and a lexan panel from Home Depot. Once we removed the laptop from its plastic casing, we just had to glue the LCD to the picture frame and bolt the logic board down to the lexan. Keeping the battery was a no-brainer: it’s wonderful to be able to reroute the power cable without shutting the computer down, or completely removing the power cable when company comes over to confuse them with my wirelessly powered picture frame.

The trickiest part was figuring out where to put the power adapter (we ended up leaving it external). I even threw in an Airport card so we can add more photos without taking it off the wall.

I’ll write up some instructions on doing this sometime, but it’s not very hard.

The fully assembled Pismo-powered, wi-fi enabled digital picture frame

iPhone: Say no to crack!

I’m shocked how often I run across people who have cracked their iPhones. Cracked glass is the most common problem that happens to iPhones, and it’s one of the easiest to fix. We sell a kit with replacement glass, screwdriver, and replacement adhesive for $59.95 (it’s a different part for the 3G vs 3GS, so make sure you get the right one).

With an hour or two of work, you can re-gift someone their own iPhone! This repair is amazingly popular, and I hear a new success story just about every day from someone who fixed their phone themselves. (If you have an original, 2G iPhone you’re out of luck. Apple made it impossible to replace the glass independently of the display.)

What creative things have you done with your old gadgets? Let us know in the comments.

Chumby One Teardown

December 17, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We thought we’d follow through on our open source repair guide announcement by taking apart some open source hardware. We got our hands on a Chumby One and put it under the knife!

Chumby industries has thrown down a gauntlet to other hardware manufacturers by giving hardware hackers a tremendous amount of freedom, and by making the Chumby One quite easy to take apart.

What’s impressive is that they managed to provide unprecedented freedom AND deliver a nicely designed and executed product.

Check out the video slideshow of the teardown!

Teardown highlights:

  • Notable components found inside the Chumby One include:
    • Freescale i.MX233 CPU, running at 454 MHz
    • MMA7455 3-axis accelerometer
    • Hynix 923E 64MB DDR DRAM
    • QN8005B FM Radio chip
    • An inscription that reads “with love, bunnie”
  • The MicroSD socket contains a 2GB Kingston MicroSD firmware card, which can easily be pulled out once the device is opened. Users can load custom firmware and upgrade Chumby One’s storage in a snap.
  • There are plenty of ventilation holes in the top and rear outer cases. Such a Swiss cheese case design allows the Chumby to stay cool without the need for a fan.
  • Volume control commands are sent via a rotary encoder that translates angular degrees of rotation into binary code recognized by the board.
  • The wireless card is attached to a small interconnect board, converting the four-pin connector found on the logic board into the USB connector used by the wireless card. This could potentially mean hacking/upgrading the Chumby to 802.11n in the future, were you able to find a USB Wi-Fi card of similar size.
  • You can also unplug the USB Wi-Fi card and plug in regular ethernet using a USB-to-ethernet dongle.
  • The 2W mono speaker is mounted onto a resonance box which occupies precious interior space, which could be used to stuff more awesome hacking stuff into the Chumby. Alternatively, it could be used as a secret stash for narcotics.
Final Layout

Final Layout

Rip. Mix. Repair.

December 15, 2009 Events, Site News — Kyle Wiens

My team has invested thousands of hours in documenting how to repair Apple hardware. Starting in 2004 with our very first set of repair guides for the venerable PowerBook G3 series (God bless the Pismo), we have steadily, inexorably, carefully, taken apart every single Mac we could get our hands on.

We now have manuals for 91 Mac models, 34 iPods, and a couple of iPhones. Together, our media servers currently host 154,556 images (including revision history and thumbnails) and over 1,000 step-by-step guides.

Today, we are giving all that content to the world. Effective immediately, we are licensing all iFixit repair manuals under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. To my knowledge, this is the largest free release of repair documentation ever. We are committing to make our repair manuals available to everyone in the world, forever, for free.

When we told Creative Commons what we were planning, they got really excited. “iFixit manuals provide users the information they need to extend the life of and add value to their hardware without involving the manufacturer. Similarly, it’s great to see iFixit offer users the legal right to add value to iFixit manuals — to share and remix in any medium, notably including translation — by publishing under a Creative Commons license,” said Mike Linksvayer, Vice President of Creative Commons.

Lawrence Lessig, co-founder of Creative Commons and a long-time iFixit user, has also given his blessing. “iFixit is one of the most important community driven technology resources on the net. It is wonderful to now see them build their community by giving back to the community what the community helped build. As iFixit extends beyond the world of Mac, that community will only grow, and strengthen the practical knowledge which repair content provides. I am extraordinarily proud that Creative Commons can help make this innovation possible.

What does this mean?

