In my recent post (Microsoft Surface Durability), I told the story about how my life flashed before my eyes as I dropped my wife’s brand new Surface RT tablet.
In this post, I’m going to tell you how I fixed it (mostly). Hopefully, if you find yourself in the same situation you’ll be able to avoid the fallout that comes from breaking someone’s new toy. It’s probably important to note that this post won’t help you much if you’ve managed to crack the glass. There’s really no way to fix that on your own (unless you’re really skilled and can get parts and special tools).
Step 0: Get an Extended Warranty
This is the most important step. While the Surface is tough, it’s not totally indestructible. For just $99, Microsoft will cover you for 2 years of pretty much anything you can possibly do to your Surface. If you do this, you won’t need to worry about steps 1 through 8 and you’ll be able to recover from more than a chipped/cracked case.
- See the differences between the Standard and Extended Service plan
- Go to the Microsoft Service Center to resister a device for the extended plan
Step 1: Find the pieces
This is harder than it sounds as there might be some very tiny pieces of magnesium casing that have broken off. Also, if you can’t find all of the pieces, you’ll be stopped dead at Step 2.
Step 2: Is it worth trying?
This is where you evaluate the device to see if it’s even worth trying to fix yourself. Here’s where you need to turn the device back on and play with it a bit. Check for the following:
- Does it power on?
- Is the front glass intact and crack free?
- Can you see the screen clearly?
- Does the screen rotate when you orient the device?
- Is it making weird sounds?
- Does it still respond to touch?
- (If a Pro) does it respond to the pen?
- Does it respond to it’s keyboard (if you have one)
- Can it still connect to WiFi?
- Does it recognize the power adapter?
- Does the volume switch still work?
- Does the USB connector/DisplayPort still work?
If the answer to ANY of these is NO then you shouldn’t have skipped Step 0 and are probably screwed. Time to start saving up your lunch money for a replacement.
If you didn’t skip Step 0, call Microsoft now.
Step 3: Gather your tools
Assuming, everything is working with the tablet, you will need the following to continue…
- Superglue (I used Gorilla Glue)
- Fingernail polish
- Tweezers or needle-nose pliers
- A lint free cloth
- 3M Standard Abrasives STD-827500 Abrasive Hand Pad Ultra Fine, S/C Grain
- Testors Enamel Paint Marker-Flat Black
Once you have these things, go on to Step 4.
Step 4: Starting the Fix
Now that you’re sure the Surface is still working, you can be a little calmer as you start. You’ll need a steady hand to make it look right.
Begin by wiping away and debris from around the damaged area and wiping off any of the broken pieces. A lint-free cloth (like for cleaning glasses) works well.
Do not use any solvents or liquid cleaners. With a piece missing from the case, you run the risk of introducing some of it to the inside of the tablet and electronics don’t tend to respond well to that.
Step 5: Reattaching the piece/Fixing the crack
Broken Piece: Hold the broken off piece of case with the tweezers/pliers and carefully place a small amount of glue on the piece (so as to minimize the risk of leakage into the case). Place the piece in place and hold it for 30 seconds to ensure the glue is set.
Cracked: The Magnesium case is very tough but, is more brittle than malleable so, it’s likely to break off a little piece as opposed to dent. However, it’s possible that you’ll be dealing with a small crack. In that case, use the fingernail polish to carefully fill the crack. Don’t use too much as you don’t want to have any seep into the case.
Step 6: Wait
Once the piece is in place, be patient. Give it at least 30 minutes before proceeding.
Step 7: Prepare the surface
Use the sandpaper to smooth any rough edges or remove excess fingernail polish from the case. Use very light pressure and try to keep the areas being sanded as small as possible to avoid additional cosmetic damage.
Step 8: Paint the surface
Use the flat black marker to color in any areas that need it. I originally used a Sharpie and it will work if that’s all you have but, under close scrutiny you can see the difference in color. The flat black marker I suggested above is very close to the original finish. It’s also good for filling in surface scratches and scuffs.
As you can see from the picture above, even with just the Sharpie, the repair is barely noticeable I even went so far as to have someone carefully examine the device after the repair (without telling him what had happened) to see if it was noticeable.
He didn’t notice anything until I pointed it out and even then it was just barely visible so, I would call that a success!!
Hopefully you won’t test the durability of your Surface the way I did but if you do, I hope these instructions help. Oh, and after I went though all this, my wife told me she had done Step 0. She just wanted me to sweat a little.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.