When to DIY Your Technology?

Tech Talker gives advice on when you should Do It Yourself or call in an expert.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #73


As I’m sure many of you know, I’m a huge fan of DIY technology tricks. This is because they are often cheaper than traditional methods, and you get to learn a new skill in the process. Over the course of the Tech Talker podcast, I’ve mentioned many DIY solutions – such as how to make an antenna for your router from aluminum foil and a how to suck out the water out of wet electronics with white rice! While I love these kinds of DIY projects, this episode will be covering some guidelines on deciding when DIY is right (or wrong) for you.;

DIY Gone Bad

Before we go on, I wanted to give you a little bit of background on why I chose to discuss this subject today. My girlfriend and I were doing a little swing dancing. She jumped into my arms, I caught her gallantly, but sadly, her iPhone slipped out of her pocket and shattered on the hard wood floor. She wasn’t concerned. I mean, come on, she is dating the Tech Talker after all!

 So I ordered up a new iPhone 4S screen online for about $30. When it arrived, I went to her house with my tool set in hand and started on with this DIY fix around 8pm. I was pretty confident I could do it in under an hour. However, after a frustrating all-nighter, the fix was finally done around 2am and I was exhausted.

In this situation, DIY was not my friend. I had removed roughly 32 screws, each the size of a grain of sand, and enough little pieces of circuitry to fill the floor in front of me from her phone. Needless to say, if I had sneezed, her device would have been impossible to put back together.

DIY or Call a Pro?

So how could I have avoided this? Well for one, I could have done a little bit of research ahead of time. As you know one of my first actions on anything tech-related that I don’t know for sure is to Google the problem (which I did not do before ordering the new iPhone parts). This would have shown me the extreme detail and amount of time required for this fix.

Once I saw how elaborate and involved the process was, I could have easily found someone locally who specializes in fixing smartphone screens, or maybe just taken it down to the Apple store. I didn’t consult any of these options because well…I got a little ahead of myself. After all, I’m proud of my technical prowess and asking for help on this would be like stopping to ask for directions when I’m lost, which thankfully Siri doesn’t judge me for too much.

I’ve been fixing computers and electronics for years, and I’ve come to one simple conclusion: If a device needs a specialized screw to open it, it’s probably going to be an order of magnitude harder to fix than a device that requires a traditional Phillips or flat head screw driver.

Once you figure out what sort of screw you need to open your gadget, the next thing to ask yourself is how common is the problem that you’re having? Or, how common is this project that you plan to embark on? If it is something well documented across the web, then it is probably worth giving DIY a shot since you will probably have a multitude of YouTube videos, forums, and discussion boards with information related to your project.

The next thing is to make sure that whatever you are working on doesn’t involve dangerous levels of electricity. Trust me when I say this, wiring your house is not a DIY project. Anything that involves this sort of expertise (and wattage) should be done by a licensed electrician.

To go along with this, you will also want to make sure that a DIY project will be a useful experience. Is it something that will enrich your life later on? Or will this be a one-time fix? Learning how to change a flat tire and jump a car will probably be worth learning as you will likely come across situations where the skill is needed at some point in your life. On the other hand, learning how to rewire your Commodore 64 may not be quite so useful.

Finally, decide if the project will it be worth your time. Sure, if it is a hobby or something you love to do, then you won’t mind it too much when a DIY project takes time. In the case of my girlfriend’s broken iPhone screen, it was definitely not worth saving $50 to lose 6 hours of my life (not to mention a lot of sleep!)

Here is a quick checklist to go through the next time you’re considering a DIY project:

  1. Google the project you’re about to attempt and estimate the difficulty.

  2. Estimate how much time and/or money you will be saving by doing it yourself.

  3. Does the project require any special tools you don’t have?

  4. Ask yourself if this is something you will enjoy doing or if it will give you a new skill you would like to possess for the future.

  5. Make sure that you are not putting yourself at risk by handling unsafe materials such as electricity, harmful chemicals, or highly enriched uranium (just kidding…or am I?)

Have you ever had a DIY project go horribly wrong? Or have you had great success with DIY? Post your stories in the comments section on the Tech Talker web site, or on the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Broken Smartphone and Copper Power Cable images courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.