Apple Is Taking Away Your Ability to Repair Your own laptop

Posted on October 5, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Apple, Mac and macOS with 70 Comments

Apple’s always been known for its proprietary tech and products. The company is now taking things a step further with its modern MacBook devices that ship with its proprietary T2 chip.

According to a new report from Motherboard, the company has deployed a new software that needs to be run on new Macs with the T2 chip after certain repairs. If you don’t run the software right after the repair, which is only available to Apple and its authorized repair partners, your device will become “inoperative.”

Motherboard reports that the software lock applies to any repair which involves replacing a MacBook Pro’s display assembly, logic board, top case (the keyboard, touchpad, and internal housing), and Touch ID board. For iMac Pros, you will need the tool for replacing the Logic Board or flash storage.

“For Macs with the Apple T2 chip, the repair process is not complete for certain parts replacements until the AST 2 System Configuration suite has been run. Failure to perform this step will result in an inoperative system and an incomplete repair,” Apple stated in an internal document, according to MacRumors.

All of this essentially means if your Mac is broken, unless you take it to Apple or an Apple-authorized service center, an independent repair by yourself or a local small business will make your device unusable.

And that’s a major problem, mainly because Mac repairs are incredibly expensive. While getting your device repaired by Apple does give you the extra trust and security of your device, these repairs can often be quite expensive and can be done for cheaper elsewhere. Now that these repairs are theoretically impossible, you have no other option than to take it to an Apple Store.

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Comments (70)

70 responses to “Apple Is Taking Away Your Ability to Repair Your own laptop”

  1. RobertJasiek

    This must be violating various cartel laws. Trust for sure: why buy Apple products if it destroys trust? Commercial slavery is not trust.

  2. MikeGalos

    More like "Apple is taking away the ability for 3rd Party shops to repair their products".

    I'd point out that this appears to be a clear case of abuse of monopoly power.

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Or. A clear case of wanting to protect their customer’s data from unscrupulous repair shops / compromised hardware.

      Admittedly, probably not a *huge* risk for most people, but it isn’t necessarily malicious.

      Also, it clearly states Apple-authorized dealers should have access to the software, who often come in far below Apple’s repair costs.

    • pecosbob04

      In reply to MikeGalos:
      Glad to see you policing Apple repair issues Mikey. Now you might want to pontificate on the virtues of the Auto File Deletion feature of the latest release of W10 from the Wizards of Redmond. Scrolled through a couple of articles here about the latest rollout hoping to find your wise counsel on why this auto recovery feature for precious storage space is Nadella's greatest triumph but your avatar was not to be seen. I thought for sure it would be fun for you to bloviate on something you might have a clue about for a change.

  3. ronster

    How long do you think before this software is available via torrent, along with several altered/infected versions as well? I think Mac just needs to come out and you pick one of two optiond when you buy a Mac, one, you pay more upfront and get Apple Care where only authorized dealers can work on it and that work is for the most part free, or as cheap as it can be. Two you don't do the Apple Care, so anyone can work on your stuff, but Apple never will. Of course Apple's interest is in profits, not what is best for it's customers, think tobacco company, only they're killing you emotionally. :)

  4. matsan

    Given the Supermicro commotion I fully second this.

  5. bluvg

    Watch other PC manufacturers follow suit. :(

    • longhorn

      In reply to bluvg:

      iFixit shows us that laptops are made like tablets these days with glue instead of screws. Many laptops can only be repaired by skilled and well equipped technicians, not your average PC repair guy. The Surface Laptop is the worst example according to iFixit, not meant to be repaired at all.

      Surface Laptop:

      Verdict: The Surface Laptop is not a laptop. It’s a glue-filled monstrosity. There is nothing about it that is upgradable or long-lasting, and it literally can’t be opened without destroying it. (Show us the procedure, Microsoft, we’d love to be wrong.)

      • This laptop is not meant to be opened or repaired; you can’t get inside without inflicting a lot of damage.
      • The CPU, RAM, and onboard storage are soldered to the motherboard, making upgrades a no-go.
      • The headphone jack, while modular, can only be accessed by removing the heat sink, fan, display, and motherboard.
      • The battery is difficult and dangerous to replace, giving the device a limited lifespan.

      Surface Pro 5:

      All told, it’s nearly identical to its predecessor—aside from ditching the last remaining upgradable component, the modular SSD. Yeah, Microsoft impressed us—by being way worse than we expected.

