How to Replace a Cracked iPad Screen

Posted by: on Oct 8, 2013 | No Comments

Remove iPad Screen

If you’re using iPads in your school eventually someone is going to have an accident. The most common problems are broken iPad screens, but we’ve also had faulty home buttons, damaged 30-pin charging ports, and dead batteries. We show you how to repair your school’s iPads.

iPad damage in the sites I support is luckily very limited, but we do have a problem with a set of 15 iPads which are loaned to other schools. Damage to this set was becoming increasingly frequent and the repair costs were becoming too great. I needed a more cost efficient solution for repairing my iPads.

Instead of paying Apple or a third-party support company to do the repair I decided to give repairing the iPads a go myself. Repairing iPads is generally considered a no-go area, but let me tell you a secret…it’s actually pretty easy and quite cheap.

So next time you get a damaged iPad screen or need to replace a battery have a go!

A Few Things You Will Need

The iSesamo Tool

Dottorpod-iSesamo

iSesamo is a very thin metal tool specifically designed to open iPads, I haven’t come across anything better yet. It’s wide enough to give you good leverage without risk of cracking the screen and fits perfectly between the screen and the iPad case. If you’re even considering iPad repair get yourself one of these tools.

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Small Screwdriver Set

screwdriver-set

If you’re going to be doing iPad repairs regularly it’s worth investing in a set of screwdrivers made for the job. There are many options available on the market. The iPad doesn’t have many screws to remove, but you don’t want to risk damaging the tiny screwheads for the sake of a few pounds.

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iPad Digitizer Screen Adhesive

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Any iPad repair, even if you’re not replacing the screen, will require you to replace the adhesive strips which hold the screen in place. These are a must for any iPad repair. Because they are so cheap, and we frequently carry out iPad repairs, I usually keep a stock of ten so that I always have some on hand.

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iPad Digitizer Screen Replacement

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Most of the time a cracked iPad screen is actually a damaged digitizer (see the image on the left).

Replacement iPad parts can be picked it quite cheaply, but it’s important to remember that there are some low quality alternatives on the market which should be avoided. Use customer reviews to check that the part you are buying is an Apple original or a good quality alternative part.

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Opening the iPad

In order to get access to the iPad’s internals we first need to remove the screen. The iPad’s screen consists of two parts:

  1. The digitizer — which is the actual glass screen you touch with the black bezel.
  2. The LCD screen — the part that displays the image under the digitizer.

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The digitizer is held in place by strong adhesive. In order to get access to the inside of the iPad we need to loosen the adhesive and lift away the digitizer.

Remove iPad ScreenTo open the iPad take your iSesamo tool and insert it about a centimeter between the black bezel of the digitizer and the metal case. You’ll notice that there is a small plastic lip that sits in between the iPad’s case and the digitizer. If you can leave this in place it will save you time later.

Carefully run your iSesamo around the case separating the screen from the main body of the iPad. About an inch up from the bottom left of the iPad is the ribbon cable which connects the touch screen to the main body of the tablet. Be very careful not to push your iSesamo in too far and accidentally cut the cable.

Depending on how badly damaged your iPad’s screen is you may find that the glass splinters as you’re removing it. Be very careful of shards flying off.

Tip: If you’re having trouble removing the screen try gently warming the edge with a hair dryer or heater to loosen the adhesive inside.

Once you’ve loosened the digitizer you should be able to lift it away from the iPad. The only thing that should be connecting it to the case now is the ribbon cable which connects the touch screen to the motherboard.

ipad-digitizer-ribbon-cable

Ribbon cable that connects the digitizer to the iPad

Once the digitizer is removed you may find that broken glass is still attached to the adhesive surrounding the case. Use your iSesamo tool flat against the iPad’s case to remove any remaining glass and adhesive. It’s important to clean up the case as much as possible so that when you install the new screen later on it sits flush to the surface.

Remove any remaining glass or adhesive

Remove any remaining glass or adhesive

The ribbon cable which connects the digitizer to the iPad is underneath the LCD screen. So, even though we’re not replacing the LCD screen we still need to remove it. The iPad’s LCD screen is held in by four screws in each corner. Use you small screwdriver to remove the screws.

