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 Over time we’ve become very proficient at opening them up, using techniques that we possibly didn’t consider when we originally made a particular guide.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!

Three New Guide Features!

July 21, 2009 Site News — Miro

We’re excited to announce three new features on iFixit!

Slideshow: You are now able to view our teardowns as a full screen slideshow. All you have to do is click the “View as slideshow” link in the introduction to view it as a slideshow. Any browser can be used to view the slideshow, but users with the Cooliris browser plugin can view the slideshow in full screen. This is a beta feature, so please let us know if you have any issues or feedback while using it.

Single Page View: This has been one of the most oft-requested features by our users, and it’s finally here! You can now view the entire guide or teardown in a single page, as opposed to having to click “Next >>” every three steps for guides, or every eight steps for teardowns. Please be aware that loading all guide/teardown steps may take a while, especially for instructions that have a large number (30+) of steps.

The “I did it!” Button: We put a button at the end of every guide that lets you tell people that you successfully completed a repair! Clicking the “I did it!” button will link that guide to your profile, making it easy to keep a count of all the repairs you’ve made over the years. Just click on this link (you must be logged in our site for the link to work) in order to view your profile. Alternatively, you can log in on our Repair page and then click on your username in the top right corner of the site to view your user profile.

We hope you enjoy our new additions to the site. We’re continuously working on making your experience better, and we welcome any comments or suggestions you have.

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!

Teardown Introduction Guide

July 6, 2009 Events, Teardowns — Miro

We gave our technical writers free rein and told them to “come up with something funny” as an introduction to our new teardown system. Their training at the German School of Technical Writing* did not help at all (as the trainers managed to take out all the funny bones out our writers’ bodies). Yet we managed, through various iterations, to have them write a guide that is somewhat-hilarious. We linked to this guide when we announced our new teardown platform, but we felt it deserved its own post.

The teardown introduction guide points out the most effective method known to man for obtaining a gadget: camping in front of the store.**  It also goes through the intricacies of purchasing the gadget and opening the box. Very exciting stuff.

The guys also managed to spend almost six hours taking photos for the final picture, and another four hours editing them in PhotoShop.*** It turns out it’s super hard to impose a green background and black out the people, all the while keeping the iPod headphones white. Eventually they figured out a suitable technique and succeeded in their endeavors.

We applaud them for their efforts, and hope they enjoy being unemployed.****

The fine print:

*No such school exists, to the best of our knowledge. We apologize in advance if there actually is a German School of Technical Writing.

**That may or may not be the most effective method.

***Total time was closer to four hours.

****No tech writers were fired or harmed while making this guide.

Kyle’s Interview with Macworld UK

June 29, 2009 Events — Miro

Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit

We mentioned in our iPhone 3GS post that Kyle went all the way to London to obtain the new iPhone. He was, in fact, doing the teardown in the Macworld UK offices!

The great folks at Macworld UK lent us a table and lights, not to mention a portion of their office, for our teardown. Knowing prices in London, just renting the space alone would have cost several thousand dollars, which they provided for no charge!

As part of tearing down the iPhone 3GS, MacVideo’s (Macworld’s sister site) Rick Young recorded a video interview with Kyle. During the interview, they show snippets of how we perform our teardown from the other side of the camera. Viewers are able to get a good idea on the inner workings of iFixit, all the while listening to Rick’s and Kyle’s great chat about several topics.

New iBook G4 12″ 1.33 GHz Guide

June 24, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — walter

Salutations! A while ago we accidentally spilled the beans on the future publication of one of our most user-requested guides, the iBook G4 12″ 1.33 GHz. Well, we finally crossed the i’s, dotted the t’s, and released them to the public.

This iBook G4 12″ 1.33 GHz is nearly identical to the iBook G4 12″ 800 MHz – 1.2 GHz (if you’re wondering which version you have, you can identify your machine by using our ID Your Mac page). However there are some prominent differences that merit a complete set of new guides for the 1.33 GHz machine:

  • The addition or omission of screws can cause confusion during repair.  The top shield is missing a 5.5 mm screw previously located in the upper left corner; four screws instead of two screws are required to secure the hard drive to the framework; the heat sink is fastened by nine screws instead of eight; logic board replacement requires removal of 12 screws instead of 10. Thankfully all of the screws are neatly labeled in our guides, so you don’t have to worry about missing any of the little changes.
  • This model’s Reed Switch board was relocated from the display assembly to the top of the optical drive.  A combination of a magnet in the display assembly and this sensor enables your iBook to automatically go to sleep when the lid is closed and magically wake up when opened.
  • Detaching the display requires removing the optical drive to de-route the AirPort cables.
  • The AirPort/Bluetooth board must be removed to access the heat sink, but the hard drive bracket does not.

