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With the advent of the MacBook Air and more recently with the new Retina MacBook Pro, there has been a lot of teeth gnashing and disgruntlement about the increasing lack of repairability of the new Mac laptops.

No memory upgrades possible, no chance to upgrade the hard drive.

I have been fairly dismissive about the moaning and groaning on various podcasts, as well as on this blog.

Until yesterday.

My son is in his final year at Uni and his MacBook Pro stopped working.

Transpires, his hard disk had crashed.

There was no problem with his data. He saves all his important stuff to DropBox and we also have BackBlaze running in the background. The problem was how to get him back up and running quickly.

His MacBook Pro is the version with the removable battery and easy access to the Hard Drive.

A quick search on Amazon and I found this Seagate 750GB Momentus XT Serial 2.5 inch 7200 RPM 32MB 6GB/S SATA Solid State Hybrid Hard Drive [Affiliate Link]

A 750GB Hybrid drive for £96 with free overnight delivery - Ordered!

Next day, with drive in hand, I popped over to Sheffield, popped out the faulty drive, popped in the new one and re-installed the OS from a USB thumb-drive. An hour or two later he was back online and all was hunky dory!

Had the MacBook Pro been one of the new models, I sure the Apple store would have been able to sort him out but how long might it have taken? It was just so easy to replace the drive myself and very quick too.

So I still appreciate why Apple have gone down the path of less user repairability, and I realise we get sleeker and more sexy stuff because of it.

But when the time comes when you need to get something fixed quickly, it's probably best not to be too be too dismissive of the fact we can't upgrade or fix things ourselves as easily as we used to be able to.

Lesson learnt.

Reader Comments (7)

Dear Don.
It's very refreshing to read an honest and intelligent article about this subject. Too many people bury their heads in the sand when it comes to this issue. I have always worried , as you know, about this aspect of design. I believe that it should always be a balance between function, looks and yes repair. It does worry me that for an item designed to be all things to all people with multiple uses it has been designed to be locked down in its hardware repair & upgradability.

January 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Fox


That is one of the reasons that is putting me off a retina model and why I have stuck with my mbp 13" is that if anything went wrong with it is the amount of downtime since the nearest Apple store to Blackpool is Manchester which is a 130 mile round trip for myself and since getting my first mac 18 months ago everything I do now is on the mac i.e. using FCP X and have it set up now exactly as I like it. To be without it because I cant repair it myself well does not bear thinking about so you are right people do need to take this into consideration with there purchase.

Fortunately for your son you have managed to get him back up and running in a very short time when he probably needs it the most being at Uni.

A very good post highlighting what could be a problem for some.

January 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn A

This is a business decision by Apple as well. They charge a lot more for memory and hard drive upgrades. It also pushes people to upgrade earlier. I just upgraded my 2008 Macbook from 2 GB RAM to 8GB and added a 120 GB SSD for less than $250. To get these options on new MacBook would cost a lot more.

January 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric

But if this is the path that Apple are going down what lesson is there to learn here? Presumably if we want to stick with Apple because of the things that they do well there is no lesson to learn. Back things up and buy the best product that one can afford. If things go wrong, which they can do, then that's life, or open oneself up for a whole heap of misery by going down the 'other' route.

January 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRob

It's a fair point, Don - for you ... but I'd guess 90%-99% of Apple users would have no clue how to do such a parts swap. Taking their machine to an Apple store is by far the "quicker" solution, for them :)

January 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIan C.

I will certainly consider this when my MBP comes up for renewal (not too soon I hope). Very valuable post, Don, thanks.
@Ian C.: You certainly have a valid point as well, I would count myself among the 90%. But there is a significant difference between going to the Apple store, buy a new hard drive and have some Genius pop it in for you or going to same and just HAVING to buy a new Mac.

January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroucx

Daily overnight bootable image with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner to partition on external hard disk would also allow the use of original or loaner computer while Apple Store are doing whatever they do or while waiting for parts. After the first image, each successive one is very fast because it can be set to be only incremental. Don't you do this yourself Don?

February 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Browne

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