Why Should I Care About the iFixit Project?
- You are making the world a better place.
- You are getting real-world experience that can go on your résumé. Students often tell us that having the project on their résumé helped them land a great job.
- Your guides will be used by real people all throughout the world. Past student guides have received well over 50,000 views.
- You are contributing to an open-source repair manual -- that people can use for free.
- E-waste is not a joke; it's a real problem.
- You get to take stuff apart.
- You get to build your photography skills.
- It beats writing a huge paper that will eventually end up in a recycle bin.
- If you do well, we'll send you get a recommendation letter, and your guide will serve as a role model for future students by being placed on the Featured Student Guides page.
We want this project to be a fun, meaningful learning experience. We want you to get a taste of industry and have a good time getting your feet wet in technical writing. If you feel that this project isn't your cup of tea, send us an email or talk to your professor—we're always interested in feedback so we can make the program better!
General Project Questions
What does a "good" project look like?
We can explain all of the ins and outs of this project a hundred times, but probably nothing will benefit you and your group as much as seeing firsthand what makes a great student project. Here are a few of our staff favorites from past terms:
All of the projects above received "A" grades because they are clear, thorough, and comprehensive. If you are interested in looking at more projects, check out our Featured Student Guides page. Who knows—if your group's got the right stuff, maybe your project will make its way onto this list!
Why are there two websites for this project?
All of the work you do on your project is hosted on our main website, www.ifixit.com. This website, edu.ifixit.com, is a separate place for us to keep all of the documentation pertaining to the university technical writing project. Your profiles on the two sites are not linked, so you'll need to log in to www.ifixit.com to access your guides and wikis.
Is my device safe to work on?
We've compiled a list of safety tips for some of the most common devices. Almost any device can become dangerous if mishandled, but some devices pose more hazards than others. Some devices, like CRT televisions, are so inherently hazardous that we ask you not to work on them at all in connection with your student project. Others, like cell phones, only become dangerous if you do something specific, like rupture the battery. Ultimately, it's up to you and your team members to select a device that you feel comfortable working with.
Device Page Questions
How do I create a device page?
Read Milestone 2; it will guide you through creating the device page. Make sure you name and capitalize the device correctly. If you mess this up, you will have to delete the page and recreate it using the correct name—changing the "title" in edit won't be enough.
How do I delete a device page?
- To delete a device page, go into edit mode by clicking the Edit link in the top-right corner.
- At the bottom left of the page, select the "Delete Device" link with a trash can icon.
- A pop up will say "Are you sure you want to delete the entire page?"
- If you want to continue and delete the entire page select "OK".
- The page should now say "This device repair manual does not exist yet, but you can start it now!".
What should the device page look like?
An example of a good device page is the MacBook Core Duo. Note that the Repair Guides, Support questions, and Parts sections populate automatically, so you shouldn't try to add those. Upgrades may or may not be applicable to your device. After completing the Summary, the only section headers you need to add are Background and Identification, Troubleshooting, and Additional Information. If you want to be extra awesome (and secure a good grade for the device page portion), you can add a Specifications section, like the one for the iPad.
How do I link my guides to my device page?
You don't! As long as you use the same device name consistently, the guides will automatically link together. When creating each guide, just make sure that the name you put under "Device" exactly matches that used on the device page. (You'll see your guides listed as "Private" while you're working on them, and they will only be visible to you, your teammates, and iFixit admins until they are published at the end of the project.)
How do I change the device page name?
You can't change the name of a device page; you just have to make a new one and delete the old one. If you're planning to change the name:
- Copy all the text from the old page.
- Create a new device page with the new name you want.
- Paste the old content to the correctly named page.
- Delete the old page.
How do I migrate guides to a new device page?
If you already have some repair guides started, moving them to the new device page is easy.
- Go to the Edit screen for the guide.
- Change the text in the Device field to the new, correct device name.
- Click the save button.
- The guide should now be associated with the new device name.
How do I choose a good device page picture?
The best device page pictures are ones that are taken by our users. Before disassembling your device, take a picture of it on a white background. Many of our MacBook device pages are edited to have perfectly white backgrounds, but proper lighting is all you need, as shown by our iPad 3G device picture. Avoid simply searching your device online and copying an image from the search results. You run the risk of violating copyright laws if there is no Creative Commons license to commercially use the image.
