This is What’s In Your Toolbox?, an occasional post series where we showcase tools and tips from our favorite fixers. Today we’re featuring Luke Miani, who makes videos about using, fixing, and living with computers (some of which iFixit has sponsored).
First off, explain to our community who you are and what you do!
My name is Luke Miani and I run an eponymous channel that focuses on Apple, with a heavy emphasis on repair and re-use. Since 2017 I’ve been making videos regularly getting under the skin of the Macs we all know and love. I think it’s a fundamental skill to be able to work on your stuff, whether it be gutting and replacing a logic board or fixing up a dead hard drive, and I aim to show people the merits of repair! I also like to do some wacky projects like fixing up a pile of a dozen MacBooks, transplanting an M1 Mac mini into the husk of a dead iMac, and many other fun projects coming soon!
How did you get started fixing and restoring things?
My journey with repair started about four years ago. A family member wanted to buy a MacBook Pro, but wanted to save money in the process, so I found a defective one on eBay for very cheap and discovered that the issue was a simple dead hard drive. I replaced the drive with an SSD, replaced the optical drive with a hard drive bay, and upgraded the RAM, and made a video of the whole process for YouTube. This simple repair and video started my journey building both knowledge in repair and my YouTube channel. From there I moved on to more complicated repairs and disassemblies of similar MacBooks, then I branched out to Mac Pros, iMacs, Mac minis, and almost any other Mac. Every step of the way, every device I’ve learned how to work on was aided by iFixit repair guides, so much so that I can now fully disassemble and reassemble most MacBook Pros by memory!
What’s in your toolbox (or workshop)?
The staple of my repair is my Pro Tech Toolkit, which I bought almost four years ago and has served me very well! My repair kit is pretty minimal, I rely on the PTT for probably 90% of the repairs I tackle. I do sometimes need some assistance from alcohol solvents or suction cups when working on some more stubborn adhesive-based repairs, though I do so with a grumble because screws are far superior. Another staple of my repair work are diagnostic tools. With Macs the repairs tend to be fairly straightforward, but testing devices means I have a small army of RAM sticks, USB installers, chargers, and external drives.
How do you organize your tools?
My video editing skills far outpace my organizational ones, I have quite simply “a repair shelf” and that’s where everything generally lives!
What are some of your most-used tools?
The Pro Tech Toolkit is such a must-have for me that I occasionally bring it with me on trips. I’ve been caught empty-handed in a few trips where I needed a quick repair on something so I’ve learned to always keep a toolkit on hand. One tool I use for almost everything I do is the simple plastic spudger. From carefully disconnecting ZIF connectors to getting microfiber cloths into tight nooks and crannies, it’s a perennial tool that always finds a new way to be useful (though mine is really starting to wear down).
What’s your most-coveted, yet least-used tool?
My latest addition has been a tool that allows reprogramming the EFI chip of older MacBooks. Many Macs that end up being sent to recyclers are EFI locked because owners forget to de-activate the lock when discarding the laptop. This tool allows a quick reprogram of the chip to reset the EFI, and it’s very handy in the case it’s necessary! I’ve only used it twice so far but it has saved me from having to buy two new logic boards!
Is there a certain tool or material you use often, but seems unorthodox for restoring/electronics work?
One of the most useful ‘tools’ I have is a portable external monitor. It sounds weird to call it a tool I know, but it runs off USB-C and its folds up with a little case so it’s way easier than pulling out a monitor when I need to diagnose anything with a dead screen (or no screen at all).
Every fixer/DIYer has a gruesome tool injury story. What’s yours? (Alternately: a gruesome failure/short-circuit story from your refurbish/restore attempts).
My saddest repair moment was when working on a 2011 iMac to try and build a crazy janky upgrade – I was planning on turning it into a ‘gaming iMac’ by installing a Core i7, 32 GB of RAM, a bunch of SSDs, and GTX 980M graphics. Sadly, when I installed the 980M there was some metal on metal contact, a little bit of smoke, and the iMac never worked again! Fortunately I got some narrative conclusion when I used it as the basis for my M1 iMac mini transformation!
What’s your advice for people who want to start fixing things, restoring things, or tinkering?
My biggest advice would be to not get intimidated! Repair can be a very easy thing to do in many cases; most of the repairs I do for my channel just require an iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit and some lens cleaner. Even pretty in-depth repairs can be conducted this way, like a MacBook Pro I fixed up that had seemingly been run over with a car!
Anything else you want our community of fixers to know? Feel free to pitch any new projects or content you’re working on or recently published!
Learning how to repair electronics can be fun and helpful! For me it’s not only a way to keep devices running for years and years but a burgeoning career as well! It’s not just a hobby for many people, maybe you can find some way to make repair an important part of your life! If you want to see some fun repair projects you can tune in to my YouTube channel, where I may or may not have come across a MacBook Pro that was attacked with a table saw…