If you meet the conditions of the license, you can reproduce, modify, and redistribute our repair content to your heart’s content—including photos, text, and PDFs.

Why are we doing this?

Because we must. Because the world cannot continue wantonly manufacturing and consuming devices without a plan for their long-term lifecycle. Because individuals need the ability to take control of their devices and their environmental footprint. And because it’s the right thing to do.

All future content posted to iFixit, either by us or by our users, will be open-licensed.

We will be providing a XML data dump of our repair manuals sometime in the middle of next year. We are in the process of finalizing a new repair manual XML schema (if you want input on the process, please contact us). We hope to host the data archive at the Internet Archive as well as seed it via BitTorrent.

FAQ:

What’s Creative Commons?

The Creative Commons organization was created by a team of legal scholars including Lawrence Lessig, a legal genius (and long-time iFixit user!) who solved the need to provide a gradient for content licensing in situations like ours, where we want our content to be as free as possible.

What if I want to improve your guides?

You are welcome to copy them elsewhere and modify them, but the improvements will reach more people if we pool our efforts. We will be allowing anyone to edit and improve our repair manuals on iFixit.com very soon.

Can I translate your manuals into (Spanish, German, Esperanto, etc.)?
You would not believe how often we get offers to translate our repair manuals. There is a huge pent-up demand for localized repair documentation. We plan to make that happen. Our repair manual framework has built-in internationalization support, but it’s not quite done yet. To be honest, it probably won’t be done until at least the end of 2010. In the meantime, there are three things you can do:

  1. Translate our manuals and post them on your site. You can do this right now, and as long as you comply with the attribution and noncommercial aspects of the license, you’re free to do whatever you like.
  2. Sign up to be a translator. We’ll be pulling people from this list to alpha-test our internationalization platform.
  3. Promote iFixit inside your country / region. The more demand we have for a given language, the sooner we will be able to support it.

Why do you restrict commercial use?

We admit it — we have to pay the bills. Selling parts is how we do that. We have parts competitors that would prefer it if we weren’t around. (In fact, one of those competitors rebranded our manuals, publishing them as their own without attribution.) We want to be able to afford to write new manuals, and the noncommercial requirement allows us to do that.

What’s the licensing for journalists?

The Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license does not have specific support for journalists, but we are very willing to freely license our content to journalists. Reporters are free to use up to three attributed photos per story without contacting us. More generous licensing is readily available by contacting us, and we are almost always willing to grant journalists the same rights as noncommercial users.

iPhone Hacks Giveaway

December 9, 2009 Events, Site News — Kyle Wiens

We contributed a couple chapters to iPhone Hacks, the excellent book by our buddies David, Adam, and Damien. In addition to a ton of  clever ideas for modding, maxing out, and jailbreaking the iPhone, the book also includes print copies of our iPhone and iPod Touch repair manuals. I think that’s pretty cool–we love getting our repair information in print so you can use it without a computer.

We got our hands on seven copies of the book, so we’re going to have a little giveaway! We’ll be giving away one copy of iPhone Hacks every day for the next week.

To enter, follow @ifixit on twitter and tweet ‘iPhone Hacks book giveaway! Enter by following @ifixit and retweeting. http://bit.ly/7krwVT“. Easy. You can reenter once per day by retweeting again. We’ll randomly select the winner from each day’s tweets.

Winners:

iFixit Answers is live!

December 3, 2009 Answers, Site News — Kyle Wiens

After a solid month of testing, tons of feedback, hundreds of little tweaks (and a few big ones), we’re making iFixit Answers public! Everyone in the beta has gotten a tremendous amount of help with problems on a wide variety of hardware. Now it’s your turn! Go ask a question.

At the moment I’m writing this, people have asked 255 questions yielding 811 answers. Out of all of those questions, just 5 haven’t gotten answers yet. (I don’t expect them to stay unanswered very long.)

Wow, this is useful!

Here are three of the most popular questions from the beta:

How dangerous is working on a CRT?

The answers to this contain lots of interesting information about the thousands of volts that CRTs build up and the tools that technicians have to use to work with them.

Where can I find a star point screwdriver?

Apple’s latest MacBooks have a screw that looks different than we’re used to. It turns out that it’s actually a new kind of security bit, a ‘Torx Plus 6’ with five points instead of the standard six. Fortunately, a 1.5mm flat head screwdriver works just fine to remove it!

What does my Wii’s blinking light mean?

It turns out this person was worried for no reason! The blinking light on a Wii (rather unintuitively) means that there is a new message waiting on the Wii message board.

First user to hit 1k reputation!

Our first user hit 1,000 rep, and several others are well on their way.

