A Beginner's Guide to Repairing Your Own Electronics

A Beginner's Guide to Repairing Your Own Electronics

Gregory Han
May 2, 2011

Months ago while on vacation, my girlfriend's point and shoot camera suddenly stopped working. The unit would freeze almost immediately upon turning it on, the retractable zoom lens stuck in what could be described as its fully erect position and an error message displayed leaving the Canon unusable. Believing it might be an issue with either the battery or memory card, both were replaced, but neither fixed the issue, and the camera was eventually replaced by another model. But over the weekend, upon discovering the stored/discarded unit while spring cleaning, I decided to do a little surgical investigation, since there was nothing to lose except some time...

The impetus for opening up the Canon point and shoot digital camera was simply curiosity and opportunity, but also because many online reports about repairs by a professional for "stuck lens" issues end up costing nearly or more than the camera's worth in many instances. Being fairly competent with minor disassembly, here's what I did to fix the camera:

When disassembling and repairing any electronic, be sure to set aside/create an uncluttered work area, as shown here by Greg Loesch's hard drive repair setup.

First thing you want to do when repairing any electronic yourself is to make sure your unit isn't already under warranty and can be repaired for free by a professional. If not, then you want to prepare a work area:

  1. flat, clear work surface free of clutter; you're going to be disassembling an electronic, so you don't want other items in the way
  2. a small anti-static cloth; this will not only help you wipe off any excess dust, but can be used to prevent smaller parts from rolling away when placed ontop
  3. Phillips #00 Screwdriver and a Mini Torx Screwdriver Set
  4. focused overhead and direct light source
  5. magnifying glass, if necessary
  6. compressed air (a photographer's squeeze blower is even better/safer
  7. small compartment box

Before disassembling any electronic, take the time to search online for any repair videos related to your model if possible. This will give you an overview of what to expect upon disassembling your unit. We also like to keep a laptop, smartphone or tablet nearby with instructions/how-to videos open to review, just in case we hit a roadblock (something that recently made removing an optical drive and replacing it a with a secondary SSD drive a fun and easy late evening project).

When disassembling any electronic, there's a risk of damaging the product via static electricity, so also be sure to discharge any built-up charge by touch a grounded metal object or using a anti-static wrist band.

My repair job was fairly simple, only requiring the removal of 6 #00 Phillips screws, which were set aside by size on a surface where they could not roll away and off the table. Upon removing the front of the case ever so gently, as not to crack and damage it, I was able to inspect the innards. I found one of the connections had loosened, and also the fit of the front housing and the lens extension mechanism weren't perfectly aligned. Testing it with the case off and the connection tightened, the camera revealed itself to work perfectly fine again, and I was able to reassemble the camera with the housing in alignment. Everything was good as new again and now my girlfriend has her favourite camera to use during hikes (the macro feature was her favourite, even compared to her more expensive upgraded model). My only regret is I didn't think of trying this earlier before spending money to replace this "broken" model months ago!

Two additional tip while disassembling anything with more than 3 parts:

  • take photographs or record video of the process; this will help you figure out what goes where when putting everything back together.
  • use a small compartment box to keep small screws together in matching groups; it's often the case electronics are assembled with an assortment of screws that look nearly the same, but are slightly smaller or larger in size.

Any additional tips to share you've learned, recommend when DIY repairing or upgrading your computer and home electronics?

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