If it’s already broken, you can’t break it any more !

No Fear ! That’s one of the key things I learned from my Dad while growing up, especially when it came to understanding things I didn’t know. Question, be curious, and find out answers on your own.

What am I rambling about ? It’s about tinkering, hacking, making, breaking, creating and fixing stuff. The one common observation we made at the Asylum during our early years was how worried and scared people were about getting their hands dirty to fix broken stuff. They raised valid questions such as:

  • What if I get hurt / injured / killed?
  • What if I break it?
  • What if I can’t put it back together?
  • … and so on !

Which is why we introduced “Take Apart” days to help folks get rid of their phobia. We’d ask them to bring over broken stuff, and we’d figure out how to disassemble the product, learn how it worked, and with some luck, fix it back.

I grew up during a time when Computers, WiFi, Internet, Mobile Phones and other such magical technologies didn’t exist. If I needed information, I had to refer to books and magazines. Which is why we had brick-n-mortar “libraries” in those days. I could go there once a month and borrow a couple of magazines and books to read at home.

But it’s 2023 now !!! And we carry little devices in our pockets and purses that have more number-crunching power than the computers which took humans to the Moon in 1969. Typing a few words in a search bar is all that’s needed to unlock a treasure vault of information. So, if you have something that needs fixing, what’s stopping you anymore? Remember, “If it’s already broken, you can’t break it anymore“.

Case in point, my Logitech M235 wireless mouse started acting janky a few months back. The right click button would work only after some furious, heavy handed clicking. And since I’m left-handed, that became an inconvenience since I had to swap buttons to keep going. When things become unbearable, I looked up my order history on the Bezos-Barn, and saw that I had purchased the mouse about two years back. And since most of my work involves using FreeCAD and KiCAD, that’s a lot of clicking of the switches that hide under the buttons.

Micro switches typically have a durability rating of roughly a million operations. Doing some napkin math, I figured if I did about 5 clicks a minute, the switches would reach end of life (EOL) in two years. So, should I throw out an otherwise perfectly working mouse, and get a new one for just under ₹ 700 ? Heck no. Before I order a new one, I was going to open it up and try fix it. Whether it is a mouse or any other thingamajig, manufacturers do their utmost to hide and obfuscate information on how to repair it. So, it takes some smarts, patience, digging around and common sense to take things apart.

If you are new to this, try getting access to manufacturers user guides and manuals, view tear down videos, and check out websites such as iFixIt, Instructables, HowToMendIt etc. Also have some basic tools handy – various screwdrivers, pliers, cutters, spanners, brushes (for cleaning), and most importantly, a notebook to keep notes. Use your mobile phone to take a photo during each step of the disassembly phase, so you can work your way back. Keep a note of the various fasteners. Manufacturers try their best to complicate matters by using different sizes and types of fasteners. Some even use fasteners that require special tools to open them. A magnet placed under a steel bowl is very handy to collect all the fasteners during this process to make sure you don’t lose a few by the time you’re done.

AND MOST IMPORTANT – If you do not have prior experience fixing things that work off utility supply (230 V / 110 V AC), then PLEASE, PLEASE take help from someone who can show you how to do it safely. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Under the disguise of aesthetics, manufacturers will hide fasteners under stickers, labels, rubber pads and such. Modern plastic products make use of a lot of tab-locks, which are sometimes designed to break if any attempt is made to un-snap and open them. Sometimes, products have a sealed plastic enclosure without any fasteners – they are ultrasonically welded and can only be opened destructively. But even such enclosures can be opened up with a bit of skill.

Anyhow, coming back to my Mouse problem. I opened it up, and cleaned up the switches by dousing them with some alcohol. That was enough to dislodge the dirt and gunk which had built up inside the switches and make then work again. That is a temporary fix, though. I’ve placed an order for a pair of new, replacement switches which will set me back by about ₹ 100 at most. I just need to de-solder the two old switches, and install the new ones, and the mouse is good as new for another couple of years.

Of course, doing this wasn’t new for me, so I didn’t need to refer to any online guides, but I checked anyhow and searching for “Logitech M235 tear down” got me several videos, an iFixIt guide plus a whole bunch of other guides.

Thus this blog post !

And a mouse that didn’t end up in landfill – yet.

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