Spreading the Christmas joy

I thought it would be fun to have a little drawing to celebrate the Answers launch. So we’re going to give away some hardware. What are the goodies?

Givaway: Wacom Bamboo Touch & a Zune HD

Givaway: Wacom Bamboo Touch & Zune HD

I have the Zune HD from our teardown (no, we don’t destroy things when we take them apart) and one of those fancy new Wacom Bamboo Touch tablets. They’re both awesome devices. I know, because I’ve personally been testing them out to make sure they worked! (Yes, I love my job.)

We’re going to randomly select two winners from people who have at least 100 reputation on December 24th. What’s your rep? Start helping people with their problems!

Zen and the Art of Battery Life

November 23, 2009 Hardware, Site News — Kyle Wiens

The lithium-ion polymer batteries shipping today are amazing creatures, packing greater energy density than both the nickel-based cells of yore and the first generation Lithium-ion cells. Yet most people are unaware of how to properly manage the life of this new technology. What you do on your laptop is your own business, but following these tips will let you do it longer (that’s what she said!). Most of this info holds true for iPod batteries as well, so you might as well learn the ropes now and reap a lifetime of rewards — at least until scientists come up with new, better, battery technology.

Step 1: Learn The Tech
LiIon cells charge in two stages. Stage one is a fast charge at constant amperage and steadily increasing voltage. When the battery reaches a 70- to 80-percent charge, the second stage begins, gradually decreasing the current applied to the battery while maintaining constant voltage until the battery is fully charged. This second stage is called the trickle, or topping-off charge, and it takes two to three times as long as stage one.

Apples charge stages graph

Apple's visual description of charge stages

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter whether you completely drain and completely charge the battery every cycle, or grab a few minutes of charge time whenever you can (with regard to battery life, at least).  But the latter practice will eventually make your reported battery-charge and remaining-life times inaccurate. To make sure the battery knows how much capacity it has, every once in a while you should completely discharge then fully recharge it. This keeps the electrons flowing through all the cells and calibrates an internal mAh counter.

Charges are cumulative, and you do not have to completely discharge the battery every cycle.

Step 2: Use It or Lose It — or Replace It
If you store your LiIon battery with a full charge, it’ll irreversibly lose about 20 percent of its charge capacity per year. If you aren’t going to use your machine for a while, leave your battery partially charged (40 to 50 percent). Even then, LiIon cells will lose capacity over time, but will do so more slowly at cool (not freezing) temperatures. Think about that when you’re choosing whether to store your old iBook in the basement or the attic.

Apple will sell you a new battery for any of its current laptops for $129, but the company no longer sells batteries for most of its older models. Fortunately for you, iFixit sells batteries for every portable Apple has made in recent memory. If you don’t get a battery from us, know that the main concern with after-market batteries is age: It’s best to buy a recently-manufactured battery and not just a “new” OEM battery that was made five years ago and has never been used.

Step 3: Gauge It
Battery capacity is expressed in milliamp-hours (mAh) or watt-hours (Wh).  The Late 2009 plastic unibody MacBook has a 60 Wh battery, so its claimed 7-hour battery life tells us that the MacBook sips just 8.6 watts. (This battery runs at 10.95 volts. Quick refresher from high-school physics: P = IV, so 60 Wh = I * 10.95 volts. Solving for current (I), we learn that this battery stores 5.48 amp hours, or about 5,500 mAh of juice.)

Your battery consumption can vary depending on how much the computer components are used (hard drive access, burning DVDs, using Wi-Fi), but the battery has a finite amount of capacity that only decreases over time.

On a Mac, you can easily determine your battery’s remaining capacity with third-party utilities such as Battery Health Monitor (shown above) or Coconut Battery, but you can also use Terminal (located within /Applications/Utilities). Type “ioreg -l -w 0 | grep Capacity”. The first item, CurrentCapacity, is your battery’s current capacity in milliamp-hours, whereas DesignCapacity lists the battery’s original capacity. System Profiler (on every Mac in /Applications/Utilities) also shows some information in the ‘Power’ profile.

Step 4: Recycle It

The Lithium inside these batteries isn’t super toxic (unlike most other batteries), but the world’s supply of lithium is finite. It’s gotten a lot more convenient in recent years to recycle batteries. Home Depot and Radio Shack will take back and recycle batteries at most of their stores. To recycle devices with integrated batteries, the fabulous e-stewards program publishes a list of certified e-recyclers that are properly accounting for their waste stream rather than shipping it overseas.

Random bit of trivia: Unused lithium batteries have been rumored to be a common source of lithium for making methamphetamines, but the ionized non-metal form of lithium used in Lithium-Ion batteries doesn’t work for this purpose.

Introducing iMac and Mac mini repair manuals

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

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.