      • Although we like connectors, the ones present in the Surface Pro aren't standard, making display removal tricky.
      • The display removal procedure is simplified by the use of thin foam adhesive and a fused display, but is still not trivial.
      • Adhesive holds many components in place, including the display and battery.
      • Replacement of any part requires removal of the display assembly, an easy part to damage.
      • The SSD is no longer replaceable.

  6. nikki

    Goodbye Mac, and wait until you read about the forcing of Apple care ... rid this world of Macs!!!!

  7. Andi

    Australia have fined them once for this kind of bullshit and it will fine them again.

  8. canamrotax

    I stopped recommending customers purchasing Apple computers years ago, when the RAM started being soldered in place. I realize many manufacturers solder in components that were not before, but we can always vote with our wallets. Watching the ifixit teardown of the new shiny always tempers my enthusiasm if it is a difficult repair.

  9. Chris Payne

    Trying not to have a knee jerk reaction here... I assume there's more to this story we don't know about yet. Playing devil's advocate, I can see Apple making the statement that they want repairs to only be done by quality outfits, and this is a benefit for the consumer. Not saying it's justified, but that logic kind of fits their M.O.

  10. Winner

    As if starting the trend towards gluing everything together wasn't enough...

    It's a revenue grab.

  11. PanamaVet

    They portray themselves as everything young and progressive on TV.

    At the end of the day they feed cake to the peasants and feel good about it.

  12. Awhispersecho

    And yet everyone will keep raving about Apple and their products in reviews and continue to recommend them to everyone else. Apple can do whatever it wants because noone will ever hold their feet to the fire and take a stand against them. Consumers, bloggers, tech reviewers and everyone else will complain about their practices, about their walled garden and about the recent quality issues and then give them A+ reviews and throw their money at them.

  13. Jeffsters

    Dont read this if you don’t care to get past the FUD and just want to hate Apple. Everyonevelse continue. First off...the has NEVER been activated and is not new. It’s newly discovered. Second it’s the same precaution code used previously to validate repairs that could potentially impact the iPhone secure enclave. The T2 chip provides security and holds all keys and finger print info etc. The idea was that if a replaced part could be used to insert a hardware bypass to the T2, without being registered as a valid repair rather than an attempt at accessing the data on the encrypted drive, the machine would brick itself until so validated. After the outcry on the iPhone with screen repair Apple backed off, not sure that’s a good thing, and I as I said hasn’t activated the software on the Mac. Nothing to see here.

    • melinau

      In reply to Jeffsters:
      Sorry, but plenty to see. The 'security' argument doesn't really wash although it makes the whole thing sound better for Apple. It seems other makers can live without it.
      Maybe Apple has 'backed-off' but that's because their nasty little scam has been exposed....

    • PanamaVet

      In reply to Jeffsters:

      "Apple backed off" and "Nothing to see"?

      Well I can certainly agree there has been a lot of Not Seeing when it comes to how Apple herds their customers.

      I replaced the battery in my wife's iPhone 6 myself for $15 including tools with free delivery. It took about 20 minutes.

      For the price of their phones I should be able slide in a fresh battery any time I want. I look back and I see Apple using old batteries as an excuse to reduce performance on their phones.

      It was the flavor of backing off where you did it because you got caught. The current case with the repair policy strikes me as a piecemeal step to achieving their goal with locking down repairs.

      So the herd can't just put a fresh battery in a thousand dollar phone.

      What if NASA treated the Astronauts that way? Houston, we have a problem...

      • Jeffsters

        In reply to PanamaVet:

        Umm...sorry but a battery replacement NEVER activated the software it was screen replacements that messed with Touch ID and in any case it's not on the iPhone 6 at all. So everyone feel free to replace batteries any way they want on any phone. Enjoy!

  14. martinm

    Yeah, like I needed another reason not to buy their stuff. Apple never changes.

  15. jimchamplin

    It’s the same technical reason that the secure systems in iOS devices must be properly serviced.

    The T2 contains a secure enclave and if it isn’t properly initialized, the intended secure-by-design system can’t ensure proper security.

    It’s a technical limitation. The decision to require it after replacing the screen or keyboard is dodgy.

  16. Scott Ladewig

    The ending statement "you have no other option than to take it to an Apple Store" is incorrect. You can take it to an Apple Store or any Apple-authorized service center.

    • Daekar

      In reply to Scott_Ladewig:

      Apple-authorized service centers are having a very hard time lately. My understanding is that Apple makes it difficult for them to even get parts, and even when they can they can't have at least some of them in stock. There is no reason for these limitations, especially because removing them would result in a much quicker average turnaround for many common repairs.

      Apple doesn't want anybody repairing their hardware but them.

