Thursday, May 30, 2024

Apple Silicon MacBook Pro Battery Replacement

Jeff Johnson (Mastodon):

Yesterday I took the M1 MacBook Pro to my local Apple-authorized service provider that I’ve been going to for many years, who performed all of the work on my Intel MacBook Pro, including the battery replacements and a Staingate screen replacement. This is a third-party shop, not an Apple Store. To my utter shock, they told me that they couldn’t replace the battery in-house, because starting with the Apple silicon transition, Apple now requires that the MacBook Pro be mailed in to Apple for battery replacement!


As a Mac owner for over twenty years, I’ve always been able to arrange for same-day repair, dropping off the Mac in the morning and picking it up later in the day. The last time, due to Apple’s increasing restrictions on Apple service providers, I had to pay an “emergency service fee” for the same-day repair, but I’m perfectly willing to do that. My time at the computer was worth more than the fee. This new nonsense about requiring mail-in repairs, however, is a step way over the line.


I checked Apple’s Self Service Repair Store, and sure enough the top case with battery and keyboard for my MacBook Pro cost $615.12, although there is an $88 credit if you return the replaced part to Apple.

I didn’t like it when Apple first got rid of user-replaceable batteries, but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal because they promised quick replacements at any authorized service provider. The battery wasn’t glued in; you just had to unscrew the bottom of the laptop. It’s surprising and disappointing that they’re now designing products such that this essential service is even more difficult.


Update (2024-05-31): Nick Heer:

I called my local third-party repair place and asked them about replacing the battery. They told me they could change it in the store with same-day turnaround for $350, about the same as what Apple charges, using official parts.


Ternus’ point is that Apple’s solution for preventing liquid damage to all components, including the battery, compromised the ease of repairing an iPhone, but the company saw it as a reasonable trade-off.

But it is also a bit of a red herring for two reasons.


If there is any repair which should be straightforward and doable without replacing unrelated components or the entire device, it is the battery.

See also: Hacker News.

Jeff Johnson:

The problem isn’t really the hardware. I actually do have a Mac mini that I use for testing. (And I still have a couple of older MacBook Pros, though they can’t run the latest macOS versions.) The problem is my software setup. Like I said in the blog post, I’ve got everything on the MacBook Pro. To get everything I need in working order onto a secondary Mac, and then “sync” all changes in various software back to my main machine after a period without it, would be a major pain in the butt. And that’s never been an issue before, because like I said, this is the first time in decades of computer ownership that I haven’t been able to arrange same-day service. Even overnight service would be ok, but mail-in is out of the question.

Jason Snell:

There are a lot of trade-offs when it comes to the design of mobile devices, but making it easy to replace a device’s battery should always be a high priority.

Especially for a Pro device.

Update (2024-06-04): Jeff Johnson:

As a kind of test, I emailed my local Apple Authorized Service Provider from a masked address and asked anonymously about MacBook Pro battery replacement, without giving them my serial number. They actually have 3 locations in town.

The first reply was kind of misleading: “We can do the repair through AppleCare+. The process takes usually around 3-5 business days. We can do the repair at 2 locations…”

I expressed confusion about the 3-5 day process, and the second reply said, “The 3-5 business day process requires us to run diagnostics, isolate the issue and mail the device out to Apple for repair.”

So it had nothing to do with me specifically, and my machine wasn’t “flagged”, as someone suggested on the web. They’re sending all repairs out to Apple.

23 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Brian Pearce

To be clear: Apple’s current preferred procedure for out of warranty Battery Service for MacBook Pro is to (in most cases)n replace *only* the Battery, rather than the entire Top Case. At this time, because of the risks involved in the process, they are requiring this procedure to be done at an Apple facility (as a Mail-In Repair). It’s a recent change, but it has nothing to do with any specific models.

I think the intention is to make the service less wasteful, not replacing an entire Top Case (and additional components) if it isn’t necessary.

I’m a Technician at an AASP, and I’ve done many of these types of repairs (for older models), and I can understand the feeling that there is a certain amount of risk — I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I can understand it.

@Brian Is there a reason that you specified “out of warranty”?