How do I remove the "Device Stub" and "No Area" flags?
All of the device pages on our site fall somewhere into the navigation tree that includes numerous areas and family pages. Having an area link makes your device page easy for users to find on our site, which is good once all of your content is uploaded, but can be quite a pain if you're still working on it. To avoid unwanted help from outside users, we may not add an area link to your device page until the end of the term. Once your device page is linked to its corresponding area, the "No Area" flag will disappear, and your work will be viewable to the public. The "Device Stub" flag will also disappear once your guides have been published.
Troubleshooting Page Questions
How do I create a troubleshooting page?
Read Milestone 1; it will guide you through creating the troubleshooting page.
How do I delete a troubleshooting page?
- To delete a troubleshooting page, the page's original author should click the Edit link in the top-right corner.
- At the bottom left of the page, select the "Delete Wiki" link with a trash can.
- A pop up will appear that says "Are you sure you want to delete the entire page?"
- If you want to continue and delete the entire page, select "OK".
- The page should now say, "there is no article with this exact name."
What should the troubleshooting page look like?
Your troubleshooting page should follow a format of main headings and subheadings. The main headings will be user-experienced problems (Device does not power on, Screen is black, etc.), and the subheadings will be a quick explanation of what could be causing the problem (Dead battery, Bad motherboard, etc.). Under each subheading should be text explaining the problem and what causes it, along with any repair information and links to iFixit repair guides or other appropriate resources.
When in doubt, take a look at one of the troubleshooting pages that iFixit has published for a device. A good example of one of these is the MacBook Unibody Model A1278 Troubleshooting Page.
Where do I find information for the troubleshooting page?
Research. Research. Research.
The internet is a great source of information, and it's all at your fingertips. Use manufacturers' service and support information on their websites, as well as forum-based web communities to identify common problems for your device and solutions to those problems.
Our device doesn't work! Isn't that going to affect our troubleshooting?
How well your device works (or doesn't) has no impact on the troubleshooting page; the point of the troubleshooting page is to help readers identify what's wrong with their device, not what's wrong with yours. All the information that belongs in troubleshooting is spread across the internet, and it's your job to compile it into one, user-friendly document.
How do I change the troubleshooting page URL?
It's not possible to directly edit the URL; "changing" it involves first creating a new page with the correct URL, copy/pasting all the content from the old page, and then deleting all the information from the old page. If you're planning to change the URL:
- Copy all the text from the old page.
- Create a new troubleshooting page with the new URL you want.
- Paste the old content to the correctly named page.
- Delete the old page.
Guide Creation Questions
Which guides should I create?
It doesn't matter if the device we give you is brand-new or broken—you can write a guide for the replacement of any component that might break on the device. Below are some examples for common devices. If your device doesn't fall under one of these categories, fear not—these examples should give you an idea of what to expect. You can also look online for what kind of parts your device has; if all else fails, you'll at least know what's in the device when you open it up.
Feel free to email techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com with questions. Remember, these are just examples of the kind of guides to write—you're not required to do them all, and they don't all apply to every device.
Phones are relatively simple devices, and these guides will apply to most of them. Some phones have soldered components, which would make some of these guides harder or near impossible.
- Front case
- Back case
Laptops have a lot of potential guides, and parts vary from model to model, but here is a basic list for starters:
- Hard drive
- Upper case
- Lower case
- Optical drive
- Display assembly
- Graphics card
- Sound board
- Wireless card
If you feel adventurous, the display can be further taken apart, which yields a number of other guides:
- Front display bezel
- Rear display bezel
- Inverter board
- Display hinges
Depending on the camera, disassembly can either be very simple, or very difficult. Many cameras require a high level of desoldering to remove the motherboard, and it is very easy to break the device during this process. Try to do as many guides as possible before desoldering. Try to do as little damage as possible, but don't stress about breaking the device (it can happen even if you are being careful). With that said, here are some possible guides:
- Front case
- Rear case
- Lens assembly
- Flash assembly
- AV port
While it's not feasible to expect a group to write a replacement guide for every part on a car or truck, there are a few basic repair and maintenance procedures that we think everyone should know how to do:
- Oil and oil filter replacement
- Engine air filter replacement
- Cabin air filter replacement
- Spark plugs (and spark plug wires or coils) replacement
- Brake pads and/or shoes replacement
A car's interior also yields a number of guides that you may choose to create, in addition to some of the basic maintenance guides:
- Door panels
- Window crank/motor
- In-dash stereo
How do I create a guide?
