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Cleaning My MacBook After 16800 Hours of Use (quanticdev.com)
326 points by soygul on June 20, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 278 comments

This is something people often forget about with laptops. Between dust buildup and thermal paste degradation, performance will always slow over time due to rampant thermals. Even tech-savvy people often seem to think their laptop is simply “slowing down” and “too old” when the solution is often as simple as a can of compressed air.

I’d really recommend doing the dust cleanup every year or so. It’s usually easy enough to remove the bottom cover of any laptop without particularly special screwdrivers.

Desktops (especially the PCs with the case Windows) are a bit easier to understand because you’ll see the clogged intakes and dust buildup much more readily.

One thing I like about mechanical keyboards is that the keys can be removed making cleaning much easier. Six months is a better timeline for keyboard cleaning, these things get _nasty_ especially if you have pets.

> It’s usually easy enough to remove the bottom cover of any laptop without particularly special screwdrivers.

"particularly special"? The screwdrivers needed to open up a Macbook are special enough that I've never seen them used for any other object. So are you just glad that Apple didn't decide to create a new screwdriver standard for each Macbook model? :)

BTW, one of the most useful tools I've found for working on arbitrary modern electronics (after a basic set of ordinary screwdrivers and jewelers' drivers, a needlenose pliers, and some kind of spudger) is a $10-$20 set of as many different security screw bits as you can get. IME, it pays for itself the first time you need one of the bits, and I wish I'd bought a bigger set the first time.

Well latest MacBooks also have internal clips that you need suction cups placed in exact locations to release. I've given up on fixing them.

You'd almost think they want you to walk into one of their stores so their salespeople have chance at trying to upsell you to their latest model.

Anecdata: in 12 years of owning Macs I personally have never had this experience. In fact they usually went out of their way to provide solutions to extend the hardware lifetime as much as possible.

Anecdata in return: I've had the exact opposite, macbook air 2013 issue with a borked keyboard, clearly a manufacturing defect and all they could do is sell me a new one, repairing the old one (which should have been free of charge no matter what the warranty situation) would cost more than it was worth.

My solution: (1) screw Apple, not buying their hardware ever again and (2) use a USB keyboard.

Walking past all the shiny new electronics to the help desk way at the back is enough of a sales tactic for them. there's a reason all Apple stores have that layout, they don't need to train their techs in sales as well.

Strasbourg's Apple store has two distinct "front" an d "back" entries and two distinct half-floors that communicate by a couple of steps and are separated by a big wall, respectively for the sales side and the support side. Note that the "back" one isn't really "back", it's more like opening towards a mall instead of outside.

I also find these very useful, but I have some that wore down and start stripping the screws.

I'd like to find a set that isn't prone to wear, unless that is simply a fact of life. I'm wondering if I was just being too cheap when I bought my first set.

It's not a fact of life, it's due to poorly made screwdrivers/bits. Unfortunately, it's getting more difficult to find, or at least be certain of the quality of tools. You can only really know that it's a good tool after getting a lot of use out of it. But by then that particular tool may no longer be sold, or it may not be manufactured the same way, or even in the same factory. So any verified reviews may be out of date.

I've had good luck with the iFixIt kits, but I haven't had to use them often enough that wear might be a real issue, so perhaps I just haven't seen it.

I bought this set a year ago and have been very happy with them. The heads/bits seem very solid hard steel. Not the soft ones that you often get. Comes with all the weird pentalobe etc bits for Apple and Nintendo etc.


I've had good luck with Wiha tools.

I second this. I had an ifixit set and then got this wiha set: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JQ753W8/. I ended up giving away the ifixit ones because the wiha quality was notably superior.

Seconded. It's definitely worth spending some extra money on a reputable brand, rather than a generic low quality product with a meaningless name stamped on the box. For screwdrivers I stick with PB Swiss.

I second the recommendation for the iFixit screwdriver sets, the Mako is great for precision/smaller things, and the Manta is great as more of a general purpose set. I use the Manta all the time for general household applications. The other awesome part is the lid can double as a parts tray. I do with the Manta had more hex drivers, but I have a separate set of those as well.

Good point. One of my sets was of noticeably poor quality compared to the others. For bits I was using frequently, I'd try to find a tools seller with a brand to protect (probably not on Amazon, with their SKU commingling).

> a $10-$20 set

Which renders the whole notion of a "security screw" a joke. So why do companies persist in using them?

They use security screws to deter passer-by from unscrewing the screws. It's very easy to fashion something that will unscrew a flat or Philips head screw while security screw basically require the right screwdriver. Useful in elevators, bathrooms, or anywhere the public might be a nuisance.

This also prevents people from unscrewing their Macbook and messing something up then coming into the store and complaining. If you are willing to go out of your way to get the right screwdriver, you probably know what you are doing inside of the laptop.

> This also prevents people from unscrewing their Macbook and messing something up then coming into the store and complaining.

Right. Because this happens all the time with laptops that use regular screws, and there is no way to tell if the damage has been caused by someone opening up the machine and destroying something.

There is no good reason for keeping people away from the insides of the computer they paid (a fortune) for, and yet Apple gets away with it.

If you have a philips screw, get a philips driver. If you have a tri-wing screw, get a tri-wing driver. Sure the latter aren’t as common, but they’re readily available from countless online stores. Unless your Government has outlawed certain types of driver, it’s absurd to say that one screw type locks you out more than the other.

It's not absurd. Just because it's available somewhere doesn't mean it's easy to find. Also you're having your arm twisted to purchase something that will probably be used very little elsewhere in your life. Why not just use the more common screw and make things a bit easier?!

It's almost like a company using an uncommon electrical plug on their power cable, and expecting everyone to buy an adapter to use it. People would be outraged.

My decking was installed with a somewhat uncommon drill bit that isn’t in many people’s household toolkits. Is my decking user hostile?

If there is a valid mechanical/electrical/physical reason why they would choose one fixing over the other, then fair enough - sometimes the more esoteric product can be the correct or only one for the job. If they're just doing it for the sake of making it harder to work with, then, by definition, it's user hostile.

What screw head did they use?

Square. You won’t find square bits in any supermarket or gas station store. But they’re readily available in hardware stores.

Similarly, the screwdriver bits needed to open a MacBook are readily available from computer repair parts stores.

Seems perfectly analogous to me.

Those are Robertson-bit screws, and are ubiquitous here in Canada. (Also a Canadian invention, don'tcha know.) https://www.robertsonscrew.com/

They work great with a power driver, such as you'd want for putting in a deck or fence, so 2-3" deck screws are like my version of duct tape around the house.

It’s just a small star shaped screw IIRC but nothing specific to Apple; other small electronics use these too.

