back to article 'Upgraded' Apple iMacs lock out hard drive replacement

Expanding on its efforts to remove all user control over the innards of its iDevices, Apple appears to have made it difficult to swap out the hard drive in its latest line of iMacs without finding yourself listening to screaming, interminable fan noise. In a posting on his company's blog, an Other World Computing rep says that …

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Thats nice of them

All part of the 'magic' I guess.

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I thank them really

Such stories makes me sure to give up the idea of upgrading all my macs and suggest Macs to business people.

Win 7+openbsd virtual for me it seems.

Supposed to be "pro" workstation user (G5 quad) here, we had just 2 alternatives to upgrade the GPU. Blamed PowerPC and lazy companies, now it is all Intel, still 2 or 3 alternatives for GPU upgrade. That is a workstation. I was interested in GPU upgrade because Apple shipped Leopard with buggy GPU drivers and never fixed it despite numerous bug reports.

iPhone poisoned them...

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WTF?

I am so TOTALLY shocked.

I would never have dreamed that Apple would do something like this. Their devotion to user freedom and open-source is legendary. Legendary as in absent. I don't remember ANY Apple device that really encouraged end-user upgrading tinkering. For example, any device with batteries etc

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Apple ][ perhaps? Loved mine.

Built my own boards, and my ROMS saw more of the barber than I did. (UV steriliser was free erasure)

Then came two abortions and the Mac. And I stuck with my ][s until the 386 showed up.

The hardware side was beyond me, but at least I could still do what I wanted to do, the way I wanted to do it.

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Well they have contributed to open source

Webkit, BSD, Clang & LLVM would all be obvious recipients of Apple development. That said, it's well known that their relationship has often been pretty rocky with contributions back to the community coming in enormous undocumented patches and so on.

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IMACS & Drive Upgrading

This somehow doesn't surprise me on the IMACS. If they carry this forward to the other lines they are going to be in a real uproar.

I have added am internal drive to mine but for all intense purposes I use fire wire for all external drives. Apple has dropped fire wire from its "air" computers. They are also putting too much emphasis on USB2 for my taste. If they drop firewire then I am dropping Apple simple as that. USB2 does not give me the speed that I need PERIOD.

I suppose its windows sigh, and nobody from APPLE gives a flying as they think they have the fanboys to squalk and put everyone down that doesn't agree.

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Anonymous Coward

To be fair

As others said an iMac is not really meant to be a tinkerable device, for tinkering purposes there's the Mac Pro for, horses for courses and all that. Now there's also the Thunderbolt port which brings the PCI-E bus to external devices, so in the near future you'll be able to to all sorts of tinkering, plug in graphics cards, RAIDs, etc without even having to open the case.

In any case the only thing Apple has done here is use an extra pair of wires to report the internal temperature of the drive, as by some accounts (hardmac, or mine in other posts here) reading this info over the main SATA bus would impact the performance. An external temperature sensor is also not ideal.

So it appears this has a useful purpose, and when it's better understood I think it'll be very easy to override and add your own disks. Until it is, there's also the workarounds already suggested.

As for Apple's open source I suggest you look at http://opensource.apple.com/ . You may be surprised.

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Go

It's a good thing ....

... Apple doesn't make condoms. Or do they?

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Upgrading condoms

I'm sorry to tell you this, but all those "add 2 inches in week" ads are bullshit. You are therefore very unlikely to ever need a condom upgrade.

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What would that en(d)tail if Apple made cons?

Remove the con and there is automatic contraction and snap-back? OWWWWW.... Or, removing the con causes painful withdrawal symptoms and emergency addict(sh)un?

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Unfortunate.

I've been a Mac user for a long time, and my day job is doing systems engineering for a VMWare/Windows/Linux mixed environment. Macs are great machines to have at home for general productivity/goofing off/websurfing.

The funny thing about this is that 90% of all iMac buyers are never going to run into this problem. Apple seems like they desperately want out of the computer business and want to finish becoming a music/movie disributor and phone provider. Part of that strategy seems to be getting people to think of their computers as unserviceable appliances.