Apple started requiring mail-in “standalone battery repairs” in May 2023 for any model of MacBook Pro 2016 or later. Previously, a top case with keyboard and battery assembly could be ordered at a discounted “battery-only failure” cost. This option has been removed.

Speculation: Apple got tired of refurbishing top cases, especially after the butterfly keyboard repair extension program.

Brian Reiter

Even having the battery replaced by Apple where there is a flagship Apple Store is not a same day operation anymore. The last time my battery was replaced under Apple Care on a business account Apple had to send the machine to a service center to have to top case assembly and battery replaced and then fedex it to me a few days later.

It's not like I can just easily get a macbook off the shelf to replace the one I have, either.

(To be fair, back in the late 90s and early 'aughts HP and Dell onsite repair was an expensive contract and also not super-impressive.)

Brian Pearce

I specifically mentioned out of warranty repairs, as for an in warranty repair, we would be able to replace the Top Case, as has always been the case (assuming the condition of the battery warrants it).

But even that is a fairly complicated procedure, requiring near complete disassembly. I think it’s unlikely that most options for that repair would be able to provide same-day service (not for the least of reasons is that it is practically impossible to keep the Top Case parts for all the different models in stock at all time).

Apple did say (at the time that the M1 MBP machines were added to the Self Service Repair Store) that they would be supporting and selling battery replacements (i.e. not requiring an entire top case replacement.)

I'm guessing that is not going to happen.

This definitely gives me some angst, as my launch day 14" M1 Max is down to 82% batter capacity...

Anonymous, is there any public reference for that information?

Brian Pearce, why is a battery-only replacement more "risk" than tearing apart the entire machine to replace the top case? iFixit's procedure certainly looks a lot easier than Apple's 162-page monstrosity. Anyway, your "out of warranty" comment is still confusing, because Apple is demanding mail-in for an in-warranty replacement, which you seem to claim is less risky.

Brian Pearce

There is a degree of risk in any hardware repair involving a Battery — but when replacing a Top Case, you're effectively working *around* the Battery (with a plastic cover placed over it to minimize the risk of damage or puncture). You’re leaving it in place.

To replace just the Battery, you've already removed the other components of the Top Case, then you use a chemical to soften the adhesive and a plastic card (carefully slid under the Battery cells) to cut the adhesive and remove the Battery. (Then you have to clean the residual adhesive before installing the replacement.)

As I said, I can understand why Apple might not be ready to allow Service Providers to provide this particular service.

It has not been my experience that a Mail-In Repair would be required for In-Warranty Battery Service for a MacBook Pro, but it’s a great big world, and I’m only familiar with my small part of it.

The original issue here is that it was Apple's decision to glue the battery in place like this in the first place.

The sex appeal of an Apple laptop evaporated when reading this article. I think it's gone for good too. I have owned three Apple laptops in since the TiBooks were released. I have always considered another one when upgrading, but when iMac each time because that is better for my work needs. This last time was harder because those laptops were so incredible, but a Studio won the day. Now I feel I've dodged a major bullet. The idea of shipping an Apple laptop in Korea for a battery replacement is a horrific one. No thanks.

I remember when our CEO swapped out eight hdd for ssd in our MAcBook PRO lineup. Not a hitch. Everything worked.

This has nothing to do with consumer protection and everything to do with Apple being greedy. The millions they've poured into fighting right to repair bills have come home to roost.

Also, Apple Repair is neither better or worse than private repair shops. Not regarding respecting user privacy and not wrt the quality of their services.

I also wonder how this gels with EUs mandate of user replaceable batteries.

Brian Pearce, you still haven't explained why Apple is willing to take more "risk" in some cases than in others. According to you, "Apple’s current preferred procedure for out of warranty Battery Service for MacBook Pro is to (in most cases) replace *only* the Battery, rather than the entire Top Case." Why in the world would warranty status make any difference to how much physical danger they are willing to risk?

Also, you haven't explained why Apple technicians performing the same procedures is less risky than AASP technicians performing the same procedures. There's no reason to think that Apple technicians are magically so much better.

"As I said, I can understand why Apple might not be ready to allow Service Providers to provide this particular service." AASP have *already* been performing laptop battery replacement forever. The "might not be ready to allow" doesn't make a lot of sense. It was always allowed, but now it's suddenly not allowed anymore.