Then, click the “Create A Guide” button on your device page. Follow the Guide Creation section of Milestone 3, and you'll be working on your guide in no time.
Should my guides be replacement, repair, disassembly, or teardown?
Almost every guide you create should be a replacement guide. We often get this question, so here is a quick breakdown of what each type of guide is:
- Replacement: Shows the steps required to remove a (usually broken) component, so that a replacement one can be installed.
- Repair: Shows how to fix a specific problem that is happening inside of the device, such as re-soldering a solder joint that has become corroded or detached.
- Disassembly: This type of guide is rarely used, and is intended to show how to take something apart to its bare bones, usually for scrapping.
- Teardown: Intended to show the highlights of the internal hardware of a device. These guides are usually made when a new device comes out, and people are curious about the internal hardware.
Remember, pretty much all guides created for this project should be "Replacement" guides. If you think one of your guides might be an exception, email us to ask!
What are prerequisites, how do I use them, and why are they important?
Prerequisites are a very useful tool which you are required to implement into your guides. The prerequisite section of Milestone 3 page explains how prerequisites save you time and make the guide easier to navigate.
While any guide can be used as a prerequisite for another guide, under certain circumstances you may also wish to create a prerequisite-only guide—a guide that isn't much use by itself, but exists solely to be incorporated into other guides. A prerequisite-only guide will not be viewable by anyone except your team and site admins. To create a prerequisite-only guide, write the words “Prerequisite Only” in the guide summary or introduction, and then email us at techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com. We'll flag the guide appropriately, allowing you to use it as a prerequisite without it showing up as a standalone guide on your device page.
How do I publish a guide?
You shouldn't publish your guides! Make sure all your guides have the Private and In Progress flags—otherwise, any iFixit user will be able to edit your guides. This will cause a lot of problems for your project, so leave the flags in place. iFixit will publish your guides once they have been reviewed by our staff.
How do I delete a guide?
A guide's original author may go to the Edit page and click the Delete Guide button at the bottom. Guides can't be deleted if they are being used as prerequisites for any other guide, so remove the target guide from all other guides' prerequisite chains before attempting to delete it. Be warned that deleting a guide cannot be undone. Make sure you save everything you need from the guide before deleting it.
If possible, consider repurposing the guide instead of having it deleted. If you still need to create another guide for your project, you can just rename the to-be-deleted guide and to reuse it for the new guide.
Where do I find my guides?
Your guides will be linked from both your personal profile, your team page, and your device page.
Check out the Getting Started section of Student Roadmap for instructions on how to create an account, join your team, and access your guides/device pages.
What if our device is broken?
That shouldn't matter in most cases. This project is about writing guides to demonstrate how to replace the components of a device. If you're given a laptop, for example, a possible repair guide would be to show how to replace the LCD. Whether or not the LCD screen works wouldn't change the steps necessary for removing the part. Remember, fixing your device is not part of the project.
What should I do if I can't get my device apart?
All devices come apart, eventually. The hard part is figuring out the best way to do so! If a device is acting stubborn, check for the following:
- Is there adhesive holding a part in place? This is often the case with screens. If so, try to cut it with a plastic opening tool, or loosen it with a heat gun or hairdryer.
- Is there a hidden screw somewhere? Often times, a part seems like it should pry off, but is being held down by a hidden screw. Common hiding places are behind components or under stickers.
- Are there clips holding a component down? Use a plastic opening tool or the tip of a spudger to release clips while prying gently but firmly on the component.
How do I remove a stripped screw?
There are a few different methods we like to use for stripped screw extraction. Check out this page for a detailed walkthrough, as well as information on other useful repair techniques.
More information on editing and uploading pictures can be found on the Student Resources page.
Why does the quality of my pictures matter so much? Isn't this a writing class?
Well, technically speaking, it is a "Technical Communication" course. Pictures, charts, and graphs are all important means of good communication, and are often relied on by users more than actual text. High quality photographs are just one of the many things that set iFixit apart from other repair and how-to sites.
Do my pictures need to be a particular size?
