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 For $99, you could head down to AutoZone and buy a couple outdated service manuals.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.

Dozuki: A new way to write how-to manuals

August 18, 2011 Site News — eric

I have a big announcement to make. For the first time ever, iFixit is branching out from our core business of selling parts and tools. We’re going to start selling software—the same software that we use to run iFixit. This is something that astute observers may have expected from the development, and success, of Make: Projects.

User manuals are stuck in the 20th century. Even the best manuals are still distributed as static PDFs. Service technicians are often stuck with documentation that is months, if not years, out of date. Users hate IKEA-style manuals with vague instructions, confusing graphics, and no photos.

We started iFixit with the idea that there was a better way—that useful documentation could help people do amazing things.

Our intuitive, step-by-step repair manuals changed the world. Millions of people have fixed their own electronics using iFixit’s manuals—making it the most popular service documentation platform ever created.

Today, we are announcing Dozuki: the software behind iFixit’s manuals. We’re taking the site that you all know and love, and turning the technology behind it into software products that we’re going to sell to manufacturers. Dozuki has two products, Guidebook and Answers. Check it out at dozuki.com, and let me know what you think.

Guidebook makes step-by-step instructions come alive.

Guidebook is a modern procedural documentation platform. Guidebook makes it easy for anyone to create how-to instructions or publish service documentation for complex devices. Every manual is available online, as downloadable PDFs, through dedicated mobile apps like iFixit’s iOS app—or through custom API applications. It’s simple for technicians to suggest changes, so manuals consistently get better over time.

Answers transforms conversations into archived wisdom.

Answers is enterprise-grade Q&A for experts. Answers is a structured tool for focusing expert conversations into a useful (and searchable) knowledge base. Answers gives companies the ability to make their products a hub for knowledge exchange.

Building expert communities

iFixit won top online community this year at South by Southwest (SXSW). This announcement makes their expertise at building communities available to manufacturers of all sizes. Dozuki isn’t just a content management system—it’s a community platform that empowers companies to give their expert customers a voice. Companies that allow their customers to extend their documentation will see consumers flock to sustainable, durable products. By joining the community, manufacturers have the opportunity to set a positive tone, provide leadership, and increase long-term demand.

Workgroup collaboration

Dozuki also targets enterprises needing collaborative workgroup tools. Imagine improving the productivity of distributed teams by giving people access to domain expertise already available within the company. Dozuki can transform existing procedures and support documents into a framework for social interaction.

Proven solution

Dozuki’s powerful framework has powered iFixit onto Inc’s list of the 5000 fastest growing companies for the past three years. iFixit is now one of the largest Apple parts companies in the world, hosting complete service manuals for every major Apple product. iFixit’s popular gadget teardowns receive millions of views and drive consistent e-commerce growth.

We partnered with O’Reilly to bring Make Magazine’s exciting do-it-yourself projects into the digital realm. Their successful Guidebook community, Make: Projects, allows users to post their own DIY projects alongside Make’s professional articles.

Dozuki is in private beta now and will be launching publicly this fall. If you’re interested, head over to dozuki.com and add yourself to the beta invite list. We’ll be inviting members of the community to the beta early.

What does this all mean?

We’re very excited about what this means for iFixit. We’re constantly looking for ways to continue investing in the site and hire more engineers without running advertisements on iFixit. We’re as committed as ever to building a free online repair manual for everything, and if Dozuki is successful, we’ll have additional resources to throw at making the world’s best repair manual. As always, we’re committed to making iFixit the best that it can be, and I welcome your feedback and feature suggestions.

9.5mm Optical Bay Hard Drive Enclosure

August 15, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Brett

It's time to say goodbye...

Gone are the days of spinning optical media! Say goodbye to the huge stacks of jewel cases, 700 MB limits, and skipping tracks whenever you drive over speed-bumps. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, CDs are no longer the way of the future. They’re a thing of the past, just like their eight-track ancestors. Box them away, use them as shiny coasters, and by all means stop putting them in your computers.

Here are the days of mass storage, near-instant access, and skip-proof handling. As hard drives and solid-state drives continue to drop in price, they continue to rise in usefulness and availability. They are faster, stronger, and better than optical media, and they can be written an almost infinite number of times.

