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This is bad news for right to repair advocates.
Apple has been an outspoken opponent in the growing move for right to repair laws. Right to repair legislation would ensure that third-party repair houses have the instructions and components necessary to properly fix consumer devices and better allow people to make fixes on their own.
Recent macOS devices, however, appear to fight that idea. It includes a software lock that renders the device unusable until Apple’s proprietary system configuration software is run after a hardware replacement.
Motherboard obtained a document shared with Apple Authorized Service Providers that outlines the details of this software lock. The 2018 MacBook Pro computers and Mac Pros are currently the only devices this software lock applies to, as they are outfitted with a new “T2 security chip.”
“For Macs with the Apple T2 chip, the repair process is not complete for certain parts replacements until the AST 2 System Configuration suite has been run. Failure to perform this step will result in an inoperative system and an incomplete repair,” the document explains.
The repercussions are straightforward to understand: This means that if you try to make a hardware replacement yourself, your computer isn’t going to work afterward. The software lock is enabled for MacBook Pro repairs relating to the logic board, display assembly, case (which includes the keyboard, trackpad, and related housing), and Touch ID board. The software lock switches on for some iMac Pro repairs as well, specifically if you replace the logic board or flash storage.
Apple’s repair model, with this software lock that requires an authorized Apple repairperson to run the “Apple Service Toolkit” or “Apple Service Toolkit 2” software before returning a device to functionality, is a model seen with other companies as well. Motherboard notes John Deere employs a similar repair program, which has pushed some farmers to run firmware hacks on their equipment.
More than a dozen states are currently considering right to repair legislation, which would outlaw such practices.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.