MacBook Unibody Backlit Keyboard Upgrade

March 25, 2009 Hardware — brady
MacBook Unibody 2.0 GHz and its Future Backlit Keyboard

MacBook Unibody 2.0 GHz and its Future Backlit Keyboard

We have finally answered the question some of our users kept asking: “Can the MacBook Unibody 2.0 GHz be upgraded to a backlit keyboard?” We were able to successfully switch the non-backlit keyboard to a backlit keyboard on our MacBook Unibody 2.0 GHz machine! You don’t have to regret purchasing an earlier version of the Unibody if you really wanted a backlit keyboard. However, the upgrade process is certainly not easy.

The keyboard is integrated into the MacBook Unibody’s upper case (along with pretty much all other internal components). You will have to remove everything from the upper case, including the display assembly, in order to replace the upper case. The most useful tips we can provide are to keep track of your screws because they can be easily misplaced, and to take your time while reassembling the Unibody. Nobody appreciates putting everything back twice because of a small cable that was left disconnected.

We will be making a set of take-apart guides for the MacBook Unibody in the near future. Although it’s not a substitute for our very-detailed guides, you can use the MacBook Unibody First Look to get a general understanding of how to go about replacing the upper case.

Please comment on your experience with this upgrade — we would love to hear from you! Keep on tinkering!

iFixit Hosts Local Tech Brew

March 23, 2009 Events — Miro

We don’t usually write about local news, but we recently hosted such a fun event that we had to share our experience.

iFixit is proudly based in the Central Coast of California — about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We’re located here not just because the geography is amazing, but also because of the vibrant (and fun) local business and technology community. One event that we really enjoy attending is the San Luis Obispo Tech Brew, an informal monthly meeting of locals at Mother’s Tavern.

This month we hosted the Tech Brew meeting. We asked everyone to dig their old iPods out of their hiding places in drawers and closet shelves, with the intent of giving them a new life by replacing the battery. We brought a bunch of free iPod batteries and laptops for viewing our online repair guides.

The repair session was a smashing success! Six people successfully repaired their iPods: three iPod Minis, a 3rd Generation, a 4th Generation, and a Photo. The most enthusiastic person at the event was a daughter of one of attendees, who brought her iPod Photo. The iPod had been completely comatose for over a year, and had been stashed in the back of her dresser drawer. We told her that it was easy to repair, but that she’d have to fix it herself. She didn’t hesitate for a moment; she grabbed some iPod opening tools and immediately started cracking open her iPod. Luke helped by pulling up the instructions and pointing out the tricky parts.

Eight-year-old showing off her awesome iPod disassembly skills

Eight-year-old showing off her awesome iPod disassembly skills.

Success! An empowered young lady showing off the iPod she resurrected.

Success! An empowered young lady showing off the iPod she resurrected.

Swapping the battery in these Minis only took these iPod novices about 20 minutes.

Swapping Mini batteries took these novices 20 minutes.

 Kyle talking to Kenny, another local entrepreneur.

Kyle talks to Kenny, another local entrepreneur.

New iPod Touch 1st Generation Guide

March 19, 2009 Hardware, Repair Guides — Miro

Hot on the heels of the updated iPod 5th Generation (Video) guide comes the brand-new, never-before-seen iPod Touch 1st Generation guide. We rolled out all the usual bells ‘n’ whistles with this set of instructions, and in the process learned a bit about the iPod Touch.

Here’s a summary of all the fun stuff that we did:

  • The opening procedure — usually the hardest part of working on any iPod — has been presented in extreme detail to prevent any potential mishaps.
  • The battery replacement guide shows how to solder your new battery to the logic board. Unsoldering the old battery and soldering in the new battery is quite challenging. Users attempting this procedure should definitely take their time and have the appropriate materials available. A third hand is definitely recommended because the iPod logic board is very light and tends to move around while you work.
  • Color-coded action bullets (such as the red Phillips screwdriver bullets on Step 12) clearly indicate the action to be performed.
  • All instructions were designed to make your life happy by showing you how to complete a task in as few steps as possible.

The iPod Touch 1st Generation guide is up now. We worked hard on making it awesome, but we’d really appreciate your feedback. Post a comment on the guide, and we’ll integrate the best suggestions!

Apple Unlocks Bluetooth in iPod Touch 2G

March 17, 2009 Hardware — luke

Today, Apple announced the forthcoming release of iPhone OS 3.0. After almost two years, we’re now finally able to cut, copy, and paste! What took so long?

Although the new OS runs on existing iPhone and iPod Touch hardware, the new OS unlocks a hardware feature we’ve known about for six months. With OS 3.0, Bluetooth is now available on the iPod Touch 2nd Generation. We found a hidden Bluetooth chip inside the Touch when took it apart last September. However, at that time, Apple refused to confirm that the iPod Touch included Bluetooth, and provided no software means to utilize the Bluetooth chip.

Unfortunately for owners of the iPod Touch 2nd Generation, you still can’t take advantage of your internal Bluetooth chip quite yet. Apple says that OS 3.0 will be a $9.95 upgrade and available “this summer.”

The newly-useful Bluetooth chip in the iPod Touch 2nd Generation

The newly-useful Bluetooth chip in the iPod Touch 2nd Generation

iPod shuffle 3rd Generation First Look

March 12, 2009 Teardowns — luke

Lately, Apple just keeps releasing new products, so we’ve been quite busy here taking new things apart. Today, we got our hands on the tiny new iPod shuffle, and opened it up to find out what was inside.

Shuffle Lineup

The usual suspects -- can you find the shuffle?