So what are you waiting for? Get rid of that dusty old optical drive inside your unibody MacBook or MacBook Pro! With this optical bay enclosure, you can disguise any hard drive as an optical drive and use it as a secondary drive. Once installed, the second drive will be considerably faster and safer than your optical media.

We’ve been selling a similar optical bay drive enclosure for some time now; but in true iFixit fashion, we’re never satisfied with the status quo. Our revised optical bay enclosure specifically addresses a small shortcoming of the old one — the earlier version had no flanges to allow it to be securely screwed to the front of the unibody case, causing the enclosure and hard drive to be a little loose. In our new-and-improved enclosure, there are added flanges and screws to make sure that the hard drive is as snug as a bug in a rug.

The new-and-improved enclosure is tailored specificially for unibody MacBooks and MacBook Pros

Mac Mini Dual Hard Drive Kit

August 12, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Miro

We found in our teardown that the new Mac Mini had a lovely empty spot for a secondary drive. Needless to say, in the days following the teardown we received hundreds of requests for some way to add a secondary drive to the new Mini without having to buy the $400-extra Server model.

It took a while to sort out the gremlins and align the stars, but it’s finally here! Our new Mac Mini Dual Hard Drive Kit is the perfect solution to add a second hard drive to your Mini.

Want instant-on access? Just couple the kit with an SSD or the Seagate Hybrid 500GB SATA drive (which includes a 4GB SSD on it) to make Lion run like a cheetah. Or, if extreme storage is your thing, install two Seagate 750 GB drives into your Mini for 1.5 Terabytes of storage awesome!

Each kit contains:

We managed to toss all the components above into one tidy little package and set the price to $69.95. And once you have the kit, just follow our awesome instructions to get your second drive installed properly.

Every Day We’re Hustlin’

August 8, 2011 Site News, Video — Melissa

MJ Repairing a MacMiniThough it has been an absolutely gorgeous and mild summer here at iFixit headquarters, we’ve been working diligently in the studio, producing tons of new repair and teardown videos. What can we say? We love what we do. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve released recently:

Macbook Pro 13” Unibody Hard Drive
Macbook Pro 13” Unibody Upper Case
Mac Mini (Core Duo) Hard Drive
Macbook Air 2011 Teardown

There are dozens of more videos on our YouTube channel, ranging from game console repairs, to a Q&A segment called Ask iFixit, to a particularly informative video on ESD. If you think our time spent hunkered down in the studio is worth the effort, stay up-to-date with all of our teardown and repair videos is by subscribing–for free–to our YouTube channel!

Lastly, we love to answer questions. For example, maybe you want us to show you how to repair a jetski? Or maybe your boat is on the fritz? Or perhaps you have some other project in mind that would require us to go to the lake and enjoy the fabulous weather? If you’ve got a question that you’d like to have answered, email it to askifixit at ifixit.com, and we might feature it on an upcoming episode of Ask iFixit.

We’ll be back periodically to share our latest video offerings. Until then: Happy Fixing!


ESD is not a venereal disease

July 27, 2011 Answers, Site News, Tools — Jeff

Electrostatic discharge and novice electronics repair

Block Image

Take precautions before handling

Beware: a short stroll on your Dacron® carpet can load the surface of your skin and clothes with enough spare electrons to cook that RAM you just took out of its special little pink or silver bag. Recipes for Abbacchio Al Forno aside, cooking your RAM is something to avoid. If you are new to tinkering with electronics, you may not have heard of electrostatic discharge (ESD) safety procedures. ESD is a sudden electric shock that your electronic device may incur if it isn’t handled properly. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the components inside your device get, the more sensitive they are to those crackles and pops you hear on a dry day when you pet the cat.

Electronic components become smaller every year; so just about any electronic device you own has components that require proper care on your part before you start fiddling inside. Be it the innards of your smart phone or the logic board, RAM, or hard drive in your laptop, the free electrons on your skin are just itching to attack all those tiny semiconductors.

By the way, you and all the objects around you are exchanging static charges all the time. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you don’t see a spark, there is no energy transferred. That visible spark between your finger and a door knob may have contained several thousand volts, but some electronic components are sensitive to static discharge of less than one hundred volts. You are unlikely to see, feel, or hear these smaller (yet still potentially damaging) exchanges of charge. Just scooting your butt around in your chair can load up enough zap juice to cause mayhem.

