Archive for May, 2009

Repair Your Old Mac Cheaply

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

The display of my almost three year old MacBook Pro went black a few weeks ago. I was unwilling to send my MacBook Pro to the landfill* just yet, so I started looking at repair opportunities. I did not buy the $349 3-year AppleCare support plan when I purchased the computer. The scary part is that had this happened a few weeks later, the AppleCare plan would have done me absolutely no good anyway.

I suspect that getting the repair done by Apple would cost a small fortune. This is impossible to know however, since Apple does not post typical repair prices. On various message boards, the prices quoted are in the $700-800 range for LCDs, and up to $1500 for logic boards.

It is possible, but potentially hard, to fix it yourself. iFixit is a company that offers manuals, tools and parts necessary to make repairs to Mac products yourself. There are two problems with this however: Correctly diagnosing the problem, and customs if you live outside the USA. As far as diagnosing the problem goes, I knew the backlight was the culprit, since I could vaguely see the picture on the display even after it went black. But as I quickly found out, the backlight not working is a symptom of multiple conditions. One is that the lamp is broken. This requires replacing the screen. Another is a problem with the connector cable. This is a cheap part, but quite a tough repair. The third, and most costly possibility, is a problem with the logic board.

Unable to correctly diagnose the problem, I turned to third-party repair. I found Vfxroom, a small company in Toronto that does MacBook Pro repairs. They also fix most other Apple products. Anything from spill damage to logic board errors can be fixed. Kevin, the owner, correctly diagnosed my problem as a logic board failure. He pointed out the component that was damaged, and was able to fix it without replacing the logic board. There is no way I would have been able to do that myself!

In the end, the repairs came in at a modest CAD $385, a meager 20% of what would have probably been the cost of replacing the logic board by Apple professionals. Now, I have a perfectly good 2.16GHz MacBook Pro that will likely last me another few years.

(*) Laptops are e-waste. They may contain dangerous materials such as mercury, cadmium, lead, brominated flame retardants, beryllium oxide and many more. These pose severe health risks to humans and animals if disposed of improperly. Many of these accumulate in animals and propagate up the food chain, causing e.g increased risk of birth defects if pregnant women eat fish. Some substances accumulating in fish are known to be carcinogens, such as dioxins and PCBs. Be sure to return e-waste to a certified handler WHICH DOES NOT EXPORT THE WASTE TO DEVELOPING NATIONS! The people who repair laptops so you don’t have to buy a new one quite as often are environmental heroes in my mind.