I love to tinker and open things up and make them do different things, fixing what’s broken, if I can. In 2008, my wife’s digital camera screen got smashed up and I opened it up and replaced the screen, so when her parents came to stay and brought with them this smashed up Blackberry Storm road kill, asking if I could fix it, I began to think about it seriously.
Almost immediately, my father-in-law explained that he was joking and that it wasn’t even his phone. He found it out by the water near his condo back in Michigan. By the looks of it, it had been run over, rained on, stuck in the snow, and run over again. The screen is completely smashed beyond any hope of repair, the back plate won’t even go on anymore, and it almost seems to be held together, ironically, by the screen protector. This phone, clearly, was left for dead and unrepairable.
But It Still Works!
Although the request for repair was a joke, I decided to make it a challenge. While I didn’t want to spend any money on it, I did want to see how much I could get out of this poor little device destined for the trash bin. The first thing I did was pull out the 8GB SanDisk MicroSD card. Thanks to being snugly behind what was left of the back plate, it seemed almost untouched. I was able to easily pull some music files off it. Next, I decided to plug the phone in directly. Not only did it light up, but it connected as a removable storage device and I was able to see all the basic file storage folders, though they were empty. My favorite recovery software, Active Undelete, proved that the storage on this phone had been almost completely unused since purchase. It seemed that the owner of this phone didn’t have it long before tragedy struck.
Finally, I decided to install the Blackberry desktop software and see if I could connect to it to sync. Not only did it connect, but I was able to upgrade the phone’s software and install additional applications. While playing with it, I was able to get it to audibly prompt me for voice commands, which delighted me. This phone, beaten and smashed, seemed to work save for a screen to help make use easier.
I admit, I haven’t been a fan of the Blackberry Storm from day one. All I heard from friends who bought one is how annoyed they were with it’s use. After a while, these same Storm owners seemed much more content with it. This experience has given me a new respect for the Storm. I baby my iPhone for fear that a little rough-housing will leave me with a paper weight, so I’m pretty impressed with the durability of the Storm.
One of the worst things that can happen to your laptop is ending up with a cracked screen. Be it as a result of dropping it, stepping on it, or other means, nobody likes to find out that the screen now makes better fractal art than it does a monitor. Luckily, it’s also one of the easier hardware fixes to do yourself. If you’re afraid of replacing your broken screen, don’t be. With a couple safety precautions, you can replace most modern laptop screens using steps like the ones below. If you have an eMachines M5414 or similar model, you can follow the exact steps below to replace your screen.
Ugly, isn’t it. Luckily, it’s not mine, but my brother-in-law knows how much I like to pull apart electronics, so I picked it up and ordered a new screen from ebay. Fixing something like this yourself is a lot cheaper than taking it to a professional for repair, but remember, I can’t guarantee you won’t ruin your laptop and you may void your warranty. That said, it really is an easy fix, so let’s get started.
What you’ll need
Before you begin, you’ll want to keep a couple things in mind and have a few things handy. For this project, it’s good to have a smaller screwdriver with a slotted end and a Phillips end. I have a pen-sized pocket screwdriver that worked nicely. Scotch tape (or generic) and scissors will also be helpful. Make sure you’re close to a power source and have a flat, static-free surface to work on. If you have a grounding strap, use it, and most importantly, remove the power plug and battery before you do anything. Finally, this whole process is a lot easier if you can purchase a new screen before you begin. Usually, you can just find the right screen by searching for your model number on ebay. Just be sure you buy the right one and get it from a reputable seller. Mine was about $100 from laptop_geniuses and was in my hands only a couple days after I paid.
Step 1: Remove the Bezel screw covers and screws
The way to the screen in most laptops is found by first removing the bezel, the plastic covering on the screen side of the laptop. You never want to force anything too much when removing or replacing parts, so be sure you find and remove all of the screws. In the first picture below, you can see an example of one of the screws with the rubber cover still on it and one with it removed. This laptop had six, but if you’re working on a different make or model, there may be more.
As you remove smaller parts like screws, make sure you keep them handy and know what’s what. I like to label a piece of paper and stick the screws to a piece of tape on the paper right below the label. This way, I know exactly where everything goes when I put it back together and I don’t have to worry about any rolling off because of the tape.
Step 2: Remove the bezel from the laptop body
Now that you’ve removed all the screws, you usually can’t just pull the bezel off. Usually, the two sides of the plastic will be snapped together. It will be pretty easy to pry apart, but you should be gentle with it and use the small slotted end of your screwdriver to carefully pry the two sides apart. Start from the top middle and work your way out and then down each side. To get a better angle on the bottom of the bezel, close the laptop most of the way and work on it from the back. When you’re done, you can mostly just pull away the bezel. At the bottom, near the middle, you may need to angle it a little to get the plastic out from around the hinge. On this machine, it was easier to get the left side of the hinge and then the right. When you’re done, it should look a little like the picture on the right, below.
