Adventures in Mac Repairs

    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. ↩︎

    Repairability Is Good

    It’s good when you can repair things. We had a problem with the switch on the kettle the other day, and I was able to open it up, put various bits back in place, and get it working again. It tripped not one but three circuit breakers in the house and blew the fuse in its plug, all while it was failing, but that’s what safety devices are for, I guess.

    And today I’ve just fixed the switch on our hoover. Actually it’s a Miele, and this video by an Australian repair person was really helpful. He’s dealing with a different model, but it’s the same problem – the switch wouldn’t stay on – and the same construction and even part number.

    I was able to get the footswitch off following what he did, and order a replacement part online. It arrived today, and all went back together really smoothly, and now our hoover Miele vacuum cleaner1 is working again.

    Oddly the part number on the replacement is different from that on the broken one, which matched the number the video guy quotes.

    Anyway, while I’d have tried these repairs under normal circumstances, it’s especially useful at the moment, when it’s not like you can go shopping, or get someone to come in and fix things.2

    1. I’ve never taken to calling them “vacuum cleaners.” I grew up with Hoovers, so that always seems like the right word. ↩︎

    2. If there even are still people who do that. ↩︎