BTW, I wish manufacturers would stop using Philips screws. Hex or Torx is so much better design.

Depends on the application, Torx doesn't cam out for example which in some cases could be undesirable.

I don't see why cam out should be ever desirable. Use torque wrench if necessary. Meanwhile, with Philips this turns out: screw is fastened with cam out torque ... some time later ... due to dirt, rust, etc. it now requires slightly more torque to unfasten, but that is higher than cam out! So now you have to wrestle to push driver stronger, each failed attempt wears screw more, and of course you can hurt yourself when it cams out when pushing strongly.

I agree that cam out is not usually desirable, however it could be used as a safety mechanism against excessive torque for the material being screwed into (although it's probably not the best way to implement a safety measure).

> Useful in elevators, bathrooms, or anywhere the public might be a nuisance.

True, but I'm not in the habit of randomly picking a laptop off of someone else's desk and disassembling it.

Well, at my Alma Mater in Rome I heard the story that all machines in the “internet lab” (we’re talking ‘00s here) had their RAMs ripped out and replaced with older and smaller sizes, as well as all the CPUs.

Ideally admins should have chained and locked them, but a weird driver would have reduced the incidence of the problem

Would it though? They already had matching, smaller size, RAM modules. If they went this far, they could definitely get the proper tools as well.

It’s just a screw which is better for machines. They don’t really care if you can open it or not, since it’s hard enough with any screw. But they do care if assembly robot makes less mistakes.

Torx works fine for machines. As do hex heads. This is just a ploy.

Torx is mechanically superior to hex. I would expect an expensive laptop to have mechanically superior fastenings.


A bolt for a laptop is just a bolt. The kind of mechanical superiority that you'd get out of using Tor-x vs a hex head is not something that would make your expensive laptop any better. Simple Philips heads would be fine, hex heads are more than good enough and Tor-x likely overkill. They do look nice though.

I for one am very glad that my father-in-law doesn’t have the screwdriver that would open his MacBook. Otherwise it would already be broken.

One person’s “ploy” is another person’s “essential feature”.

Well, maybe he'd learn something useful, maybe not. But it is his MacBook and regardless of whether you are glad about it or not he should be able to do with it as he pleases. Clearly, other laptop manufacturers survive just fine using normal screws. Treating computers as though they are disposable appliances that can not be repaired, in fact constructing them in that way on purpose is neither desirable nor does it make sense from an ownership and an ecological perspective, even if there are edge cases where it is beneficial.

But he can do as he pleases. He can go on eBay or amazon and buy the correct driver.

Your logic seems to be that if you can’t open a device with tools available at your local gas station store, it’s user hostile?

And it’s quite egotistical and “in the bubble” to say that opening your devices is something everyone should be able to stumble into. If you applied that logic to everything we own, nobody would have any time to do anything else.

> And it’s quite egotistical and “in the bubble” to say that opening your devices is something everyone should be able to stumble into.

That makes no sense. It is selfish to have a right to open a device you have purchased?

> If you applied that logic to everything we own, nobody would have any time to do anything else.

Having a right to open your own device does not mean you are required to do so nor do you have to spend all your time opening the devices around your house. It is also beneficial in the sense that if you are not willing to open your own device you can go to a third party you trust to open it without requiring the manufacturers permission.

I agree with everything you said. You seem to be arguing against someone else, not with what I wrote.

Where I don’t agree is your inference that using a less common but still readily available screw head means you have “no right” to open your device.

Minor inconveniences are not the same as a loss of rights, and it’s astonishing that anyone would try to conflate the two.

My apologies for misinterpreting what you intended to say.

> Minor inconveniences are not the same as a loss of rights, and it’s astonishing that anyone would try to conflate the two.

They are not entirely the same, but a world with less standards (that are high quality and open) seems like a better place. I enjoy being able to use USB ubiquitously. If every company had their own screw head standards that seems objectively worse. Apple's product design definitely feels like they want it to be as difficult as possible to open.

I am sure it stops a significant portion of people opening them still. I'd really want to take one apart before going through the hassle of buying special tools.

Kinda like how companies makes unsubscribing hard, not impossible.

If you just wanna disassemble the laptop, any screwdriver that fits is good

Once you unscrewed it you can replace the screws

People don't do it because are afraid of voiding the warranty or because just don't care

«$10-$20 set of as many different security screw bits»

The one I own: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0023QTESS And I have used almost 1/3rd of the bits. I don't think I have ever seen a set more complete than this one.

I have that exact same kit and I love it. The little plastic fingers that hold the bits to the lid break pretty easily so I've removed the whole top tray and put the bits in some of these. https://www.amazon.com/10pcs-Holes-Screwdriver-Holder-Storag...

I'm debating on removing the bottom tray and 3d printing a new one to hold even more bits.


as a thinkpad user, i almost always used any random screwdriver i had around, as long as it fitted.

Thinkpads are the rare exception. Most of (all of?) the screws are simple Phillips, and the manual provides good instructions on how to disassemble. I've worked on other laptops from other manufacturers; IIRC, I had a Toshiba with Torx screws. No manual, and it also took me forever to find the last two screws as one had a rubber stopper glued over it (that you had to half destroy to get out) and the other had a sticker placed over it.

MBPs have the weird "pentalobe" screws, AIUI.

ThinkPads are historically some of the most repairable laptops. They are essentially designed to be taken apart with a single Phillips screwdriver and no special tools.

Not any more. T470+ are horrible and they’ve started using glue in some of the newer X1’s apparently. I haven’t been blessed with a broken one yet though which is probably good.

That’s why I said essentially. They could do better, as could most in the industry. Competition is usually good in this regard for most laptops. The thinner they are, the less easy the repair can be.

That, and the service manual is online.

Even when asking about a part that was no longer available from them, I received a message from them about what to look for on EBay.

Most HP's and Dell's I've worked on were similarly simple to repair. Thinkpads are particularly good however :)

And a magnetic bowl! So handy.

I'm not sure Apple is representative of the category, although it could just be that the GP only has a narrow range of experience with laptops. A generous interpretation would exclude from "particular special" anything which is standard and not bespoke, even if it is less common. In any case, the bits are readily available.

I've been using this guy for years: https://www.amazon.com/ORIA-Screwdriver-Professional-Precisi...

Currently $18. I haven't come across a device for which this kit didn't have a bit and the driver feels good in the hand. The outer case is hard plastic, but the inner "lining" is soft plastic, unfortunately. I wouldn't mind a similar kit with a better case, or just a carrier that will handle this kit neatly if anyone has suggestions.

I have the same set, and agree on the case. If they spent $5 more on the case they could probably charge twice as much.