Here are the highlights:

  • Normal headphones can be used without any adapters, except that the user cannot do anything but play music (no pause, go to next song, etc.)
  • The battery is extremely tiny — about the size of a dime — and consequently has a paltry capacity of 73 mAh. That’s less than half the size of the batteries used in previous shuffles.
  • The weight of the entire shuffle is less than 11 grams, but the headphones add another 9 grams.
  • The rear cover and clip weigh as much as the rest of the shuffle.
  • With the casing removed, the electronics and battery weigh only 4 grams, less than the weight of a single sheet of paper.
  • There is only one screw in the shuffle.
  • The shuffle is not too challenging to open, but the rear cover can deform easily if the user is not careful while opening it.
iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation

All four parts of the iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation

Revised iPod 5th Generation (Video) Guide

March 10, 2009 Hardware — Miro

The iPod 5th Generation (Video) is one of the most oft-viewed guides on our site. We have a high standard of quality around here, and we felt it could use a bit of improvement. That being the case, we took some major steps in determining how to improve our guide.

iPod Video Disassembled

iPod Video Disassembled

A number of customers offered kind words on how to improve the guide, and we listened to their suggestions. User-generated feedback helped us pinpoint the areas that needed improvement and was a huge help in making the instructions more intuitive. Feedback like this is one of the main reasons why we implemented the discussion forums and let users post comments on specific guide steps.

If you’re curious how our testing process works, here’s a rundown: We handed three wooden toothpicks and an iPod Video to a staff member who had never opened an iPod before and told him that he would be fired if he didn’t have the iPod disassembled in five minutes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite fast enough and we had to let him go. Then we gave the iPod Video to yet another staff member that was also a newbie at opening iPods. We let him use real iPod opening tools this time. The second staff member provided very useful feedback on how to open the iPod, and we’ve reflected his input in the new guide.

We combined both internal and external customer feedback to come up with the following changes:

  • We simplified the instructions for opening the iPod Video. Users will be able to open them with greater ease than before.
  • The spudger is no longer used — all steps that made use of the spudger can now be performed with the iPod opening tools. We figured everyone would appreciate not having to purchase yet another tool to get their iPod functional.
  • Duplicate steps were eliminated.
  • Duplicate steps were eliminated.
  • The guide is now more complete and covers a few more aspects of the device than the previous guide.
  • Tpyos and errors of the grammars have been overwritten with clearer, more descriptive text.

The iPod Video guide is up now. We’re very pleased with the result, and we hope you find the instructions even more useful now. Post a comment on the guide and let us know what you think!

Mac mini 1 TB Dual Hard Drive Upgrade

March 6, 2009 Hardware — Kyle Wiens

We learned that the Mac mini can handle two internal hard drives if you remove the optical drive! We wrote instructions for swapping out the optical drive for a second hard drive, and posted instructions for doing the Mac mini dual hard drive upgrade.

Two hard drives in a mini

Two hard drives in a mini

Our step-by-step guide shows how to:

  1. Swap out the existing hard drive for a 500 GB drive.
  2. Remove the optical drive and install another new 500 GB drive in its place.
  3. Enable Remote Disc to share the optical drive of a nearby Mac or PC.
930 GB available space!

930 GB available space!

Terabyte Mac mini hard drive upgrade

Terabyte Mac mini hard drive upgrade

Swapping in a second hard drive for the optical drive is pretty easy. We put a kit together that includes everything you need. (Almost– some basic soldering is required to connect the power cables.) The kit is just $249.95.

Our terabyte Mac mini hard drive upgrade kit includes:

  • Two 500 GB, 5400 RPM 2.5″ SATA hard drives
  • 15 pin SATA power to 4 pin power cable
  • 6 pin SATA power and 7 pin SATA data to 4 pin power and 7 pin SATA data cable
  • Putty knife
  • #0 Phillips screwdriver
  • Step-by-step instructions online

This kit is available immediately. Now go max out your mini!

Mac mini First Look

March 6, 2009 Teardowns — Kyle Wiens

We got our Mac mini at the same time as the iMac, but we decided to take our time and investigate the hardware thoroughly. Our efforts paid off: Mac mini disassembly.

A Mini Progression

A mini progression (PowerPC on left, 2009 model on right)

Here are the highlights:

  • Both the hard drive and RAM are easily upgradeable once you remove the upper case.
  • The processor is now soldered to the logic board. Those people who had grown accustomed to upgrading mini processors will be greatly disappointed by this.
  • As usual for the mini, a putty knife is required to disassemble it. (we sell this tool)
  • The SuperDrive used in the new Mac mini is finally SATA, as in the new iMacs and MacBooks.
  • If you install 2GB RAM in a $599 low-end mini, it recognizes and uses 256 MB of video memory.
  • Apple’s ‘high end’ $799 mini is a complete rip-off. For $200, you only get 1 GB extra memory (market price $20) and 200 GB additional hard drive space (market price $50).
Mac mini

Mac mini

New iMac Disassembled

March 4, 2009 Teardowns — Kyle Wiens

We took apart our first iMac! Here’s a summary of what we learned:

Disassembling 20

Disassembling the new 20" iMac

  • The processor is socketed (not permanently mounted), but there’s “Warranty void if removed” sticker covering the current processor.
  • As Apple announced, Firewire 400 is no more. Apple threw in an extra USB port to placate the mournful.
  • The display still uses an older CCFL backlight, rather than a LED backlight used in Apple’s new notebooks.
  • The low-end model that we received only has a 320 GB hard drive; unfortunately, replacing the hard drive is quite involved.
  • The Superdrive is finally SATA, and it’s 12.7mm high instead of the slimmer 9.5mm drives in the MacBook Unibody notebooks.
  • There’s space in the low-end model for an additional heat sink. This is assumedly included if you order the model with a higher end graphics card.
  • The only Phillips screw is a single screw on the RAM access door. All the internal screws are Torx.
Removing the glass

Removing the glass