A line of Palm-compatible PDAs including the Visor, Visor Deluxe, Visor Edge, Visor Neo, Visor Platinum and Visor Prism.

Perhaps you've broken your Visor -- or let's say it got broken somehow -- and you want to repair it with a differently broken spare you bought on eBay. Here's how.

Taking Apart Your Handspring Visor

And, With Any Luck, Putting It Back Together Again

To take apart most Handspring PDAs, you must first remove the batteries and the Springboard module (or the cover for the slot where you'd put one). You then use a small Phillips screwdriver to remove four screws on the back: two easily visible at the top of the Springboard slot, and two recessed on either side of the battery cover. The top end of your stylus is just such a screwdriver; hold the shaft and unscrew the top. (The tip of the stylus also unscrews to reveal a thin rod you can use for pushing in the recessed Reset button.)

The case is now held together by four small clips on each side of the back half. Pull it apart gently; the side of the Springboard slot is a good grip. You will see a ribbon cable connecting the two halves. Note that on each side, the silvery bits of each wire face away from the circuit board. Tug the ribbon gently out of the bottom half. You can lift the tiny brown arms of the ribbon slot to loosen the ribbon, but this is not really necessary.

The Back Half

Let's examine the back half of the Handspring Visor. On the lower half, you'll see the button board, which registers the fact that you have pressed Power, Date Book, Phone Book, Up, Down, To Do or Memo. The contacts for a cradle and the leads in the battery compartment are also part of the button board. The button board is attached to a slot in the lower and larger circuit board -- the motherboard -- and can be pulled gently up and out of this board. Note that the button board is also tethered to a small speaker in the bottom right corner, which is sheathed in rubber. You can pry the speaker up from beneath with your screwdriver.

This exposes the motherboard, which is screwed to the back of the case by two screws about halfway up. Note that different motherboards require different button boards, but parts from the same model can be swapped. When you have removed the screws holding down the motherboard, you can tip it forward into your hand. You can now see the infrared port on the upper peninsula, and the CPU will probably be visible as well. On my Handspring Deluxe, there is another daughterboard below the motherboard, and the DragonBall CPU is between these two boards.

To reassemble the back half of the Visor, tip the motherboard back into the case and screw it back down. Put the small rubber-sheathed speaker back into the lower left corner, with the wires on the back facing down. You may have to push it in with your fingertip to get it into position. Then align the motherboard's slot with the matching part of the button board and push them together. The other side of the button board may feel a little loose, but that's okay.

The Front Half

Now let's look at the front half of the Visor, which includes the touch-sensitive screen and buttons. Looking at the back, you'll see another circuit board. It's held in place by two small tabs on either side, about 3/4 of the way down, which protrude slightly over the aluminum bit with the code number printed on it. Pull the case slightly outward at both sides while pushing up from beneath, and you'll soon have the screen in your hands. Turn it over and you'll see the whole screen. Before you put this back in its case, why not give it a good cleaning with a soft cloth and possibly a bit of glass cleaner like Windex?

But first, there's one more thing you may wish to do. It's not necessary unless you need to replace a cracked front pane; the LCD itself does not generally need to be cleaned. If you do need to replace the front pane, however, you should disconnect the ribbon cable attaching it to the LCD and circuit board at the top. It's hard to get to, but you can slip your screwdriver underneath it, and that makes things easier. Be careful not to catch your fingers on a sharp corner or the remaining work will be bloody -- here I am definitely noding what I know. Ouch. Now pry the front pane off. It's stuck on there pretty good around the edges, so be careful. The last thing you need is a cracked replacement pane.

Press the pane back onto the touch-sensitive LCD. Try to get the edges lined up nicely, but remember that hairline adjustments are taken care of automatically when you turn the Visor on and tap the X-shaped targets. Put back the ribbon cable connecting them. (Did you do that before pushing the pane back on? Good for you. That probably works well too, come to think of it.) Now put the LCD assembly back into the front of the case, pushing them together just enough so that the clips on the case grab the bottom of the LCD.

Reassembly

To put the whole thing back together again, reconnect the ribbon cable that joins the front and back halves. Remember, the silvery bits face away from each circuit board. Then join the two halves, letting the ribbon cable fold naturally. At this point, it's a good idea to put the batteries back in and make sure your Visor will power up. Mine didn't at first, but I pushed the Reset button with the rod on the stylus tip, and that did the trick. Then you can safely put the four screws back into the back of the case to hold the Visor together, and finally put back the battery cover and whatever was in your Springboard slot.

Congratulations -- you have just disassembled and reassembled your Handspring Visor, and with any luck you have saved lots of money by replacing broken parts yourself. Now go use the money you saved to get a titanium outer case by Rhino Skin so you don't have to do this as often.

Noder's Note

This is based on personal experience with a Visor Deluxe and Visor Neo, which I'm delighted to say have swappable front panes. Other models may look somewhat different inside; if yours does, please let me know what to add to this guide.

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