Instructional Videos:

These videos break down the instructions for the entire project. We recommend that you bookmark this page.

Even though the videos lay out every step of the project, you will still need to read through the text for more detailed instructions.

To access the Milestones, go to the Student Roadmap (the other page you bookmarked), or click on the corresponding links below each video for more information.

Community Guidelines

Let's all just get along!

 

DO

Be Nice

Anyone and everyone can be a repair tech. Give them the opportunity!

 

Be Useful

We're a community of people who want to get better at fixing things. Stay focused on that goal.

 

Be Intelligent

There are lots of websites out there for people to act foolishly on. This is not one of them.

 

Be Empathetic

Remember when you were working on that really hard thing that one time? Imagine the person you're helping out is you back then.

 

Be Encouraging

Repair is hard! Let's make it fun and rewarding.

 

Don't

Be Creepy

You know the guy. Don't be that guy. (thanks, flickr)

 

Rip Off Someone Else's Work

Paraphrasing content from elsewhere on the web, while giving credit by linking to the source, is perfectly all right. But copying and pasting someone else's words into your document is considered plagiarism. You'll only learn the ins and outs of technical writing by doing the writing part yourself, so avoid the temptation to plagiarize. This has the added benefit of keeping you out of a university disciplinary hearing (which we're told is not nearly as fun as it sounds).

 

Sell Yourself

We're all trying to make a living. You are welcome to use your profile page to promote your services, but do not promote your own commercial offerings in Answers. As you build your reputation in the community, people will come to trust you and will seek out your services.

 

Be Judgmental

 Yes, it's easier to fix things when you've gone through five years of service training. But it's not necessary. Amateurs have changed the world!

General Project Questions

  1. Why should I care about the iFixit Project?

  2.  
  3. General Project Questions

  4. IFIXIT QUESTIONS

  5.  

STANDARD PROJECT QUESTIONS

  1. DEVICE PAGE QUESTIONS

  2. Troubleshooting Page Questions

  3. Guide Creation Questions

  4. Photo Questions

 

FAST FIX QUESTIONS

  1. CHOOSING A FAST FIX

  2. Creating a guide


Why Should I Care About the iFixit Project?


  • You are making the world a better place.
  • You are getting real-world experience that can go on your résumé. Students often tell us that having the project on their résumé helped them land a great job.
  • Your guides will be used by real people all throughout the world. Past student guides have received well over 50,000 views.
  • You are contributing to an open-source repair manual that people can use for free.
  • E-waste is not a joke; it's a real problem.
  • You get to take stuff apart.
  • You get to build your photography skills.
  • It beats writing a huge paper that will eventually end up in a recycle bin.
  • If you do well, we'll send you a recommendation letter, and your guide will serve as a role model for future students by being placed on the Featured Student Guides page.

We want this project to be a fun, meaningful learning experience. We want you to get a taste of industry and have a good time getting your feet wet in technical writing. If you feel that this project isn't your cup of tea, send us an email or talk to your professor—we're always interested in feedback so we can make the program better!

 

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General Project Questions


What does a "good" project look like? 

We can explain all of the ins and outs of this project a hundred times, but nothing will benefit you and your group as much as seeing firsthand what makes a great student project. Here are a few of our staff favorites from past terms:

All of the projects above received "A" grades because they are clear, thorough, and comprehensive. If you are interested in looking at more projects, check out our Featured Student Guides page. Who knows—if your group has got the right stuff, maybe your project will make its way onto this list!

Want to learn more about what makes a good student project? Head on over to the Putting It Together: Building A Successful Project infographic, as it's chock-full of helpful tips on how to create a great project. 

Why are there two websites for this project?  

All of the work you do on your project is hosted on our main website, www.ifixit.com. This website, edu.ifixit.com, is a separate place for us to keep all of the documentation pertaining to the university technical writing project. 

Is my device safe to work on? 

We've compiled a list of safety tips for some of the most common devices. Almost any device can become dangerous if mishandled, but some devices pose more hazards than others. Some devices, like CRT televisions, are so inherently hazardous that we ask you not to work on them at all in connection with your student project. Others, like cell phones, only become dangerous if you do something specific, like rupture the battery. Ultimately, it's up to you and your team members to select a device that you feel comfortable working with.

what if my device requires soldering?

For most student guides, soldering (or desoldering) is not necessary. However, there are some devices that do require soldering, and this can be quite a hassle for folks who have never soldered before or are uncertain of their soldering skills.

If the opportunity presents itself, we encourage you to practice your soldering skills during this project. The device that you are working on is often already broken, so this is a great opportunity to practice real-world soldering with little inherent risk.

However, if you choose not to do any soldering work, there is still an opportunity to complete your guides. Often, soldered parts are "top of the food chain" components, meaning that they are one of the last parts to be removed, and their removal isn't a prerequisite for other components. In this case, we suggest that you do the guide as you normally would and simply leave the last step with instructions on where to solder or desolder. Here is an example of a student guide that requires soldering, but the students decided to not desolder the connections.

Sometimes there is a substantial amount of soldering required for the repair guide. In that case, we encourage you to do the soldering. After all, these guides are meant to be used, so leaving out large parts of the repair guides would be very frustrating for someone trying to do the repair! Here is an example of a device that requires a fair amount of soldering.

We ask that you shoot your photos as "mock-soldering," rather than actually soldering in your photos. If you don't feel comfortable soldering, feel free to clip the wires after shooting your "mock-soldering" photos.

I'm having trouble with my project. How can I get help and answers to my questions quickly?

Click through the Student Resources. This FAQ, and other resources, may have the answer you need. No luck? Send us an email at techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com. To answer your question quickly, without a lot of back and forth, you’ll want to do the following:

Be specific. Let us know exactly what you need. If you have an issue, be as descriptive as possible. What symptoms you are experiencing? How have you attempted to solve the problem? The more detailed the question, the easier it will be for us to help you!

Provide context. What part of the project are you working on? What were you doing when the issue arose? What specific pages are you on? What specific guide or part are you working with? Any relevant context will help us troubleshoot the issue quickly.

Provide visuals. Photos and screenshots of the issues are helpful.

Keep in mind that iFixit staff may take up to two business days to respond to your email, so it’s best if you ask us specific questions from the get-go to meet your project deadlines.

 

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iFixit Questions


HOW CAN I REACH IFIXIT?   

We've set up an email alias just for you. Please send an email to techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com, and one of us will respond (we have multiple people manning the email alias). Keep in mind that we have weekends off, and it can take up to two business days for us to respond. 

ARE YOU JUST A SLIMEBUCKET COMPANY TRYING TO PROFIT OFF THE FREE LABORS OF STUDENTS?

We welcome and admire your skepticism! Here at iFixit, we have a big goal: to teach everyone to fix every thing. Repairing the world requires lots of know-how, repair documentation, and advocacy on why repair is so important. Our mission is to use repair to save resources and end the e-waste crisis, not to be a slimebucket company going for the bottom line. Teaching people how to fix all the things they own is a monumental task to accomplish—which is why we are a community‚ not just a tech company.

We don’t host third party ads, so we don't make money by hosting your guides. We do sell parts and tools to help users complete their repairs, and these resources are linked through the guides—but they're a recommendation, not a requirement. People don't have to buy anything to use the guides. The guides you create as part of this project are protected by this Creative Commons license forever, and people all around the world will also be able to edit them, like Wikipedia. Your guides become part of a growing database of repair knowledge. 

