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back to article Apple tightens screws on hardware hackers

Apple has a long history of playing cat and mouse with software coders who seek to make its iOS operating system more accessible to their fellow geeks. Now the game is being played with hardware hackers. The Mac maker isn't terribly keen on letting ordinary folk tinker with the insides of its products, most notably with the …

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Jobs Halo

Perhaps ...

in reality they don't care and it's just a way of cutting cost? I know a carpenter who uses nothing but torx screws and replaces any philipps screw he comes across with torx screws for the simple reason that it's a lot harder to screw up (pun intended) a torx head and a lot easier to safely (for the hardware) handle torx screws.

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Torx...

Compaq used to use Torx screws on all their kit too (back in the days before the HP slaughter).

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Silver badge
Boffin

Easy solution

Pass a law making it illegal to make non-user-serviceable devices, anywhere. The only reasons I've seen for non-user-serviceable labels are for stuff that can give nasty electrical shocks (like CRTs) or stuff that gets ruined by opening it (like HDDs). Those should keep the wacky screws, but the rest of it is pointless.

Soldered RAM should be a jailable offense as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Soldered RAM a problem?

Good luck removing the RAM in your mobile phone/mp3 player/etc. then...

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Torx availability

Apple appears to be yet another corporation which is controlled by lawyers.

By making their devices harder to dismantle they avoid product liability lawsuits.

Tim Parker: You might be thinking of "tamper-proof" TORX(r) which had restricted distribution of the bits. Snap-on Tools was the only licensed maker of these bits and drivers who sold them only to professional electronics and mechanical technicians and until the patent expired at which point cheapie Asian knockoffs became available.

Note: "Torx" is a registered trademark of Acument Camcar .

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Alert

Why use screws at all?

If Apple really wanted to lock their toys, they could just glue everything together. The Palm Vx was like that, and attempting to open its case with a hot knife was definitely not for the faint at heart!

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Alert

landfill you say..

since apple are dead against home repair, do they offer to dispose of your de-magic-smoked equipment when it's no longer viable to repair?

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Anonymous Coward

LAW

Erm... it has been law, in the UK at least, for a while now that EVERY supplier is obligated to take equipment back for recycling.

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Torax Screws

They have been around for YEARS. i've got No.5 & No.6 size torax screwdrivers that probably open most of the mobiles around...

I got them over 7 years ago. Any half decent hardware store (online or off) should stock them.

They were a couple of quid each..

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once again

Doing everything to make it as hard as possible for your average punter to upgrade or enhance without pennies falling into Apple's coffers.

Most phones these daft screws but laptops and desktop machines?

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Put it in context

I am annoyed that they are moving away from Torx. Not that many people have or carry a Torx set. That means the common person is not going to casually open and damage the computer. Those who have invested in a Torx set probably also has the background to deal with the innards of the machine.

I think is also useful to consider Apple sales and repair policy over the long term. In the 90's when most computers were implementing a one week or fortnight return policy, Apple continued to accept returns for thirty days, though now it 14 days. They have always fixed anything on any of my under warranty computers. The fact that they don't want an average person to open the computer, fry the motherboard, and then try to return the damaged merchandise is not a huge issue with me. If these new screws, which will not prevent me from repairing my kit, are what it takes to keep the liberal return and warranty policy it may not be such a bad trade.

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Jobs Halo

A simpler explanation

The new "pentalobe" head has no straight edges. The bit that drives them in, composed of five hemi-orbs, will easily engage the screws and be a lot less likely to leave scratch marks anywhere, compared to the previous sharp-edged torx head. Yet another example of Apple perfectionism.

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Unhappy

Side step

Apple would also like users to pay more upfront for more capacity or functionality.

If it were easy to do a user might be tempted to save the Apple premium for memory or storage and use a good third party which may even be the sourcer for the Apple part.

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...and also...

"Apple has been using torx screws for many, many years, making early Macs tricky for anyone but an authorised repair engineer to open."

...let's not forget those *really* difficult to open Macs, the Blue and White G3 towers, which went on to spawn the whole G4 tower designs ('graphite', 'quicksilver', 'speedhole'). So hard to open that you had to fully lift the latch and lower the side door to lie flat offering complete access to the motherboard and all peripherals - the whole point being that it made upgrading so much easier!!!

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PowerMac_G4_MDD_open.jpg

Come on Reg - history goes back further than 6 months, even in the tech industry.

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Dead Vulture

Early Macs difficult to open?

"Apple has been using torx screws for many, many years, making early Macs tricky for anyone but an authorised repair engineer to open."

Just how early are we talking here? From what I remember, many of them were unbelievably easy to open. From memory, some of the 68K machines like the IIci had no screws at all, simply to plastic clips to flick back and the lid came off. The IIVx (also Quadra 650 and some Performa models) used 1 bolt which just needed a flat-head screwdriver to loosen. Even some of the fiddly machines like the Alu PowerBook G4 (not particularly early... just a few years old) were held together with fairly standard little countersunk screws that just needed an everyday ordinary set of allen keys to open.

Torx drivers aren't difficult to obtain either - any local DIY store sells them, probably even your average small hardware shop would have them in stock. I can't see that these 'pentalobe' drivers will be particularly hard to come by either.

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Long Lived?

"Apple machines - Macs particularly - are notoriously long-lived?"

Not my experience, My three year experiment with a G4 Powerbook surely ended when the hardware just died. And don't even ask about the extremely expensive and notoriously short lived power adapters.

Maybe Macs last longer for most fanbois because of the neoprene and lambswool condoms that are used to protect them from the big bad world.