The oldies among us will probably remember the days of triple-digit percent margin on computer hardware, and Apple hardware waa near the top of the margin list. (I think the original Mac IIfx sold for $9000 1990 dollars, IIRC, without a monitor or keyboard!) Now that everything's turned out by the millions cheaply, I guess that's the justification for not building in upgrade capability...since you'll just trash it in 2 years and buy a new one. Back "in my day," computer equipment waa a major investment and users demanded that they have the ability to upgrade if needed. Now, not so much - iMacs are still high-margin, but not in the realm of insanity. Apple probably took a decision something like, "the iMacs are for students and consumers, if they want expansion they'll buy a Mac Pro."

Way to alienate the "prosumers" who like the way the iMac looks...

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Pint

Well said sir!

As Mac owner by night and Solaris admin by day, I'd like to add my tuppence worth.

All those having a laugh and saying "what a load of crap Apple are", just don't get the target audience for this kit. The kit is designed to be kept simple so when Fred takes his busted Mac to the store it takes about 3 secs to find the problem because they know that Fred will never have tinkered on the inside and they know exactly, down to the component, what's inside the box. They can cut manufacturing costs and bump up profits, that means more money for the shareholders. At the end of the day Mr Jobs lives for two things, making a shitload of cash for him and his shareholders and ensuring his company stays in a niche market, supplying highly prized and highly priced kit to those willing to pay.

Now I'm not saying that's good or bad, just that them's the facts!

Think on this, all those laughing at Apple kit and the "mugs" that buy it, are you perfect at everything you do? Can you strip out the engine your car, right down to the components, clean it and it put back together and have it running better than before? Could you completely rewire your house? Could you select, buy and apply the correct types and shades of make-up for your wife's or girlfriend's skin tones and hair colour? Could write a 10,000 word essay on the abilities of a horse to learn to count?

No neither could I and what's more I will hopefully never have to and so it goes with a very large percentage of Mac owners and tinkering with the guts of their desktops. So next time you think you know everything there is know about everything, remember that the world is billion shades of grey and not everyone has to do, say or think things the same as you do.

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3 out of 4

"Think on this, all those laughing at Apple kit and the "mugs" that buy it, are you perfect at everything you do? Can you strip out the engine your car, right down to the components, clean it and it put back together and have it running better than before? Could you completely rewire your house? Could you select, buy and apply the correct types and shades of make-up for your wife's or girlfriend's skin tones and hair colour? Could write a 10,000 word essay on the abilities of a horse to learn to count?"

I get your point but I can do 3 out of the 4 on your list :D

You seem to be missing the point though. Apple use standard parts in a standard way, but put some extra magic in the OS to stop you using other standard parts.

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Re: Well said sir!

"The kit is designed to be kept simple so when Fred takes his busted Mac to the store it takes about 3 secs to find the problem because they know that Fred will never have tinkered on the inside and they know exactly, down to the component, what's inside the box."

Although manufacturers are often quite at pains to point out that, for various products, opening the case invalidates the warranty. So they probably won't need to fix Fred's problem if he's a tinkerer. Of course, this leads to the slippery slope of vendors insisting that not using the illegally bundled Windows voids the warranty, even if the keys were falling off the keyboard, or that jailbreaking the device and/or using your own software is "illegal".

"Could write a 10,000 word essay on the abilities of a horse to learn to count?"

I think we've all lost you on this one.

Anyway, the points about stripping your car's engine hold only for any one person, but not for the social group or possibilities around or for a particular person. So I might not know how to strip and rebuild an engine, but I could go to a garage and pay someone to do it, if the manufacturer doesn't forbid me from doing so. Similarly, if I want a larger hard drive without completely replacing my computer - and even Mac users must be aware that hard drives get bigger and you can buy them separately - if the job of replacing it is a bit much, there might well be a relative, friend, acquaintance, associate or service provider who can do the job without having to ask the vendor's permission first.

Of course it suits a corporation that all dollars go to and through itself and aren't shared around the "consumer's" community, but to say that "it's OK because we'll chuck it out after two years" is just another example of the contempt that the spoiled, impatient, indulged, "empowered consumer" shows for the actual cost and effort of making these things and for the environment that has to offer up all the resources to push unnecessary upgrade upon unnecessary upgrade just so that some corporation can please a bunch of analysts and shareholders.

