I cracked my MacBook Pro’s (Late 2013 edition) Retina Display last week and was crestfallen. Yup, the one I just bought 6 months ago. I tried to close the laptop (I’ll still claim gently) with my generic Apple headphones on top of the keyboard. Yikes. The results were not pretty:
The black vertical band (as well as less noticeable horizontal ones) meant that the LCD was broken. My claim that I didn’t really close it too harshly maybe holds up because the screen glass itself wasn’t broken in this instance.
Either way, some quick research and a live chat with Apple showed that this wasn’t covered under their warranty. The Apple agent said it might be covered by my credit card company. I used American Express, the bank with the most generous insurance coverage. They insure products like this for up to 90 days it turns out…not 180. So, no luck there. It seemed that my options were:
1. Deal with it. It’s a band covering only a part of the screen on a 17″. I could just go back to the 800×600 days and be ok. Not ideal.
2. Buy a new laptop. Either a straight replacement (which would run around $1700 refurbished and closer to $2000 new) or maybe downgrade to an Air for $1100 or head back to the Windows world. Expensive.
3. Get the monitor replaced. Some research yielded pricepoints between $500-$800 for this solution with Apple Authorized dealers being cheaper than Apple themselves. Cheaper but still a big bite.
Of course, the D.I.Y. option while technically always available wasn’t something I thought I’d be able to do. In general I’m scared of touching hardware and messing something up. Beyond that, Apple products specifically are known for not being repair friendly. I saw a YouTube Video that showed promise – just change the glass and you’re good to go with $25 including cost for tools. The problem was that I had a Retina display where the glass and LCD is more integrated…not to mention that in my case it’s the LCD and not the glass that’s actually broken.
When I was about ready to go the send in for repair route, I ran into an awesome D.I.Y. website: iFixIt. Their clearly written step-by-step directions were great. More importantly, there seemed to be a community adding social signals about the veracity and ease of the guide. Reading those instilled me with more and more confidence in my ability to do this myself. iFixIt’s model seems to be in creating useful D.I.Y. step-by-step guides for hardware replacements and then monetizing by selling tools and parts as you need it. In fact, they make it super easy to do this: all of the parts for a given replacement can be purchased right there on the page. That’s great but for me, the big part, the integrated Retina Display would run me $400 (say $420 with tools). So, that’s only a bit cheaper but I wasn’t sure the risk was worth it.
As I kept reading about it though, I was excited enough by the possibility of fixing this myself that I was willing to buy it. Of course, I had to check prices to make sure there wasn’t a giant markup on iFixIt. Amazon showed the same price so that wasn’t the case. However, Amazon had lots of vendors selling the part used and it ranged from $219-$300! I went with a “like new” one for $250. I feel bad that I didn’t directly support iFixIt because they were the reason I even went this route. The price difference was too great. iFitIt could try to woo Amazon sellers to also sell used parts through their website. Or at the very least (although this totally changes their economics), they could become an Amazon affiliate to get a few dollars from my purchase.
Once I had the parts, I was ready to go. Read all about static electricity and how to be careful to avoid it when fixing computer parts. My workbench was ready:
Spudger, screw drivers, notepad for labeling various screws, new screen in bubble wrap, cracked computer, another computer for iFixIt directions.
Oooo…the guts in all it’s glory.
One last hitch! These last six screws on the hinge are T8s, not T5s. Nothing I had fit the bill. I had to make a last minute hardware store run – thankfully they had the screwdriver (albeit for an obscene price given how rarely the tool is purchased).
It took my about 2 hours – including the hardware store run – to get it all done. After some heart stopping moments where I thought I had messed up some of the connections, or worse, discharged static electricity…it worked!
Total bill of around $280. I hope to do more D.I.Y. hardware stuff in the future.