How to solve a Rubik's cube

Did you know there are over 43 quintillion possible combinations of the Rubiks Cube? That’s more scramble states then there are grains of sand on all the Earths beaches! There is no way someone can memorise every possible combination and how to solve them, so how do people solve the Rubik's Cube?

They solve it the exact same way we solve our problems in IT – by breaking down bigger problems into a series of smaller, manageable problems. There are lots of methodologies people use to do this, from the most popular “CFOP” method (Cross, First two layers, Orient last layer, Permute last layer), to less popular but still worthy methods like Roux, Petrus and ZZ.

In this tutorial we will look at the beginner method, which can also be thought of as a simplified CFOP. Where CFOP has 4 steps, the beginner method has 7, but each step is much easier. It’s a great way to start learning the cube because if you get the bug you can then proceed to learn the full CFOP method, or go maverick and learn something different!


We’ll start with a basic glossary:

Beginner Method Overview

The beginner method uses the following steps:

That all sounds really complicated! Trust us though, you can do this. We just need to learn some basic rules for how to perform each step, so let’s talk about “notation”. In cubing, we use notation to reduce different turns of the cube into single letters, and then we combine those letters to create algorithms that let us perform the steps.

Each notation is a letter that refers to a clockwise 90-degree rotation of a face of the cube. Imagine holding a cube directly in front of you, looking at just one face of the cube. The notations are:

When we refer to “clockwise” rotation, that is clockwise as if we were looking directly at that face. So, an “F” move rotates the top of the front face to the right, while a “B” move rotates the top of the back face of the cube to the left. This is often the trickiest thing to get correct!

An anti-clockwise rotation will use the same letter but followed with an apostrophe, such as F’.

And finally, if we have a “2” after the letter, that means we rotate the face 180 degrees.

1. White Cross

First we create a white cross where each of the white edge pieces is aligned with the white centre piece and it’s other side of the edge piece is also aligned with its corresponding centre piece.

In this step we have the white centre piece at the top of the cube.

  1. Find the white centre piece and rotate your cube so the white centre piece is at the top of the cube.
  2. Create a white cross on the top face by aligning the white edge pieces around the white centre piece, making sure that the other colour for each piece aligns with its corresponding centre piece.

(Video length: 1:39)

There are no algorithms for this step, as it is something that with practice people can perform “intuitively”. Start by finding an edge piece that has a white and blue side to it. Practice rotating that piece in different directions until the white side is next to the white centre piece, then rotate the white face so the blue side aligns with the blue centre piece. You have now solved your first piece!

The rest of the pieces you should be able to figure out with some practice. You’re not likely to get it immediately, so keep going! Some people get it in 5-10 minutes the first time, others can take much longer. 

The biggest thing to remember is that you can move the yellow face of the cube as much as you want without mucking up the pieces you have already solved, so to solve the other pieces you can move them to the yellow face by rotating the piece to the yellow face, rotating the yellow face once, then performing the opposite of your first move to make sure that you haven’t undone your work.

2. White Corners (First Layer)

Now we solve the complete white face of the cube by placing the white corners. 

  1. Locate a white corner piece.
  2. Move the corner piece to the yellow face, below where it needs to go. It should be between the yellow centre piece and the centre pieces for the non-white colours.
  3. Now rotate the whole cube so your piece is on the bottom right side in front of you. This means the white centre piece should be on top of the cube. Inspect which way the white piece is facing.
    1. If the white side is facing right, use the following algorithm to put it in the correct place: R’ D’ R
    2. If the white side is facing you, use the following algorithm to put it in the correct place: F D F’
    3. If the white side is facing down, use the following algorithm to put it in the correct place: F L D2 L’ F’

Do this for all the unsolved white corner pieces and you should have completed your first layer of the cube!

(Video length: 1:57)

When doing the above algorithms, pay attention to how the piece is moving. With some careful study the first layer should quickly become something you can do intuitively without algorithms.

3. Middle Layer

Now we solve the middle layer of the cube, also known as the first two layers.

  1. Rotate the cube so the white face is now on the bottom of the cube.
  2. Find a centre piece on the top of the cube that does not have a yellow edge on it.
    1. If there are no edge pieces on top of the cube, move an unsolved piece to the top by rotating the cube so that piece is on the front/right of the cube then executing the “right” algorithm from step 4.2 below.
  3. Rotate the top face so the piece you are solving is directly above a centre piece of the same colour.
  4. With the piece facing you, inspect it and determine which direction you need to move the piece to solve it:
    1. If you need to move the piece to the left, use this algorithm: U’ L’ U L U F U’ F’
    2. If you need to move the piece to the right, use this algorithm: U R U’ R’ U’ F’ U F

These algorithms are getting confusing! Don’t worry, with practice it will get easier. You’ll probably muck these up a few times and have to start the whole cube from the start again. That’s normal! Each time you do those first steps they will get easier and easier so keep going. 

(Video length: 2:04)

4. Yellow Cross

In this step we create a yellow cross at the top of the cube. The edge pieces don’t have to align with their correct colours, we just need a yellow cross. To do this we use one algorithm, although we may need to execute it a few times. The algorithm is the following: F R U R’ U’ F’

Note also that the yellow cross only considers the edge pieces – some (or all) of the corner pieces may be facing the right direction but we ignore those pieces in this step.