Take a gander at the new guides. We’re always open to any suggestions or comments that will help us improve our work.

iPhone 3GS Teardown

June 19, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — luke

We just flew Kyle, our CEO, to London so he could take apart the iPhone 3GS. The results are in, and here’s what we found:

  • Thankfully, opening the iPhone 3GS is as simple as the 3G. After removing two Phillips screws, the two halves of the phone are separated easily using a suction cup.
  • The iPhone is differentiated externally only by a new model number, A1303. The lettering on the back is now shiny, like the Apple logo.
  • The internal physical design is virtually identical to the iPhone 3G. A random passerby on the street would not know the difference. Heck, even we were struggling to differentiate the two.
  • The new graphics core should drastically improve performance, meaning Apple’s serious about the handheld gaming market.
  • There’s still a “Do not remove” sticker above the logic board. Naturally, we removed it.
  • Nearly all components have been relocated to the front side of the main PCB, including the Bluetooth, Wi–Fi, and Flash memory chips.
  • The battery is 4.51 Watt-hours, or 1219 mAh. That’s about 6% larger than the iPhone 3G’s battery. Hopefully the hardware runs more efficiently, since increased battery life will not come from the battery itself.
  • There is an additional antenna connection near the dock connector. We’re not sure what for just yet. However, we do love exploring these teasers… Stay tuned!
  • For those who are wondering about the fingerprint-resistant coating on their iPhone 3GS screen: The oleophobic, or oil-proof, technology evolved from waterproofing. Oil-proof technology is harder to achieve as oil has a much lower surface tension than water, so it spreads out easier and thus is harder to get rid off. MIT’s solution was to create a coating material which creates a layer of micro fibers, but with a much larger contact angle between the oil droplets and the fibers.

Some comments on usability of the 3GS:

  • Camera quality is much improved from the 3G. Close-up shots were possible down to about 5 cm, and the brightness adjusted well when picking a focus area.
  • The oleophobic screen does seem to clean slightly easier than the 3G’s normal screen.
  • Google Earth (duration of the spinning load wheel) (over Wi-Fi): 3GS: 4.9 sec; 3G: 22.2 sec. A bit faster than Apple’s claim of 2X speed improvement — although we know that one simple test of one application means little in the real world.

We’ll post more notes on the hardware as we analyze it further.

iPhone 3G S Parts

iPhone 3G S Parts

3rd Generation iPod nano Repair Guides

June 17, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — Andrew Goldberg

We’d like to announce our all-new repair guides for the 3rd Generation iPod nano!

Replacing parts on the 3rd Gen nano can be quite difficult. We’ve found that removing the rear panel is the hardest step, and chances are slim that you will open the nano without destroying the panel. Unfortunately, you must first remove the rear panel to access any of the device’s internals, so customers are advised to purchase a rear panel if they plan on replacing any of the internals.

The most important aspect of replacing the rear panel is patience. Take your time when working the opening tools around the perimeter of the nano, and make sure not to get cut. Although the iPod opening tools are not sharp, having one slip off the side of an iPod can definitely do some damage.

Our new guides enable you to:

  • Replace a broken display.
  • Solder in a new battery, sparing you the astronomical Apple repair service charge.
  • Upgrade the logic board (including a pre-soldered battery) with a higher capacity unit for more storage capability.

You can also troubleshoot your nano using our troubleshooting guide.

We invite you to take a gander at the new guides, and we hope they help keep your nano in tip-top shape for years to come!

Upgrading a MacBook Pro Hard Drive

June 12, 2009 Hardware, Repair Stories — Miro

Hard drives fail. It’s a fact of life. When moving parts inside the drive wear out, you’ll hear the signature “death whine” of a failed bearing, or the clatter of a dying drive head. Even if your hard drive is happily purring along, hard drive prices have fallen enough that it might be time to upgrade. New 320 and 500 GB drives are readily available for the MacBook Pro, but there’s a few things you should know prior to installing one in your computer.

Whether or not things take a turn for the worse, we can show you how to replace your drive with something newer, more robust, faster, and with higher capacity. However, we cannot recover your lost data. Backups are your friend — nobody but you can save your complete and unabridged collection of Lost episodes.

Apple released three major versions of the MacBook Pro prior to the current Unibody design. We have written detailed information on each model and how to differentiate between them: Core Duo, Core 2 Duo Model A1211, and Core 2 Duo Models A1226 & A1260. Each of these has slight internal differences that impact the way you disassemble them. We took photos of a Penryn (Model A1260) for this article, but the general approach applies to all of Apple’s older MacBook Pros.

Safety comes first. Remove all power sources for this procedure, including the battery. Apple uses sliding switches on these machines rather than the coin-operated MacBook battery latch, which is fortunate, because you’re probably all out of coin from upgrading to the higher-end Pro model. However, the Pro’s dual latches do not make battery removal easy for one-armed people.

Removing the battery exposes the RAM shield, which is held in place by three Phillips screws. This is a great time to “check under the hood” and possibly upgrade the RAM while you’re at it. MacBook Pros come with only 1 or 2 GB RAM standard. Depending on your model, you can easily upgrade to 2 GB (Core Duo), 3 GB (Model A1211), or 6 GB (Models A1226 and A1260).