>So are you just glad that Apple didn't decide to create a new screwdriver standard for each Macbook model? :)

Compared to Microsoft? They created a laptop that was impossible to open at all without destroying it.

>According to iFixit, the Surface Laptop isn’t repairable at all. In fact, it got a 0 out of 10 for repairability and was labeled a “glue-filled monstrosity.” The lowest scores previously were a 1 out of 10 for all previous iterations of the Surface Pro

It’s clear that Microsoft never intended for the Surface Laptop to be repaired because it’s a completely sealed device. There aren’t even any screws to take out, so iFixit had to slice the fabric cover open to peel it away from the metal chassis. That’s never going back together. The inner metal shield is also devoid of screws, relying instead upon spot welds and glue. Again, this is probably not going to be reassembled.


You must be talking about the Surface laptop first and second generation only.

The latest generation is actually quite repairable as far as laptops go: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft+Surface+Laptop+3++...

Microsoft are improving in this regard, unlike Apple.

Did they start offering screen repairs for the tablets yet? Preferably for less than the price of the whole thing.

What about my comment makes you think I intended to make a Apple vs. Microsoft comparison?

A popular meme but seems somewhat overstated.

Most people don't have small pen-sized phillips screwdrivers either on hand and would need to purchase one for this case as well.

Yes, maybe greater than 50% of people. But if Apple used a standard then you could get them from your hardware store, or your neighbor. And you could keep them to work on your eyeglasses too.

Also, the fact that Apple bothered to use a weird screw is evidence that this represents a substantive barrier to many people. I mean, most people are never going to open their laptop in the first place; of those that would, a large fraction will have standard small screw drivers on hand.

For all the parents of curious young hackers, a minor hurdle preventing easy access to internals has likely saved an untold number of laptops from unauthorized disassembly. It’s good to learn at a young age to have permission beforehand, instead of exceeding authorized access. A little help from the manufacturer goes a long way in that regard.

Unauthorized disassembly? What kind of incredible nonsense is that? You own it, you have the automatic right to disassemble it. Right to repair and all that. You sure you're on the right website?

If your kid disassembled your hardware without your permission or your knowing, and damaged it or your data irreparably, that would be less preferable to the same outcome with your knowledge and consent, wouldn’t it?

I was that kid. That sort of unauthorized disassembly is what powered (and probably still powers) my career. I suspect that holds true for a relatively large percentage of the HN crowd.

That's a clear strawman though, unauthorized in this context clearly meant 'not authorized by the manufacturer', it's not the parents that install safety screws to keep the kids out, it's the manufacturers that do it to keep the owners out.

I wrote the comment. I didn’t mean that in that way; I mean the intention of the manufacturer may coincidentally overlap with that of a hypothetical parent of a precocious child or children. I didn’t mean to advocate for the practice of safety or otherwise nonstandard fasteners in consumer electronics. I’m against that practice, even if it may have potential upsides as in my example.

I was also that kid, and now I use computer hardware and software skills daily in a professional capacity. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly agree with you on all points.

I don’t know what reasonable justification there is for doing this for consumer devices generally, from the owner’s perspective. Maybe it makes devices more appealing in a corporate context, for the same reason some secure environments forbid devices with cameras or recording hardware, and also forbid (re-)recordable media. Maybe it reduces loss in the supply chain for the companies to do so. Some credit card payment terminals have tamper-evident designs built-in prevent or deter dumping hardware encryption/decryption keys, firmware, and other kinds of tampering, to reduce fraud and unauthorized access, for the owner’s sake and the networks’ sake. I would like to hear some more or better reasons if anyone has insights into these topics.

The reasons are simple: to gain more control over the secondary market and to get a piece of the action in case of repairs out of warranty.

but the entire way many of us learnt to be hackers was through unauthorised disassembly :(

Good point, and it's one well taken.

It's preferable to have a close relationship with your kids so they don't hide things from you, except things you're better off not knowing. To the point at hand, part of hacking, and life generally, is discretion. I learned not to do something I shouldn't as much from my upbringing, as I learned from my own testing. I was the kid who touched the hot stove after being told not to, as well as the electric fence. It wasn't such much defiance as discovery. I didn't find the potential for harm especially dissuading. I'd rather suffer a little harm in a controlled way than not know something so simple about my constructed environment.

I was kind of a weird kid, now that I think about it. I like to think that I'm not the only one.

You can get them in a lot more places than you’d think.


Edit: Actually looks like HF breaks links when you direct link so just search for security bits.

> But if Apple used a standard then you could get them from your hardware store, or your neighbor

Fatal flaw, corona closed the hardware store and everyone is buying from Amazon ;)

I will assume that many in this forum have at least 20 different screwdrivers in their toolbox. I still have. T-6 hollow screwdriver used only in some Compaq compact PCs 18 years ago. And since I am still the go-to techie for many people around me, I see that people are amazed by "oh what does that do" (especially for the RJ11&45 crimp tool).

Tried to crimp an RJ45 cable this weekend and went through 3 plugs and couldn’t get the wires to line up. I wonder if I got the plugs too cheaply but it seemed like there was nothing to keep the wires aligned. I haven’t had to crimp an RJ45 in maybe 10 years, maybe I just lost the touch.

Thankfully I had some RJ45 punch down terminators so I could cheat with that. Of course I didn’t have the little plastic 110 punchdown tool to seat the wires...

They're security torx, iirc T7 size. You can get these bits at pretty much any hardware store.

Why not non-secure T7 screws?

I have no idea, I'm a technician not an evangelist.

The security versions have a raised part in the middle that makes it impossible to use the regular Torx bit.

I don’t think we are getting to the bottom of what the parent’s parent comment is talking about.

Apple decided to use T7 security screws instead of just normal T7 torx. Why!? I am not looking for answers to the differences and what makes a security bit different. I am asking a more abstract rhetorical question - Why make it harder for the consumer to take the laptop apart? Especially, if it’s not impossible - just a little bit harder.

the more surface area that’s contacted between the driver and the fastener, the more friction and the better they hold on to the automatic drivers used to assemble the devices. On such a tiny screw the center pin probably adds an extra 20% or more surface area.

I don’t know if that’s absolutely the reason but if they wanted to keep people out they could easily make a custom head that looked like the Apple logo or something. Nintendo has used tri-wing screws for decades because they expressly do want to keep people out of their devices. You can stop get a tri-wing driver but you have to special order it.

The security torx bits are much weaker, I've actually snapped quite a few of them which has never happened to me with any other type.

I've only ever worked with screws that small on older macbooks that had user-replaceable hard drives and RAM and never had any problems, but I don't doubt it could be an issue. The factories that assemble this stuff surely have screwdrivers with torque-limiting clutches though.