A computer purchased in the last five years should really still be usable, in my opinion, especially if the vendor isn't petty and money-grabbing and will let you upgrade the RAM and hard disk. Even if you're disappointed with the level of special effects and bling and think that your computer would be better off in the hands of some relative or other, it should not be inconceivable for a modern computer to do good service for a decade.

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@AC

That's not quite the issue here; Apple have built a temperature sensor and the firmware necessary to report back from the temperature sensor directly onto the drive, have created a proprietary connector to allow drive + sensor to talk back to the rest of the system and have set things up so that any failure by the drive to say that it's safe results in the fans spinning up to the maximum extent possible.

This hinders third party upgrades, so is a negative step in the eyes of a group of their potential customers. Any individual who would have swapped out the base build drive for something larger after purchase and who now instead opts to pay for a build-to-order upgrade will have to pay more than they did previously per the industry-wide rule that build-to-order upgrades cost quite a lot more than buying the better part and performing the same task yourself (often even if, hypothetically, you were then unable to realise any value from whatever bit you remove).

Conversely, it possibly shrinks the total size of the sensor + the drive (or, more probably, the cost of the two together), and iMacs haven't been designed to contain user serviceable hard drives at any point that I remember. Most iMac purchasers already treat it as an appliance and attempts to upgrade are rare — the RAM is user serviceable and very trivial to access, everything else is hidden. Upgrading some non-user-serviceable parts of the iMac is easier in this model than the last (including the CPU, notably), but that doesn't make for an interesting story.

So: Apple have taken a step that upsets some of its customers, but not most. It's news but it's not really the end of the world and it doesn't say much about Apple beyond reinforcing whatever you already thought about them.

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@The Fuzzy Wotnot

"Think on this, all those laughing at Apple kit and the "mugs" that buy it, are you perfect at everything you do? Can you strip out the engine your car, right down to the components, clean it and it put back together and have it running better than before?"

No but I can change a tire or a battery or a bulb or the wipers or the oil or top up the fluids if I want. And even if I couldn't or if the job were more involved than I would be comfortable with I can still drive the thing to a mechanic of my choice to do it. And in the process of servicing my vehicle I could purchase parts from virtually anywhere that sells them - Halfords, Tesco, Kwikfit and so on. Hell I could even walk into the local scrapyard and grab parts from a similar model.

Now imagine a car where the bonnet is sealed shut with special latches to prevent you from opening it. Imagine if its filled with proprietary parts and connectors that cannot be purchased in any store. Imagine if 3rd party parts cause the car to malfunction such as cause it to overheat. Imagine that using an unauthorized garage (one which has purchased special tools to pop the bonnet) will void your warranty. Imagine if the official garage requires you drop your car off for a week and when you come to pick it up you get someone elses refurbished car not your own one.

That is the Apple model. I doubt anyone objects with them producing appliance like devices. However the reality is they deliberately go out of their way to prevent you servicing your device, even for trivial things like changing a battery. All of this is great if you're a shareholder who enjoys watching people throw away a perfectly functional device because the battery is dead. It's not so good for anyone who has an ounce of sense in their head and doesn't want to be fleeced by a model which absolutely runs against to the consumer's interests.

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Anonymous Coward

Shades of grey...

"remember that the world is billion shades of grey and not everyone has to do, say or think things the same as you do."

Apple had best heed the above advice.

"Think on this, all those laughing at Apple kit and the "mugs" that buy it, are you perfect at everything you do?"

No but I do the best that I am capable of.

"Can you strip out the engine your car, right down to the components, clean it and it put back together and have it running better than before?"

Yes.

"Could you completely rewire your house? "

Yes.

"Could you select, buy and apply the correct types and shades of make-up for your wife's or girlfriend's skin tones and hair colour?"

You got me on make-up and hair. I knew I should have taken cosmetology instead of Electrical, Building Construction, and Electronic Data Processing.

"Could write a 10,000 word essay on the abilities of a horse to learn to count?"

Any particular breed of horse or all equines in general? IMHO such an endeavour would be a HUGE waste of time but if someone were to pay me enough to make it worthwhile then I'm game.

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WTF?

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

"Apple use standard parts in a standard way, but put some extra magic in the OS to stop you using other standard parts."

