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Friday Fun: Learn How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube

When I was ten years old I solved my first Rubik’s Cube. That’s right, I took all the stickers off and put them back on the right way. Last weekend I decided that it was time for me to learn how to solve it the right way.

To solve it yourself, you’re going to have to run out and buy one for yourself (if you don’t have one already). I’d recommend the nearest toy store, but you can also buy it over on Amazon if you want.

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Rubik’s Cube Brain Teaser Puzzle with Helpful Hints

First Step: Mess It Up!

That’s right, you’ll want to do a really good job of twisting and turning it until it’s completely messed up. If you don’t do this, you can’t claim that you really solved it. Even better: get somebody else to help mess it up for you. When you are done it should look something like this, although it might not glow quite the same.

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Photo by huangjiahui

Next Step: Learn the Algorithms

For whatever reason, nobody reads instruction manuals. If you buy a new Rubik’s Cube, there’s usually a set of instructions that come with it, explaining the algorithms that you need to use to solve the cube.

An algorithm is a set of moves you have to follow that will put all the pieces back into the right place—except usually for the one that you want to move to a different edge. For instance, if you are holding the cube as indicated in the picture above, you could turn the right face counter-clockwise, the bottom clockwise, the right face clockwise, and the bottom clockwise. If you repeated this step a number of times the bottom front square would then move to the top, and if you repeated even more times the cube would return to exactly the way it was.

The instruction manual explains each step, just make sure to read very carefully.

Solving the Rubik’s Cube by Example

Here’s where it gets a lot more fun, and a lot more easy to understand. A programmer named Cedric Beust created an entire guide with animated illustrations of every step. You can click the Play button to watch the animation, or even rotate the cube around with your mouse to get a better view.

He walks through solving each layer… starting with making a cross on the first layer (similar to the official instructions). He illustrates the moves—for instance in the left cube you will move the front face clockwise, then the down face clockwise, then move the front face counter-clockwise. Remember that you can hit the play button to see it in action.

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Then he’ll explain how to solve the next layers, and so forth.

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Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps—just perform them really slowly and you’ll eventually be able to solve it.

Visit Cedric Beust’s Guide to Solving the Rubik’s Cube

Memorizing the Algorithms

This is where it gets more tricky, memorizing the actual moves. I recommend memorizing each set of moves one at a time—after you have solved the cube using the guide. So the next time you try to solve the cube, you’ll do two of the sets of moves by memory, then finish the rest with the guide. Once you’ve got that figured out really well, start memorizing the next step.

You’ll find that as you start performing the moves from memory, your hands will learn the movements and your brain won’t have to think about each move—you’ll just do it.

Solved from Memory? You are awesome!

So far, the best I’ve been able to manage is around 3 minutes per solve. Most serious Rubik’s Cube enthusiasts can do much better, solving  the cube in less than a minute—which is nothing compared to the world champions, who solve in 20 seconds or less. Amazing!

My inspiration for learning to solve the Cube came after watching this video of actor Will Smith solving it in 55 seconds. (If you are reading in an RSS or email reader, you’ll need to click through to the article to watch it)

So how fast can you solve the Cube?

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/30/09

Comments (17)

  1. J. Bone

    I like this site. I like sites that share information for free that others charge for. I appreciate it a lot. Thanks.

  2. rubik

    Actually he took 2 min because when the video started, he was already half way through.

  3. Jobz

    I had a friend in my dorm last year who could solve in 17 seconds. He would go to the tournaments and such. He actually knew the guy who was hired to teach Will Smith how to do it for that movie (The Pursuit of Happiness). I had my time down to just under two minutes at one point, but I haven’t tried it in a while.

  4. WOFall

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  5. HamalSharatan

    I think you will also like this video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz9JP4ZzkNY

  6. Alec Soroudi

    I remember in junior-high, I found a small book in the library by a young kid (I think he may have been younger than me), that taught algorithmically how to solve the cube. I was fascinated, but by the time that I actually got a cube several years later, I had long since forgotten the title or author.

  7. Johnny

    My personal record was 57 secs, achieved in 1983, during the peak of craze. I’ve I got that, I pretty much lost interest in it. A friend gave me a key chain version to try to solve a couple months back… I couldn’t remember the sequences anymore

  8. LH

    My best time was 66 seconds (back in my early twenties). Never could figure out how the youngsters could do it so quick.

  9. Philip

    I got my cube in december, and my record is 1 min 57 sek.
    If Anybody else wants to learn how, just try this really great site called vanderblonk.com. It has a great tutorial, and even some youtube vids for learning it :)

    http://www.vanderblonk.com/

  10. Rob

    My brothers and I AVERAGED 45 seconds back in the 80′s. We used the ‘wonder’ cube brand, it was much smoother and faster than the original. We took it apart and lubed it with vaseline. My ALL TIME BEST is 18 seconds, consistently could get in the 30 second range. I still have it and can still do it in around 90 seconds.

    At school (6-8 grade), kids would bring me their cubes and I would solve them for 50 cents and then they would mess them up again (after they showed their friends / mom / dad). Except for this one really cute girl, she got her cube done for free ;-)

  11. Martinho

    @Alec: I believe you’re talking about You Can Do The Cube, by Patrick Bossert: http://www.patrick.bossert.com/books.htm
    That’s how I learned to solve it. I don’t have the book, and now I have already forgotten a few sequences. I have to use a few makeshift combinations of other sequences that achieve similar effects, but are very inefficient, so it slows me down to 3-4 minutes. At my peak, around 7-8 years ago, I beat 3 minutes once.

  12. larry

    The rubix cube is very hard puzzle to solve. The first time a manage to solve it currectly was only after two weeks.

  13. matt

    i did it in 1 min 49 sec with no directions!!!!!!!

  14. matt

    ps- im only 10!!!!!!!!

  15. Claws

    i do the complete cube in 53 seconds now, however my cube is sorta crappy and due to pressure it sometimes sort of explodes…
    will smith took 55 seconds to do the last layer, which is about a third or half of the complete cube, in the was looking and turning the cube, he’ll have done about 3 minutes about it. he really is slow actually, a friend of mine (he gave me the idea to start again) is down to 28 seconds as a record. he’s got a great speedcube

  16. Bob

    YOU STINK YOUR NOT TEACHING ME BE EASY,EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

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