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Replace the Touch Screen (Digitizer) on a Palm TX

Picture of Replace the Touch Screen (Digitizer) on a Palm TX
When the touch screen on a handheld device goes out, you're in big trouble. It pretty much turns your expensive electronic toy into a paperweight. Fortunately, with twenty bucks and about half an hour of your time, you can fix one of these yourself. I'm not sure what the insides of other handheld models look like, but the Palm TX was a very simple fix.

Just a quick disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage you do to your device or warranty. There are plenty of little fiddly bits inside one of these things that can be easily damaged through carelessness or accident. Also, I'm pretty sure if you open one of these yourself you invalidate the warranty. You have been warned.

***UPDATE 8/4/09:
I forgot to mention, you should probably try PhilB's instructable on the crazy digitizer problem first--you may not need a new digitizer at all! It didn't work for me, but after I'd installed the new touch screen, the DigiFix program was better at calibrating the new screen than the basic software.

***UPDATE 5/4/10:  If you've repaired your Palm using my instructable, go into the Notepad and write, "Thanks depotdevoid!" or something along those lines.  Take a picture of it and post it to the comments below, and I'll send you a DIY patch!***

 
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Step 1: Get a replacement digitzer

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Ebay was the best place I found. It took me a few minutes to figure it out, but apparently a "Touch Screen" is actually known as a "Digitizer." I found mine with a search for: digitzer+palm+tx. There were several different options, but being the cheapskate that I am, I bought the one that ships direct from Hong Kong for $19.99, shipping included. That meant I had to wait a couple of weeks for it, but I can be patient if I have to be.

The digitizer actually came in a kit that included a couple of screwdrivers and plastic prybars. I didn't need the screwdrivers, but the prybars certainly came in handy.

Step 2: Open the Palm

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Okay, here we go, time to invalidate that warranty!

First, remove the four screws on the back, as shown below.

Secondly, use the prybars to open the case and remove the back. Be gentle! Everything will come apart without forcing it, just be firm and try different angles if you feel like you're applying too much pressure.

Step 3: Remove the screen

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Now that the case is open, you'll need to remove some parts to get to the screen. The screen is connected to the circuit board by a couple of flat connectors that pop off. Simply slip a fingernail under the connector on the side away from the wires, and pull up. They should come off with fairly gentle pressure.



The top of the palm (where the power switch is, thanks to user FM9295 for pointing out that this was a bit unclear) will pop off at this point, allowing you to remove the circuit board. Be careful, the power button on the top of the device is not actually connected to anything. I ended up spending some time on the floor searching for it.

Also thanks to user Tripp Hazzard for pointing out that in some models, the power button is actually attached to the top, so you may not run the risk of losing it!


The screen can now be removed from the case. BE EXTRA CAREFUL FROM HERE ON OUT! LCD displays are notoriously fragile and brittle, so use caution not to bend it in any way!

Step 4: Disconnect the old digitizer

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The digitizer is connected to the screen hardware by one little four pin connector underneath some protective tape. Carefully peel back the tape just enough to uncover the wires and the connector. The connector itself is a small bit of plastic that consists of a white guide for the wires and a black clamp (thanks to user JOHNDWARD1 for pointing out that this clamp is sometimes not black, but should still pop upwards). Once you uncovered everything, simply slip your fingernail or a prybar under the back of the black part and pull up. It will fold up, releasing the wires. Make sure to keep the tape folded back so you can install the new digitizer.

Step 5: Remove the old digitizer

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The digitizer is secured to the screen by thin strips of adhesive. Use the prybar to slide underneath the four edges of the digitizer, releasing it from the screen. BE EXTRA CAREFUL, the digitizer is slightly flexible, but the LCD is not!

Now is a good time to make sure you don't leave any dust particles on the screen, as once you've replaced the digitizer you won't be able to get them out again!

Step 6: Install the new digitizer

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Your new digitizer will have a bit of plastic on the back protecting the adhesive strips. Remove this and carefully align the new digitizer on the front of the LCD. Before you install it, make sure there isn't any foreign matter on the back side of the digitizer or else you'll be stuck with dust particles in the display for the rest of eternity.

Step 7: Put everything back together

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Now you simply go through all of these steps in reverse order: connect the wires to the four pin connector, fold the tape back in place, reinstall the screen in the case, reconnect the circuit board, clip the case back together, and put the screws back in. If you've done everything correctly, when you fire up the palm you should be able to recalibrate the digitizer and be off and running!

Step 8: Final thoughts (updated 3/1/10)

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I hope someone out there finds this instructable useful! I'm not sure how analogous this is to other brands/models, but I know that most touch screen technology is basically the same, so it shouldn't be a far stretch to do the same thing for your device.

Thank you for reading! Please take a moment to interact, as I greatly appreciate any comments, questions, ratings, or subscriptions you'd like to take the time for!

****UPDATE 8/3/09:
According to user PhilB, while he hasn't actually replaced a digitizer before, he has opened both a Handspring Visor and a Sony Clie. From what he's seen of my pictures, the insides look very similar, so replacing the digitizer on one of these units should be pretty similar to replacing it on the Palm TX.