Not sure what I snapped them on. They weren't great bits either, I used to pick up terrible security bit sets on Ebay before I realised every Canadian Tire carries a fantastic Mastercraft set with most precision-sized security bits for ~$30 CAD. I've worked on other stuff with security torx just can't remember what. HDD sleds for servers at least, definitely some other stuff over the years.

They’re standard torx bit. Not particularly special and I’ve come across all manner of gadgets that use the same thing.

I got one of these: https://www.tekton.com/everybit-tech-rescue-kit-28301

It has everything you need to open essentially any computer and iPhones as well, and it's very compact.

They make screwdriver kits specifically for working on electronics and many of them include an Apple-style head. It's annoying that you need to buy one, but they aren't hard to find.

Apple uses Torx screws, as do several other products.


Since when? They used Pentalobe on just about everything the last decade.


Though it's gotten easier to get pentalobe screwdrivers, albeit made of Chinesium.

Apple products often use pentalobe only for the outer casing, and standard torx for all the interior screws.

I have always been able to remove my MacBookPro screws with a small slotted driver.

You’re hyperventilating about a $5 tool.

Another point: dead battery completely tanks permance and makes macbook unusable. Could only turn on with charger. Had some 10+ years old macbook - cpu was throttled to some 500+ mhz (with charger attached)

After changing battery, computer flies again.

Very true. I had a Toshiba laptop that was simply on for the better part of its 8-10 year lifespan, with the result that it overheated a few times due to clogged fans and it was never the same since. Even after I thoroughly blew out the vents, the thermal paste probably spread a bit, and the ambient temperature was always still way above what it should be.

I finally let it die over Christmas. Or rather, I planned to power it up one last time, get fully updated on Windows 7, and then power it down forever and yank the HDD out to put in an enclosure. Of course, it chose to die in the middle of updates. Feh.

On the topic of mechanical keyboards, when I was considering cleaning mine, I was surprised to read that a vacuum cleaner is the way to go, and compressed air (which I was about to use) is to be avoided "at all costs"!


Using compressed air on a laptop or pc is so satisfying. The way the dust disappears and the evaporation of the moisture! Fast results.

My flatmate tried to "compressed air" his laptop once using his lab's compressor. Didn't turn the laptop off. Only two fan blades survived.

We glued the other blades back on to tide him over until a replacement arrived, but each day one or two would break off and we'd have to give the laptop a good shake to expel them.

...it's often difficult to know how precise one must be when advising flatmates about compressed air.

Those "gas duster" cans don't contain compressed air. It's a mixture of volatile solvents.

They used to be a CFC like R12 before the ozone depletion was known, now they are a HFC like R134a or R152a.

...which also means they are a cheap source of refrigerant. Look up "charging A/C with gas duster" if you want to go down a rabbithole...

Yes, it's true. You can see this for yourself if you turn the can upside down while you press down the button on the top. Then, it will spray liquid solvent out, which will immediately vaporize, and therefore rapidly chill anything it's on.

In my former life debugging signal timing issues on circuit boards I used to use this trick (using those "gas duster" cans upside down) to chill individual components to try to find out where the problem was.

>thermal paste degradation

Are there any thermal paste that doesn't degrade? Or minimal degrade within 5 years. We can fix dust with cleaning, we can get to a point where our computing needs could be done fanless ( Current iPad Pro ). But what about thermal paste degradation?

Once you open your notebook for cleaning you can remove the heatpipies and reapply thermal paste. Of course, you need to throughly clean the old paste, and need to take extra care (wrt a desktop).

My 3yo notebook could be needing such a treatment. OTOH, I could just buy a new one notebook since there are some interesting things happening in mobile space this year (Renoir and Tiger Lake).

> mechanical keyboards is that the keys can be removed

that's true, but I don't do it all the time because it seems the keys are more likely to pop off on their own.

I have a dust blower, they're very inexpensive.

I don't think vacuums are a great idea for electronics.

A vacuum cleaner or dust blower will also pull more dust particles from the air and throw at your electronics. A can however is supposed to be clean air.

"especially if you have pets" -- I clean up my laptop quarterly, TONS of cat hair :)

> a can of compressed air

Is there any truth to the rumors I’ve heard that these cans of compressed air expel things that are detrimental to health (not just nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide)


> [1,1-Difluoroethane, or DFE] is also used as a propellant for aerosol sprays and in gas duster products.

> Because of inhalant abuse, a bitterant is added to some brands; however even this measure is not legally required and has not prevented widespread use of this product as a drug.

> In a DuPont study, rats were exposed to up to 25,000 ppm (67,485 mg m−3) for six hours daily, five days a week for two years. This has become the no-observed-adverse-effect level for this substance. Prolonged exposure to 1,1-difluoroethane has been linked in humans to the development of coronary disease and angina.[12]

I'd be impressed if there's a cheaper thing to fill into a can of compressed air then regular air.

Then you'll be impressed: http://www.3m.com/us/office/advisory/DusterFAQs-fromInhalant... ; http://www.3m.com/us/office/advisory/3MDustRemoverAv152aMSDS...

My understanding is that this is because a typical compressed air can could not actually withstand the pressured required to hold normal air, compressed.

Ha! Great to know that Cunningham's is still the law of the land.


Compressed air is definitely cheaper than any other gas you could use, but you can't liquefy air at room temperature, at least not reasonably. As result, a can of compressed air would have very low capacity compared to a gas which can be liquefied at room temp.

A gas like propane for your BBQ liquefies at room temp, and once it's liquid you can put a lot of it into a cylinder without increasing the pressure.

That's why compressed air is not used in the spray cans.

So note #1: swollen batteries are not a normal state of the battery. This is a sign of a defect and battery that is swollen is a safety hazard and should definitely be immediately replaced. Do not throw batteries in a garbage can. I don't know how it is done in US, here in Poland most large shops take used batteries for proper disposal.

Note #2: every breathing computer keeps accumulating dust and requires cleaning every couple of months of years. It is worth it if only to keep the noise down.

Note #3: it is not safe to vacuum the laptop as it can cause static discharge. Technically, even just waving a charged object over a piece of conductor can induce a current and damage susceptible component. The damage might not be immediately apparent and may cause various types of malfunctions. If you have no other way of doing it at the very least ensure it is done in humid environment (over 70% humidity but the more humid the better).

For fun, here's a whole subreddit dedicated to pics of swollen batteries: https://old.reddit.com/r/spicypillows/

If you’re on mobile , use this :


For some reason, pre-fixing “old” in the url makes the website unusable on mobile :-(.