Just the facts ma’am

So, every time you or other objects move around, making and breaking contact with various surfaces, a static charge may build up. A particular surface may hold or dissipate that charge depending on all sorts of factors, like relative humidity in the air, conductivity of the material, etc. If those details don’t put you to sleep and you want to know more, have a look at the web page of the Electrostatic Discharge Association. It’s loaded with detail mostly intended for folks in manufacturing who really need to keep ESD under control.

For the electronics repair novice, the key tidbit to keep in mind is that bad things happen when your electronic components (with one level of charge) suddenly come in contact with something with a different level of charge. Spare electrons on the surface try to find equilibrium and create havoc. If they rush from one object to another and some tiny electronics are in the way, the semiconductors get cooked. Yet when all components in your device are assembled, they share one big happy charge together. So there’s no problem until  you start taking it all apart — that’s when the potential for different charges rears its ugly head.

Block Image

ESD Safe symbol: a triangle/hand under an arc.

The objective of ESD safe procedures and tools is to dissipate or equalize unequal charges before they can flow through delicate electronics, or to slow the exchange of that electrostatic charge enough so it does not cause damage. If your hands, work surface, tools, and electronic parts are all at the same charge or all connected to a decent ground, there will be no exchange of charge between them when they come in contact. This is the purpose of anti-static wrist straps and mats. Those special pink or silver plastic bags containing your new disk drive or RAM chip are designed to dissipate static charge slowly enough to prevent damage. The pink or silver plastic is neither a good conductor, which would dissipate an unequal charge too quickly, nor a good insulator, which would hold a potentially damaging charge for a long time. Likewise, the special plastic grips of ESD safe tools are intended to slowly dissipate an unequal charge. Used together with the right procedures, ESD safe tools and anti-static mats and wrist straps may keep your new RAM fresh and uncooked.

So what’s a novice to do?

A few simple precautions will help keep you from creating inadvertent paperweights:

  • Unplug your electronic device.
  • Remove rings, watches, and bracelets from your fingers and wrists.
  • Ground your work surface. Lay down an anti-static mat and use its wire lead to connect to ground. This can be a water pipe or an unpainted metal part of a grounded appliance like a washing machine, dryer, or refrigerator. You may connect directly to the ground wire of an AC outlet but only if you are certain you know what you’re doing. You may wish to consult an electrician. Can’t get to a good ground? Then clip your mat to something big and conductive like the steel legs of a work bench. This at least gives you a charge reservoir to equalize everything with.
  • Ground yourself. Wear an anti-static wrist strap and use its wire lead to connect to your anti-static mat.
  • Keep your new parts in their pink or silver bags until you are ready to install them.
  • Place all your bagged new parts on the anti-static mat before you work with them.
  • Place your electronic device on the anti-static mat.
  • Place your tools on the anti-static mat.

Everything, including your hands, should now have an equal charge and you can get to work. As you work keep a few things in mind:

  • If your electronic device has a metal case, its charge should be equalized by just sitting on your anti-static mat. If your electronic device has a plastic case, touch a metal internal case component before you disconnect any internal parts. For example, removing the battery from a MacBook exposes its internal metal frame. Touching your grounded hand to these metal parts will equalize the charge of the internal components with you and your work surface. Touch those same internal metal frame parts regularly as you work, particularly just before swapping sensitive components like RAM sticks.
  • Any parts that you may wish to keep should be placed in ESD safe pink or silver bags for storage.
  • Caution: ESD safe procedures will not protect you from high voltage discharge from a CRT display or any other glass tube monitor or television. In addition, power supplies built into desktop CPUs or other devices contain capacitors with similar potential for high voltage discharge.

Once you have your device reassembled and working again, don’t forget to remove that silly-looking strap off your wrist. Then it’s time to shuffle across the carpet and zap the cat on the nose.*


* We do not condone the abuse of animals, even if it’s zapping your cat on the nose.

Mac Mini Mid 2011 Teardown

July 21, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

Our brand new Mac Mini swooned us with promises of “2x faster everything” and the new Thunderbolt I/O. Naturally, we had to take a look inside, just like we did with the new MacBook Air earlier today.