***UPDATE 8/4/09:
I forgot to mention, you should probably try PhilB's instructable on the crazy digitizer problem first--you may not need a new digitizer at all! It didn't work for me, but after I'd installed the new touch screen, the DigiFix program was better at calibrating the new screen than the basic software.

****UPDATE 3/1/10
User stefpalmtx has noted that sometimes attempts to calibrate the screen when it's all buggy will screw up the calibration after you've replaced it with a new screen.  If you install the new screen and it doesn't recognize any taps, don't despair!  Try a hard reset first, that might just do the trick.

***UPDATE 5/4/10:  If you've repaired your Palm using my instructable, go into the Notepad and write, "Thanks depotdevoid!" or something along those lines.  Take a picture of it and post it to the comments below, and I'll send you a DIY patch!***

****UPDATE 1/1/11
User JOHNDWARD1 says that the DigiFix software didn't work for him, but a piece of software called PowerDigi did.  This is pay to use software, but it does have a free trial you can use to see if it will work for you!

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Many thanks! I had given up on my Palm TX until I saw your instructable. My model had only one difference; the flex cable connector clamp was hinged in the opposite direction (hard to see at my age!). But everything else went exactly as you described, so now I'm happily back in business.
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depotdevoid (author)  rogerinjapan2 years ago
Great news Roger, thanks! Digital patch is on the way!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I ordered a replacement digitizer when mine started cutting out on me after 5 years, but it didn't come with instructions. Yours are clear, concise, and easy to follow. I expect to get another 5 years out of it, easy!
depotdevoid (author)  Tripp Hazzard2 years ago
Fantastic, It's always gratifying to hear that this 'ible is still helping people out!
Angry Gnome2 years ago
Thanks, Depotdevoid. I ordered a digitizer via eBay and followed your instructions to install it. Instantly fixed the problem. Peter
depotdevoid (author)  Angry Gnome2 years ago
Awesome, I'm glad to hear it worked! Post a picture if you can!
Thank you for the instructable!
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depotdevoid (author)  TheBlueRoseKnight3 years ago
No problem, glad I could help!
cliveoboe3 years ago
Thanx for a great instructable. My TX is humming like new except for the power button which has been long since dead. Luckily using one of the shortcut buttons to start Hotsync will turn the unit on. Used very small screwdriver to get case apart.
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depotdevoid (author)  cliveoboe3 years ago
Thanks for letting me know, a digital patch is on the way!
jott_13 years ago
Your instructions were easy to follow. Worked great! Under the gray tape I had clear tape to peal back also. The digitizer I had plastic protecting the adhesive plus a piece of plastic covering the whole screen(one on each side). The minor differences didn't cause any problems.
depotdevoid (author)  jott_13 years ago
Thanks a lot jott! I'm glad it worked out!
Thanks for your help, it worked great. I wouldn't have dared try this without your instructions and photos. It now works better than it did before. I'm one happy bunny.
depotdevoid (author)  Heywood-west3 years ago
Fantastic, it's great to know this little 'ible is still helping people out!
AlaskaMark3 years ago
A BIG Thanks to you depotdeviod. That was easy and got me back up and running for only $8.00!
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depotdevoid (author)  AlaskaMark3 years ago
Excellent, I'm glad it worked out for you!
FlavioLima3 years ago
That was really helpful. Thank you :)
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depotdevoid (author)  FlavioLima3 years ago
Awesome, one patch coming right up!
Greengas3 years ago
Would like to second cc1868's comments - I just successfully breathed new life into my TX for the total sum of $7.98 for the digitizer off Ebay. Only two comments -I had a bear of a time figuring out where to put a small screwdriver so I could unlatch the digitizer connector (the black connector/clamp under the clear tape and the silver top tape) - I finally got it open when I came down from the TOP of the Palm, with my screwdriver pointing down to the bottom of the digitizer - and gently lifted the black clamp up and rotating it perpendicular to the LCD. There's just enough room under it to slide the new connector in and then latch it down. After that, I found that if you put the TOP section of the TX on the circuit board, after the lcd display is sitting properly in the front of the case, the assembly goes a lot easier and it keeps the power button in place while you lower the circuity board and the TX top into the front case. After that, the back has to be put on bottom first, then rotated into position, and pressure has to be firmly applied at 4 different points, two on one side and two on the other, between the screws - until you hear the "click" of the back latching in.
Other than that, it was painless. Thanks much for posting this information and the great photos!
benstone3 years ago
thank you! great walk-through. a small note you may want to add in step 5: my device came with conductive tape all around the digitizer to lcd edges. no problem cutting it with the pry tool.
depotdevoid (author)  benstone3 years ago
Thanks Benstone, I'm glad to hear I helped you out!
Shadow13!4 years ago
This was a Big Help!
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depotdevoid (author)  Shadow13!4 years ago
Glad I could help, patch is on the way!
cvsoft4 years ago

