How to Fix Electronics Without a Pro

Has your cell phone or laptop gone haywire? Don't even think of paying a pro until you've tried one of these simple solutions.
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DIY Fixes, Part 1

As you undoubtedly know, when it comes to cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices, just about anything can go wrong. Screens freeze, devices refuse to turn off (or on), important information evaporates into thin air. It's not cheap to get this stuff repaired, but you can solve many of the most irritating problems yourself using items you have at home. "You'd be surprised how easy it is to fix things on your own," says Veronica Belmont, cohost of the Internet TV show Tekzilla. Always start by going to the manufacturer's Web site and clicking on its troubleshooting guide. No luck? Then try one of these low-tech fixes, courtesy of Tekzilla, the Geek Squad, and Gina Trapani, author of Upgrade Your Life.

Your Cell Took a Spill

Happens all the time: The phone in your pocket slips into the bathroom sink or gets a drink spilled on it.

The Fix: Act fast! Fish the phone out of the liquid and remove the battery and SIM (subscriber-identity module) card, the chip that stores personal information. If you have an iPhone, turn it off right away. Shake the phone gently to get rid of liquid, then blot off excess. Next, take the phone apart by removing the case, slot covers, and panels to expose circuitry. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck out moisture (do not let the wand touch the phone) or place the phone in an airtight container of uncooked rice to draw water out overnight. Do not use a blow-dryer: The air pressure can force water deeper inside. If your phone took an ocean dip, you're in bigger trouble because salt corrodes electronics. If possible, take the phone apart right away and rinse it with fresh water before beginning the drying-out procedure described above.
Tech Tip: If the phone doesn't turn on after you reassemble it, plug it into the power charger. Still dead as a doornail? Replace the battery and keep your fingers crossed.

A Disk Stops or Skips

How many times has a DVD or CD gotten stuck in the middle of a movie or a favorite song? Dirt or a light scratch on the surface is the likely culprit.

The Fix: Examine the disk's surface to find the flaw, then rub the surface in a circular motion using a microfiber cloth soaked in furniture spray (like Pledge), hard liquor (vodka, say), or toothpaste containing baking soda.
Tech Tip: If doing the above doesn't work, hold the scratched area up to a lit 60-watt incandescent lightbulb for about 20 seconds to soften the surface, and then play it again while the disk is still hot.

Your Credit or Debit Card Can't Be Scanned

The person behind you in line may assume you've maxed out, but the real reason your card isn't working is that the magnetic strip is scratched or dirty.

The Fix: Wipe the surface clean (using a pant leg is fine) and try again. Still no go? Rub the card with one layer of a plastic bag, then run it through the scanner again. This trick sometimes works -- no one knows why!
Tech Tip: Store credit cards in your wallet magnetic strip side down.

Continued on page 2:  DIY Fixes, Part 2

 

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