At a previous employer, I was an HP certified technician. It gave us faster access to hardware replacements and a good rate for reimbursement to compensate for me performing the labor. It was pretty much an all-positive experience but performing the hardware replacements could vary from an easy two second process to a more complicated motherboard replacement in a laptop. It’s still not that difficult but it was laborious to keep track of all the screws that have to come out to get down to the hardware. I think the record I encountered was 70+ screws in one laptop that had to be completely disassembled.
My solution to keeping track of the screws was to take a piece of paper and divide it in half. I would designate one half for the top of the laptop and one for the bottom. I would then draw circles in roughly the same pattern and place the screw upside down in the circle. That way I would have the screw designated per place and I could put it back easily during reassembly. It’s not a perfect system because it doesn’t say anything about the order they go in. You could address that by writing the number for the screw as you go in the circle and then just reverse order again.
Trying to address this problem came up in a recent thread on the Computer Techs sub-Reddit and a few good suggestions were offered.
One person suggested using foam for a similar purpose as above:
- Get a bright piece of foam, roughly the size of a sheet of paper.
- Divide it into four sections.
- Label them: Bottom, Inside, Mainboard and Misc.
- Jam screws into the foam in the approximate places that they’d go into the laptop, under each of the labeled sections as you dissasemble it
- Reassemble with ease
It solves the problem with the paper if you need to move the foam or it gets bumped, you won’t lose all your work.
Other people suggested a different approach to a similar solution. Instead of the foam, use wide masking tape sticky side up with the ends turned down so it holds onto the table. Of course, magnets (like thin refrigerator magnets) were also suggested.
Speaking of magnets, this Magnetic Project Mat from iFixIt was recommended and it looks quite useful. It’s a dry erase surface with a hard drive-safe magnetic base to hold onto screws.
Other solutions suggested taking an image of the device and labeling the screws in an image editor or using that to place the screws on as you disassemble the device. Of course, you could also use a webcam in conjunction to record the whole tear down process so you can go back to the “Instant Replay” if you forget where a screw goes.
A more traditional approach suggested using an egg carton or accordion folded paper to keep the screws in order, moving from cell to cell with each section. That way when you put it all back together, you just reverse order and use the screws as you go.
Do you have any secrets to keeping track of screws and components as you get elbow-deep in hardware? If so, please share your suggestions in the comments.