Monday, November 20, 2023

Lessons From a Bad Apple Repair Experience

Ric Ford:

It’s now clear that a new Mac, purchased directly from Apple, can fail completely and suddenly without any warning after running fine for a few weeks. Apple’s proprietary storage design means that a Mac failure is now also a storage failure that will prevent you from accessing any of your files in any way.


I don’t know what Apple’s policies are regarding access by Apple and any repair/recycling partners to your files, but an Apple Store will ask you to enter your Apple ID password (used for FileVault recovery keys, activation/erase unlock, and Find My) into another computer.


It’s now also clear from painful experience that Apple may hold a failed Mac and its storage hostage in an obtuse repair process for more than three weeks, even if it’s under warranty and less than 30 days old.


I discovered when Apple finally returned the failed Mac after repair that its replacement motherboard was used, not new, showing unexpected and heavy SSD wear, even though all the files were gone and the drive was initialized with a newer macOS than it had been running, an unwanted and problematic update that is almost impossible to revert.

Alan Forkosh:

In passing, Ric noted issues with the scheme of getting a loaner (I.e., purchasing a replacement and then returning it for a full refund when your repair/replacement is done). He notes that Apple Stores stock base configurations but often do not stock units in a custom configuration to duplicate the damaged unit. Another issue is that the return deadline (usually 14 days) may be shorter than the time it takes to process the damaged unit.


For decades our company has relied on clones for (what is essentially) instant recovery from catastrophic failure of disks. We’d simply boot from the clone and be working again in moments. We could move to a new machine, boot from the clone then clone back to the internal drive without the unreliable and agricultural Migration Assistant.

I’m starting to believe Ric has a very valid point. Don’t buy anything non-standard from Apple and keep data storage on the internal drive to a minimum so it can’t be ‘locked away’ by Apple.

To think you can be without a new machine for several weeks - with a real chance of complete data loss - is totally unacceptable.

Neil Laubenthal:

The issue is that you must have the internal drive recognizable and bootable and that the machine won’t boot with a corrupted/failed internal drive. I don’t know if that is an Apple decision or a physical/logical part of the security model. Making a bootable clone is as you say possible…and I personally wouldn’t mind if it was sealed and signed and only updatable if it was the current boot volume…Ric’s problem was that he may have had an up to date external boot volume with an associated data volume that had a current clone…but the machine itself is DOA with a bad internal drive. If that was a deliberate choice by Apple…bad idea IMO unless there’s something I don’t know/understand about the security model.


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Huh? Apple has a 30 day no-questions-asked return policy. Should have sent it back.

@Charles I don’t know the details, but he’s said multiple times that Apple refused to give him a refund. Maybe you have to immediately return it without trying to get any support?

This all sucks and is terrible, but this is a good reminder to set up Time Machine backups.

The sorts of restrictions in booting that this conversation mentions is one of the reasons why I'm not very interested in upgrading to an Apple Silicon mac, in spite of its advantages.

For someone who joined the Apple party right after Intel Macs were introduced, this is a depressing read. But what's the lesson here? You only really own your data, when it's stored on an external drive or a cloud server that is not iCloud? Time Machine backups are useful, as long as you have a second Mac where you can restore your whole backup.

I'm already used to treating all my iOS devices and my even my M1 MacBook Air like an appliance and keep as little non-recoverable data on them as possible.

If this is how macOS is going to work moving forward, I think Apple needs to change the system to make user directories completely portable. They should work from external drives. Not sure if that's even possible today.

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