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Why Fix a Broken iPad Screen Yourself?
If you happen to drop your iPad face down and crack the screen — don’t panic. Even if you don’t want to replace it yourself, Apple will likely do it for you at your local Apple store.
However, this service will generally set you back $250 – $350. This is why you may consider reading this guide and replacing the display yourself.
I recently replaced my first-generation Wi-Fi iPad screen and wanted to share my experience on how I succeeded in replacing it. (Note: If you have a newer version of the iPad, we outline some key differences on fixing newer screens in another post.) You may be aware that there are multiple YouTube videos available showing how to do this, but I found most of them very inadequate and not detailed enough for the non tech-savvy user.
> > Related: The History of the iPad: How Did It Get Here?
Step-by-Step Guide to Replacing the iPad Digitizer
In this guide, I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of replacing your broken iPad screen. We’ll start by identifying which parts you need, which tools you need, taking the iPad apart and finally reinstalling the new iPad Digitizer.
Please Note: Since the iPad Digitizer is the most common problem with a broken iPad screen, we’ll focus on the steps to replacing only the Digitizer in this article. Additionally, the instructions refer specifically to the first-generation Wi-Fi iPad; iPads with 3G connection involve disconnecting one more cable when opening up the display in Step 3 (more on this below). The instructions and parts needed may vary for a second-generation iPad.
Fix Broken iPad Screen – Step 1: Getting the Right Parts
Identifying which parts you need replaced and which you can reuse is the first step in fixing your broken iPad screen. Knowing which parts you need is key because it will help you save money.
Keep in mind that if you own an iPad 2, you will need to purchase a different screen because it has different dimensions. If you happen to own a 3G version of the iPad, you will also need to purchase a special display indicating 3G support.
There are two different displays that connect together and are both part of the front assembly:
- the digitizer touchscreen
- the LCD screen
Here is an image of the iPad Digitizer:
Here is an image of the iPad LCD screen that sits behind the digitizer:
This is the one thing that confused me at first when figuring out which parts to purchase. The digitizer is the screen you touch on your iPad for input and the one that you probably broke. You most likely won’t need to replace both the digitizer and the LCD, but simply the digitizer. However, if you get no picture or a dark picture on your iPad, you may need to replace both. Also, if your touch inputs are not working, but you can see the display perfectly, you will need just a new digitizer.
The digitizer sits right on the front of the panel and includes the home button and the side panel. The LCD screen sits underneath it, and is thicker, but smaller in perimeter. It also comes in a setup full of screws and ribbons that connect to the digitizer. The digitizer only comes with one ribbon that connects directly to the LCD. We’ll discuss these connection ribbons below.
There are many great deals for both the digitizer and the LCD screen online (I recommend Amazon) and they shouldn’t set you back more than $60 for each screen. I also found some deals for the two screens assembled together already, and those are easier to install.
Fix Broken iPad Screen – Step 2: Getting the Right Tools
Once you purchase the digitizer, you will need to purchase a few additional tools; here’s what you’ll need:
- a small screwdriver
- a metallic prying tool (or a metal spudger)
- plastic prying tools (useful as additional tools to complement your tool set)
- a very narrow screwdriver called the T4 Torx screwdriver (many guides recommend the T5 Torx, but I found the T5 to be too large)
- a roll of electronic tape
- iPad clips replacement set
Metal Prying Tool:
Plastic Prying Tools:
T4 Torx Screwdriver:
iPad Clips Replacement Set:
Fix Broken iPad Screen – Step 3: Taking the iPad Apart
To begin, take off the protective plastic from the digitizer’s screen. Then lay down the digitizer next to your iPad with the cracked digitizer. You will need to grab the metallic prying tool and insert it at the wedge located near the edge of the front panel. The wedge is positioned between the black part of the panel and the aluminum. It can be difficult to do this at first and you may feel that you are forcing the metallic tool inside. However, the screen will be displayed anyway — including the home button and black side panel. Don’t worry too much about denting or scratching it as long as you don’t damage any internal parts or the ribbon connectors.
Once you secure the metal spudger or prying tool inside the digitizer you will need to pull up slowly and turn it around counterclockwise. It will be very secure and hard to move due to the metal clips in place. I recommend grabbing the plastic prying tool or a separate screwdriver and leaving it on one side of the opening, prying up next to it to create widget room with the metal spudger.
Many of the instructional tutorials make this process look easy, but it is a lot harder than it looks. Don’t be surprised if your digitizer keeps falling back into place onto the front panel, until you eventually start loosening or breaking the metal clips. Starting on one of the iPad’s four corners may make it easier for you.
When you get the broken digitizer from your iPad loosened and opened up, you will notice a couple ribbons holding the two screens in place with the rear panel. Disconnect them from the rear panel. Start by disconnecting the digitizer locking connector. It is the thickest ribbon connector and is attached to two clips. You will need to unlock the clips by using a small pointy tool to lift the hatches up (I recommend the plastic prying tool).