Inspect the cube and figure out which yellow edge pieces are facing upwards. There are four states the yellow edges can be in at this point. If you are lucky, you will already have a cross and can skip this step. If not, find which shape you currently have and follow the instructions below from that point.

  1. “Dot” where only the yellow centre is pointing up. By executing the algorithm once we will move to the next stage.
  2. “J” where two adjacent edge pieces are facing up. Rotate the yellow face so the yellow pieces make a “J” shape, then execute the algorithm and move to the next stage.
  3. “-” where the opposite yellow edges are facing up, making a line. Rotate the yellow face so the line goes left to right then execute the algorithm to create a cross.

The below video should help this step make a bit more sense.

(Video length: 1:22)

5. Yellow Edges (Align Centres)

Now we will make the non-yellow edges of the cross align with their corresponding centre pieces. You might be lucky and just need to rotate the yellow face and they will all align, but you will probably need to move at least two pieces.

To do this step we use a single algorithm to swap the position of two adjacent edges.

  1. Identify two edge pieces you wish to swap, then rotate the whole cube so you have one of those pieces on the front and the other on the left side.
  2. Execute the following algorithm to swap the pieces: R U R’ U R U2 R’ U
    1. Note: This algorithm is called “Sune” and if you plan to get faster at cubing this is one of the first algorithms you should memorise as it’s also used a lot in more advanced methods.

When performing this step, you may need to perform the above steps twice in order to get all the edges properly aligned. You may also have trouble at first knowing which edges to swap, and that’s OK too because as long as you get the algorithm correct you can do the steps above as many times as you need until you get it right.

The below video shows an example solve with a tricky case that means we had to do the algorithm twice.

(Video length: 1:27)

6. Permute Corners

In cubing “permute” means to rearrange the order pieces are in. For this step, we will move the yellow corner pieces to their correct place. It doesn’t matter if they are facing the wrong way, as long as they are in the correct place.

  1. Find a piece that is already in the correct place and rotate the whole cube so that piece is in the right/front corner.
    1. If no pieces are correct, just perform the next step until one is correct then repeat this step.
  2. Execute the following algorithm to swap the position of the other three corner pieces: U R U’ L’ U R’ U’ L
    1. If in step 1 you had a correct corner and this step didn’t make the other three corners correct, perform this algorithm again.
    2. If in step 1 you had no correct corners, repeat this from step 1.

(Video length: 1:25)

7. Orient Corners

This final step will flip the orientation of the yellow corners until they are all facing the same way and finally solve the cube. 

This is the scariest step as we are so close and doing this step will mess everything up before it (hopefully!) solves the cube.

It is also the most confusing step so read carefully as it’s easy to muck this up!

  1. Rotate the cube so that a corner that has the yellow facing the wrong way is in the front/right corner, with the yellow centre piece facing up. 
  2. Repeat the following algorithm, until that corner is facing the correct direction: R’ D’ R D
  3. Here is the bit where people get it wrong… Rotate the top face (only the top face!) until the next wrong yellow corner piece is in the front/right corner of the cube. This bit is confusing because your cube will be all messed up and you’ll think you’ve made a mistake. Hopefully you haven’t, so keep going, we’re nearly there!
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all corners are facing the right direction and the cube should now be solved!

The below video will make all the above much clearer.

(Video length: 1:56)

If you’ve managed to solve it, congratulations!! Mess it up and do it again! Each time will get easier.

If you’ve made a mistake on the last step and were unable to solve it, that’s OK too – it’s takes almost everyone a few tries to get this right! Go back through the steps and try again.

Common Mistakes

Making mistakes is normal! It takes practice to be able to execute an algorithm without making mistakes so keep trying. The most common mistakes are: 

  1. Remember that clockwise and anti-clockwise turns are relative to the face we are turning, not the direction you are looking at it. So as an example, an move rotates the top of the left face of the cube towards you, while an move rotates the top of the left face of the cube away from you. This is the #1 reason people make mistakes when first starting out.
  2. A big mistake people make is moving the whole cube in their hand and losing track of what was front, left, right, etc. Make sure you always know which face is the front when you are doing your algorithms.
  3. If you got all the way to the last step and then think you mucked everything up, don’t stress! Pretty much everyone does this as the last step really feels like you’ve made a mistake. With this in mind:
    1. Don’t give up until you’ve done all the corners (or you can’t do a corner). The cube seems to magically solve itself only when you fix the very last corner!
    2. If you have had to do the algorithm more than 4 times for one corner, you’ve probably made a mistake but keep going – maybe you just missed it being aligned correctly and executed the algorithm one too many times so keep going before you give up.

I did it! What’s next?

First of all, mix up your cube and do it again! Try to memorise the steps and algorithms until you can do it without instructions. 

Next up, cubing has a hugely passionate community and there are heaps of ways that people can find a niche where they can push their skills. Some examples are:

Here are some resources to help you with your cubing journey: