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Broken iPad? How to Fix Your Device Without Going to an Apple Store

From third-party insurance to DIY-ing a cracked screen, here are your options.

Corinne Reichert Senior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
Expertise News, mobile, broadband, 5G, home tech, streaming services, entertainment, AI, policy, business, politics Credentials
  • I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Corinne Reichert
6 min read
Josh Miller/CNET

I once knew someone who would drop every new phone they got into the toilet. Not right off the bat, of course. But as time marched on and years went by, the toilet slowly claimed its victims one by one.

An iPad is a little harder to lose in a toilet, and I haven't yet heard the dreaded splash of expensive new technology hitting the can. But I'm not immune to dropping it on, say, the concrete sidewalk outside my home while removing my toddler from the car and trying to hold the tablet at the same time as a thrashing child.

There are a few ways you can handle a broken iPad, from having the tablet screen replaced at your local third-party retailer to DIY-ing it yourself — and plenty of ways to avoid it happening in the first place, if you're the forward-thinking type. 

According to technology insurer Asurion, 80% of tablets are dropped within the first two years of purchase. Mine made it all the way to just two months shy of the 10-year mark, probably because I did in fact stop using it for half a decade. But when my kids came along, I suddenly remembered my old first-gen iPad Air, and it came in handy as an airplane entertainment-style screen for them in the car. 

You'd think that would be fairly risk free. It's securely attached to a seat back, after all. But the catch is when the tablet runs out of battery and has to be brought inside to be charged. It's like playing a game of "the floor is lava," except the hot, Californian concrete truly does mean death to all screens that meet it.

Tablet ownership is also far more common if you have children, according to the US Census Bureau, which said four out of five households with children owned tablets in 2021. From my direct experience of living with two tiny humans who have zero regard for the laws of gravity, and even less for the delicacy of expensive gadgets, I'm willing to bet that houses with children in them are also far more likely to break the tablets they do have.

So what do you do when your kid or, to be fair, you break your tablet? Here's what I did. Hint: It didn't involve going to an Apple Store.

DIY a cracked iPad screen or battery issues

Apple began allowing you to fix your own iPad in 2022 by partnering with iFixit on repair guides and official replacement parts. While I absolutely did not do this, you might be brave enough to try it out. 

Check out iFixit's iPhone DIY repair guides here, complete with highly detailed step-by-step instructions and difficulty ratings depending on which version of Apple's tablet you have. If you need to replace the screen on your iPad Pro 12.9-inch 4th-gen model, for instance, iFixit says the task will be of moderate difficulty and will take one to two hours to complete.

iFixit then sells packages of the parts you'll need to repair certain issues, like this $237 iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2018-2020) screen repair kit that includes a new screen with adhesive strips, a reusable "iOpener" that you heat in a microwave and apply to your device to soften the adhesive on the screen, an opening tool, a set of six opening picks, plastic cards, a battery blocker, a suction handle, tweezers, a precision bit driver with SIM eject tool and a 4mm Phillips precision screwdriver bit.

You can also buy a new battery and replace it yourself with iFixit's guide — but the guide for the iPad Pro 12.9-inch model is rated as being difficult, with a repair time of two to three hours.

iFixit iPad repair kit

An iPad repair tool kit from iFixit.


Get someone to fix your damaged iPad

If you're not confident about difficult or even moderate-level DIY repairs, there are thousands of authorized Apple repair providers (you can find one near you here), as well as independent repair providers that have Apple parts, and then there's your local repair store at a mall.

Costs will vary by how "official" you want your repair to be. Getting repairs done by Apple will be costlier. You can throw your iPad model and problem into this cost estimator to see what kind of hit your wallet would take. While you can't select "cracked screen," you can see that "other damage" to the latest iPad has an estimated repair cost of $319, while a battery repair would cost around $119.

For those prices, it's almost a toss-up whether you should just buy a new, lower-cost tablet.

On the other hand, repair stores at your local mall, which will fix any kind of device with a cracked screen, could be your cheapest bet. I paid $100 last month to get a new screen on my old iPad. Technicians at these retailers can also repair things like water damage, overheating issues, audio problems and a battery that's not charging properly or is dying too quickly, and have a guarantee on being the most competitive price around.

Compare AppleCare Plus with third-party insurers

With all these options to fix your broken iPad in the event you do happen to crack the screen, is it even worth it to get tablet insurance? It depends on whether, like that person I knew who continually dropped their technology in the toilet bowl, you're likely to break your iPad a lot. Drop it hard enough, and you only have to break it once to make insurance worthwhile.

There's a whole gamut of insurance options for your iPad available, whether it's paying for a lower-cost option starting around $4 a month from an all-purpose insurer like Progressive or Allstate, or paying a higher fee of $12 a month for three months, then $24 a month thereafter from Asurion, which specializes in device insurance.

Progressive will cover you for accidental damage, liquid submersion, power surges from lightning, vandalism and theft, and has a $50 deductible. An Allstate plan bought from Costco has no deductibles, but it won't cover loss or theft.

Asurion may charge a lot more, but it covers not only your iPad but also nearly every other piece of technology in your home. As well as drops, spills and theft, it also gives you a data security solution and unlimited photo and video storage.

And then, of course, there's AppleCare Plus. Apple will repair or replace your iPad, battery, Apple Pencil, Apple iPad keyboard and your included USB cable and power adapter, with unlimited claims for accidental damage — minus a $49 fee each time to repair your iPad, or a $29 fee for Apple Pencil or iPad keyboard (plus tax).  

AppleCare Plus pricing depends on which iPad you have: The iPad Pro 12.9-inch model costs $8 a month or $149 a year; iPad Pro 11-inch is $6 a month or $129 a year; iPad Air (5th generation) is $4 a month or $79 a year; and the iPad and iPad Mini cost $3.50 a month or $69 a year.

Even if you do get Apple's insurance, though, you can still avoid going into an Apple Store: You can just mail in your iPad with a prepaid shipping box, or get an express-mailed replacement if yours is beyond being saved.

Consider a rugged case and screen protector for next time

If more than 60 days has passed since you bought your iPad, you won't be eligible for AppleCare Plus. And if you don't want to pay for tablet insurance through those other options, you might want to consider a one-off purchase: a rugged iPad case and a screen protector.

This is also something I did. You know, after dropping and cracking the screen, and paying $100 to get it fixed.

Amazon has a lot of good iPad case options at the sub-$30 mark, in every color you can imagine.  

Just be sure to double check that the case you buy is for your exact iPad model. And in the future, just assume you will drop your iPad at some point, or use it to the point of battery death, and either get a case slapped on it or sign up for insurance as soon as it arrives.

Editors' note: CNET and Asurion have an advertising partnership. This story is editorially independent from that relationship, although CNET readers who click on the Asurion link earlier in the story can get a discount.