How standard is that hard drive and the firmware inside it? That would be called PROPRIETARY.

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Well said sir!

"Now imagine a car where the bonnet is sealed shut with special latches to prevent you from opening it. Imagine if its filled with proprietary parts and connectors that cannot be purchased in any store. Imagine if 3rd party parts cause the car to malfunction such as cause it to overheat. Imagine that using an unauthorized garage (one which has purchased special tools to pop the bonnet) will void your warranty. Imagine if the official garage requires you drop your car off for a week and when you come to pick it up you get someone elses refurbished car not your own one.

That is the Apple model."

You nailed it on the head!

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Happy

Fit your own hard drive...

"there might well be a ... service provider who can do the job"

What, like the Apple Store?

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Happy

Clarity

Missed the point, my point was that very few people would have or even wish to do all or any parts of these. I can manage the second one and parts of the first and third, I'll even have a go at the fourth for a laugh when I really have nothing else to do. The third is just asking to spend the night sleeping out in my car!

My point was, which I will grant I fail to qualify, people who enjoy tinkering with machines would most likely never buy a Mac to expressly tinker with it. If you're into tinkering you'd buy the bits and you'd build and tinker with it, as you know what you need and how to go about it. Most people buy a Mac do so on the need to have the machine as a usable tool, an application provider, not a tech toy to learn how a PC works. Of the half dozen people I know with Macs, none of them would have the slightest interest in even finding and using the command line. So long as it boots, the GUI arrives and the apps work, all is right with the world.

OK, here's different one. If my kids want to learn how a car engine works and wish to play with bits of it, I wouldn't buy them a brand new BMW or a Merc, I would buy some knackered 15 year old plus Ford Fiesta, knowing there are bucket loads of places to get dirt cheap parts and knowing that there is no warranty of any kind when I bought it, so it's ours to play with as we wish.

The Mac is not really designed for tinkering with so it's no good decrying it's ability to allow you to tinker with it. It's designed to be a closed tool, used by those who need to have PC that works as it was designed 95% of the time.

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@The Fuzzy Wotnot

While I agree with your point — which I take to be that Apple shouldn't be condemned for making a computer as an appliance given that there's a market for computers as appliances and lots of people want them only as appliances — I think possibly the offence here is that Apple are adding and removing features that some people want without any sort of notice and with no regard to that particular audience.

So it's characteristic of their control tendencies and it further evidences which segments they're actually interested in selling to. It's also a sign that they don't mind deviating from industry standards if they think something is to be gained for their target audience. So I think it plays both ways. I can see why it offends a lot of El Reg's readership but I don't agree with a lot of the motives that are assumed to be behind it, or that it imputes much upon Apple's customers.

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Fuzzy Whotnot

Circular argument. It's OK and not worth reporting because Macs are not designed to be tinkered with. That is because they are sealed shut and contain non-standard parts. Which is OK and not worth reporting because they are not designed to be tinkered with. etc...

That's why reporting is is *good*: so that people know that you can't tinker with (or repair) your macbook, should you wish to. It's good to know that sort of things *before* you buy.

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Hard disks get hot.

To be fair, the iMac has about the most complicated hard disk replace of any macintosh I have seen since the 12" powerbook. The iMac is definitely designed to be a disposable unit. As far as connecting cooling tot he hard disk, that may be an idea whose time has come. The hard dive is one of the few components that seems to be a primary producer of heat, and Apple does not appear to use the most effecient models. I have had many hard disks fail due to over heating.

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They choose overheating/hot disks

I have seen 75 celsius drive first time in my life on a Mac Mini core duo, it was Fujitsu. Replaced with a good Seagate drive (similar price) and same setup produces 45 celsius at most.

One of the most trivial things you can do is getting HD temperature via smart signaling. Doesn't need a special "cable", it is all built into IDE standard. I am absolutely stunned they got such an idea in 2011 to begin with.

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Yes, and your point is?

Hard disks also come with a S.M.A.R.T. temperature sensor nowdays which is considerably more precise than any external ones. Using an external sensor for it is actually an example of bad design.

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FAIL

@Hard disks get hot

Yes, they get hot and need cooling, but at my desktop here I can look at their temperature using my RAID card as it simply asks for the SMART status.