  17. John Craig

    There is a solution. Buy a windows PC

  18. jchampeau

    Apple's market share in PCs might not be high enough for this to ever get on DOJ's radar, but this is definitely anti-competitive behavior. It's like how Nissan won't let any repair shop outside of Japan work on their CVT transmissions. So the US requires Nissan to replace any failed CVT in any Nissan vehicle, no matter its age or warranty status, free of charge to the vehicle's owner.

  19. Daekar

    If I had ever considered switching to a Mac before, this would be the nail in the coffin for that idea. This company is bad.

  20. mattbg

    On the surface, this sounds bad. But to give an informed opinion about this, I'd want to know how many Macs are screwed up by independent repairs, have their quality reduced by repairs using substandard parts, or require repeated repairs due to incorrect procedures. All of these affect the brand quality, so I can see why they would want to control who does the repairs if they are seeing issues in these areas.

    They're not saying you have to go and get the fixes done by Apple - they would just have to be Apple-authorized.

    • IanYates82

      In reply to mattbg:

      With any product, if I get it repaired by a third party within warranty period then I lose warranty. That's on me and it's a risk I can weigh.

      They've taken away that decision. The "brand tarnish" argument doesn't apply here - the fact you need a repair in the first place kinda brought the tarnish, and knowing you're forced to only get it repaired by Apple, rather than having a choice, only reinforces that tarnish.

      And... When out of warranty, bricking a device is a definite no-no. There's no warranty left to ruin by visiting a third party.

      Of course, Apple is Apple, so this'll probably stand. It won't affect me personally at least, but I know people it will affect and I feel bad for them :(

      • mattbg

        In reply to IanYates82:

        Fair enough - but, again, you don't have to take it to Apple - you have to take it to someone who is authorized by Apple to service the device you're having problems with. This may be a third party.

        A device being defective is one thing, but taking a device for repair and having a non-OEM part installed that lowers the product quality, or having it repaired incorrectly and needing to go back multiple times could only make it worse.

        I guess it's good to have the choice not to do this, but personally I'd want to have some sense of quality control on repairs that were being done - especially if it was something proprietary like a Mac would be, rather than a PC that is built from commodity parts.

    • Daekar

      In reply to mattbg:

      I can't agree. It's not like they have to stand behind repairs from other places. If I want to void my warranty, that's my decision. This isn't about protecting their brand.

      Right-to-repair legislation can't come soon enough.

  21. Kevin Costa

    Apple today represents everything that is wrong with the capitalism (and I support this economic system). Planned obsolecence, expensive (and buggy) products, no freedom to repair wherever you want, no user feedback consideration, a bunch of fanboys sucking Cook balls, a press that praises everything they do, etc. It's really frustrating.

    • jwpear

      In reply to Kevin_Costa:

      Vote with your wallet. I have yet to move beyond my 2012 MBP because it was the last truly repairable Apple laptop. In fact, I bought my MBP used and reconditioned it myself.

      • kroembke

        In reply to jwpear:

        I had a 2012 MBP what was the only casualty from a freak torrential rainstorm that caused water to leak through a window and onto its keyboard, frying it.

        The repair quote from the Apple store was something ludicrous, like "It won't cost you more than $900 something to repair. The same store was selling MacBook Airs for $899 so I bought one of those instead.

        My 2012 MBP now serves as the best looking doorstop in my house, because nobody will give me anything for it... except the reassurance that it will be responsibly recycled... woo hoo!

  22. Bats

    That's okay. That's okay.

    This is how Apple remains so profitable.

  23. warren

    Apple used to take great pride in their computers being easier to work on than the competition's. What happened??

    It wasn't even a Steve Jobs thing -- all the old Mac IIs, Quadras and Power Macintoshes of the late 80s and 90s had plastic surfaces inside so that you wouldn't cut yourself on sharp edges. Everything was easy to get at and swap out. Heck, Apple even sold motherboard and CPU upgrades for their existing machines. Their early laptops had hot-swappable batteries.

    The fanatical devotion to Apple was built on building products like that..... not these closed devices that actively fight you if you want to change it. Apple has beaten down their traditional customer base so much that literally the only thing they've gotten excited about over the last couple of years is "dark mode"..... which is pretty much a rehash of Appearance Manager from Mac OS 8, but less configurable.

    • MikeGalos

      In reply to warren:

      The ease of configuration changes in Apple hardware isn't just not a Steve Jobs thing. It's something Steve Jobs consistently worked against both times he ran Apple. Remember he was also the one who fought creating the Macintosh II because he didn't want slots at all and it was only made into a product after he was fired.