Even better, use this:


It brings the old design of Reddit on mobile, which was actually trying to be usable, unlike the new design that is user-hostile on purpose in order to frustrate people enough to force them to install Reddit apps.

> For some reason, pre-fixing “old” in the url makes the website unusable on mobile :-(.

Mobile is exactly the place where I have to prefix "old" in the URL to avoid getting the horrid redesign, even though my user setting is to opt out and I'm logged in.

That's part of the reddit mission to erode usability and make it a normie-social-network, one commit at a time.

FYI there are special vacs for electronics which are made to prevent the static issue; many shops have one of these: https://www.newegg.com/black-metropolitan-data-vac-portable-...

I wonder if some aluminium foil around the vacuum cleaner's tube, connected to a wire through to ground would be a cheap alternative.

That said, I have heard that ESD isn't nearly as big an issue as it's made out to be, particularly the idea of slow damage/damage build-up. I don't know if the ESD thing is akin to an old wives tale with a kernel of truth surrounded in increasing layers of falsehoods; or perhaps something that was once true and is no longer, but persists in the collective memory. On the other hand maybe there's some solid evidence for it. Anyone have any evidence beyond anecdotes?

I work with electronics as a hobby. Some time ago I progressed to more sensitive components and so I am pretty interested in the topic.

Most ESD damage is quite insidious in nature. Imagine your laptop start loosing performance or one of your application developing a nasty error when you do some specific operation.

Even elements designed to protect from ESD have their capacity to accept shocks. For example, your phone's USB connector might be protected from ESD but that protection will run out at some point. Repated shocks to the USB connector may reduce life of your phone.

Well, I’ve faced some rather hard to debug issues because of esd. Wastes a lot of time and so QA makes strict rules about it. Maybe it’s not actually too common but you can never really rule it out.

I assume that no hobbyist will have one or want to buy one when they just want to clean their laptop.

I personally vacuum my devices with a regular vacuum. What I use is metal pipe which is grounded through my hand, strap, ESD mat to real ground.

I had an MBP whose battery swelled up so large that it was pusuhing the Touchpad out of its seat. I was pretty alarmed when I found the cause, worried the thing might blow up on me. But from what I read at the time, it actually is the (or, at least, a) normal progression of the battery.

It is normal aging progression of a battery that is not compressed inside a rigid container. In electric vehicles, a constant and firm compression over the entire face of the cell, stops this from occurring [1]. It does not look like a compression plate was incorporated into the design.

Source: design engineer for EV company.

1: The compression is most commonly about 70kPa, but varies by manufacturer recommendations. Some manufacturers lately have started to recommend not to compress their cells because they have solved the swelling in other ways.

It is not normal aging progression.

Think about this, do you think laptop designers designed laptop to expand with the laptop? No, I don't think so. While there might be a tiny bit of space allowance I have never seen a laptop that has been designed to "grow" with its battery.

Not every swollen battery is a bomb that is going to blow, but do you really want to risk it? You have no way of determining whether it is safe to use or not and for this reason you need to treat is as unsafe.

Yes, it is perfectly normal when not compressed.

Your 'think about this' asks someone to do this for a living to think about something that they are likely thinking about it every day of their working life.

Yes, laptop designers - and designers of all high density consumer packaged batteries - are designing their cases with battery aging in mind. In fact this is such an important point we explicitly check for it during evaluation of companies that produce such hardware because if this isn't done carefully it is a safety risk.

Laptops aren't designed to 'grow' with their battery, that's just a strawman you made up. The choices are:

- leave the battery some room in the case so that its normal life expansion can be accommodated (the battery enclosure will have to be flexible for this to work properly)


- design the enclosure in such a way that the battery is situated so that it can not expand at all.

Batteries do not actually have to swell and indeed, not every swollen battery is bad, in fact this may well be calculated in during the design phase. So yes, you will 'risk it', it being perfectly ok.

> You have no way of determining whether it is safe to use or not and for this reason you need to treat is as unsafe.

We actually do. It's called materials science and accelerated aging as well as learning from past mistakes. Engineering is the accumulated knowledge of many 1000's of failed experiments coupled with rigorous research into the materials used for engineering themselves, chance is minimized as much as possible.

I only wish you don't get your flat/home burned up due to faulty battery because of your misconception and that others will ignore it.

Again, never, under any circumstances, try to charge a swollen laptop battery.


@jacquesm: I can't reply to your post, so do it here:

Even assuming you do know what you are doing, it is still very irresponsible to tell this to people who will have no way to make use of the knowledge safely.

When somebody has their expensive laptop swollen they have incentive to delude themselves it is ok. It is not and it is dangerous. There is no way to tell the reason the battery is swollen and so the thing they should do is to not charge the battery and get it replaced.

You're fearmongering all over this thread. Stop digging, you are at hobbyist level with your knowledge on a forum with professionals. if you can't tell the difference between 'batteries will swell some during their operating life' vs 'excessive swelling is a sign things are about to go pear shaped' then you shouldn't be working on your own laptop period.

Any laptop older than 12 months will have a slightly swollen battery (even if that swelling is accommodated by the case immediately around the battery so you won't see it).

HN stands for 'hacker news', if batteries scare you then don't use them. The same goes for powertools, explosives, household cleaning products, chisels, hammers and so on. Danger is a relative thing. Knowing the head fire marshall of a very large (2 million inhabitants) European city: if you are afraid of fire then you should disconnect all your wall-warts. Those are the cause of a very large number of fires and the best way to deal with them is to switch them all off when you leave your home. Batteries are a very distant second to that and stories of them catching fire are rare enough that they make the news. See also: Samsung and Boeing.



Note that a perfectly good battery can go into thermal runaway in a couple of seconds if mistreated, the amount of energy these pack is very impressive and if that energy is released quickly then the results can be catastrophic, even resulting in the hull-loss of airliners if the combination of circumstances is particularly bad:



Did you even read the text of that link? In case you didn't:

"Apple carries out a number of iPhone repairs in-store these days, but there is one fault that stores are forbidden from touching, and that’s swollen batteries.

There’s just too high a risk that these will be accidentally punctured during disassembly or removal, and a video of a DIY attempt at replacing a swollen battery in an iPhone 5s provides a graphic illustration of this…

Reddit user tryagainin47seconds posted a video of a coworker attempting to dismantle an iPhone, which burst into flames. The most likely explanation is that the man punctured the battery.

The battery itself appears to have been third-party[+].

Battery had been replaced by coworker who originally owned the phone and he thinks it was faulty equipment. Battery was swelling up when I charged it and he was taking it apart to see what was going on."

