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How to Fix a Broken iPad Screen

How to Replace and Fix a Broken iPad Screen

If you happened to have dropped your iPad face down and cracked the screen do not panic. Even if you don’t want to replace it yourself, nor know anyone who can, Apple will most likely do it for you at the Apple Store locations. However, I hear 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. 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. 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.

Know Which Parts You Need Replaced and Which You Can Reuse

Here is an image of the iPad Digitizer:

Here is an image of the iPad LCD screen that sits behind the digitizer:

There are two different displays that connect together and are both part of the front assembly. They are the digitizer touchscreen and the LCD screen. This is the one thing that confused me at first when looking at parts to purchase. Be sure you know which parts you need because this will save you a lot of money in the long run. 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 also need just a new digitizer.

The digitizer sits right on the front of the panel and includes the home button and the side panel. Each side is longer in length. 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. I will 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. However, this article will be focusing on replacing just the digitizer as that is probably the most common fix.

Get the Right Tools for the Job

Once you purchase the digitizer, you will also need to purchase a few additional tools. You will need a small screwdriver and you will also need a metallic prying tool (or a metal spudger). Plastic prying tools are available for purchase as well, but they break and bend easily. However, they are useful as additional tools to complement your tool set.

Metal Prying Tool:

Plastic Prying Tools:

You will also need a very narrow screwdriver, called the T4 Torx, and a roll of electronic tape. It is also a great idea to purchase some metallic clips (iPad clips replacement set) because they can horribly bend or break when opening the front panel.

T4 Torx Screwdriver:

iPad Clips Replacement Set:

Start to Take the iPad Apart

To begin, take off the protective plastic firmly 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 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 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 also 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. Personally, 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 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 should have handy with you. Keep in mind that many guides say you need a T5 Torx and the iPhone Amazon tool kit comes with this size. I found the T5 to just be too large.

You will also 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 didn’t give this step its 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 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.

Reinstalling the New Digitizer

The next step involves you 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 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 corners to snap it in place easier. 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, the process is not as easy as it may look at first, but it is very doable. However, have this guide with you step-by- step and watch a video tutorial of the process beforehand. Make sure you have the right tool set with the right-sized screwdriver as well. Also, as noted previously, know the difference between a digitizer and the mid-board LCD screen that sites behind it. That’s all for now, but keep in mind this was an explanation of replacing a first-generation Wi-Fi-only iPad. The digitizer replacement of the second generation iPad is similar, but you will need to purchase the right parts for the iPad 2 model. If you own an iPad with a 3G connection, you will have to disconnect one more cable when opening the display up.

Please note: Most images used to help explain instructions in this guide were taken from iFixIt.

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