Saturday, August 06, 2011

Successful surgery on the MacBook in 94 steps!

Two things I haven't done much of in the last few years are:
  1. Publish anything on this blog.  The last post was in October, 2009.  (There was actually one in November, an embarrasing rant about reality TV - the only post I've ever deleted from the blog.)  Lots has happened since then, but most of it will have to wait for another post.

  2. Repair a computer.  We haven't had a desktop computer in the house for at least 5 years, and my primary platforms have been a laptop issued by work and most recently, an iPad - neither of which I can tinker with.  
But today I spent about 3 hours doing a repair on Mary's MacBook.  Here's the story:

Mary has had her MacBook for about 5 years.  Several months ago the display started going black when she moved it.  In order to use the laptop, she would have to pivot the display slowly, sometimes getting it to 90 degrees, sometimes not.  After a couple of months, it got to the point where she could only raise the screen about 45 degrees.

I did some research on the Internet and found a description of a likely cause and a procedure for repairing it at  The procedure had 47 steps, and that was just to get to the point where the old part was taken out.  You had to repeat the same steps, in reverse, to put the machine back together - a total of 94 steps.

It was rated "difficult" - not a surprise.

I passed on the chance to repair it myself.

Another month passed, and the problem got worse.  I called a repair shop in Indy and was told they would gladly diagnose the problem for $90 and then would give me a quote me on the repair.  It seemed silly to drive to Indy for the chance to pay several hundred dollars on a 5 year old computer.  I went to the Geek Squad counter at the local Best Buy, but was told their company policy prohibited them from opening the case on a Mac.

I went back to the ifixit site for another look.  The 47 steps didn't look so daunting this time.  Plus, the site suggested the tools I needed, including a coin which had a face value of 25 cents that they would sell me for $2.95.  There was a button to add all the tools to my cart.  Easy.

After a few minutes review, I figured "What the hell, how hard can it really be?" and sent in the order.  To their credit, they didn't add the coin to my cart.  With an online coupon code, I got the part and the necessary tools, including something called a "spudger" that I thought might be a British screwdriver...I was wrong, for $30.

I reserved a Saturday afternoon for the repair.  I printed out the 47 step procedure, cleared off a work space, readied the spudger and took a deep breath.

Over the years I've disassembled and updated a lot of Windows / Intel desktops.  I've added memory to a Dell laptop.  But I've never cracked a Macanything.  The ifixit instructions proved invaluable.  It took about an hour and 45 minutes to go through the 47 steps, with only a few minutes set aside for head scratching.

The thing that amazed me the most was the tiny size of most of the hardware components.  To keep things orderly, I took the screws from each step and taped them to a piece of paper.  These were some of the tiniest screws I've ever seen.  Here they are, next to my 25 cent tool.

Not surprising - the interior of the MacBook is tight and tidy.  There were some of the smallest connectors I've ever seen.  I needed a magnifying glass to see some of them.

I got a kick out of seeing the speakers...smaller than my 25 cent tool!

After an hour and 45 minutes, I had done all the disassembly and had installed the replacement part - a 3 inch long cable.

Working backwards through the 47 steps took another 55 minutes.  Surprising that it went back together faster than it came apart.  When the case was all back together and the battery was reinstalled, we held our breath and pushed the power button.  

After a few seconds we heard the familiar sounds of the MacBook booting up.   A minute or so later, the desktop appeared.  I pivoted the display, hoping it wouldn't black out.  

It didn't. Success.  Woo hoo!  Probably should have cleaned the screen before we took the last photo, but who really cares if there are a few fingerprints?  

If you've got something at home that needs fixed, I highly recommend  Their website is easy to use, they bundle the tools you need, and most importantly, they give you the step-by-step instructions.  Yes, this one probably was "difficult", but it worked!  Thanks, !

1 comment:

Mary said...

There are not many men today that I would consider a "renaissance man". I just happen to be married to one. To all you ladies and men out there, my daughters & son included, your Pop/Mike is the best.