This year’s Mini is a great example of “less is more.” Apple has done away with the optical drive and replaced it with some good old-fashioned emptiness. We found that hole (as well as the empty extra SATA connection on the logic board) to be perfect for adding a secondary hard drive — essentially bypassing the $400 premium over the “server” model. The only snag in this master plan is being able to find another hard drive cable to hook it up to the logic board, something we’ll work on sourcing.

Kudos to the Mini for receiving an excellent 8 out of 10 repairability score. There’s no proprietary screws or glue, and you can easily replace the existing RAM and hard drive (or almost any other component) if needed.

Teardown highlights:

  • Apple removed the optical drive from this Mini, but would love to sell you one for an additional $79. Sweet!
  • Some of the screws inside the machine were quite interesting. We found T6 screws that were screwed into the top of T8 screws. A screw within a screw
  • The big question with this Mac Mini: “Can I install a second hard drive myself?” The extra empty space seems to imply so. There is definitely plenty of room for a second hard drive underneath the first. The only deterrent is the availability of a second SATA hard drive-to-logic board cable.
  • The new Mini has the same fan as the old Mini, and even the older Mini. Sticking with the brushless, high blade density blower, this single fan is quiet and effective — just the way we like it.
  • The Broadcom BCM20702 Single-Chip Bluetooth 4.0 Processor with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support is identical to the chip found in the 13″ MacBook Air we took apart earlier in the day.
  • Big players on the logic board include:
    • Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
    • Intel V116A068 2.3 GHz Dual-Core i5
    • Intel L116IA35 Thunderbolt port controller IC, similar to that found on the Early 2011 21.5″ iMac
    • Broadcom BCM57765 gigabit ethernet and memory card controller
    • Texas Instruments XIO2211 FireWire Controller
    • irrus Logic 4206B Audio Controller
    • SMSC 1428-7 System Management Bus temperature sensor
Plenty of space for the second hard drive.

Plenty of space for the second hard drive.

Final layout

Final layout

MacBook Air 13″ Mid 2011 Teardown

July 21, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

With the release of these newly-updated MacBook Airs, people have been asking us what Apple updated under the hood. The answer? More than is evident at first glance. The new MacBook Air is visually very similar to the last revision, but it includes substantial improvements to the chipset and IO controllers. Moving to built-in graphics freed up tons of room on the logic board and allowed Apple to squeeze a new ‘Platform Controller Hub’ with Thunderbolt support onto the board.

Although today is an exciting day for Apple, it’s a sad day for consumer repair. Apple decided that this “svelte and sexy” MacBook Air will replace the “simple and serviceable” white plastic MacBook. So while your backpacks will be significantly lighter, future repairability and upgradability will suffer tremendously.

Check out iFixit’s MJ talking about the new MacBook Air on YouTube:

Teardown highlights:

  • A Broadcom BCM20702 chip on the wireless board adds Bluetooth 4.0 support with BLE. BLE chips hold many advantages over classic Bluetooth including 128 bit AES security, 6 ms latency (classic Bluetooth is 100 ms), and less power consumption.
  • A Broadcom BCM4322 Intensi-fi Single-Chip 802.11n Transceiver gives this Air the ability to get internet… through air.
  • Just like in the mid-2010 MacBook Air, the SSD is not soldered on the logic board. Thankfully this means you can upgrade the SSD for more storage, but you’re still out of luck if you need extra RAM.
  • Other than a larger plate to accommodate the bigger die face of the Core i5 processor, the heat sink looks nearly identical to the one used on the Core 2 Duo Airs of last year. We’ll do some testing to see if temperatures are any higher in this machine.
  • Surprisingly, there isn’t too much excess thermal paste between the processor and the heat sink. This is a nice departure from Apple’s recent trend of assaulting processors with gobs of thermal paste.
  • Big players on the logic board include:
    • Intel Core i5 Processor-2557M with integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics
    • Intel E78296 01PB10 / E116A746 SLJ4K Platform Controller Hub. We’re guessing this includes an integrated Thunderbolt controller. It’s not this part, but it’s similar.
    • Hynix H5TQ2G838ZR 4 GB RAM
    • SMSC USB2513B USB 2.0 Hub Controller
  • Shifting to integrated graphics on the processor freed up a lot of room on the board — enough for Apple to add the sizeable Thunderbolt-capable Platform Controller Hub.
  • A new addition to the upper case is the network of LEDs attached to the keyboard backlight cable. A couple LEDs transmit light through fiber optic channels to evenly illuminate the keys on the keyboard.
  • The thickness restrictions of such a thin display were the deciding factor in not equipping the Air with a FaceTimeHD camera.
Final layout