Our education staff and programs function outside of our operations and were created for the benefit of students and our repair community. Not only will you have the opportunity to take apart a device and learn some repair skills, but you’ll also gain professional and technical communication skills as well as project management experience with a real company. Many of our former students have told us this project helped them to get hired by some awesome companies. In fact, we’ll be more than happy to write you a letter of recommendation if your content is featured on the site.

Ultimately, we hope you find that, by participating in this project, you’ll not only be gaining valuable skills but also impacting the world by helping real people repair their devices. If you still don’t think this project is for you, reach out to your instructor as soon as possible to discuss an alternative project. If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to email our program director at education[at]ifixit[dot]com. We look forward to working with you!

 

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Device Page Questions


How do I create a device page?  

Read Milestone 2; it will guide you through creating the device page. Make sure you name and capitalize the device correctly. If you mess this up, you will have to delete the page and recreate it using the correct name—editing the "title" won't be enough.

How do I delete a device page? 

  • To delete a device page, the page's original author should click the "Edit" link in the top-right corner of the page.
  • At the bottom left of the page, select the "Delete Device" link with a trash can icon.
  • A pop up will say "Are you sure you want to delete the entire page?"
  • If you want to continue and delete the entire page select "OK."
  • The page should now say "This device page does not exist yet, but you can start it now!"

What should the device page look like?  

An example of a good device page is the MacBook Core Duo. Note that the Repair Guides, Support Questions, and Parts sections populate automatically, so you shouldn't try to add those. Upgrades may or may not be applicable to your device. After completing the Summary, the only section headers you need to add are Background and Identification, Troubleshooting, and Additional Information. If you want to be extra awesome (and secure a good grade for the device page portion), you can add a Technical Specifications section, like the one for the iPhone 5.

How do I format my device page correctly?

Device pages and Troubleshooting pages on iFixit use wiki formatting and syntax. For help while editing a wiki, click on the yellow "Help" icon that links to our wiki formatting page, which explains all the formatting options available to you.

How do I link my guides to my device page?  

You don't! As long as you use the same device name consistently, the guides will automatically link together. When creating each guide, just make sure that the name you put under "Device" exactly matches that used on the device page. (You'll see your guides listed as "Private" while you're working on them, and they will only be visible to you, your teammates, and iFixit admins until they are published at the end of the project.)

my device page url is incorrect. how do i fix this? 

If you typed the device name incorrectly the first time around, your URL will not reflect the correct device name. Once you create a device page, you can't simply change the title because the page's URL has the title in it. "Changing" the title requires first creating a new page with the correct name, copy/pasting all the information from the old page, and then deleting all the information from the old page. If you're planning to change the name or URL:

  • Copy all the text from the old page.
  • Create a new device page with the correct device name as the page title.
  • Paste the old content to the correctly named page.
  • Email us a link to your old page and we'll delete it for you.

How do I migrate guides to a new device page?   

If you already have some repair guides started, moving them to the new device page is easy.

  • Go to the Edit screen for the guide.
  • Change the text in the Device field to the new, correct device name.
  • Click the save button.
  • The guide should now be associated with the new device name.

How do I choose a good device page picture?  

The best device page pictures for your project are ones that are taken by you! Before disassembling your device, take a picture of it on a white background. Many of our MacBook device pages are edited to have perfectly white backgrounds, but proper lighting is all you need, as shown by our iPad 3G device picture. Avoid simply searching your device online and copying an image from the search results. You run the risk of violating copyright laws if there is no Creative Commons license to commercially use the image.

How do I remove the "Device Stub" and "No Area" flags?   

All of the device pages on our site fall somewhere into the navigation tree that includes numerous areas and family pages. Having an area link makes your device page easy for users to find on our site, which is good once all of your content is uploaded, but can be quite a pain if you're still working on it. To avoid unwanted help from outside users, we may not add an area link to your device page until the end of the term. Once your device page is linked to its corresponding area, the "No Area" flag will disappear, and your work will be viewable to the public. The "Device Stub" flag will also disappear once your guides have been published.


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Troubleshooting Page Questions


How do I create a troubleshooting page?   

Read Milestone 1; it will guide you through creating the troubleshooting page.

How do I delete a troubleshooting page?   

  • To delete a troubleshooting page, the page's original author should click the "Edit" link in the top-right corner of the page.
  • At the bottom left of the page, select the "Delete Wiki" link with a trash can.
  • A pop up will appear that says "Are you sure you want to delete the entire page?"
  • If you want to continue and delete the entire page, select "OK."
  • The page should now say, "There is no article with this exact name."

What should the troubleshooting page look like?  

Your troubleshooting page should follow a format of main headings and subheadings. The main headings will be user-experienced problems (Device does not power on, Screen is black, etc.), and the subheadings will be a quick explanation of what could be causing the problem (Dead battery, Bad motherboard, etc.). Under each subheading should be text explaining the problem and what causes it, along with any repair information and links to iFixit repair guides or other appropriate resources.

When in doubt, take a look at one of the troubleshooting pages that iFixit has published for a device. A good example of one of these is the MacBook Unibody Model A1278 Troubleshooting Page.

how do i format my troubleshooting page correctly?

Device pages and Troubleshooting pages on iFixit use wiki formatting and syntax. For help while editing a wiki, click on the yellow "Help" icon that links to our wiki formatting page, which explains all the formatting options available to you.

Where do I find information for the troubleshooting page?   

Research. Research. Research.

The internet is a great source of information, and it's all at your fingertips. Use manufacturers' service and support information on their websites, as well as forum-based web communities to identify common problems for your device and solutions to those problems.

Our device doesn't work! Isn't that going to affect our troubleshooting?  

How well your device works (or doesn't) has no impact on the troubleshooting page; the point of the troubleshooting page is to help readers identify what's wrong with their device, not what's wrong with yours. All the information that belongs in troubleshooting is spread across the internet, and it's your job to compile it into one, user-friendly document.

My troubleshooting page url is incorrect. how do I fix this?   

If you typed the page title incorrectly the first time around, your URL will not reflect the correct page title. Once you create a troubleshooting page, you can't simply change the title because the page's URL has the title in it. "Changing" the title requires first creating a new page with the correct name, copy/pasting all the information from the old page, and then deleting all the information from the old page. If you're planning to change the name or URL:

  • Copy all the text from the old page.
  • Create a new troubleshooting page with the correct page title.
  • Paste the old content to the correctly named page.
  • Email us a link to your old page and we'll delete it for you. 

 

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Guide Creation Questions


Which guides should I create?   

It doesn't matter if the device we give you is brand-new or broken—you can write a guide for the replacement of any component that might break on the device.

To help keep the greatest possible number of devices out of landfills, try to write guides for the components you think are most likely to fail, break, or require an upgrade. For instance, shattered displays are very common on phones and tablets, and built-in rechargeable batteries are guaranteed to fail eventually—so display and battery guides are often more useful than, say, a microphone replacement guide.

Below are some examples for common devices. If your device doesn't fall under one of these categories, fear not—these examples should give you an idea of what to expect. You can also look online for what kind of parts your device has; if all else fails, you'll at least know what's in the device when you open it up.

Feel free to email techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com with questions. Remember, these are just examples of the kind of guides to write—you're not required to do them all, and they don't all apply to every device.

Phones   

Phones are relatively simple devices, and these guides will apply to most of them. Some phones have soldered components, which would make some of these guides harder or near impossible. The most important components are in bold.

  • Battery
  • Screen/display
  • Motherboard
  • Speaker
  • Front case
  • Back case
  • Headphone jack
  • Charging port
  • Keypad
  • Antenna
  • Microphone

Tablets

Most tablets are also pretty simple. Like phones, some tablets have soldered components. The most important components are in bold.

  • Battery
  • Screen/display
  • Motherboard
  • Speaker
  • Front case
  • Back case
  • Headphone jack
  • Charging port
  • Keypad
  • Antenna
  • Microphone

Laptops   

Laptops have a lot of potential guides, and parts vary from model to model, but here is a basic list for starters. The most important components are in bold.

  • Battery
  • Hard drive
  • RAM
  • Display assembly
  • Motherboard
  • CPU
  • Optical drive
  • Fan
  • Upper case
  • Lower case
  • Keyboard
  • Touchpad
  • Graphics card
  • Sound board
  • Wireless card

If you feel adventurous, the display can be further taken apart, which yields a number of other guides:

  • Front display bezel
  • Rear display bezel
  • LCD
  • Webcam/Microphone
  • Inverter board
  • Display hinges

Desktops

Traditional desktop computers are larger than laptops and tend to use standardized components that can be replaced without specialized tools. The most important components are in bold. Common components include:

  • Hard drive
  • RAM
  • Motherboard
  • CPU
  • CPU fan
  • Optical drive
  • Power Supply
  • Graphics card
  • Sound card
  • Wireless card

Chromebooks

Chromebooks have a lot of potential guides, and parts vary from model to model, but here is a basic list of starters. The most important components are in bold.

  • Battery
  • Motherboard
  • Display assembly
  • Hard drive or SSD (if removable)
  • RAM (if removable)
  • Fan
  • Upper case
  • Lower case
  • Keyboard
  • Touchpad
  • Wireless card

Cameras  

Depending on the camera, disassembly can either be very simple, or very difficult. Many cameras require a high level of desoldering to remove the motherboard, and it is very easy to break the device during this process. Try to do as many guides as possible before desoldering. Try to do as little damage as possible, but don't stress about breaking the device (it can happen even if you are being careful). With that said, here are some possible guides. The most important components are in bold.

  • Battery
  • Motherboard
  • LCD
  • Lens assembly
  • AV port
  • Flash assembly
  • Front case
  • Rear case

Automobiles   

While we generally discourage car guides due to safety issues, there are a few low-risk repairs that can work well for a student project. These include:

  • Engine air filter replacement
  • Cabin air filter replacement
  • MAF sensor replacement
  • Window crank/motor
  • Speakers
  • In-dash stereo
  • Interior buttons/switches

Repairs that require jacking up the vehicle or removing the airbag/restraint system are generally off-limits for the project.

How do I create a guide?  

Read the Milestone 3 and Student Roadmap pages first. They will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Trust us.

Then, click the “Create A Guide” button on your device page. Follow the Guide Creation section of Milestone 3, and you'll be working on your guide in no time.

Should my guides be replacement, repair, disassembly, or teardown?   

Almost every guide you create should be a replacement guide. We often get this question, so here is a quick breakdown of what each type of guide is:

  • Replacement: Shows the steps required to remove a (usually broken) component, so that a replacement one can be installed.
  • Repair: Shows how to fix a specific problem that is happening inside of the device, such as re-soldering a solder joint that has become corroded or detached.
  • Disassembly: This type of guide is rarely used, and is intended to show how to take something apart to its bare bones, usually for scrapping.
  • Teardown: Intended to show the highlights of the internal hardware of a device. These guides are usually made when a new device comes out, and people are curious about the internal hardware.

Remember, pretty much all guides created for this project should be "Replacement" guides. If you think one of your guides might be an exception, email us to ask!

What are prerequisites, how do I use them, and why are they important?  

Prerequisites are a very useful tool which you are required to implement into your guides. The guide prep section of Milestone 3 explains how prerequisites save you time and make the guide easier to navigate.

How do I publish a guide?  

You shouldn't publish your guides! Make sure all your guides have the Private and In Progress flags—otherwise, any iFixit user will be able to edit your guides. This will cause a lot of problems for your project, so leave the flags in place. iFixit will publish your guides once they have been reviewed by our staff.

How do I delete a guide?   

In most cases, the guide's original author may go to the Edit page and click the Delete Guide button at the bottom.* Guides can't be deleted if they are being used as prerequisites for any other guide, so remove the target guide from all other guides' prerequisite chains before attempting to delete it. Be warned that deleting a guide cannot be undone. Make sure you save everything you need from the guide before deleting it.

If possible, consider repurposing the guide instead of having it deleted. If you still need to create another guide for your project, you can just rename the to-be-deleted guide and to reuse it for the new guide.

*If no Delete Guide button exists, simply delete all steps from the guide, type "Please Delete" in the summary or introduction area, and email iFixit staff at techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com with a link to the guide and a request to delete it. We'll take care of it!

Where do I find my guides?   

Your guides will be linked from both your personal profile, your team page, and your device page.

Check out the Getting Started section of Student Roadmap for instructions on how to create an account, join your team, and access your guides/device pages.

What if our device is broken?   

That shouldn't matter in most cases. This project is about writing guides to demonstrate how to replace the components of a device. If you're given a laptop, for example, a possible repair guide would be to show how to replace the LCD. Whether or not the LCD screen works wouldn't change the steps necessary for removing the part. Remember, fixing your device is not part of the project.

What should I do if I can't get my device apart?  

All devices come apart, eventually. The hard part is figuring out the best way to do so! If a device is acting stubborn, check for the following:

  • Is there adhesive holding a part in place? This is often the case with screens. If so, try to cut it with a plastic opening tool, or loosen it with a heat gun or hairdryer.
  • Is there a hidden screw somewhere? Often times, a part seems like it should pry off, but is being held down by a hidden screw. Common hiding places are behind components or under stickers.
  • Are there clips holding a component down? Use a plastic opening tool or the tip of a spudger to release clips while prying gently but firmly on the component.

How do I remove a stripped screw?   

There are a few different methods we like to use for stripped screw extraction. Check out this page for a detailed walkthrough, as well as information on other useful repair techniques.


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Photo Questions


More information on editing and uploading pictures can be found on the Student Resources page.

Why does the quality of my pictures matter so much? Isn't this a writing class?   

Well, technically speaking, it is a "Technical Communication" course. Pictures, charts, and graphs are all important means of good communication, and are often relied on by users more than actual text. High quality photographs are just one of the many things that set iFixit apart from other repair and how-to sites.

Do my pictures need to be a particular size?   

All pictures uploaded to iFixit need to be in a landscape 4:3 aspect ratio. If your camera captures images in a different aspect ratio (like many DSLR cameras), make sure to zoom out just a bit, so you'll have room to crop away the edges without losing any important parts of the image. You can crop your photos with an external image editor, or with our built-in image uploader.

All of the pictures for your guides should be at least 800x600 pixels. The larger the image, though, the better.

While taking pictures for your repair guides, be sure to take one of the device completely assembled to use on your device page.

My photos are blurry, what's wrong? 

Blurry images can be caused by a number of issues, but it usually boils down to too much movement (either of the camera or the subject) and/or not enough light. To reduce blurriness:

  • Set your camera to a larger aperture (lower f-stop). This lets in more light and allows for a faster exposure. (Going too low will also cause some blurriness due to a smaller depth of field, so the best compromise is usually somewhere in the middle of the range.)
  • Make sure to use a tripod.
  • Set a 3 or 5 second timer so you can remove your hands from the camera after pressing the shutter button. Instructions for how to do so for the camera we provide are right here.
  • Make sure you focus the camera on the subject (and not on your hands or the background).
  • Don't try to move the camera super close to to the subject, or it may not be able to focus. Every lens has a minimum distance at which it can't focus. Keep some distance from the device and zoom in if needed. For very close shots, be sure to use your camera's macro setting.

My photos are grainy, what's wrong?   

Grainy photos are usually due to needlessly high ISO settings. Read the ISO settings section of our Camera Operating Instructions page for more information. A general rule for taking pictures under ample lighting is to set the ISO as low as possible.

My photos are dark, what's wrong?   

Before attempting any manipulation with your camera's settings, check your lighting setup. You should be using our lighting kit unless told otherwise. If the lighting setup is used as best as you can, but your pictures still come out a little dark, make sure you don't block the lights with your body or hands.

If despite using lights to the best of your ability your pictures are still a little dark, you can alter the exposure settings on your camera. Read our Camera Operating Instructions page for more information. Be warned! If you have to set the EV very high, you are probably doing something wrong with the lighting, and your pictures will not come out well.

 

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Choosing A Fast Fix


What does a “good” Fast Fix project look like?

A good Fast Fix project is clear, thorough, and comprehensive. Here are three outstanding examples of completed guides:

If you are interested in looking at more projects, check out the Example Fast Fixes section of the Fast Fix page on iFixit.com. This page is continually updated with examples of great Fast Fix projects.

Want to learn more about what makes a good Fast Fix project? Head on over to the Putting It Together: Building A Successful Project infographic, as it's chock-full of helpful tips on how to create a great Fast Fix project. 

What is a good repair for a Fast Fix project?

A Fast Fix should not be confused with a quick hack. A good Fast Fix is a long-term repair that returns a broken item back to working condition. The primary goal of your guide is to show people how to fix their broken stuff, so a good Fast Fix guide can cover a physical repair for almost any broken item. The main requirement for the project is to choose a repair that is not already documented on iFixit. You will need to use the Search tool to make sure your fix hasn’t already been covered by someone else. Ultimately, the key to choosing a good repair is selecting a real repair that will be useful to real people.

What types of things can I repair for the Fast Fix project?

Fast Fix guides aren’t limited to electronic devices and can cover almost any broken item. In fact, great Fast Fix options range from doorknobs and drywall to appliances and alarm clocks—even accordions!

What fixes or items are off-limits for the project?

The range of great Fast Fix repairs is pretty broad, but some items and repairs are off-limits for the Fast Fix project. Your project cannot cover firearms, drug paraphernalia, or items that you cannot legally bring into your classroom. For safety reasons, any fixes that involve the following are off-limits: open flames, CRT monitors/TVs, microwaves, auto repairs that require a jack or stand, or any fix that can result in fatality or permanent injury.

What if I don’t have something that’s broken?

The goal of your Fast Fix project is to show people how to fix their broken stuff. That said, the item you choose doesn't necessarily have to be broken. For example, the record and zipper guides listed on the Fast Start page didn't require damaged items in order to show the correct repair procedure. On the other hand, if you wanted to do a drywall repair guide, you'd probably need some damaged drywall in order to show what's being fixed. Use your best judgment, and plan your guide carefully.

What if I’m not sure what to fix?

If you're not sure what to fix, think about the following questions:

  • What is broken in your life?
  • What things have been broken in the home? Why did they break?
  • What things have been fixed in the home? What was the cost?
  • What things have been thrown away? Why?

For more ideas, including a list of common household items that need all manner of fixes, have a look at the Choosing Your Fix document.

What if I’m not sure my idea will work for a Fast Fix?

Have an idea that you're not sure will work? Think about this:

  • Does it restore the item to a condition where it will work for a long time?
  • Is it how a professional would do the repair? Or at least a process that you’d find recommended as a DIY solution by a professional or handyman?
  • Does the repair process take at least six steps?
  • Is this fix a long-term repair and not a quick hack?
  • Most importantly, will this repair be helpful to a real user looking to fix their thing?

 

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Creating A Guide


How do I create a Fast Fix guide?

Read the instructions on the Checkpoint 2 page first. They will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Trust us.

Then, click the “Create A Guide” button on the Fast Fix device page. Follow the Guide Creation section of Checkpoint 2, and you'll be working on your guide in no time.

Should my Fast Fix guide be replacement, repair, disassembly, technique, or teardown?

Your Fast Fix guide should be a replacement guide or technique guide. Most Fast Fix projects will cover either the specific repair technique for a broken item or the replacement of a broken part.

We often get this question, so here is a quick breakdown of what each type of guide is:

  • Replacement: Shows the steps required to remove a (usually broken) component, so that a replacement one can be installed.
  • Technique: Shows a specific process used to repair an item or type of item. Technique guides can be thought of as the traditional “how to” guides.
  • Repair: Shows how to fix a specific problem that is happening inside of a device, such as re-soldering a solder joint that has become corroded or detached.

Remember, pretty much all guides created for this project should be “Technique” or "Replacement" guides. If you think one of your guides might be an exception, email us to ask!

When should I check in with iFixit?

In short, often. We have full-time staff dedicated to working with students in the Technical Writing Project, and we’re here to help. You should email us whenever you’re ready for our input on a portion of your project. At a minimum, you should email when you’ve written your proposal, during Checkpoint 1 and Checkpoint 2, and when you finish your project.

What if my fix takes only three steps?

The minimum step requirement for a Fast Fix project is 6 steps. A Fast Fix project that’s too short won’t give you much of an opportunity to work on your technical writing skills. Besides, a procedure that really only involves three steps is probably covered by common knowledge. If your proposed repair seems especially short, review your process and make sure that you haven’t missed any steps. If you need ideas for a more complicate repair guide, check out this list.

 

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Common Student Mistakes

Here's a list of common mistakes that student groups often make at each point in the project.

Getting Started

  • Not reading Student Roadmap
    • All the information you need is in the detailed instructions on Student Roadmap. Really!
  • Trying to fix or repair the device
    • Do not fix, and do not worry about breaking your device! Most devices provided for this project do not turn on in the first place. Your guides should show someone with a broken device how to remove the faulty component for replacement. The device doesn't need to be in working order during (or after) the project.
  • Trying to find replacement parts
    • You're not responsible for sourcing replacement parts for your device.
  • Forgetting to include all info in emails
    • We work with a lot of students, so whenever you send us an email, please include your full team tag, links to any work you'd like reviewed, and a brief message.

Troubleshooting Page

  • Understanding the Troubleshooting page
    • The goal of the troubleshooting page can be confusing. Each header should be a specific symptom that users might observe with their device. Under that are possible causes of this symptom, followed by a solution to each symptom.
  • Incorrect troubleshooting page title
    • When you create your troubleshooting page, you'll be prompted to create a page title. It is important for page titles to be written correctly the first time around so that an accurate URL is created. We try to keep page titles consistent across the site, so the titles for your pages should follow this format: [Device Name] Troubleshooting. If you create your troubleshooting page and realize you made a typo in the title resulting in an incorrect URL, don't worry! Just follow the directions here.
      • Example: Lenovo Essential G560 Troubleshooting.
  • Not providing enough information on the Troubleshooting page
    • The troubleshooting page is a user's first line of defense. It is very important that your troubleshooting page be robust and descriptive. Each topic doesn't have to be long, but be sure to include enough information to help the user identify and fix their problem. If you're not sure if your troubleshooting page is descriptive enough, ask a friend to read it over to see if they would know what to do if they had a problem.
  • Not linking to guides in the Troubleshooting page
    • Link to your guides in any relevant place in the troubleshooting page. Don't forget to work your links into sentences and format them as clickable words/phrases; you don't want to leave a long URL floating in the text.
  • Additional information about this milestone can be found at:

