Replace the Touch Screen (Digitizer) on a Palm TX





Introduction: Replace the Touch Screen (Digitizer) on a Palm TX

About: depotdevoid is short for The Depot Devoid of Thought, the place where you go when you lo...

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!***

Step 1: Get a Replacement Digitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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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    Hey! I don't know if the DIY patch thing still exists, but thanks for your Instructable! =)

    I finally managed to fix my old Palm T|X bought used by my father when I was a kid (more than 10 years ago). I'm now 20 and have a little collections of Palm (T|X, Tungsten, Zire, m505 x2). I had a dead zone on my digitizer and couldn't get it to calibrate properly even with all those softwares. I bought my Digitizer from eBay for 6 € and everything went well.


    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.

    Fixed Digitizer.JPG
    1 reply

    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!

    1 reply

    Fantastic, It's always gratifying to hear that this 'ible is still helping people out!

    Thanks, Depotdevoid. I ordered a digitizer via eBay and followed your instructions to install it. Instantly fixed the problem. Peter

    1 reply

    Awesome, I'm glad to hear it worked! Post a picture if you can!

    No problem, glad I could help!

    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.

    1 reply

    Thanks for letting me know, a digital patch is on the way!

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    1 reply

    Fantastic, it's great to know this little 'ible is still helping people out!

    A BIG Thanks to you depotdeviod. That was easy and got me back up and running for only $8.00!

    1 reply

    Excellent, I'm glad it worked out for you!

    Awesome, one patch coming right up!

    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!