Step 3: Remove the broken screen
Before you can install the new screen, you’ll need to remove the broken one, of course. With the bezel now out of the way, there’s just a little more work to be done before the screen can come out. On the front (on this machine, anyway), there’s a metal bar that protects the inverter board and cables. Just remove the two screws and set that aside. I set it down in the same direction I removed it just to make it easier to figure out later. Around the edges of the screen are a bunch of tiny screws. You’ll want to remove all of the ones that keep the screen from coming out of the casing.
With all the screw removed, the screen may just fall right out of the casing, but it will often have a little glue to keep it secured. Just pry the screen away and gently let it rest on the keyboard. You’ll notice a couple cables connecting the screen to the laptop. Gently unplug both and remove the broken screen.
Step 4: Install the new screen
Remove your new screen from any packaging it came in and plug the cables into it, being careful to not touch anything that has DO NOT TOUCH warnings on it. The video cable can sometimes come loose after time, so it doesn’t hurt to tape it down after it’s plugged in. Be aware of where your cables need to run. If you have a cable in the wrong place, you could pierce it when putting everything back together. As an example, in the right photo below, you can see the power cable wrapped around the screw post, but if it’s not tucked back a little farther than that, it will be in the way.
Get your inverter board and anything else that has been displaced back to where it is supposed to go. You may need to hold it in place while you screw things back together if it wont stay on its own. Then replace all the screws you removed from the old screen so they’ll now hold the new one firmly in place. While putting things back together, remember not to force things. If it feels wrong, it may be. Be patient and take your time to make sure it’s right. If your new screen comes with a protective cover taped to the front like mine did, you can untape it before installation, but I chose to install mine and then used the sharp edge of my scissors to cut the tape at the edge of the screen after it was all screwed in. This way, it’s still protected from my screwdriver while I work.
Step 5: Test
You don’t want to get the whole thing put back together only to find out that it doesn’t work. Get it back together enough to protect yourself from shock and then plug it in and turn it on. If you get no video at all or it doesn’t look right, shut it down, unplug, and re-check all your connections and cable placements. Hopefully, though, it’ll look something like below:
Step 6: Put it back together and clean up
As long as it’s all working properly, shut the laptop down and unplug it again. Then put the bezel back on, snapping it back together around the edges in the reverse of how you removed it. Put all the screws back in and replace the rubber covers.
When you’re all done, you should have a great-looking screen that reminds you of when you first brought it home. If you have extra pieces when you’re done (other than the broken screen), you did it wrong. If you used this guide and found it useful, I’d love to hear about it and if you have questions, just ask.
Mrs. Tech and I have been busy, trying to get our house into shape before the next round of house guests fly in Wednesday. It’s tiring, but we’ve been meaning to get some things done around here. We decided to sand the ceiling to remove the textured look. We tarped off the kitchen, and had been taking turns sanding yesterday when our Black & Decker MS500 Mouse Sander just wouldn’t come on again. Figuring it may have overheated, we stopped for the night and threw in a DVD. I snapped a photo for you guys in case you need something to laugh at.
This morning, the MS500 still wouldn’t work so we decided to do a combined techie project for you (and to try an recover our sander). Michelle took it all apart and cleaned it out and I checked the connectors and put it back together. This was all done outside, this time, due to the large amounts of ceiling/paint dust in the sander.
Take it apart Did you unplug it first? I hope you always unplug anything before you start taking it apart. It’s a rule to literally live by.
Remove the bottom screw…. Or not. It’s there, wanting you to remove it, and we did, but it appears it’s better to leave it there. We removed it just in case. All you really need for this project is a single screw driver.
Those four holes there… They each have a screw you need to remove. User a slotted (“flat-head”) screw driver. Get all four and then pull the two halves apart.
There it is all opened up.
Clean it out
We decided to try cleaning it out really well, first because we thought dust and dirt in the wrong place could be a problem, but you should be in the habit of cleaning your power tools regularly, anyway.
If you don’t have any compressed air, go get some. This stuff is handy very often around my house.
Get in there and blow the dust out of all the crevices.
Check plugs and connections
Often, when a piece of electronics stops working out of the blue, it can be something as simple as a loose connection. This possibility increases exponentially when the use of your toy or tool involves a lot of jarring or other movement. The very nature of a sander’s operation breeds possibility for loose connections. Black & Decker designed it pretty well so that this would not be a problem, but someone has to be that one percent and I think we just got lucky. Check your connections before throwing something away.
Start with the power switch. Make sure there’s not any room for it to be any tighter than it is. It should be nice and tight and completely plugged in. If not, plug it in the rest of the way.
Next, check the power to the motor. It’s the same deal here. Check that both connectors are snug. In my case, the bottom looked a little loose, so I tightened it up and that did the trick.
If none of the above gets your sander back into working shape, you should weigh the cost and effort of buying a new motor and trying to put it in against simply buying a new sander. We were happy to not have to make that choice, and were able to finish sanding (and painting) our kitchen ceiling. Next up is the track lighting. I’ll document the process and probably share it tomorrow.