      • warren

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        Steve Jobs got on stage in January 1999 and proudly showed off the opening door on the Blue & White G3 ("the most incredible access story in the business"), and the audience -lost- -their- -fucking- -minds-. Apple had already been selling "Outrigger" style cases for the Power Mac for four years at that point, so the concept wasn't new, but this was a significant usability improvement.

        They went on to sell millions of Macs based on that design over the next several years. It was replaced with another design that was also really easy to swap out memory, disks, CD rom, fans, etc. -- no tools required.

        You can't correctly argue that Jobs was against expansion when it was one of the major selling points of Apple's flagship product for most of Jobs's second tenure. Sure, he was against expansion in the Macintosh II because he envisioned Macintosh as a closed box that was used for desktop publishing, hooked up to a black & white printer. In his mind, it didn't need expansion or colour. That didn't stop the company from building and selling the highly-expandable, colour-cablae Apple IIGS though, did it? And -that- machine outsold the Macintosh in the early days.


      In reply to warren:

      I have no idea what you are talking about!!

      Mac Sales are so much higher today than they were in 1990s. In particular.. the MacBook Pro has become the GO TO machine for modern software developers. It is the "Swiss Army Knife" of computers... - able to run both macOS and Windows, with UNIX underpinnings that make it great for Web Development too.

      Finally Dark Mode rocks! As does Mission Control.. it's still the finest Virtual Desktop / Application Window manager ever.

      • Andi

        In reply to TEAMSWITCHER:

        That's largely due to the iphone. Iphone development, both apps and mobile web development, absolutely require macos. You have no choice in that.

        We can add the overall halo effect of the brand and other historic strengths of the macos platform, but IOS devs, of which there are literally tens of millions and growing as the platform grows, are the ones pushing the sales of macbooks more than any creative cliche.

    • X911ty12

      In reply to warren:

      Was a mac person up to the end of 68040 days. From then on it has been slowly and now excruciatingly quickly removing the customers rights.

      "It's not your computer anymore." Apple

  24. wright_is

    The problem is, the nearest Apple Store is about 5 - 6 hours drive away.

    At least other professional price class PCs offer 4 hour or next day on site repair / replacement for little or no extra cost.

    • kroembke

      In reply to wright_is: I just had my MacBook Pro, purchased Dec 2017 serviced for a horizonal line of dead pixels across the screen. My Apple store is close, but they still had to send it off for a week for the repair. Luckily, I purchased AppleCare which covers me for another couple of years, so my cost was $0. They asked me for feedback after the repair, and I said that I needed better options than sending my computer to China for a repair that any local technician should be able to do quicker-- we'll see if they take any action on that. (And I have no idea where it was sent!)
      Since then, I have learned that I could have spoken to someone online and endured the idiotic "is it plugged in?" and "is it turned on" lines of questioning which may have eventually resulted in them saying: We'll ship you a carton with instructions for sending your computer back to us. But then again, they may not have done this until after I spent many hours on the phone with them-- so a 5-6 hour drive may be shorter... who knows.
      As painful as it WAS, at least I only invested about 2 hours taking the computer to the local Apple store and it was returned exactly 1 week later as promised, properly fixed and working fine.
      I'd be curious to know how it would go with a late model Microsoft Surface.

  25. PeterC

    That apple T2 chip certainly gets up to stuff. It keeps your actual data away from the Intel chip, literally. It encrypts your drive, and a ton of other security stuff.

    quote from appleinsider >>>> Since Apple's custom T-series chips are integrating an increasing number of system controllers, it may be making it easier than ever for Apple to switch over to their own line of processors and ditch Intel for good

    Thats quite a differentiator when compared to other PC brands and their approach to hardware. This stuff is going to be apples spearhead in marketing sometime very soon...… probably as meltdown and spectre exploits really hit big time and enterprise customers get the frighteners or ither such intel related security nonsense .... in my opinion

  26. karlinhigh

    Aren't there right-to-repair laws?

  27. Daekar

    To somebody that still builds desktops, this is unimaginable. I cannot imagine being in a situation where I was actively prevented from working on and repairing my own machine. Half the reason I'm able to have a decent PC is because I save money by doing the work and upgrades myself. It's just as bad as John Deere preventing farmers from repairing their own tractors.

    They don't have to warranty the work done by others, but actively bricking devices is a scummy move.

  28. danmac

    I imagine it won't be long before the software is available to torrent. Complete with rootkit.

  29. Bob Shutts

    Fake news quoting another fake news site.

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