No, Apple hasn't activated a secret Mac repair kill switch -- yet

It's still possible to repair new Macs featuring the T2 chip -- for now. But given Apple's track record, people are entitled to be worried.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
​Apple T2 chip

Apple T2 chip


Despite the hysteria that was generated following the uncovering of internal Apple repair documents, it seems that it is still possible to swap parts on new Macs that feature the T2 chip.

According to Motherboard, who first reported on this, things seemed pretty dire:

Apple has introduced software locks that will effectively prevent independent and third-party repair on 2018 MacBook Pro computers, according to internal Apple documents obtained by Motherboard. The new system will render the computer 'inoperative' unless a proprietary Apple 'system configuration' software is run after parts of the system are replaced.

This seemed to have pretty wide-ranging implications for third-party system repairers:

The software lock will kick in for any repair which involves replacing a MacBook Pro's display assembly, logic board, top case (the keyboard, touchpad, and internal housing), and Touch ID board. On iMac Pros, it will kick in if the Logic Board or flash storage are replaced. The computer will only begin functioning again after Apple or a member of one of Apple's Authorized Service Provider repair program runs diagnostic software called Apple Service Toolkit 2.

Sounds bad, right? End of the road for third-party repairs.

Not so fast.

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The industrious folks at iFixit decided to put this to the test by heading to the Apple Store to buy a brand new 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro Touch Bar unit, disassembling it, and swapping the display with a teardown unit from this summer.

Following the swap, both MacBooks worked normally.

So, despite all the smoke, there's no fire. For now, at any rate.

Which raises the obvious question -- why has Apple baked this feature into Macs?

iFixit believes that this may be Apple's way of tracking serial numbers and other parts data in order to verify that Authorized Apple Service Providers are correctly carrying out repairs. It may also offer a way to carry out calibration on repaired devices, to make sure that they are working properly.

But, it's not like Apple doesn't have a history of device-disabling repair scandals, such as Error 53, the iOS 11.3 update that caused problems on iPhones fitted with aftermarket displays, and Batterygate (to name but a few).

This is a lot of power that Apple is wielding over customers, and who knows when this issue will surface again to bite customers.

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