Device Page

  • Incorrect device page title
    • When you create your device page, you'll be prompted to create a page title. It is important for page titles to be written correctly the first time around so that an accurate URL is created. The device page title should include the full name of your device without any extra information or generic terms like tablet, phone, or laptop. Don't forget, the word "Repair" will auto-populate on the device page title after you've created the page. We try to keep page titles consistent across the site, so the titles for your pages should follow this format: [Device Name]. If you create your device page and realize you made a typo in the title resulting in an incorrect URL, don't worry! Just follow the directions here.
  • Not taking a 4:3 device picture
    • Device pictures must be cropped to a 4:3 aspect ratio, just like guide images

Guides

  • Forgetting to add introductions in guides
    • Every guide needs an introduction. When you first create a guide, you can add an introduction by clicking the "Show More" button. You can add an introduction at any time by editing your guide and clicking the "Introduction" tab.
  • Referring to a spudger and plastic opening tools as anything other than such
    • The black one is a spudger. The blue one is a plastic opening tool. Period.
  • Not adding screw information to every screw
    • All screws should be measured with a caliper. Label the length (in mm), head type (such as Phillips) and head size (such as #0) for all screws.
  • Making wacky custom guide titles that aren't "Replacement" guides
    • Nearly all guides should have the auto-generated title of "[Device] [Part] Replacement". For example, an appropriate guide title would be, "iPhone 5 Logic Board Replacement."
  • Creating "teardown" or "repair" guides instead of replacement guides
    • Your guides should focus on replacing your device's components, rather than on general disassembly or repairing individual parts. Replacing a component is often the best option for getting a device back into service—especially where repairing the component would be impractical, as is the case in many modern devices with circuit boards that require specialized (and costly) equipment to repair. Check out our Student FAQ for help with understanding the different types of guides.
  • Disconnecting ZIF connectors incorrectly
    • Cables—particularly small, flat ones—are often held in place by ZIF connectors. This type of connector has a small tab that needs to be pried up or out with a spudger before the cable can be safely removed.
  • Using a flat-head screwdriver as a pry tool
    • Don't tell people to do stuff that can damage their device! All prying should be done with a plastic opening tool or spudger. These tools are safe to use on casing plastics, and the spudger is ESD-safe, preventing risk of shock to you and the device.
  • Using metal spudgers instead of a regular spudger
    • Metal spudgers are great for when the standard spudger just isn't enough. However, these spudgers are not ESD-safe, so only use them as a last resort.
spud-vs-m-spud.jpg
  • Bullet colors not matching markups
    • When using markup, be sure to make the corresponding text bullet the same color as the markup.
matching-markup3.jpg
  • Unnecessarily adding the words “Note” and “Caution” at the beginning of Note and Caution bullets
    • The special bullets already imply that it is a note or cautionary statement.
  • Not using articles
    • "A", "an", and "the" are words too! Don't forget to write complete sentences using articles and proper grammar in your guides.
  • Adding reassembly steps
    • All guides automatically have the conclusion "To reassemble your device follow these steps in reverse order," therefore you don't need to provide reassembly steps. For special reassembly instructions, use a reminder bullet on the applicable step.
  • Referring to the motherboard in a non-Apple device as a logic board
    • "Logic board" is an Apple term; unless you are working on an Apple device, the correct term is "motherboard."
  • Battery guide is not used as a prerequisite when it should be
    • Don't forget to add all guides as prerequisites that must be done before performing a replacement.
  • Additional information about this milestone can be found at:

Finishing Up

  • Forgetting to link repair guides back to troubleshooting page
    • All guides that are mentioned in the troubleshooting page should also be included on that page as a link.
  • Additional information about this milestone can be found at:

General Safety Warnings (All Devices)

Use Good Judgment and Common Sense

Use these instructions as a starting point, but remember that every device is different. Keep an eye out for any possible safety hazards that might be unique to your situation.

Plan your project carefully. Try to anticipate potential hazards, and take steps to avoid them.

If you feel less than 100% safe performing any aspect of a repair, stop working immediately and ask for help.

Don't work alone. In the event of an emergency, it's important to have someone on hand to help or call 911.



Disconnect All Power Sources Before Opening Your Device

Never work on anything that is plugged in to a power outlet.

  • The device should be physically unplugged, not just “switched off.”

  • Whenever possible, remove the battery or batteries before beginning disassembly.

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Watch Out for Large Capacitors

Big capacitors (the kind most likely to be dangerous) are usually cylindrical and look roughly like battery cells.

  • Assume they are charged until you've confirmed they are discharged.
  • Use an appropriate tool to discharge and/or ground large capacitors, while keeping yourself well insulated and at a safe distance.
  • When discharging large capacitors, use only one hand, and keep the other hand behind your back or in your pocket. This prevents you from inadvertently completing a circuit with your second hand and creating a path for electric current to travel through your heart.
  • Wear rubber-soled shoes.
  • Wear eye protection. A stray spark can cause severe eye damage.
  • Remove all rings, bracelets, necklaces, etc. before working on devices with large capacitors.

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Be Mindful of Moving Parts

Large, mechanical devices such as bicycles or cars contain many moving parts that can pose a safety hazard, particularly when repairs are being performed.

  • Any given part’s range of motion may change suddenly while you are working on it. Position yourself so that if a heavy or potentially dangerous part moves unexpectedly, you will not be injured.
  • Wear protective gloves.

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Avoid Heavy Metal Toxicity

Printed circuit boards in older electronics may contain toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Wash your hands thoroughly after you finish and before you eat. Don't eat or drink while handling electronic components.

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Safety For Your Readers

When creating your guides, use the “Potentially Dangerous” flag and “Caution” bullets if appropriate. Make note of any steps that present a possible hazard—or that could become hazardous if performed inattentively or incorrectly—and warn your readers accordingly.

To add the “Potentially Dangerous” flag to the Introduction:

  1. Click the Edit button at the top of your guide.
  2. On the Introduction tab, scroll to the bottom and click on the Flags section.
  3. Select the “Potentially Dangerous” flag, and click Save.
  4. Write a few sentences in the introduction explaining the nature of the danger, so that readers know what to expect. Include any applicable safety tips and/or links to detailed safety guides.
  5. Save your work when you are finished.

To add the “Caution” bullet to any specific steps that could pose a safety hazard:

  1. When editing the step, click the black bullet next to your text in order to display the list of special bullets.
  2. Select the “Caution” bullet.
  3. In the accompanying text, clearly explain the nature of the hazard. Include detailed steps the reader should take in order to complete the task safely.
  4. Save your work when you are finished.

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Tool Safety

Even the simplest tools can cause injury if used incorrectly. Tools like tweezers and metal spudgers have sharp tips that are capable of breaking the skin. Pay attention to your tool handling, and avoid accidentally hurting yourself or a team member.

Soldering Safety

Some repairs require soldering, which may be intimidating for first-time fixers. Soldering can be both safe and fun, provided a few basic safety guidelines are followed.

Protect your lungs. Solder fumes can be toxic. At the very least they will irritate your lungs if inhaled, and may aggravate certain medical conditions such as asthma.

  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Keep your head to the side of your work, rather than directly above.

Protect your skin.

  • Use lead-free solder.
  • Hold wires and solder with tweezers, or wear heavy gloves. Don't use your bare hands.
  • Don't touch the tip of the iron. (If it's hot enough to melt solder, it's more than hot enough to burn you.)
  • Wash your hands after finishing your work.