Brian Pearce

Sorry, that’s not for me to explain.

I’m a Technician, not a Spokesperson, and I can only offer my observations from experience.

> I’m a Technician, not a Spokesperson

It appears that you are acting as a spokesperson: "To be clear: Apple’s current preferred procedure for out of warranty Battery Service for MacBook Pro is to (in most cases)n replace *only* the Battery, rather than the entire Top Case. At this time, because of the risks involved in the process, they are requiring this procedure to be done at an Apple facility (as a Mail-In Repair). It’s a recent change, but it has nothing to do with any specific models." I've never heard those words spoken by Apple, so you appear to be speaking on behalf of Apple. You took it upon yourself to state both Apple's policy and Apple's justification for that policy.

Beatrix Willius

If there are any "risks" involved in changing a battery then something is really really wrong with Apple.

Old Unix Geek

I, for one, much prefer the old replaceable batteries.

One reason why the battery isn't user replaceable is because the laptops are so thin now.

But who the hell was really going on about how their laptop was too thick? Sure, a Macintosh Portable is kind of thick. But it seemed fine around the time we got to Intel.

A bigger, and more valid concern is the weight. Weight and thickness are only indirectly related. You could have a laptop that is light, slightly thicker than it it is now, and have a user replaceable battery.

But instead, because of the decisions of some assholes at Apple, we've got a bunch of ticking time bomb ecological disasters instead.

Side story: When my mom's 6 year old non-removable MacBook Pro battery started to swell up and destroy the laptop, I called Apple and demanded that they fix it for free. They actually did it, too - they agreed on the first call. They had it for two weeks - I think they actually had to ship it to California because that's the only place they keep the parts for that long.

But I'll be goddamned if i'm going to put up with deliberately self destructing bullshit.

Leaving aside Apple's policy for a second, IMO the thing to do in these situations is take advantage of Apple's 14 day return policy.

1. Clone your Mac using CCC
2. Take it in for repair, and buy a new comparable Mac
3. Restore your clone from step 1 to the new Mac
4. When your repair is ready for pickup, clone the new Mac again using CCC (to a different destination than you used in step 1, for safety)
5. Return the new Mac for a refund, and pick up your repaired Mac
6. Restore the clone from step 4 to your repaired Mac

I've done this before and it's worked out well, although there are caveats - the repair needs to be completed within the 14 day return window for new products, and both Macs need to be running the same version of macos

The 14-day return strategy is less feasible if the Mac being repaired has a larger storage option that might not be available off the shelf at an Apple Store.

When I had an issue with my Dell laptop years ago, they sent a tech to my house the next day, who had the parts and tools to do the repair within 2 hours. When I had an issue with my Dell monitor, a replacement was at my door less than 24 hours after concluding the support call. If Apple are designing their products where it’s impossible to provide a similar level of service (despite the premium price), Apple are not designing their products as well as they could be.

Old Unix Geek

@remmah: Yes, I've been favorably impressed by Dell's service. The only downside is that they seem to think that after 4 years, a computer should no longer be serviced, and no longer allow you to sign up for their tech support plan after 5, which seems pretty damn low to me. (I need CUDA).

Captain Hammer

> Apple are not designing their products as well as they could be

I think it shows Apple designs products with the priority of boosting Applecare and Services revenue over user concerns. By deliberately complicating battery replacements and repairs, they know most people will pay Apple for maintenance.

Apple stores are about as hip as a car dealership service department.

Maximum money extraction over the product life cycle is what Tim Buyback optimizes for.

As I've said before; imagine if Apple decided to create the most user repairable phones and laptops in the world. They'd be amazing, and their impact would be immeasurable.

This is definitely an annoyance, but so it continues so much of the problems or repairing Macs over a recent period.

I am amazed though someone has been able to go that long without needing to mail in a Mac. It is a true PITA and I've lost many hours to it..

I guess, I am slightly surprised that no one (still) has good solutions for keeping multiple machines in sync. I've gotten "close" with Homebrew, dropbox, custom dotfiles, and VSCode's syncing...but yeah. Needing to get a computer repaired when you're working is a real challenge.

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