This instructable was helpful for my m500-series Palms. Both look good and work great! 
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depotdevoid (author)  cvsoft4 years ago
Fantastic, I'm surprised how many of these old palms are still in use! I'm happy to have helped, thanks for sharing pictures, your patch is on the way!
Thanks for the patch!
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hk444 years ago
thanks, it was easy. I may have to mess with the alignment...we'll see.
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depotdevoid (author)  hk444 years ago
Glad I could help, digital patch on the way!
siemensj5 years ago
I really appreciate the instructable. My Palm Tx works great now!
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depotdevoid (author)  siemensj5 years ago
Totally awesome, I'm really glad to hear that my little instructable helped out! Thanks for posting the picture, it definitely brought a smile to my face, and I'll be sending along a patch shortly.
Thank you for a detailed and very helpful guide. I just replaced my digitizer but have a problem. The left side of the screen does not react to the stylus, so horizontal lines drawn in note pad only fill up the right hand side.. However, I can sometimes press buttons and activate objects on the left side using my finger. There seems to be a problem of resolution (ie the fine stylus point fails but a think finger works..) I tried disassembling again, removing all the connectors but leaving the digitizer in place. I noticed on install that the connecting flat cable was a little longer than the original and, so some pressure has to be applied to close the case. Otherwise, the install was as per you’re the description. Can suggest something to try? Many thanks!
depotdevoid (author)  palmuser4 years ago
I've noticed a similar problem with mine. It only happens when I flip the screen 90 degrees, and then I just can't access the first 1/4" of the right side, which is normally the bottom of the screen. When it's back in the usual position, that section of the screen works fine. I'm thinking these issues may either be a software issue, or be a deeper hardware issue than I know how to take care of!

If you do learn anything about what causes this or how to fix it, please let me know and I'll add it to the instructable so anyone who comes here in the future is aware of it.
My problem seems different as when I rotate the screen, the dead zone remains the same. What I have noticed is that the active zone is actually the upper right quarter when the palm is vertical with the joystick at the base. Any ideas how the digitizer works? My guess is that its capacitive but i have read on google that some people speak of contact with the LCD.
depotdevoid (author)  palmuser4 years ago
I'm not really hip to the science, but my understanding is that older devices like the TX use a resistive touchscreen, where as newer things like the iPhone use a capacitive touchscreen. I believe the capacitive screens allow multitouch usage, where as the older resistive screens are single touch.

Either way, contact with the LCD shouldn't matter, as the flexible top layer of the digitizer is designed to make contact with the bottom layer, closing the gap between them and activating it. If it's not an issue with your software, that leaves only three options I can think of:
  1. A problem with the Palm's other hardware
  2. Damaged/defective digitizer
  3. Faulty installation
If it's #1, there's probably nothing you can do about it. I doubt it's #3 as you've gone back over everything. If it's #2, you'll have to get a new one and try again.

None of these sound good. Go back over all the connections one more time. If that doesn't work, you'll basically have to make a decision whether you want to spend more money on a maybe by buying another digitizer. Unless you can convince whoever sold you the original one that it was defective (which is actually my guess as to the problem).

Good luck and keep me posted!
Hi, I dissembled once more but no cigar.

It's probably #2 as basically there is an issue with sensitivity, ie fingers are detected but not the find stylus point.

Something new: If I open notepad, I can draw with the stylus on the right side only, BUT if I use my finger I can draw anywhere on the screen, just not very precisely..
depotdevoid (author)  palmuser4 years ago
How bizarre! It really does sound like an issue with the digitizer. Have you tried contacting whoever sold you this one and asking for a replacement?
finally got a replacement digitizer but the problem is the same. I guess there is a HW problem.. well, I knew one day my TX would die, its just a pity everything else works fine..
depotdevoid (author)  palmuser4 years ago
I'm really sorry to hear that palmuser. I wish I had another option for you, but this is as far as my knowledge of the issue goes! Thanks for sharing your story with everyone here!
I had trouble with my calibration after replacing both my wife's and mine. I tried the Palm program, and on mine could not even get it to go to the next screen. It kept going back to the calibration screen. I also have Digifix and PowerDigi. Digifix did not work well either, on mine or my wife's. I then tried the PowerDigi. It worked very well. It has three different levels of calibration, with the higest being "Accurate" with 70 touch points of the screen. This program is not free, but you can try a trial version for free for 15 days. Try that and if it works you can purchase it for about $15. I have four days left on mine, then I will try the Palm and the DigiFix on more time. If these do not work, I will purchase PowerDigi.
JOHNDWARD14 years ago
First of all I want to say that the instrutions are great. I just replaced the digitizer on both mine and my wife's TX. I replaced my wife's first as per the instructions. When I replaced mine, there was not a little black connector piece for the digitizer. After looking at it closely for a few minutes, I found that there is a connector that pops up, it just wasn't black.

After replacing, on both units I had trouble getting the Palm touchscreen program to calibrate exactly. I also have Digifix and a trial version of PowerDigi. The Digifix did not seem to calibrate it accurately either, so I tried the PowerDigi. This one worked a lot better. I have 4 days left on my trial version. When it expires I am going to try the calibration again with both the Palm program and the Digifix. If either one of these do not work I will purchase the PowerDigi.
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