Protect your eyes. Solder can “pop” and “spit” unexpectedly, so wear safety glasses at all times.

Protect against heat, fire, and other hazards.

  • Solder only on heat-resistant surfaces and materials. (Good: A piece of drywall. Bad: A ream of paper.)
  • Keep your workspace tidy, and clear it of any flammable objects before you begin.
  • Set the soldering iron down only on the iron stand.
  • Never leave a hot soldering iron unattended.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and make sure you know how to use it.
  • Don't eat or drink while soldering.

Protect the environment. Don’t throw lead solder, nor sponges contaminated with lead solder, into the trash. Put them in a sealed container and take them to your local household hazardous waste disposal facility. If circuit boards or other electronic components are beyond repair, recycle them responsibly.

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CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) Displays

Do not attempt to disassemble or repair older, CRT televisions or computer monitors. CRT displays contain potentially lethal high-voltage capacitors, glass-walled vacuum tubes that can implode violently if mishandled, and large quantities of lead.

  • You can recognize CRT displays primarily by their bulk: unlike modern flat screen LCD or plasma displays, which tend to be quite thin, CRTs are typically about as thick as they are wide.
  • Choose only devices with non-CRT displays for your student project. Leave CRT display repairs to an experienced technician.

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Flat-Panel TVs and Computer Monitors

Modern flat screen displays are much safer to service than older, CRT-type TVs and monitors. However, there are a few potential hazards to be aware of if you've chosen one of these displays for your project.

Unplug the TV from the power outlet before you begin work. This should go without saying for all electronic devices, but flatscreen displays contain power supply boards with large capacitors that can be particularly dangerous when charged.

Before touching any other internal components, disconnect the power supply from the main board.

  • The power supply usually looks like a circuit board with a series of cylindrical capacitors that look roughly like battery cells.
  • Avoid touching or prying near the capacitor leads unless you have verified that they are fully discharged.

Use extra caution with CCFL-backlit displays. Some pre-2010 flat screen displays used cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) containing mercury. CCFLs look like long, tube-shaped fluorescent lights, usually placed behind or to the sides of the display. If broken, they may leak small amounts of mercury, which is very toxic. If you accidentally break a CCFL bulb:

  • Do not touch any glass shards or spilled liquids with your bare hands.
  • Wear protective gloves, and clean the area with a damp rag.
  • Keep the area well-ventilated.
  • When finished, wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Be sure to put any mercury-contaminated shards or rags in a sealed container and dispose of them responsibly.

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Microwave Ovens

Microwaves are among the most hazardous appliances to repair, and are off limits for the iFixit project. They contain large, high-voltage capacitors capable of delivering a fatal electrical shock, and can also leak harmful levels of radiation if damaged or reassembled improperly.

  • If you're unsure about what you're doing, get expert help or choose a different device for your student project.
  • Do not touch any internal components or wiring until you have verified that all high-voltage capacitors are discharged.
  • Never operate a microwave that looks damaged or imperfectly repaired. Be especially wary of damage to the door, hinges, latches, or seals.

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Cars and Trucks

In general, car and truck guides are off limits for the iFixit project. Even though fixing motor vehicles can be very rewarding, it comes with more hazards than a typical smartphone or laptop repair.

Occasionally we make exceptions—if you get your instructor's permission, sign a waiver, and can convince us that your entire team knows how to do the job safely. You must choose repairs that don't require jacking up the vehicle (almost nobody does this right, even when they swear up and down that they know how to do it).

If you're okay with those conditions and are willing to put up with an unusually high amount of scrutiny from us, here are the safety requirements for car and truck guides. 

Always disconnect the battery before beginning repairs. Battery type and location varies by vehicle, so consult your vehicle's user manual for exact instructions.

  • There is a risk of electric shock if the battery terminals are handled incorrectly or inattentively. Observe the safety guidelines in your user manual, and get help if you aren’t sure what to do.
  • Never work on a vehicle with the motor running. Even at idling speed, engine belts and fans can cause serious injury. Cooling fins rotate fast enough that they can be practically invisible at the edges, and can easily catch you off guard. There may also be electrical hazards at the alternator, spark plug wires, and other areas. If you need to start the engine, stay well clear of the engine bay, and make sure all four wheels are firmly on the ground.

Protect your eyes and skin. A pinched finger or a stray splash of brake fluid can leave you seriously, even permanently, injured (and bring your project to a halt, to boot). Wear heavy-duty gloves and eye protection at all times.

Protect your lungs. Cars and trucks contain an abundance of toxic substances, from brake dust to gasoline fumes. Work in a well-ventilated area, and wear a mask or respirator if appropriate.

Protect your pets. Don't leave automotive fluids—particularly coolant or antifreeze—lying around for your pets to find. Antifreeze commonly contains ethylene glycol, a toxic compound which nevertheless gives off a sweet odor that is appealing to many animals. Keep your coolant or antifreeze containers sealed, and transfer used fluids to a sealed container immediately after draining them from your vehicle.

Use the right tools. Taking shortcuts by trying to “make do” with a less-than-perfect tool can turn even a simple repair into one fraught with hazards, for both you and your vehicle. If you don't have the right tools, get them—or choose a different device to work on. Many auto parts stores have free tool checkout programs that can help you complete a repair properly, inexpensively, and safely.

Observe local laws, and protect the environment. Used automotive fluids such as motor oil, gear oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant (antifreeze) must be disposed of responsibly—along with any rags, paper towels, or filters that have been contaminated by these substances. Take them to your local household hazardous waste disposal facility in a sealed container. Never pour used automotive fluids down the drain or into the street.

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FIREARMS

We do have some user-submitted firearm guides on iFixit, but for the tech writing project you can only work on items that are allowed on campus. Unfortunately, that means firearms are off-limits for the project. 

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Mobile Devices (Laptops, Tablets, & Smartphones)

Lithium-ion batteries power nearly all modern mobile devices. While they are not normally dangerous, they do store a large amount of energy—energy which can cause serious injury if released suddenly.

Never puncture a battery. Don't pry at batteries with screwdrivers or other sharp tools. A ruptured battery can rapidly heat up, catch fire, and even violently explode.

Don't bend or deform batteries excessively. It's normal for glued-in batteries, like iPhone and iPad batteries, to deform slightly when removed. However, excessive bending could rupture a cell and cause a fire. Use caution and try to keep any deformation to a minimum.

If you notice any battery smoking or swelling to large size, stop working and back away.

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Cameras

Digital camera flashes are powered by capacitors capable of delivering severe electric shock.

Don't be fooled! They may look innocent, but even small cameras contain capacitors that pack a wallop.

  • The capacitor stores a charge drawn from the camera's battery. Be sure to remove the battery before you open the camera or attempt to discharge the capacitor.
  • After opening a camera, avoid touching any internal components until you have verified that the capacitor is safely discharged.

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Air compressors

Before disassembling or servicing any air compressor:

  • Unplug the power cord.
  • Open the bleed valve on the main tank to release any compressed air. Never work on an air compressor while components are under pressure.
  • Never attempt to puncture air tanks with sharp objects or tools.

Proper lubrication is crucial to air compressor functionality and safety. When working on air compressors:

  • Do not over lubricate.
  • Use the correct oil or lubricant for your model. Avoid low flash point lubricants, which have the potential to ignite during operation and cause a fire or explosion.

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PC Power Supplies

A typical PC power supply contains capacitors large enough to deliver a significant electrical shock.