All pictures uploaded to our site need to be a landscape 4:3 aspect ratio. If your camera captures images in a different aspect ratio (such as an SLR camera), make sure to include extra white space around your device. You can crop your photos with an external image editor, or with our image uploader.
For repair guides, all of your pictures should be at least 800x600 pixels. The larger the image, though, the better. While taking pictures for your repair guides, be sure to take one of the device completely assembled to use on your device page.
My photos are blurry, what's wrong?
Blurry images can be caused by a number of issues:
- Make sure your aperture is set correctly. Read our aperture settings section for more information.
- Make sure to use a tripod.
- Set a 3 or 5 second timer. Instructions for how to do so for the camera we provide are right here.
- Make sure you focus the camera.
- Don't try to move the camera super close to take a close up shot. Keep some distance from the device and zoom in. All lenses have a minimum distance in which it can't focus.
My photos are grainy, what's wrong?
Grainy photos are usually due to needlessly high ISO settings. Read our ISO settings sections for more information. A general rule for taking pictures under ample lighting is to set the ISO as low as possible.
My photos are dark, what's wrong?
Before attempting any manipulation with your camera's settings, check your lighting setup. You should be using our lighting kit unless told otherwise. If the lighting setup is used as best as you can, but your pictures still come out a little dark, make sure you don't block the lights with your body or hands.
If despite using lights to the best of your ability your pictures are still a little dark, you can alter the exposure settings on your camera. Read our Camera Operating Instructions section for more information. Be warned! If you have to set the EV very high, you are probably doing something wrong with the lighting, and your pictures will not come out well.
Camera Setting Explanations
For more tips and tricks on how to set up your camera, check out the Camera Operating Instructions page.
ISO is a rating of the camera sensor's sensitivity to light. Higher ISO will help you take a clear image in dark environments at the cost of adding image "noise," or graininess. Low ISO will allow you to take a much crisper, cleaner photo, but requires a well lit area. For your project, you should set your ISO to the lowest setting possible to get a nice, sharp image.
Aperture is the size of the lens diaphragm that allows light to pass through the lens. A smaller aperture correlates to a higher f-stop number and allows more depth of field. For your project, you should set your aperture somewhere between f/8 and f/11 for an SLR. Point-and-shoot cameras have much shorter lenses, and can therefore achieve a much greater depth of field at a larger aperture (smaller f-stop). If your point-and-shoot camera has an aperture priority mode, select an f-stop somewhere in the middle.
Shutter speed is exactly what it sounds like: it's the amount of time that the camera's shutter is opened and the sensor is exposed to light. A faster shutter speed will eliminate blurry pictures caused by shaking hands, but requires much more light on the subject to achieve a well-lit photo. If you use a tripod and plenty of lighting you should not have to worry about your shutter speed. If you do find your pictures coming out blurry even when you used a tripod and a shutter delay, try turning either the ISO up or the f-stop down to achieve a faster shutter speed.
Exposure Compensation (+/- EV)
EV allows you to quickly underexpose or overexpose your images. The higher your EV, the brighter the picture will be. By default, EV is set to 0, and you should only change it if you find your pictures coming out too bright or too dark. Don't try to use this as a way to fix shadows or glare, because by the time you fix the issue the rest of the image will be far too light or dark.
White balance calibrates the camera's color settings depending on the composition of lighting. The preset modes may suit your purposes, or you may manually set the camera's white balance by taking a photo of a white piece of paper under whatever lighting you are using. The bulbs supplied in our lighting kits are 5000K "daylight" bulbs. These produce a "natural white" light, but other light sources can alter the light composition of your photo setup.
Aperture priority allows you to set the aperture and EV and it will automatically select the appropriate shutter speed. This is a very useful tool, and works perfectly for this project's purposes. Aperture priority is usually denoted by A or Av on the camera's dial.
How do I access Student Roadmap?
Best thing to do is to bookmark the Student Roadmap page. It will answer most of your questions, even those not covered by the FAQ.
How can I reach iFixit?
We've set up an email alias just for you. Please send an email to techwriting[at]ifixit[dot]com and one of us will respond (we have multiple people manning the email alias).
Are you just a slimebucket company trying to profit off the free labors of students?
Well no, not really. The guides you create will be open to the world for anyone to edit (think Wikipedia), and they will remain free and protected by this Creative Commons license forever. You're doing a service to the world, and we don't make money from hosting your repair manuals.