[+] -> this is a pretty important detail and my indicate a battery that was not matched well to the charge circuitry leading to an accelerated degradation and/or outright destruction of the cells.

Which pretty much confirms just about everything I wrote above modulo some edge cases that this particular instance did not cover.

Batteries that have swollen outside their design parameters are a lot more risky than those that have not, and that clearly was the issue here.

And it does not say anywhere in that article that 'swollen batteries are not to be used', though - again - you'd be pretty dumb to use batteries that have a pillow shape indicating significant gas development has occurred which most likely has all kinds of negative effects on the state of the laminations and the batteries' ability to keep a charge. But a battery that has expanded a bit can be perfectly safe to operate assuming it is still within design parameters.

Anyway, I'm done with your name calling, have a really nice day and enjoy your safe life without any Lithium tech. Because swell they will, whether you like it or not.

Some more interesting links for people interested in battery tech:



Thank you, I'm perfectly ok and actually know what I'm doing. Your fears are misplaced. Batteries are - as long as the design is proper and the charge requirements are met - reasonably safe.

Given that we have many 100's of billions of them in operation and that there are not that many reports of spontaneous combustion is good proof of that.

Dead batteries are murdered, they don't die of their own accord.

What kills batteries and may cause them to misbehave:

- overheating

- overcharging

- repeatedly deep discharging

- short circuiting

- puncturing

- deformation of the container

- poor enclosure design

- shock loads (usually in combination with poorly designed mounts such as wrap around straps on heavy batteries)

Other than that you should be perfectly fine. Your concern is appreciated but the misconception is on your end, keep in mind that I do tech DD for a living and I'm quite familiar with the literature regarding battery safety, medical devices and other on the body devices using LiPo and other high density batteries are commonplace now and everybody is trying to work hard to avoid being the next Wakemate.


The examples listed in your linked article are all way past the design limits and obviously there is no point in even attempting to continue to use a battery like that and in fact poses significant risk. But that does not contradict anything I said: high density batteries tend to expand a bit over their design life. If you don't want to accept that that is fine with me, but maybe then you should stop using such batteries altogether.



"As we just found out, LiPo cells can & will swell. It's actually somewhat normal as they age since electrolyte decomposition is occurring all the time. The speed at which it occurs, and if excess O2 or CO2 is released, is based on many factors including how hard you run (discharge) the packs, how fast you charge them, how you store them, their age, the quality of the packs, and of course how much they heat up during use."

Which is a pretty correct summary of the reality of operating such high energy density batteries.

Typical battery chemistry involves a step that may produce some gas and this is perfectly normal. Because gas occupies more volume than the solid the gas came out of the battery geometry will change and because the charge/discharge cycle isn't perfect over time you may have a build up of some gas. This is why the battery 'sleeve' is a bit elastic and very strong. In fact, that's the whole reason they puff up in the first place, if the sleeve were porous or had an overpressure vent then the swelling would not happen. Too much swelling is a sign a battery is end-of-life and should be replaced. As a good rule of thumb: if the battery is outside of its designed space or geometric limit then the swelling is excessive, in other words, if it touches stuff that it would not normally touch when it was still new then it should be discarded.

If you want to be nice to your batteries: keep the charge/discharge cycle between 95 and 50% or so, ensure they are well ventilated, if there is any sign of overheating stop charging, never ever puncture a high density battery and if you ever drop the gear the battery is in inspect the battery before charging it again. Do not short-circuit or overload a battery, they have super low internal resistance and will be more than happy to outgass so fast if you do that the enclosure may blow up, worst case you will induce thermal runaway with all of the consequences that go with it.

This is spot on.

So how am I supposed to clean my laptop if not with a vacuuum? I bought a nice Alienware with a 5 year premium onsite warranty. We have dogs and open windows.

Buy a can of compressed air.

Compressed air can is also dangerous on its own (if liquid air sprays on the part).

I personally vacuum my devices with a regular vacuum. What I use is metal pipe which is grounded through my hand, strap, ESD mat to real ground. You just need to understand ESD a little bit to be able to eliminate the risk.

Basically, you can do one of two things.

1. ensure the potential never builts up between two parts by having the parts directly connected (ideally with high resistance path). This is not ideal, because both objects can built charge together but at least both objects interacting with each other will now not be a problem.

2. ensure parts are referenced to common ground. Again, high resistance path is preferable because it helps reduce large currents. Earth has infinite capacity to take charge from you from practical point of view and so as long as you are grounded and you keep the object in your hand you and the object in your hand will never build charge. The object still needs to be able to at least dissipate the charge (for example made from metal or conductive plastic), and that's why you want metal pipe attached to the vacuum.

Static is not really a problem because the components are mounted on a PCB that connects them together with relatively low impedance.

(Personal experience, from having cleaned many computers over the years with a vacuum.)

That is not true.

Think about your hand and PCBs as two plates of highly charged capacitor (say couple kV). When the discharge happens it will hit a random component or trace. A lot will depend on what the component or trace is. If the trace is data path between some ICs it is likely going to destroy either of them because it has no other way to flow to equalize with the rest of PCB than through one of the chips at the end of datapath.

If the trace is data path between some ICs it is likely going to destroy either of them because it has no other way to flow to equalize with the rest of PCB than through one of the chips at the end of datapath.

For it to cause any damage it must be of high enough energy, which means voltage * current * time. Although the initial charge may be several kV, it quickly drops as it dissipates. Inputs have built-in ESD protection diodes which will serve to dampen the event greatly. The reality is, consumer ICs are not ultra-sensitive to ESD once mounted on a PCB --- and common assumptions may dictate that parts like CPUs are most sensitive, but if you consider the idle power consumption of a CPU ("leakage current"), and the fact that it operates at such a low voltage, you'll realise that the DC resistance is very low. One of the things you learn very near the beginning if you go into laptop repair is that the CPU power rails will look like they're shorted if the CPU is still in the circuit.

> Do not throw batteries in a garbage can

I could be mistaken but I do believe you can throw a properly discharged lithium polymer battery in the trash, as there is nothing toxic in them. I don't think many laptops use LiPo though.

Most people have no idea what their discharged batteries are composed of or what is safe or not safe to throw with the rest of thrash and so good rule is to tell people to treat ALL batteries the same way.

This attitude is the same one used when they decided it was best to lie to people and tell them to not wear masks.

They will still cause a fire in the garbage truck. Those trucks will usually compress the trash which will expose the lithium to air.

Lithium ion batteries do not contain metallic lithium.

I’ve read a lot of the comments here.

I don’t see many people mentioning the amazing reliability of this laptop.

I’ve had a similar experience with MacBook Pro (7 years, only problem was some keys started going bad).