Removing iPad LCD Screen

Removing iPad LCD Screen

The screen should now easily lift out, although it will still be attached by a ribbon cable to the main body of the iPad.

Lifiting out the iPad's Screen

Lifting out the iPad’s Screen

You now have access to disconnect the ribbon cables of both the digitizer and the LCD screen. Follow the ribbon cable from the digitizer and locate where it connects to the main body of the iPad. Grip the cable as close to the connector as you can and firmly pull it out. Don’t worry, both the connector and cable are a lot more solid than they appear.

Disconnect the digitizer's ribbon cable

Disconnect the digitizer’s ribbon cable

You will now be able to completely remove the digitizer from the iPad.

Take your replacement screen and lay it in the correct orientation next to the iPad. Take the ribbon cable from the new digitizer and connect it into the socket that you just remove the old screen from. You need to press the cable in very firmly, being careful not to bend it, and push it in until the white indicator line is no longer visible.

Tip: Make sure that the digitizer’s ribbon cable is tucked neatly under the LCD screen before you replace it or you will have problems getting a flush seal on the screen later on.

If you want to test out that the new screen works before putting the iPad back together, you can power on your iPad and test out the digitizer’s touch screen. Remember that touch input is through the glass digitizer, not through the LCD screen where the image is displayed.

Now the digitizer is reconnected you can screw the LCD screen back into place.

Make sure the ribbon cable is tucked neatly underneath the LCD screen

Make sure the ribbon cable is tucked neatly underneath the LCD screen

You’ve probably noticed that the new digitizer is missing one important component. The Home button!

Remove the Home button from your old screen

Remove the Home button from your old screen

Most new digitizers do not come provided with a Home button, so you need to transfer the one from your damaged screen. To do this simply use your iSesamo tool to lift the Home button from your old screen. The Home button is only held on with adhesive so this won’t cause too many problems.

Use the two smallest adhesive strips from to apply to the “wings” of the Home button to reapply it to the new screen.

Apply new adhesive strips to the iPad's case

Apply new adhesive strips to the iPad’s case

Next we need to replace the new digitizer on the iPad. To do this we need to apply new adhesive strips along the edge of the case.

Tip: Don’t remove the adhesive backing until you are ready to attach the new screen as this makes adjusting the digitizer extremely difficult.

Each strip is cut to fit a specific side of the iPad. You can easily work out where each should be located by laying them over each side of the case and seeing if they fit. Once you have applied all of the strips, and are happy with the way the digitizer will sit, peel off the backing paper.

Before going any further check that there are no fingerprints or dust on both the digitizer and the LCD screen. There’s nothing worse than attaching a screen to find an immovable piece of lint sitting happily in the centre of your screen. If you need to clean the screen use a damp cloth with some very weak detergent or some proper LCD screen cleaner.

Attaching the New Digitizer

Tip: Before replacing the digitzer make sure that the ribbon cable is pushed far enough under the LCD screen so that it doesn’t prevent the digitizer sitting flush on the iPad case.

First, remove any backing film that may be on your new digitizer. Then carefully place the digitizer over the iPad and locate it as accurately as possible. The adhesive tape will give some movement for adjustments, but ideally you don’t want to be removing it after this point.

Once you’re happy, firmly press down around the digitizer to ensure a good seal. Well done! Your iPad is now repaired! Make sure you test your new digitizer and Home button before returning the iPad into use.

Further iPad Repairs

This guide shows you how to replace a damaged iPad screen, but the principal is the same for most iPad repairs. You can use this information to replace 30-pin or Lightning connectors, the iPad’s battery LCD screen, or even motherboard. As you may have found out, repairing an iPad is fairly simple once you have remove the digitizer.

Let me know in the comments if you’re used this guide successfully!

Karl is a school Network Manager and IT Lead Professional based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in early 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools.

In 2014 he won the Naace Impact Award for School Support Services.

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