Final layout

iPad 2’s New Display Driver IC

July 19, 2011 Hardware, Site News — Miro

We received word from our pals at Chipworks that newer versions of the iPad 2 are using a new display driver IC. Vintage iPad 2s (circa March 2011) contain a chip labeled as SW0627B, an LG display driver that dates back to the original iPad:

SW0627B - original iPad and iPad 2 display driver.

SW0627B - original iPad and iPad 2 display driver.

Chipworks’ latest batch of iPad 2s, however, seem to be using a new Wise-View chip. Little to no information can be found about the chip at this time, except that it appears to be a technology developed by Samsung. Sadly there’s no information on Samsung Semiconductor’s site regarding this display driver product line.

Wise-View controller from a recently-purchased iPad 2. Image provided by Chipworks.

Wise-View controller from a recently-purchased iPad 2. Image provided by Chipworks.

We’re not sure how long this display driver has been shipping in iPads, but it’s interesting to see that the driver changed significantly — especially since the old one had no problems doing its duty for the past couple of years. Did Apple just change suppliers? Is this foreshadowing the release of an updated iPad with a higher-res screen? Only time will tell, and we’re not ones to speculate.

If anyone has more info on the chip, please feel free to submit a comment or contact us directly!

Motorola Droid 3 Teardown

July 18, 2011 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

After various iterations and special editions of the original Droid, a worthy successor has finally arrived! The third Droid to hail from the halls of Motorola — smartly named Droid 3 — hosts several new hardware improvements over the older models. Whereas the Droid 2‘s CPU was based on the same ARM Cortex A8 core as the original Droid, the third generation features a dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 CPU — a proper processor upgrade. Other notable improvements include an 8MP rear camera, all-new front camera, 5-row staggered keyboard, and 4″ qHD display.

And yet even with all the techno upgrades, Motorola paid no attention to the repairability of the Droid 3. You still have to take apart the whole phone in order to access the display and glass, a procedure hampered by Torx screws and glue that are used to hold everything together. Consequently, the Droid 3 received a mid-pack 6 out of 10 repairability score, having been given some brownie points for an easily-replaceable battery and for a straightforward (albeit time-consuming) disassembly process.

Teardown highlights:

  • Whoa! This Droid has a SIM card! A lack of SIM cards in earlier Droids severely hampered international use of Verizon’s network. This SIM enables the Droid 3 to be used almost anywhere in the world.
  • Although now you’re free to roam about the world with your Droid, a very attention-grabbing informational card included with the phone indicates that roaming data charges might be as high as $20.48 per MB!
  • Motorola likes to hide screws and latches beneath labels, making opening the phone a rather sticky affair.
  • The speaker assembly uses pressure contacts to transmit data to both the speaker and the antenna. Interestingly, a hole through the motherboard allows sound to pass through for better transmission to the outside of the phone.
  • We like the offset keys on the Droid 3’s new 5-row slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but the keys feel cheaper in quality than the original keyboard.
  • As with its predecessors, the display assembly in this Droid is very difficult to access. You have to take apart the whole phone (including peeling off the keyboard) if you want to change your broken display.
  • An Atmel MXT224E capacitive touchscreen controller can be found within the front panel — the same chip found on several other electronic gadgets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
  • The main ICs on the front side of the motherboard include:
    • Qualcomm MDM6600 supporting HSPA+ speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps
    • SanDisk SDIN4C2 16GB MLC NAND flash
    • Elpida B4064B2PB-8D-F 512MB RAM
    • TI OMAP 4430 CPU (hidden underneath the Elpida RAM)
    • Triquint TQM7M5013 Linear Power Amplifier
    • Kionix KXTF9 11425 1411 three-axis accelerometer
    • Qualcomm PM8028 chip that works in conjunction with the Qualcomm MDM6600 to provide wireless data connection
    • Hynix H8BCS0QG0MMR memory MCP containing Hynix DRAM and STM flash
Taking off the back cover

Taking off the back cover

Final layout

Final layout