Friday, May 18, 2007

Fixing a Palm Treo's Digitizer (Touch Screen)

Let me tell you a sad tale. One day, out of the blue, the digitizer on my palm started to drift. Every hour, it got worse. This meant that when you tried to click a button like 'Add' the Palm thought you clicked 'Delete' - no fun at all! It was possible to temporarily improve the situation by running the re-calibration program built into the system, but within a few hours, where you clicked again had very little relation to where the Palm thought you had clicked. After about a week, it was not possible to run the re-calibration program, as the digitizer was so far out (program just looped forever so I had to reboot the Palm). I discovered that there are actually keyboard shortcuts for just about everything, and that the 4-way nav button gets you most places, so the device wasn't a total write off. However, it was slow and cumbersome to use.

Now, one month later, I'm sure you'll be thrilled to know that things are better, the sorry tale has had a happy ending (touch wood!). Much googling led to many suggested approaches to fixing the problem including:
  • Various auto-calibration programs (AutoDigi, DigiFix, etc).
  • Running paper around the screen under the casing to remove gunk.
  • Cleaning the insides by putting a vacuum cleaner to all openings.
However, all of these approaches ended with disappointment and no noticeable improvement.

Finally, near buying myself a new device (aside: it is a shame that Palm has not managed to produce a device significantly better than my several year old Treo 600), I came across a site selling replacement Treo 600 digitizer/screen modules. They kindly provide a very useful movie on pulling your Treo apart to help you replace your digitizer/screen module. With little to lose, I decided to open up the case of my Treo and see if there was anything I could fix.

Following the instructions in the movie was not too difficult. I didn't have a small star alan key myself (required for opening the case), but I borrowed one from my dear dad, who has an amazing tool collection. Also, lacking a plastic case opening tool, I used a butter knife - this worked OK, but did damage the plastic of the case a little. If you have something made from thin and strong plastic, like the case opener in the movie, it would be a better tool for the job. I had a great time pulling everything apart and finally had all the components spread out before me. I cleaned the screen carefully (there was a fair bit of grot around the edges), fixed the buckled taping on the side of the screen, and put everything back together, carefully re-seating the various cables.

And now, almost a month later, the digitizer still seems to be working fine! Hurrah! So if you are contemplating what to do about your Palm's broken or drifting digitizer, I recommend pull it apart, clean it all and re-seat cables and then hope for the best!

62 comments:

James Boyer said...

Nice Blog and video, I only wonder how hard it is to replace the touch screen and digitizer rather than the whole lcd screen. I dropped my Treo 700p which I use as a phone organizer and as I am a Realtor in Morris Township NJ, I use it to unlock the lock boxes on my listings and to show other Realtors homes.

Looking for a solution, Nice Blog though.

James Boyer

James Crisp said...

Thanks James, can't speak for the 700p, but at least with the 600, it looked like the touch screen/LCD/digitizer were all one single unit.

Anonymous said...

don't know if you've fixed this yet but you order the LCD screen and digitizer as one unit. You can get it from gethightech.com and watch the movie. If you have even moderate technical skills you can do the swap within 30 minutes.

Susan Zanzonico said...

Just happened on this during a search..thanks for this info and video. Pretty clevel!! I don't know if I'd be able to manage the fix so well, but its nice to know its possible to salvage the Treo's..I have friends that are better at that than I. As a realtor I have to juggle while trying to open doors on the homes....things get dropped.

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Hi James Crisp,

I wanted to come back and say that it is possible to do on a 700P. I managed to fix mine and it worked for a while until other issues came up. Verizon has replaced my unit a few more times since then. I really wish we could use the Iphone but sadly I don't get to make those calls.

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that's awesome, how long did it take you to pull it apart and put it back together?

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