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Anonymous Coward

equally true

Maybe not in your experience, but in my (equally valid) experience I have only ever known one Mac to die. Whereas plenty of PCs have had to be replaced in that time.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Another petty Jobs' game

Apple is really wasting it's time as these 5-point Torx variants are easily defeated.

Start with <http://silverhilltools.com > or < http://www.brycefastener.com/ >.

If you can't access these sources locate a machine shop. The one we use uses PINS, made from hardened steel 'wire' mounted in a stainless steel handle. Taking a casting and subsequently making a mould is hardly worth while for low quantities.

The idea for using pins comes from the extraction tool sold by the manufacturers of the 'clutch' screw - the slotted style with 'ramps' that force a regular screwdriver out of the screw-head.

Another interesting point is that few of these security fasteners are patented - another opportunity for more Apple Tosh - although the principle is likely outside even Apples range of plagiarism.

Perhaps Apple could try reverse threading screws for their next failure of securing their boxes. I can understand why their their latest portable is secured - there's so little in it for the price charged.

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Anonymous Coward

Poxy screws

Have seen the infamous nintendo tri-wings used on cameras as well.

Now, what would be particularly nasty is to use a low melting point alloy, which when set is permamently unremovable by *anything* unless you have the special tool.

There are alloys which are soft enough that they can't be removed with conventional tools, but hard enough that they hold the appliance closed for its lifetime.

(scuttles off to the Patent Office)

AC, because he is SOOO going to get lynched for this.

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Anonymous Coward

vitriol

I still think your hatred for anything Apple is clouding your judgement here.

Has Apple stated it is using this type of screw to stop people messing inside their computers/phones/etc? Thought not. So it's just conjecture on your part.

Oh yeah - you didn't mention Lemon anywhere in your rant.

kthanksbye

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Thumb Down

Exactly why i don't trust apple

An ideal world for apple is everyone having exactly the same phone, same laptop, and same whatever else they're selling.

No-one can have a better version of something in that world and everyone is the same and not alowed to complain (Remind anyone of 1984?).

Glad i bought into Android then as no-one in the right mind wants a limited spec computer, a phone the same as everyone elses, and hardware you can't upgrade yourself (should you want to do so).

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Non issue

What's all the fuss about?

I think Wiens's speculation is rubbish and El Reg bit on a piece of iFixit marketing bait.

Most people I know who shell out ~£1K for an Apple computer buy the AppleCare 3 year warranty. They don't give a stuff about what screws are used to hold the box together. Sure I can repair computers but why would I bother when I can buy an excellent warranty for so little money?

By the time the AppleCare runs out, the tools are readily available if you need or want to effect a DIY repair. I recall having to swap a hard drive in a five year old desk lamp iMac. The screws were unusual when the computer was new but after that time getting hold of the correct screwdriver bit was no drama at all. El Reg is right, Apple owners do tend to hold on to their kit and it does last a long time. That iMac is now over 7 years old, still works great and used every day by a member of my family.

Apple have a track record of very close attention to detail in the engineering of their products and relentless improvement of every aspect of their design. I suspect the new screw heads afforded some sort of practical engineering advantage and using them has nothing to do with wanting to keep DIY repairmen out of the boxes. I don't believe Apple give a rat's ass about that issue.

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Silver badge

Introduce a new door, and watch the door openers come out of the woodwork

A quick look on eBay for the pentalobe drivers shows much.

One seller in California is flogging them off for around $8. And $80 shipping to Australia.

My arse. This rings alarm bells. California indeed. Cupertino I bet.

Thankfully, another seller in Hong Kong is doing them for $10 and free shipping.

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Paris Hilton

Nobody upgrades a Mac, surely?

They throw it away and buy the newest flashiest design.

That's what Apple is about, isn't it?

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Unhappy

Money spinning

Been looking at a quote this morning: memory upgrade fitted by Mac shop £350, memory from Crucial and fit myself £75.

Adequate explanation of why Apple don't want our grubby little fingers getting into their shiny kit.

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This goes back to the days..

This greed of Apple goes all the way back to the beginnings of the Mac, when they designed the case in such a way a (probably patented) separator tool was required to open it without destroying the case.

At the time, I remember their corporate excuse was protecting unqualified personnel from possible electrocution from the integrated CRT.

Also when Apple issued their first ROM upgrade, it was at no-cost UNLESS you had upgraded your Mac's RAM with non-Apple SIMMs .

The original Mac came from Apple with 128 kbytes of RAM (2 off 64 kbyte SIMM); I suspect the ROM upgrade would have triggered the need to upgrade RAM as well to 512 kbyte (2 off 256kbyte SIMM).

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Bronze badge
WTF?

Legendary reliability?

Legendary reliability? I hope you're being ironic with that statement.

A mate of mine, and plenty of others too, make good money out of fixing old MACs and selling them on eBay. Often or not he sees the same faults occurring time and time again; crap cheap components mostly. The trend at the moment seems to be display panels failing, which aren't especially economic to repair.

It illustrates the power of the Cult of Apple quite nicely; people spend a lot of money on a fruit theme something or other, and don't appear to mind when it breaks prematurely. Apart from my cousin who was rightly incandescent when her iPad stopped working after 3 months.

Compare that to PCs; I can't remember the last time I saw a PC just fail because of old age (normally dust, user miss-use, the occassional dead hard drive or PSU). And even when they do break they're awfully cheap to repair.

I wonder if Apple truly believe their own legend? I imagine not, and suspect that they take their large sale revenue down to the bank with a little bit of a cackle.

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Flame

One screw to rule them all!

It's because of Apple's attitude toward their customers that I refuse to buy their products any more.

Note that I said "customers". Remember us, Apple? The reason why Steve has lunch money? Stop taking us for granted.

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