Any 'pro' machine that is not monitoring the smart status is basically a failure, as it provides warning of disk problems (but not always) before you begin to lose data, so why not use it for the temperature?

And before anyone asks about the loss of control when the OS crashing (on a Mac, never! they scream) you just have the fan controller with a watchdog timer - no OS updates for X seconds and fans go to maximum speed. Simplez!

Fail, for Apple pissing on its professional customers.

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Anonymous Coward

@Anton Ivanov re SMART temperature

As far as it's been shown Apple is not using an external sensor in this case, it's reporting the temperature from the drive's built in sensor via a separate pair of cables.

According to an article at Hardmac this is done for performance reasons as polling the drive for it's SMART temperature via the main SATA bus would affect the drive performance. As the Mac uses the temperature for fan control it needs to do frequent polling.

I have tested this claim myself on my Mac and posted results showing a drop in of about 13MB/s in sequential reads if I poll the drive's SMART temperature sensor just twice per second. For full details please check my other post, last seen in page 3 of this thread.

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@+++ath0

"I poll the drive's SMART temperature sensor just twice per second"

2Hz? Why so often?

The thermal time constant of a HDD with all of that metal must be of the order of high tens to hundred+ seconds, so I expect you could poll every 10-20 seconds and have sufficient margins for control system stability.

I expect that would lead to <1% loss in speed, and you get the disk's health as well.

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@llgaz

That's my point exactly. Hard drives already report temp through IDE and SMART so why exactly is this special connector really needed? Its there for revenue enhancement!

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Happy

@Paul - fixed it

"Any 'pro' machine that is not monitoring the smart status is basically a failure"

"Any personal computer that is not monitoring the smart status is basically a failure"

There fixed it!

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Anonymous Coward

Temperature

@Paul Crawford

Well there is a lot of metal, but the metal is mostly aluminium which has a very high heat transfer coefficient. Plus the drive electronics are usually at the bottom, with an exposed cirtcuit board not enclosed by the metal of the drive. Finally there's also the fact that the hard drive gives off heat by itself (moving spindles, electronics) as well as receive from the surrounding environment packed with very hot things like CPU's, GPU's, power regulators (the iMac has a built in power supply) and other interface chips.

My guess is in order to control the speed of the overall "network" of fans, the system will be doing fan control decisions at a rate close to 2Hz or even faster, so it's ideal to have up to the moment temperature information from all the sensors.

Temperature in computer systems doesn't increase linearly, it tends to be a sigmoid function and a lot can happen in 10s during the rising interval of that.

@Zippy the Pinhead

If you want SMART monitoring you can install the free SMART reporter utility from here:

http://www.corecode.at/smartreporter/

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As a fanboi...

.... that annoys me intensely.

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Flame

as a anti apple fanboi

.... that pleases me intensely.

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Pint

I'm a Mac. I have no user-serviceable parts inside.

And I generate lots of "fan noise".

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I see what you did there

Oh yes I do

:-)

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Thanks for another enjoyable article!

Thanks for another enjoyable article! I look forward to reading more of these, too!

: )

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Er

I notice this user's last 3 posts have been along these lines. Turtle, are you still a human, or have you turned into some curious sort of praise-bot?

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@Havin_it

Are you serious? It's a freakin' turtle - just because it posts here doesn't mean it's human.

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If you must have a Mac ...

Buy a £200 (or less) bog-standard PC and Hackintosh it. The more generic the hardware the better (just make sure you have a Broadcom wireless card). Then plug in a nice big monitor and Bob's your auntie.

Works just fine. Upgrade its hardware as much as you like (disks, memory, anything you fancy). Never failed in nearly 3 years, even after OS X updates (though I am sure they'll fix us there eventually). After all, Macs are just Intel PCs with an EFI bootloader.

Who says UNIX knowledge is worthless?

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Anonymous Coward

Actually, I might just do that..

Since I switched to OSX by means of a Macbook Pro I have been on one side happy with substantially less management overhead than Windows to keep the system safe, and with less faffing around to have a usable desktop (but I still prefer OpenSuSE for a mix of desktop and server - it's a matter of preference).

What I also *really* liked was that the Macbook came with a sheet that told you how to take it apart and swap parts. Not that you need it, but it's nice to find upfront you can actually take the lid off the bottom and change things such as RAM and the HDD for something else like an SSD (which I may do in the near future).

