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Posts for November 5, 2021

Adventures in Mac Repairs

How I got a free screen repair and a free battery replacement into the bargain.

I have a 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2017. It’s in perfect working order, except the battery was past its best. ‘Service recommended,’ it always said when I checked. But it was fine, I could get a couple of hours out of it, and I rarely use the computer away from somewhere I can plug in. Especially this last couple of years.

But the screen had developed a problem. There were marks on it that I couldn’t remove. They were kind of hard to photograph, but you can see them here:

MacBook screen with delamination marks
MacBook screen with delamination marks

I discovered there was a known defect in models of that era called ‘screen delamination.’ The top layer of the screen’s coating was becoming detached from the underlying one.

People had solutions, which involved careful cleaning with various solvents or mild abrasives: isopropyl alcohol, or, I don’t know, toothpaste, maybe.1

Inevitably, the whole affair has a ‘gate’ name: Staingate. Perhaps less inevitably, but unsurprisingly since it’s a manufacturing defect, Apple have long since acknowledged the problem and offered a free repair programme. As long as your machine was no more than four years old.

I discovered these facts back in the summer. Dug out my receipt. I bought the laptop four years and four days ago. Damn!

At the time I was deep in working towards my dissertation, so I wasn’t going to spend any more time on it. In September, though, I thought it would be worth contacting Apple support and seeing what could be done. I couldn’t get a Genius Bar appointment, but I could take it to an Apple Authorised Service Provider called MR in Shoreditch. They had a look at it and said, yes it’s the delamination thing, you’re outside the free programme, we can fix it: 800 quid.

Too much. But! they also said that it would be worth taking it in to Apple. They might, depending on who you saw, do it for free anyway.

I was slightly sceptical, and we were getting ready for a trip to Scotland at the time, so I left it. Eventually, though, I booked it into the Genius Bar.

You’re outside the programme, they said. But we’ll fix it under consumer law. No charge.

The Sale of Goods Act (or its successors) for the win again: a laptop screen should last longer than four years.

During the tests they run, the guy noticed that the battery was poorly, and offered a replacement. £199 seems steep, so I said no thanks.

Yesterday I got an email to say it was ready to pick up, so I toddled off to Westfield. The staff member who brought it out to me asked me to wait while she checked something. Came back and said, ‘You know how you rejected the battery replacement? Well it seems they did it anyway. We won’t charge you.’

So that was weird. The work note that came with it said ‘Battery won’t charge at all,’ which was not true when I took it in. But here I am with a good-as-new battery. Well, actually new.

All of this required what they call a ‘Top case replacement.’ ‘Top case with battery,’ in fact, which suggests the battery is in the screen part of the laptop, not the keyboard part, which seems weird.

The big downside — but one that had been prepared for — is that I lost all my stickers. I had heard of this kind of thing happening, so I took photographs.

The stickers on my MacBook
The stickers on my MacBook

The questions now are how and whether to replace them.


  1. Don’t clean your computer screen with toothpaste.