iFixit could save you $$ in DIY repairs to your tech devices

Let me say right up front: iFixit is a godsend to tech users.

I’ve taken apart and repaired more Macs, iOS, mobile devices and so on than I can count. Their free online repair manuals can guide you to the same result.

The local cellular store–or Best Buy–wants to charge you $50-100 or more to repair your iPod’s broken touch wheel, or your iPhone’s broken screen. You can probably do it yourself for a fraction of that.

From an upcoming profile in Mother Jones magazine:

IN MARCH, ONE DAY BEFORE THE RELEASE of the iPad 3, iFixit cofounder Luke Soules traveled 17 hours from San Luis Obispo, California, to Melbourne, Australia, so that he could be the first person in the world—literally—to purchase one. Then, wielding a heat gun, some high-powered suction cups, eight guitar picks, a Phillips screwdriver, and a flat-headed tool called a spudger, he proceeded to gut the thing part by part, tweeting out photos as he did.

The stunt was catnip for a technology press eager for an angle on the latest launch and for gadget geeks hot to glimpse live nude photos of the iPad’s massive battery and dual-core A5X processor. But the teardown, one in a series, had a more subversive purpose. “We’ve figured out how to hijack the news cycle to change the dialogue to be more about long-term thinking and repair,” explains Kyle Wiens, who founded iFixit with Soules while both were students at California Polytechnic State University.

Indeed, most stories about the teardown noted why iFixit had rated the new iPad a paltry 2 out of 10 for repairability: glued-together components that make it nearly impossible to fix a cracked screen, replace a dead battery, or even disassemble a defunct iPad for recycling. “Apple has trained people to think that when their battery wears out it means that their device is wearing out and you just get a new one,” Wiens says.

iFixit—a fixture on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing US firms—aims to change that assumption. It sells tools and parts and provides free, crowdsourced manuals showing how to repair everything from smartphones to bikes and coffeemakers. At last count, there were more than 6,000 photo-heavy how-tos on its website, two-thirds of them generated wiki-style by the company’s global community of around 50,000 fixers. (Millions more use the site but don’t contribute content.)

I once got into an argument in May 1998 with a higher-ranking (and retired) engineer of a then-major computer company over what certainly looked to me like planned obsolescence in the computer industry. I told him that the American people would not accept the premise that the computer companies were trying to sell: spending $2000 or more for a computer and/or its related equipment (like a monitor), then being forced to throw all that away after just a few years because they were unable to repair or upgrade, or economically fix any broken parts.

While I was wrong–the hundreds of mercury-poisoned landfills across the US and the many second-hand computer stores are proof that we have and do throw away our older computers with frightening regularity–at least iFixit.com proves that I wasn’t completely off-base.

Many of us do see value in attempting a DIY repair. As co-founder Kyle Weins points out:

Wiens concedes that changing people’s habits is an uphill battle. “We’re fighting some innate psychological tendencies where we get an endorphin boost from buying things,” he says. But his hope is that teaching us how to fix things might deliver its own endorphin boost. It’s not that far-fetched.

It’s a big rush when you can fix your prized device yourself. Give it a try.

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