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  • About Daring to Fix or Upgrade Your Mac

    April 22nd, 2018

    Once upon a time, there was a huge question mark about whether you could or should attempt to upgrade your Mac. Whether adding RAM or replacing a drive, would the act void Apple’s warranty? But in the early days, except for some of those original all-in-one models, changing RAM was a snap. The top cover of such models as the Macintosh II and the IIcx could be popped open in a flash, giving you easy access to the internal workings.

    Later on, as Apple began to produce minitowers, it wasn’t always so easy. By the mid-90s, when Apple’s leadership appeared to be more interested in selling the company than building compelling new products, I recall having to disassemble the thin wiring harnesses around the logic board to get to the RAM slots. Indeed, when some Apple executives held a briefing to testers who had signed up for their “Customer Quality Feedback” program, a new Mac with a rejiggered and simplified upgrade scheme was displayed.

    There was a big round of applause from the audience.

    In all this, Apple would never penalize you for upgrading your computer by yourself, so long as you didn’t damage something in the process. It was only logical.

    Nowadays, adding RAM on a MacBook of any sort is not even possible, since Apple opted to solder memory to the logic board. So you had to buy the product with the RAM you wanted, because the only upgrade possible was an expensive logic board replacement. But the options are straightforward. On the 13-inch models, you get 8GB RAM standard, enough for most users. The upgrade to 16GB, the maximum, is $200. For the 15-inch MacBook Pro, it comes with 16GB already, so there’s nothing to upgrade.

    The iMac is a mixed bag. It’s super-easy on the 27-inch model. I manage it in just a few minutes. The 21.5 model requires disassembly of the entire unit, and Apple seals the display assembly to the chassis with adhesive. You’d expect the iMac Pro, a costly workstation version of the larger iMac that caters to pros, to be just as easy as its counterpart. It’s not. Since it requires full disassembly, it’s usually a dealer installation. Again, if you want more RAM, you may want to have it configured that way when you place your order.

    Apple offers 32GB standard, which is a decent amount. Then pricing goes awry. For $800, you double the DDR4 ECC memory to 64GB. Going to the maximum of 128GB costs $2,400. Understand that you can save hundreds of dollars if you choose a third-party option and follow the online instructions to take your computer apart. Is it worth it? If I had the money to buy one of these machines, I would certainly put such an upgrade in the hands of a dealer.

    But if you do it yourself and seriously damage your expensive workstation, is it reasonable to expect Apple to fix it without cost?

    That takes us to a particularly dumb online complaint about Apple refusing to repair an iMac Pro that was evidently wrecked beyond simple repair during the making of a YouTube video. Now maybe the poster believed that ad revenue for this misbegotten project would be sufficient to cover the costs of a replacement.

    That didn’t stop him from contacting Apple and being forewarned that it might refuse to repair the unit. But if you can believe the story, Apple Store employees offered to try, but allegedly had difficulty getting the parts, with the claim that “HQ wouldn’t send the parts they ordered.”

    If they knew about its condition, I wouldn’t be surprised at any excuse to avoid facing the inevitable. But I find it strange that Apple opted to agree to perform such a repair in the first place, or maybe their support people chose to go the extra mile to satisfy a customer who spent a bundle on a new computer.

    But according to an AppleInsider report, the claims made in the video were misleading. Apple’s official policy is that they can refuse to repair gear that exhibits signs of being modified or tempered with. Visible damage would certainly fit into that category. Obviously if you bring in a broken machine, Apple can probably show you the door, or offer to fix it if you’re willing to pay for the replacement parts. But when it comes to a broken logic board and display, the bill may end up being higher than just buying one brand new.

    Consider this counterpart: Imagine replacing all the parts of a car seriously damaged in an accident. Depending on the severity of the mishap, once the costs of that repair exceed the value of the vehicle, insurance adjustors will total the car. That’s what happened to me last June when my VW had a disagreement with an old pickup truck that ventured out of its lane. It was enough to trigger the air bags, and enough to seriously damage the engine compartment. The insurance adjuster concluded it was toast. I used the insurance settlement to get a cheaper car and keep the change.

    Either way, reassembling a car from the raw components is far more expensive than just buying one assembled. I wonder why it works that way, but that’s how it is.

    In any case, this YouTube video featuring someone destroying an iMac Pro and attempting to get warranty service clearly demonstrates that some people have no problem underestimating the intelligence of their audience — or themselves.

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