There was a time you could not keep a laptop 7 years without significant component replacement or just having to replace it because it was no longer able to run modern software due to slower cpu, not enough ram (and not upgradable enough)... basically hardware obsolescence.

Now the components last AND the hardware is still fast enough to be useful after 7 years.

What a wonderful world we live in!

Surely that’s more about to the fact that CPU speeds aren’t doubling every eighteen months anymore? It’s easy to stay relevant when you’re not ten times slower than current hardware after just five years. It’s not like computers are somehow designed to stay useful longer these days, they just do because the world has slowed down around them.

Agreed. My family uses daily a MacBook Pro I bought in a Thanksgiving sale in 2008. My wife is watching a movie on it as I type this.

A few years ago I thought, if I can get this thing to 10 years, that’s a great deal and I’ll be happy to upgrade. Now it seems like maybe I’ll be able to use it forever? I’ve had to replace one battery and one fan in almost 12 years. The DVD drive does not work anymore, but I don’t use DVDs anymore.

Honestly I think security will be the biggest concern long term. It can’t upgrade the OS anymore and while whatever version of OS X it’s on seems very stable (it never crashes), it’s not getting patches anymore from Apple. Something will come along at some point.

I just put 8 GB of RAM and an SSD in a mid-2010 Macbook Pro for a friend. The parts were free, but could be purchased for $100. Perfectly usable machine for web browsing and entertainment. It won't run Catalina, but who cares?

Google „high sierra patcher“. You can run High Sierra on a 2008 Macbook and still get security updates. For now.

Most of the computers (PCs & laptops) that I've had in the last 25 years lasted about this long, except for phones. I never had an Apple computer though... One Toshiba laptop, I had to replace a fan in that time frame.

I have a similar experience, I'm typing this on my 2013 MacBook Pro, I don't notice any significance performance issue, and all the hardware is still intact, it's really amazing. This was my first Mac, I'll 100% sure buy another one when this one decides to finally retire.

This isn’t usually case. There’s an “inverted bell curve” of failures. You get a lot of early failures then few in the middle of the lifecycle and then rapidly growing failures towards the end. It’s difficult to predict what that curve looks like and it depends on a combination of engineering, supply chain and luck.

You can usually work out where a product is on that lifecycle by looking at the amount of spare parts available on eBay. They are usually stripped down towards the end of the cycle rather than repaired as the rate of repairs is increasing. This is a good time to sell repairs as you have lots of cheap parts and lots of broken things on the market and no appetite for people to buy complete replacements.

Case in point on the bell curve, my 2018 MBA lasted two weeks before it died.

My 2 year old Macbook's screen in already dying (and at the risk of repeating redundant issues, some of the butterfly keys are already dead)

Just wanted to echo this sentiment as well. I just replaced my 15" 2010 Macbook Pro and the thing still runs strong. A battery replacement and SSD upgrade in 2015 really gave it a second life.

It's unfortunate it no longer gets software updates and also is plagued by the GPU Kernel Panic issue. Otherwise, I would keep it longer.

Hoping my new 2020 13" can last at least half as long!

Thinkpads last even longer. Pretty easy to find pre 2010s thinkpads that have no issue whatsoever and keep humming along as expected.

Less so recently. T440 and later are a terrible for reliability. Endless battery, charging problems and dead ports around the 4 years mark or so. In fact my T470 has just decided it doesn’t want to recognise any external batteries. Thankfully it has a few months support left on it or it’d be going in the trash (Logic board failure is common on them).

I’ve just replaced it with an iPad Pro and will use my desktop for everything else.

Interesting. My X240 has had none of those issues so far, nor anything else significant, after six years of daily use. (I think the fan is running more and faster than when it was new, and the internal battery isn't in great shape anymore, but those are to be expected with age.)

If issues with T4x0 from recent-ish years are indeed common, I wonder if the builds are somehow different. I don't abuse my hardware but I haven't been super careful most of the time either.

I have a similar 2013 vintage MBP. It's on it's 5th or 6th charger, 3rd charger board, 2nd battery, and 2nd speaker


Except for MagSafe it's a solid design.

I find MagSafe itself fine but the cables Apple uses between the charger bodies and the plugs are awful - I keep mine kind of together with sticky tape.

My 2013 had to get the case, touchpad, fans, and keyboard replaced do to a swelling battery. Also needed a second charger as apple cords break so easily. Outside of that, it still works great.

Kind of funny though that we are amazed that our stuff is running for 7 years considering my old Toyota lasted 20.

I’m still on my original magsafe from 2014

Not the parent, but I wish I could say the same about my MagSafe charger.

The insulation on the MagSafe side started flaking after some time, leaving blue stuff everywhere. Apple's Geniuses say that it's because I mishandled it, and refuse to cover it.

I think 7 years is probably at the high end. I work in a small company that started about 8 years ago, and most of the MacBooks (mixture of Pro and Air) we bought initially failed after 3 to 5 years for a range of issues (even the "second generation" have had failed units).

It's true - typing this on a 2013 Air - you kind of take it for granted but they work pretty well really. Though I had it open yesterday to replace the battery only to find they'd sent the wrong one for some other similar model, darn it.

I'm still using my 2009 MBP (updated HDD and replaced battery once) without problems. Unfortunately it seem's that I will have to update some time in the future because of missing software support :(

I've had the opposite experience - both my 2008 plastic Macbook and my 2011 Macbook Pro had enough quality issues in their first 3 or so years that I switched to other manufacturers.

A year ago, I opened up the kids’ 2012 MBP because it was overheating with the fan on all the time. (This machine has had a long, hard life, including requiring a new keyboard when a glass of water was poured on it, several hard drive cables, a couple of batteries, several power adaptors, and I forget what else)

I extracted a chunk of lint about 1/2 cm thick and the consistency of felt from the fan intake.

After that, the fan didn’t turn on nearly as often, and thermal management during Minecraft was much better.

Every 6 months or so I clean out the fans on my macbook. I used to take them out entirely, but realized with an old toothbrush and a soft-handed can of compressed air[0] you can do 90% of the job without the headache.

Always runs like a new machine after that.

[0] be careful not to damage the fan's teeth

For anyone doing this, please do not use a vacuum hose (unless its anti static) as it can cause ESD discharge, especially on exposed PCBs

I wrecked a DVR doing this with a Dyson vacuum.

Compressed air or small piece of cotton cloth with rubbing alcohol is the way to clean exposed electronics.

If you don't use a vacuum though the dust just flies out and settles in your house. I usually hold the vacuum near where I think the dust will fly out without touching any components. Never had an ESD problem yet.

> If you don't use a vacuum though the dust just flies out and settles in your house.

