How to replace a broken screen on your iPhone

Cracking your iPhone's front glass or the display might not stop it from working, but can make it difficult and unsafe to use. Here's a step-by-step guide to fixing a broken front panel on your iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S.

Crack the front panel on your iPhone and you have three choices—live with it, buy a new one, or get it fixed.

If you have an AppleCare+ or other warranty that covers accidental damage, the choice is easy. Get your phone fixed or replaced under the warranty. If your iPhone isn't under warranty, you don't want to buy a new one, and you're ready to tackle a challenging, but satisfying do-it-yourself fix, here's a guide for replacing the entire display assembly.

Should you try this fix?

Before you jump into this DIY project, I suggest you watch my video on what to know before trying to fix a smartphone or tablet. It will help you decide if you should repair the phone yourself or take it to a shop.

Lastly, understand that by following the instructions in this video, you do so at your own risk. Neither CNET nor any of its representatives can be held responsible for injury, damage, or loss of data.

Getting replacement parts and tools

Once you decide to tackle this fix, you'll need to get the necessary replacement parts and tools. As the iPhone's front panel and LCD are fused together, I suggest buying both as a single unit. You'll find them for between $70 and $120 dollars online. Just be sure that you buy the right one for your phone.

Credit: Bill Detwiler/CNET

As for tools, you'll need a few thin metal blades, a plastic spudger or case opening tool, tweezers, Phillips #000 screwdriver, a tiny flathead screwdriver,and a special pentalobe screwdriver, which you'll use to remove the phone's tamper-resistant, outer case screws. Again, you can pick these up online if you don't have them.

Also, I'll be replacing the panel on an AT&T iPhone 4, but you can use same basic steps on iPhone 4s from other carriers and the iPhone 4S. You may encounter differences however, such as the location and type of vibration motor and the position of the motherboard screws.

1. Backup your data

The first step is to backup all the iPhone's data using iCloud or iTunes, just in case something goes wrong. You'll also need to eject the SIM card using the eject tool or a paperclip.

2. Remove the back cover

With those tasks complete, you can open the iPhone by removing the two screws located along the bottom edge. As noted above, you'll need a special pentalobe screwdriver for this task.

Credit: Bill Detwiler/CNET

Then, slide the back cover upwards and lift it off.

Credit: Bill Detwiler/CNET

About Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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