  • Never work on a power supply that is plugged in.
  • After unplugging the power cord, press and hold the PC's power button for about 5 seconds. In some cases this will help drain capacitors that might otherwise have retained a charge.
  • After unplugging the power, wait 10 minutes before disassembling the power supply. Capacitors used in PC power supplies typically lose any remaining charge a short time after being unplugged.
  • Nevertheless, assume all large capacitors are charged unless you have confirmed otherwise. Safely ground or discharge all large capacitors before handling internal power supply components.

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Tools and Materials

Taking apart the device that has been assigned to you for your project would be extremely difficult without a complete toolkit at your disposal. Luckily, we provide you with all of the necessary tools for tackling almost any disassembly need.

Student TOOLKIT:

54 Bit Driver Kit

It's pretty difficult to remove screws without the correct screwdriver. Our screwdriver kit includes 54 different bits—Phillips, Torx, flathead, and so much more—to cover nearly any screw that you'll find in your device. Feel free to check out our Screwdriver Best Practices guide for some helpful tips.

 

 

 

Plastic Opening Tools

The delicate cousins of the spudger are the plastic opening tools. Beautiful and blue, plastic opening tools are the go-to prying tool when you are especially concerned about scratching or breaking your device. Originally made for iPods, which had tight tolerances and easy-to-scratch outer cases, these opening tools will take a beating so that your device doesn't have to. Plastic opening tools, like spudgers, are ESD-safe and approved for disconnecting cables and ZIF connectors.

 

Precision Tweezers Set

Some devices, for whatever reason, do not like being taken apart. It is a problem that pesters repair aficionados on the regular. Luckily, though devices may try to trick us with small, hard-to-reach parts, tweezers work wonders at removing small parts. Be careful! These are sharp.

 

Anti-Static Wrist Strap

It's always a good idea to ground yourself while working on sensitive electronics to prevent static charge build-up. Wear this strap to protect your device from accidental electrostatic discharge (ESD) damage during repairs.

 

Small suction cup

This is a light-duty suction cup for removing phone and tablet glass panels.

 

 

 

Spudger

This tool looks like a black stick, and—as a matter of fact—that's what our buddies over at Apple call it. We didn't think that was very original, so we opted for something better: spudger. The spudger is one of the most versatile tools you'll find in your toolkit. The flat end of a spudger can be used for prying and separating, while the pointed tip is good for poking and prodding. Since its ESD-safe, a spudger is the tool you should be using as a prying tool around connectors and circuit boards, not a flathead screwdriver.

 

Metal Spudger Set

Any fixer knows that moment when you're stuck needing that one tool for the job—be prepared for the moment before it hits, with this assortment of three sturdy metal spudgers. These spudgers are great for when plastic opening tools and the standard spudger just isn't enough. However, these spudgers are not ESD-safe, so only use them as a last resort.

 

Ruler

There are a number of different characteristics of screws that make them identifiable. The two that are easiest to refer to when writing your replacement guides are the head type (Phillips #00, T8 Torx, etc.) and the length. Measure the length of each screw in millimeters. Try to get the measurements as accurate as possible. This handy 6 inch ruler will do the job, but using the digital caliper found in the class toolkit is preferable and will give you measurements to the nearest .1 mm.

 

Magnetic Mat

It's easy to remember where one Phillips screw came from. It's not easy to remember where 15 Phillips screws of various lengths, seven T8 Torx screws, and three tri-wing screws came from. Using a magnetic mat can keep your screws and small parts in order for when it comes time to reassemble your device.

 

Class Toolkit:

Some tools may come in handy when working with specific devices, but are either less common or too big to fit into a student toolkit. Therefore, each class will be given a class toolkit with the following specialty tools that you can check out from your instructor:


Digital Calipers

To accurately measure such small screws requires a pair of precise digital calipers. Every time you remove a screw from your device, use the caliper to measure its length in millimeters to the nearest 0.1 mm.

 

 

Soldering Station

Many replacement guides may require you to remove a soldered connection in order to install a replacement component. You can either attempt the soldering using this soldering station (recommended), or simply use the station as a prop to show a reader where they need to solder/desolder. Either way, make sure you include a link to this guide in your step text to provide readers with additional soldering instructions. This soldering station also includes solder and desoldering braid.

 

iOpener

Many devices use adhesive to hold screens in place. When plastic opening tools and spudgers are not enough to free the screen, you can use the iOpener to apply heat to the adhesive until it is soft enough to loosen its grip on the screen. Be sure you first read this page for further instructions on how to use the iOpener tool.

 

Jimmy

If you just can't seem to wedge your way into a device using the standard array of pry tools, it might be time to phone a friend. That friend's name is Jimmy. Jimmy's flexible steel blade slips between the tightest gaps in the toughest devices, and the ergonomic handle makes it easy to "jimmy" devices open. Spudgers and plastic opening tools are made of softer materials, and are somewhat less likely to cause cosmetic damage—but when all else fails, Jimmy is your man.

 

Screw Extracting Pliers

Using correct screwdriver technique is the first line of defense against stripped screws. The second line of defense? Screw-extracting pliers. They're designed to firmly grip the heads of damaged screws. Specially designed jaws firmly grip screw heads, bolts, or nuts, allowing you to twist out even the most damaged fasteners. This tool is ESD-safe, so you can use it on internal electronic components. If screw extracting pliers aren't doing the trick, check out our stripped screw guide for a few more helpful tips on removing stripped screws.

Camera Operating Instructions: Overview

These instructions specifically apply to the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS, but the general concepts are applicable to any digital camera with manual settings.

Be sure to check out our guide on How to Take Awesome Photos for help setting up your photo area and practicing your technique. But for camera operation and settings, this guide's got you covered.

Aperture Priority

Top of the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS.

Top of the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS.

The Canon PowerShot SX120 IS has an aperture priority shooting mode, denoted by Av on the mode dial. All photographs should be taken in this mode, as it is the easiest to control. You are able to adjust the aperture setting (more on this later) and exposure compensation (+/- EV) while the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed.

Camera Buttons

Back of the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS showing camera buttons.

Back of the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS showing camera buttons.

The Canon PowerShot SX120 IS uses a rotary wheel around its main function buttons to change values on-screen. You can also click the rotary wheel up/down/left/right to access the ISO/timer/macro/flash functions, respectively. Other cameras may have a similar setup for accessing common functions.

 

Aperture (f-stop)

Every camera lens has a multi-bladed diaphragm called the aperture that stops down to different diameters to let more or less light into the camera. The aperture setting on a camera is also referred to as the "f-stop" and is denoted by the letter 'f' and a fraction (e.g. f/2.8, f/8.0, f/22). The wider the aperture, the smaller the f-stop number and the less depth of field you will have, which means that the subject will be sharp and in focus, while the background and foreground are left out of focus. Stepping down the aperture to a smaller f-stop will achieve more depth of field, but eventually comes at the price of color distortion and poor image quality.

Changing the f-stop.

Changing the f-stop.

For the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS, you can change the f-stop as soon as you put the camera in Av (aperture priority) mode. Rotate the dial to change the setting. Set the aperture to f/5.0 to start, and adjust it if you need more depth of field. If the camera has the "adjust EV" mode on screen (covered in the next section), press the +/- button to change back to the "adjust f-stop" mode.

The camera's maximum f-stop value is 8.0, as shown in the picture.

Exposure Compensation (+/- EV)

Modifying the exposure compensation.

Modifying the exposure compensation.