However, if a desktop (which should be much easier to take apart) contains proprietary parts for the bits that are pretty much standard elsewhere that tells me that I will pay a lot extra just for the brand - and non-standard parts are not as exposed to the world as regular bits are so flaws may last longer before they are discovered. Not good - which means Apple has just lost a hardware sale from me. Time to start digging for hackingtosh info - cant be hard..

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Another first for Apple

An anonymous coward wrote:

>>What I also *really* liked was that the Macbook came with a sheet that told you how to take it apart and swap parts. Not that you need it, but it's nice to find upfront you can actually take the lid off the bottom and change things such as RAM and the HDD for something else like an SSD (which I may do in the near future).

Oh my god, that's so innovative that I'm flabbergasted. You can actually remove covers and CHANGE the hard disc and the ram? And furthermore, there's a PIECE OF PAPER that tells you how to do it? Perhaps it even has a diagram showing you which end of the screwdriver to hold?

Now I can see why Apple is so successful. Come on, other computer manufacturers - wake up and smell the muesli!

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Bit harsh?

>>>Oh my god, that's so innovative that I'm flabbergasted. You can actually remove covers and CHANGE the hard disc and the ram? And furthermore, there's a PIECE OF PAPER that tells you how to do it? Perhaps it even has a diagram showing you which end of the screwdriver to hold?

Well, personally I've never come across a laptop that came with teardown instructions. Is that common?

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Thinkpads

I know it was not shipped with the laptop, but IBM and latterly Lenovo have complete service guides for all Thinkpad models on the Internet, freely available, and easy to find.

Want to know the part number for the screw that holds the power socket into the case for your 1998 vintage T20? It's all there. And the strip-down guides are not just the easy to open doors and hatches, but removing every component that has an identified part number down to bare plastic cases, ribbon cables and screws.

That's one of the main reasons why I choose them for my workhorse laptops. The other reasons being easy availability of spare parts and general robustness.

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Tear down instructions

My cheap Fujitsu laptop came with instructions on how to open it and upgrade/change both hard disc and and RAM in seven different languages and so did the Dell I have at work (although the language count differs slightly) so my guess is it's quite common.

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Hackintosh Air?

Just finally had the spare time to mess with this myself.

Have a read of the Register article on this. It's pretty good.

I just followed these instructions

http://osx.mechdrew.com/guides/nbi1leopard.shtml

And now have a nice little Acer Aspire Netbook running Snow Leopard.

Works wonderfully - although I haven't had chance to mess with the various kexts available for it. (ie no sound yet). Wifi is working through a USB dongle at the mo - although there are ways around that I hear.

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Most laptops can be torn down

Most laptops have hatches which provide simple access to things like memory, hdd, wifi. Even my HP Mini 210 which has no hatches can be popped open to insert more memory. It was a bitch to do but it was serviceable.

Business models tend to be far more serviceable. Things like Thinkpads can be stripped down to their component parts and there is plenty of documentation to do it. A business might have a pool of laptops and if one goes kaput they might like to use it for spares for the others. If another one goes wonky, e.g. hard disk fails off they can cannibalize the dead one.

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Jobs Horns

Hack Air

One way around the wireless problem in an AAO Hackbook is to replace the atheros with a broadcom wireless card.

It sits under the keyboard.

If half height, might need some cable-tie persuasion to stay down.

As for the suggestion of a £200 PC as a hackintosh, tried that. Didn't work. Wouldn't even boot.

HDs are the only component of old LCs and G3s that seem to go.

No doubt soon enough though some clever clogs will be selling a SATA to Mac adaptor :)

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Megaphone

@If you must have a Mac

Obvoius to see that you are not a die-hard Mac fan, if you think that nearly three years is a long time - very few real Mac owners would suffer any failure in that time period either, most will have stories of thirteen if not thirty-year old machines still running.

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@havin_it

Is it common? No.. but usually you can find what you need online.

Then again in most instances the internals of laptops are pretty standard.. you just remove parts in order and put them back in reverse.. That isn't really to hard and has been done for centuries by watch and clock makers.

Besides.. who needs an instruction manual? lol

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