When the hatches or edges of the clips are pointing upward, and you see two black edges pointing up, you succeeded in unlocking the clips. The two clips are located on the opposite side to where the ribbon slides into. The ribbon has a small opening in the middle to split it so it has separate openings — hence the two clips being unlocked separately.
Next you will have to unlock the ambient light sensor connector. It is the thin ribbon cable that sits on one of the small edges of the iPad. You will need to unlock it from the rear panel with a simple snap. Now after taking apart the two connectors (three if you have a 3G antenna) you should be able to separate the front assembly (including digitizer and LCD) from the rear panel. However you may notice that the two assembly sections aren’t totally separated yet.
There is one more cable that is connecting the two panels in place: the video connector. The first time I performed this, I took it out from the wrong end. I took it out from the rear panel’s latch and not from where most tutorials recommend; and that is from the front assembly. Take it out from the front assembly if you don’t want to deal with a headache when putting it back together with the other cables and not having much wiggle room. It has some electronic tape in front of the connector and a latch that needs to be lifted up.
Now that the rear panel and front panel assembly are separated, you will need to put the front panel assembly in front of you and grab the T4 Torx screwdriver. You will need to remove eight screws that connect the LCD screen to the digitizer from the rear of the front of the assembly. You can tell them apart because they are metallic screws and have clips that lie in front securing them to the frame.
Next you will have to take off the electronic tape that is on the side of the assembly. It is the side where the split ribbon cable is. It may be a bit awkward going around the ribbon cable, but try your best until you get the entire electronic cable loose and disconnect it. Now the LCD screen should be loose and you can take it off the frame. This will separate it from the digitizer. You can lift it with the metal spudger or a screwdriver as you work around to get it secure. Keep in mind that there is some adhesive substance that has it secured and glued in place; so move it out of the assembly slowly. Next comes the thin ambient light sensor connector that you will need to remove so you can put it on the new digitizer.
A lot of the tutorials and videos I’ve seen didn’t give this step justice. The ambient connector is actually pretty securely attached to the iPad and I had to pry it off with some force. In fact, the small cable disconnected from the square electronic piece that it latches onto (and connected together by an adhesive). However, even if you do the same mistake I did and disconnect the cable from the square plastic piece with the three small openings (one of which connects to the ambient light sensor), don’t panic. As long as you place it back in a similar position as it was in with the adhesive, and use electronic tape to secure it, it should work fine. The ambient light sensor is the thin cable located toward one of the smaller edges of the iPad. It should be located near your headphone jack.
Fix Broken iPad Screen – Step 4: Reinstalling the New Digitizer
The next step involves grabbing your brand new digitizer and putting it in place where the previous, broken one was. Start by placing the screen on a flat surface and place the LCD in-between the edges where the screws fit. Next I recommend putting back the metallic clips that you bought as a replacement. These are the clips that must be screwed in on the sides of the front assembly, and secure the iPad’s two frames together.
You will now have to reinsert the ambient light sensor into its previous location and I recommend securing it in place with electronic tape — especially if you accidentally pulled on it too hard and separated it from the adhesive. Another location where you should put some electronic tape is around the edge of the LCD, where the split ribbon cable lies and where it used to lie before you removed it. Now put the eight screws back into the frame to secure the LCD with the digitizer.
If you followed these directions and the video connector was disconnected from the rear panel and not from the front assembly, this cable should be the first one you reconnect. Otherwise you will have to work around to find the right fit and decide which cables are the closest to their connectors (but it is still possible). After connecting the video connector, secure the latch in place and put some electronic tape over it.
You will know by the length of this cable how you should position the two panels next to each other. The side with the ambient light sensor of the front panel should be toward you on the bottom. While the side with the logic board and silver EMI shield (or the side with the silver covering) should be toward you with regards to the rear panel.
Now you will need to place the digitizer close to the LCD screen and connect the split ribbon cable in place; while locking the clips that hold it also in place by putting downward pressure on the latches until they are flat. You will also need to put the ambient light sensor into a tiny connector that is actually without any latch or clip. It is located near the edge of the rear panel and below the silver component (logic board) located there. It just fits together and locks in place with the ambient light sensor’s connector automatically.
The next and final step, after you have connected all the cables back in place, involves securing the digitizer onto the rear panel with the metallic clips. You will need to push down each side carefully until the clips snap in place and the iPad is put back together as it was originally.
This step is also often underestimated in other tutorials. I found that you may have to put a lot of pressure at certain angles to get it to attach correctly. Start with the shorter edges and move to the corners to snap it in place. Keep in mind that the metal clips located on the sides of the digitizer should be replaced if they broke or were previously bent.
You should now have a working iPad with a display that isn’t cracked or broken. I hope this guide helped you and made you consider fixing your display yourself — instead of just purchasing a new iPad or spending a lot more money than you had to in order to have a shiny new display.
As you may have noticed, fixing a broken iPad screen yourself is not as easy as it may look at first, but it is very doable.
I would suggest having this guide with you and watching a few video tutorials of the process beforehand. Make sure you have the right tools and that you know what you’re replacing — the iPad digitizer, the mid-board LCD screen, or both.
Image Credits: Most images used to help illustrate these instructions were taken from iFixIt.