Friday, April 9, 2010

Changing a GBA Micro LCD Screen

For a little while now I’ve been having a problem with my GBA Micro screen.  It doesn’t really show up well here, but I at some point I put pressure on the screen causing it to look pretty bad.
I was tempted to send it off to Nintendo to fix it, but it’s $50 for them to replace it, and I only paid $20 for it to begin with.  Since I really enjoy my Micro, I decided to replace the screen myself.  After looking for a pictorial on how to do it, and not finding one, I decide to make a tutorial for anyone else who’d like to take this task on as well.  As a point of note, I have no prior experience opening up any consoles. Even so, I managed to do this and it works now.  If you can operate a screwdriver and an X-Acto knife, you can do it too.  This project took me about an hour to do, but bear in mind I was taking pictures while I did it, and had no guidance whatsoever.  You’ll probably be done quicker than that.
Things you’ll need:
  • A GBA Micro with a bad screen
  • A new screen, best bet is eBay
  • Tri-wing screwdriver
  • Philips head jewelry screwdriver
  • X-Acto knife
  • Patience
A note on the screen, you will have to really look for one.  I found mine on eBay for $13, with shipping.  It came from Hong Kong, so you’ll have to wait a little bit for it to arrive.  If you aren’t aware of what a Tri-wing screwdriver is, it’s a Philips head with three prongs instead of four.  These are all over the internet, but I recommend for a cheap one.  Again, it will come from HK, so be patient waiting for it.  Now on to the fun stuff.
Disassembly of Body
This is the easy step, remove the faceplate.  I long ago lost the tool, but you can do this without it.  Gently pull up on the plate in the middle, then pull the right side inward.  Once you do that, the left side will come up without a problem.
3 Step two is remove the battery cover.  Since this is something Nintendo seems to expect you to do at some point, you will use the jewelry screwdriver on the single screw.  The cover will slide to the right out of the slots.  Pull the wires out of the body gently and the battery is disconnected.  Since I’m a really nice guy, I’ll share something huge with you here…  If you have a lanyard, remove it!  It will just get in the way later when you want to remove the metal back. 
4Now on to removing the four outer tri-wing screws.  You will have two on the top, and two on the left.  While I’m thinking, this is a good point to remind you to have a good clean workspace.  I set the different screws in the corner of the mat I was working on in order they came out.  There are only three different types of screws, but you never know.

5 The final two screws sit under where the battery was, and these are tri-wing as well.  These two hold the body together, so you might notice things “falling apart” at this point, that’s a good thing.  Now you can remove the metal body, just be gentle as you don’t want to bend anything, thus making reassembly difficult.

The Innards
6 I’m going to point out three screws here.  I removed them, but I really don’t think it was necessary.  I’m not opening up my GameBoy again just to find out either, so you can try to do the rest without removing them.  All three were removed with the regular driver.  At this point of the process you may notice the toggles and buttons coming off, but that’s not a problem so long as you don’t lose anything…
Now here’s where I wish I took video as it kind of just happened.  The innards will pivot at the bottom and tilt forward.  Then pull it up and out.  Now we can get to the real meat of the project.
7-5 Flip the innards around so that you are looking at the screen.  Gently lift the screen an you will see the connector ribbons.  Using an X-Acto knife gently lift the black bars, these hold the ribbons in place.  You can tug the ribbons out without lifting, I did… 

7-5-5 I’m going to make this picture big as it’s hard to tell how to lift the little one.  You lift from the back, not the front.  I didn’t want to break the solder points, so this took a bit of my time…  This isn’t the clearest  picture, but hopefully you can tell what’s going on here.

Putting it Back Together
8 Before putting the new screen in you may have a little bit of work to do.  As you can see here, there was some sticky black foam on the back of the original screen, but not the new.  I don’t know how important this is, but I’m guessing it insulates the screen from the board, and acts as a spacer.  I carefully removed it with the X-Acto and put it on the new screen.  There was some more black stuff on the front, same procedure.
This is probably the hardest part of the whole procedure, reattaching the ribbons.  The thick ribbon was not too bad, but the little one was kind of hard.  Gently push it into the little slot, I used the tip of my knife and gently prodded it in.  Close the little lever with the tip of the knife, and you’re good.  The white part of the other ribbon goes in pretty easy, just close it the same as the little one.
9 Now this is where you see I’m not an electronics expert as this is probably a bad thing to do, but I did it without any issues…  I reinserted the battery and a game for the time being just to test the unit, success!  As with anything, be careful as you could potentially get shocked doing this.  I am guessing there isn’t all that much current running through the board, but static could damage your GameBoy…  Your choice as to whether or not you want to test here.  I didn’t want to redo the whole process.
Once you’re satisfied everything is connected right, you can reassemble the whole thing.  Start with bending the ribbons so it sits entirely between the screen and board.  That pesky little fella didn’t want to go in all the way, but I persuaded him.  Now’s a good point to make sure you have all the toggles and buttons attached.  The only thing I can guarantee is you’ll cry if you get it all together and have the start button on the side.
Since the screen isn’t set yet, you’ll want to keep a very little pressure on it so it doesn’t unseat itself.  I should have wore cotton gloves, so I had oil on the screen.  I fixed that later.  Now rotate the innards back into the front shell.  Once that’s done, you put the back shell on and reinsert the tri-wing screws.  Don’t over-tighten the screws, that could be a problem later, and they weren’t tight to begin with.  Now you can put the battery back and put the cover on.  This was a little awkward, but you’ll get it.  Now you have a new screen, enjoy your classic GBA games!


  1. Um..."If you aren’t aware of what a Tri-wing screwdriver is, it’s a Philips head with three prongs instead of three". Doesn't a Philips head have four prongs?

  2. I have no idea what you're talking about, I clearly edited my mistake away... :P