Ryan Chartrand

iFixit.com has been around for more than three years helping to supply Macintosh users with parts and free “how-to” guides for fixing their computer, but the company has now branched out and offers the same service for iPods as well.

Three years ago, founders Kyle Wiens and Luke Soules started the company while they were living in the dorms at Cal Poly. “I firmly believe that people should be able to access things that they own,” Wiens said. “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it. I want to enable people to use their own technology and keep it running. If my iPod screen breaks, I shouldn’t have to pitch it in the dumpster. I should be able to go out, buy the part for 20 or 30 bucks and fix it myself.”

Now that both have graduated, Wiens and Soules run their full-time business out of a warehouse in Atascadero. “We enable people to keep their older technology running,” Wiens said. “We sell parts and provide free information that allows you to do that. On one level we’re a parts provider, and on another level we’re an enabler of people to continue using technology that they would otherwise have to throw away.”

The site offers free fix-it guides for every Mac laptop and iPod made in the past eight years as well as displays, keyboards, batteries, and power supplies, among others.

“We’re not in the repair business,” Soules said. “What we’re doing is much more of a hands-on approach from the customers’ standpoint. On the one hand it’s more work for the customer that they actually have to do some of the repair, but on the other hand, it’s probably going to be cheaper for them and a lot of people actually enjoy being able to see what’s inside and be able to do it themselves.”

The two have no immediate plans to go into the repair business, but are staying focused on the do-it-yourself market, Soules said.

Very few people have complained about the fix-it guides being too hard, but Wiens does receive e-mails almost every day with people thanking him for the tool, he said. “I had one customer stop by (who was) in the middle of the jungle and had Internet access via satellite and was able to fix their computer with the guides.”

The fix-it guides are available to everyone free of charge, and the parts the customer may need, if any, are then available on their Web site. “As far as I’m aware we have about the cheapest prices out there,” Wiens said. “There will always be exceptions in things ’cause we aren’t as competitive, but most iPod parts, we’ve got the cheapest prices out there.”

They recently received an order from the same dorm they started their business in three years ago. “It’s kind of come full circle,” Wiens said. “I would be talking on the phone giving customer support and I really wanted to help them, but at the same time I was late for class and I really needed to go.” Now that they have some more help, that isn’t much of a problem.

Wiens said that they expect to see a lot of their growth in the next year coming from iPods. “We had parts for the new iPod within, I would say, five hours of Apple putting them on store shelves. We had them and took them apart and made guides for them. We make a game of it. We scour the area to find the first iPods we can, and get them apart and online quickly.”

“You cannot walk around Cal Poly without seeing an iPod,” Wiens said. “I wonder for how many iPods you see – how many do you not see because they’re broken? If people could go with half an hour’s worth of work or an hour’s worth of work and 50 or 100 bucks, fix all their broken iPods in their drawer – What kind of environmental benefit is there?”

One of the main goals of the site is to help owners keep what they have running longer. “Buying a new iPod every two years doesn’t make a whole lot of environmental sense if you can keep it on the road for four or five years,” Wiens said. “It helps everybody out and it helps out your pocketbook.”

Since the beginning of the year, close to 1 million different IP addressed have looked at the fix-it guides online, and more than 150,000 since Nov. 1, Wiens said.

The next up-and-coming Apple product Wiens is anticipating is an iPod phone. “Everyone is talking about (it, but) Apple has not confirmed or denied that,” Wiens said. He expects the phone as well as iPod touchscreens to come out sometime after the holidays.

To find out more about iFixit, visit their Web site at www.iFixit.com.

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