You’ll need to remove 18 screws to open the top case: four on each side, two on the back, and eight on the bottom case. The screws look quite similar to one another, but will not fit correctly if inserted into the wrong hole. Try printing out the handy MacBook Pro PDF screw guide to keep track of all the screws. Alternatively, egg cartons or ice cube trays can also be useful for this purpose.

Once you’ve removed the screws, you can carefully pull up the upper case. The case still has a cable that attaches the keyboard to the logic board, so it’s not a wise idea to pull it off quickly.

A spudger is a flat plastic prying tool that can be very useful under the right circumstances. Taking the trackpad/ribbon cable off the logic board is one such situation. The spudger’s flat tip — not unlike a flat-blade screwdriver, but with less destructive potential — can squeeze itself in-between the board and male connector. A gentle twist of the spudger will separate the male connector from the socket without harming anything inside the computer. Make sure that the yellow tape is peeled back before removing the ribbon cable.

And just like that, the upper case is off and you have access to the logic board, optical drive, fans, speakers, and most importantly, the hard drive. The drive is cleverly held in place by a screwed-in retaining bracket on the right side. Removing two Torx screws (Apple used Phillips screws for the bracket in some models) releases the bracket, allowing the drive to slide out of the rubber bumpers on the left side.

Once the drive is out, the hard drive cable needs to be detached from the drive. The cable has a somewhat flimsy backing to it, so it’s a good idea to hold it gently and wiggle it side-to-side while detaching. The other side of the cable is still connected to the computer via two small connectors. Don’t yank the cable away from the rest of the computer, as that will undoubtedly break something important. Not wake-up-the-President-of-the-United-States important, but definitely spend-a-lot-more-money-trying-to-fix-the-laptop important.

Four Torx screws hold the drive in place when it’s installed in the laptop. The silver T6 Torx screws slide out of the rubber bumpers on the left side, while the right-side T6 Torx screws still have the bumpers attached. The four screws need to be moved from the old drive to the new one so it will fit securely into place.

As with any repair job, disassembly is only half the battle. Thankfully, all you have to do is follow the disassembly instructions backwards to completely reassemble the MacBook Pro once the new drive is mounted.

Power it up to make sure everything is connected properly. But powering on the machine isn’t the end of your journey. The new drive has no operating system or data on it. You have a couple of options, depending on the state of the old drive. You can clone the old one (if it still works) by installing it into a FireWire enclosure and using Disk Utility to clone. Once you’re done, you can use the enclosure and old drive as a Time Machine backup, in case the new drive ever fails — or as external storage. The other option is to start from scratch with a fresh install from a Mac OS X install disk; this is a cleaner but more time-consuming process. We offer Leopard install instructions on how to perform either procedure, so the choice is up to you. Just make sure the partition is set to the Intel-native “GUID Partition Scheme,” otherwise you may encounter some very interesting problems.

People who’ve had drives fail know how terrible it can be to lose all your data. Do yourself a favor, and make sure you have current backups of everything. Mounting your old drive in an external enclosure after your MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade is a simple and inexpensive strategy.

MacBook Pro 13″ Unibody Teardown

June 10, 2009 Hardware, Site News, Teardowns — Miro

We just completed our teardown of the MacBook Pro 13″ Unibody. We found that there’s very little difference between it and its predecessor, the MacBook Unibody. Here are some interesting tidbits about the MacBook Pro 13″:

  • The SD card slot is rather unimaginative, and half the card hangs outside the computer. Apparently, Apple couldn’t free up enough space for a slot that would make the card completely captive.
  • Fortunately, Apple did free up space to include a single FireWire 800 port.
  • The battery is easily user-upgradeable. All you need is a small Phillips screwdriver to open the case, and a tri-wing screwdriver to remove the battery.
  • The battery is definitely heavier (360 grams compared to 302 g for the old one). However, its capacity is 60 Watt-hours, compared to the lighter battery’s 45 W-h.
  • Apple’s claim for battery life in now 7 hours, compared to the MacBook’s 5 hours.
  • The new battery is not interchangeable at all with the older MacBook Unibody. The connectors, size, and shape are different, preventing easy DIY battery rigging.
  • The mid wall dividing the MacBook Pro is now attached to the top case. In the previous model, it was held in by four Phillips screws — just goes to show what Apple is trying to help out its DIY customers.
  • Aside from a couple of visual cues found outside, a casual user would not be able to discern if this was a MacBook Unibody or MacBook Pro.
  • Most screw layouts and brackets are identical to the old MacBook Unibody.
  • Despite now being a “Pro,” the machine makes do with only a single audio jack. The jack supports both analog and digital audio-out, as well as analog audio-in. If you need digital audio-in, this is not the machine for you.

We also just released a full set of MacBook Unibody repair guides. The design is similar enough that the guides can also be used to repair a MacBook Pro 13″ Unibody.

If there are any details you’d like us to investigate, leave a comment in the teardown or hit us up on twitter: @ifixit