MacBook self-repair program highlights Apple’s flawed repairability progress


enlarge / The 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Samuel Axon

On Tuesday, Apple expanded its self-service repair program to M1-based MacBooks. Providing repair manuals to customers and the ability to purchase parts and purchase or rent tools for M1 MacBook Airs and M1 MacBook Pros is a far cry from the Apple of yesteryear. After a few days of availability, the MacBook self-repair program is showing welcome progress, but there is still work to be done before Apple is considered a true ally of the right to repair.

In recent days, numerous activists entitled to repair have criticized Apple’s self-repair program for the MacBook. Perhaps most notable is a strongly worded blog by iFixit, which said the program “succeeded in making MacBooks less repairable.” While iFixit found the MacBook Air repair guide “in-depth, mostly logical, and well worth an extra point of repair,” it was less impressed with the MacBook Pro repair guides.

iFixit focused heavily on Apple’s approach to MacBook Pro battery replacement, citing the natural degradation of lithium batteries. Apple’s 2021 13, 14, and 16-inch MacBook Pro Self-Repair Guides say that to replace the battery, you need to remove a lot more than just the battery. The manuals instruct users to replace the entire top case, bottom case, battery management unit, flex cable, lid angle sensor, trackpad and its flex cable, fan/antenna module, circuit board, display hinge covers, display assembly, laptop audio card, fans, MagSafe 3 card, as well as the USB-C cards and Touch ID card.

From Apple's 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro repair manual.

From Apple’s 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro repair manual.


That requires you to read through most of the 160-plus page manual, which warns that “the battery is part of the top case” and that you shouldn’t try to separate the two. The manuals also note that the top case includes the BMU board, keyboard, keyboard flex cable, microphone, and speakers, all of which are “non-removable.”

Taking apart and reassembling a laptop to replace the battery, a part known to need replacing over time, isn’t easy to use or… typical. For example, iFixit has a 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch Battery Replacement Guide that breaks the process down into 26 steps and usually only removes the bottom cover, trackpad, and battery card.

And a quick look at repair guides for other PCs, like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon [PDF] or HP’s Zbook Fury G8 have easier, shorter battery replacement processes. Although, those designs are different from Apple’s MacBook Pros.

To replace the battery on an M1 MacBook Pro through Apple’s Self-Service Repair Store, you’ll also need to purchase an entire top case, which will cost you about $527-$615, minus a $88 credit if you return your original part (you You can see a deeper price breakdown in this handy price list from The Verge). That’s a steep price for a new battery, especially if everything else works.

Apple says it will eventually sell individual battery replacements for M1 MacBook Pros, but has not specified when. Until then, replacing batteries through the Apple Self Repair Store Way is extremely time consuming and expensive.

“…Apple presents DIY repairers with excruciating hurdles: read 162 pages of documentation without being intimidated and decide to do the repair anyway, pay an exorbitant amount for an exaggerated replacement part, decide if you want to drop another $50 on the tools they recommend, and do the repair yourself within 14 days, including completing the system setup to pair your part with your device. Which makes us wonder, does Apple want even better repairability?” iFixit’s content advisor, Sam Goldheart, wrote.

The iFixit blog states that Apple isn’t the only company to combine self-service battery replacement with other repairs. The screen battery replacement kit for the Samsung Galaxy S21 is an example. But Apple’s violation, iFixit argues, is worse.

“Apple requires replacement of keyboard and top cases is worse than Samsung’s OEM display, as it makes repair significantly more difficult, requiring you to disassemble the entire device to replace a battery,” Elizabeth Chamberlain, director of sustainability at iFixit, told Ars. She noted that while the battery display construction of the S21 is “too bad”, it simplifies battery replacement.

The iFixit blog also lamented the mysterious disappearance of repair manuals for the 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs that Apple published in 2019. We’ve reached out to Apple to inquire about the rationale and will update if we hear anything. But there’s hope the manuals may come back (perhaps changed) someday as Apple expands its self-service repair program.

A less expensive concern is replacing the keyboard function row of the M1 MacBook Air. It costs the same amount, $39, to replace it as it does to replace the keys on the keyboard. As The Verge noted, in a move that feels painfully wasteful in more ways than one, Apple will be selling users seven sets of function row keys for that price.

At Apple’s whim

Because Apple is in charge of its self-maintenance efforts, there is concern that Apple’s retail store will eventually stop making parts available, limiting future self-repairs.

“They’ll probably phase out the availability of product parts before the hardware really comes along (our office is full of 2012 MacBook Pros, for example),” Chamberlain told Ars.

Legislation on the right to repair has seen a notable move in recent times, including the first bill for the right to repair for electronics passed in New York. iFixit argued that further legislation is still needed, despite Apple becoming more prone to self-repair. Because Apple just as easily decided to better accommodate self-repairs, it may change its mind.

How to repair an M1 MacBook.

How to repair an M1 MacBook.

“If we have the whims of manufacturers, we get repair on their terms,” ​​Chamberlain said. “Apple may remove support for product parts and repair manuals at any time, as evidenced by the fact that they have removed the 2019 iMac manuals.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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