Exposure compensation is an easy way to adjust the camera's shutter speed while using aperture priority mode to achieve a brighter or darker image. For a given aperture, a negative EV will set a shorter shutter speed and make the picture darker. A positive EV will keep the shutter open a little longer, allowing in more light and making the picture brighter. If you are constantly using extreme EV values, you may want to consider adjusting your lighting setup.

Click the +/- button on the top-right corner on the back of the camera to access the exposure compensation. By default it's set at 0. Setting the number higher will make the photo brighter, and lowering it will make the image darker. You should only change this setting if the pictures you're taking are coming out too dark/light. You don't have to get this perfect, because Photoshop (or similar software) can also be used in conjunction with exposure compensation to adjust the lighting of a picture.

We use exposure compensation to make the object in the picture look appropriately lit, and then use Photoshop Elements to process the picture and make it even better. Usually, Photoshop's "Auto Levels" is sufficient, but if you have trouble with lighting you may have to do more work to make the picture acceptable. If you get stuck, try using "Adjust Lighting --> Lighten Shadows," and then adjusting "Levels" manually.

ISO

Setting the ISO.

Setting the ISO.

ISO is a measure of a camera's sensitivity to light, and should be kept at the lowest possible value. High ISO values lead to very grainy pictures, and we like to take good-quality pictures. The ISO menu can be accessed by clicking "up" on the rotary button and then using the rotary button to change the value. In the case of the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS, the lowest value is 80, and that's the setting it should be set at. Lower ISO values will require you to use a slower shutter speed, but this is not an issue when using a tripod.

This image is a good example of what a high ISO photo looks like. Notice all of the noise—the colorful speckles—especially in the darker parts of the picture. High ISO is used in very low light conditions where a camera must be hand-held. If this same shot were attempted at a lower ISO, the image would have been less grainy, but there would have been noticeable motion blur due to the slower shutter speed required.

Self-Timer

Canon PowerShot SX120 IS' 2-second timer.

Canon PowerShot SX120 IS' 2-second timer.

Both small ISO values (80) and narrow apertures (f/8.0 or above) slow down the shutter speed. Using a timer compensates for this problem, since even the small act of pressing the shutter button will cause the camera to shake and the image to be slightly blurry. Click "down" on the rotary button and select the 2-second timer. Other cameras may have 2- or 10-second timers; either one can be used.

Macro Mode

Setting the macro mode on the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS.

Setting the macro mode on the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS.

Macro mode is identified on most cameras by a flower icon. Sometimes it's a setting on the back of the camera (as in the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS), and sometimes it can be part of the rotary wheel on the top of the camera. Use the macro mode when you want to take close-ups of objects. For most of the project work you can use macro mode, since the mode functions well from anywhere between 0.5" to 1.5 feet away from the object. You can certainly determine which mode (macro or normal) works better by taking a couple of test photos. Access the macro setting by clicking "left" on the rotary button.

White Balance

Setting the white balance on the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS.

Setting the white balance on the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS.

Setting the white balance mode on your camera can significantly affect the quality of your pictures. All cameras should be set to "AWB" (Automatic White Balance) by default, which means the camera determines the appropriate white balance. However, no camera is perfect in all circumstances.

On the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS, clicking the middle "Func. Set" button will bring up the white balance menu. You can change it to any of the five presets, as well as Custom (only for the truly adventurous). Each preset is made for a certain type of lighting, such as daylight, incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, and others.

Take test photos in different modes to see how the white balance settings affect the color of the pictures. Be aware that your lighting conditions may change throughout the day (the sun leaves for the day, someone turns on a lamp or opens the door), which may affect the white balance of the pictures.

Alternately you can use photo editing software, such as Photoshop, to adjust the white balance of the photo, but it's a much more time-intensive task than setting up the camera correctly.

Editing Software

We can't help you learn how to use editing software, but here are some decent online tools. DO NOT add markup (circles, rectangles, arrows, etc.) in these tools. Use our online markup editor for that.

Full Featured

Lightweight

Peer Review Checklist

This checklist explains many of the specific criteria that we look for when reviewing a completed project. Use it to help you evaluate each part of another group's project.

Device Page

  • Does the device page title match the name that appears on the white iFixit label on the device?
  • Does it include thorough background information on the device, as well as information on how to identify the device?
  • Does it have at least three external links?
  • Is the device picture clear, well lit, and in the correct 4:3 aspect ratio?
    • To check the aspect ratio, click on the "Image metadata" link on the top left of the device picture.
  • Does the page contain correct grammar and punctuation?
  • Does the page contain Troubleshooting, Background and Identification, and Additional Information sections all in the proper formatting?

Troubleshooting Page

  • Does the title on the troubleshooting page title match the name that appears on the white iFixit label on the device? The title should match this label with the word "Troubleshooting" appearing after the device name.
  • Does the page have at least five troubleshooting topics/problems?
  • Does each topic have thorough explanations of the causes, symptoms, and solutions for each problem?
  • Does the page link to all of the device's repair guides in applicable solutions?
  • Is there correct grammar and punctuation throughout the page?
  • Are the headers and subheaders all formatted correctly?
  • Does each topic follow the correct order of:
    • Symptom
    • Cause
    • Solution?

Guide Pictures

  • Are they well lit?
  • Is every action portrayed with hands in the shot?
  • Did they use appropriate markups for screws, clips, and fasteners?
  • Are their pictures taken on a clean background?
  • Is the white balance set so that the background looks white and all of the colors look natural?
  • Are the pictures in focus?

Guide Text

  • Does every guide use correct grammar and punctuation?
  • Are the steps clear and concise?
  • Do the bullets describe exactly how to do something, as opposed to simply what to do?
  • Do the guides correctly identify all tools and parts?
    • The blue tool should be called a "plastic opening tool" and the black tool a "spudger."
    • The motherboard should only be called a "logic board" if the device is made by Apple.

Miscellaneous

  • Are the prerequisite guides used correctly?
    • No steps should be repeated.
  • Are all guides called "replacement" guides (unless specifically told otherwise)?
  • Did they make sure not to include reassembly instructions?
  • Did they list all screw lengths (measured to the nearest 0.1 mm) and head types?
  • Do the bullet colors match their corresponding markup colors?
  • Are the caution/note/reminder bullets only used at necessary times?
    • Did they make sure not to write the words "Caution, Note, or Reminder" after the special bullets?
  • Did they only use tools for their intended purposes?
  • Is the "Details" section completed for all guides?
  • Does the conclusion read, "To reassemble your device, follow these instructions in reverse order?"

As with any other academic project, when you are working on the iFixit Technical Writing Project you need to adhere to your institution's code of conduct. It’s especially important to avoid the trap of academic theft. This means knowing and recognizing the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism. Not sure what the difference is? Let’s break it down:

 

To paraphrase content is to rewrite it in your words.

Plagiarism is using another writer’s words or ideas as if they were your own.

 

There are a few simple rules you can follow to make sure you aren’t stealing someone else’s content:

  1. Write in your own words: It’s fine to take notes on the key points from reference materials, but write the content yourself.

  2. Beware of copy and paste: Pasting content without citing a source is stealing!

  3. Cite your source: Linking is the internet’s way of citing a source. For example:

You can read more about plagiarism in this Wikipedia article.

 

It’s easy to “borrow” or copy and paste portions of text from a website or document, but using someone else’s content doesn’t help you build your writing skills and it isn’t worth the academic consequences—sometimes failing or being expelled!

When in doubt, use your own words and link to the original content. If you have questions about citation, talk to your instructor, email us, or check in with the writer’s resource lab or writer’s workshop at your school.