Do it outside.

Could just dust it outside. Though if you're not personally running into any issues I suppose it doesn't matter. Probably depends on the vacuum and the weatherd

Is a shop compressor with an air gun adequate or is that air too moist or oily?

Compressors can get a build up of condensation in the tank. I've personally never had that be an issue, but it's definitely a concern.

A bit of moisture actually helps to reduce the chance of static discharge, shop compressed air is probably one of the better ways of doing this. I've done it for many years like that and never had a computer fail on me due to cleaning.

The best thing is to avoid doing this on cold winter days when static build-up is very rapid, and to avoid touching the guts of the computer with your fingertips near the circuitry until you have grounded the case against your fingers. Easy enough with metal frames, much harder with plastic ones.

I just replaced my MacBook Late 2013 after similar usage. No repairs, no hiccups or any component failure whatsoever except for a very badly degraded battery - it lasted about 1.5 hours on a full charge at the end. There’s a lot to be said about Apple but honestly I don’t see any other manufacturers that produce laptops that last so insanely long. Hopefully my new one will last as long as well :)

Thinkpads last insanely long, too.

I have a Thinkpad that I purchased in early 2014 that is still going strong except for, as in your case, a degraded battery.

My grandparents used to play Freecell on a very early IBM Thinkpad (manufactured in 1993, I think) that I picked up for free in a garage sale in 2001. This machine lasted well into 2005, and probably still works today.

Highly recommend trying them out. These days you can get equivalent performance to Macbook Pros for maybe 60% of the cost.

This. My main development machine is a Thinkpad T60, manufactured in 2006. Still running strong. For me, it is still a supercomputer. 2x1.8GHz. 4G ram. 1400x1050. Everything I develop on it screams on anything modern. When it breaks I'm planning on moving backward in time to see if there is an older model that I can adapt to, probably without spending a single dollar, just acquiring a thrown away computer.

Limitatations can enable innovation.

The T60 with that wonderful 1400x1050 screen is fab, I agree. (I wrote a sibling comment about using a 2014 Thinkpad as my main box, but I also have some older ones.) The main problem with it from a modern perspective is that it's strictly 32-bit, so can't address more than 4G RAM or run many contemporary Linux distros.

I also have a T40p, from 2003-ish, with the same 1400x1050 display. This is an even nicer computer to use in many ways - the keyboard in particular is even better than that in my T60 - but the difference in performance between 2003 and 2006 is striking. It's almost as much as the difference between 2006 and now. The T6x used Intel Core CPUs, but the T4x was still Pentium M days - single core and quite substantially slower. The T4x still has a PATA drive, so it's harder to put in a modern SSD. It's limited to 2G RAM for reasons I can't remember. It's also much less robust - the T60 series has a completely rigid chassis (and my T60 still looks like new) but the earlier T40 would bend if picked up from the front, which would cause both the case and the tracks on the motherboard to crack (the USB sockets stop working first, then everything else).

The T40p is a lovely, lovely computer - in some ways the best one I own - but it's for occasional document-writing only, not really for development any more.

This T60 is 64 bit. Core 2 T5600. My cutoff for referbishing a computer for someone is that it must be 64 bit and it must have at least two cores. Seems like anything Core 2 duo and later is good enough for almost anything most people do (except games).

Oh! That's interesting, I'm not sure I knew they existed. Mine is dual core and quite fast (for the time) but definitely 32-bit only.

Maybe I should look for a fancier one, if only to pick up the motherboard and CPU from. I imagine they're quite similar in terms of performance, but the extra compatibility would be nice.

My 2013 MBPr just gave up.

I have a T500 Core2Duo T5600 w 4GB RAM sitting in the cupboard. I pulled it out and put an SSD in it and installed Lubuntu, works fine but I have some software licenses I’ve paid for that are only available on MacOS & Windows.

Do you think it would run Windows 10 ok? I’d need to buy a license, but at this stage that might be cheaper than a new / secondhand laptop.

I run Windows 10 on a Dell Latitude E6400 from 2008 with a 1st gen Core 2 Duo & 4GB RAM and it runs fine.

Memory hungry apps like Chrome slow down pretty quick, but the OS itself is snappy.

> Everything I develop on it screams on anything modern.

This is a very good point. I think the user experience, on average, would be quite a bit better if developers weren’t so prone to chasing glitzy new hardware that can “mask” performance problems.

On the other hand, developer’s productivity matters, so I’m not really sure what the right balance is here...

Depends on how you develop. There are many ways to improve productivity that do not require faster machines. I'm a lisper for most work so I rarely have to wait for any compilation. Every interaction developing with this computer is basically instantaneous.

Also, I find that new developers think they would benefit greatly using the fastest machines to learn to program, but then never develop a good sense of algorithmic complexity as everything just screams. On slower machines you can have the opportunity to feel the difference between O(1), O(log n), O(n), O(n^2), etc.

Mine is a little later than yours, a 2009 T400 (2x2.4ghz Core 2, 4GB RAM) - having a light weight distro (Trisquel) plus an SSD has meant that this thing still feels incredibly snappy on most things. Only 1080p video is a real stretch and even then it will just barely plow through it.

> I have a Thinkpad that I purchased in early 2014 that is still going strong

Indeed an early 2014 Thinkpad is my main work development box. It's a T540p with the excellent 3K matte screen. Admittedly I use it like a desktop computer, plugging in a keyboard and mouse (and, now, camera), so there's very little wear and tear, but in my mind it's basically still a new computer.

I'm stuck with a T540p and it's no good thermally IMO. It was slower than the desktop it replaced and throttles when asked to work, which is pretty frequently with a few browser instances, a few ides and few databases all running with a build.

Add a concurrent video conference - all too frequent these days - and it practically freezes every so often. Only 16G really doesn't help.

Am looking forward to something bigger, soon...

Does yours have the discrete GPU option? Mine doesn't, and I imagine that could make a big difference thermally.

>I have a Thinkpad that I purchased in early 2014 that is still going strong except for, as in your case, a degraded battery.

Fortunately most ThinkPads of this era had removable batteries, so this isn't as big of a deal as it would be for most laptops today. I'm currently using an X230 that I bought off eBay as my main personal laptop; it needed a new battery when I got it, but otherwise works great.

I'm using a x230 as well, where'd you purchase your battery? mine's nearly done I feel.

I find it pretty difficult to buy a reliable laptop battery unless I can get it from the mfg.

eBay, honestly. Got an unopened Lenovo-branded one.

Thinkpad brigade checking in. Still using my X220 running Gentoo. The last ThinkPad with the good keyboard.

From my cold dead hands.

I have a mid-90s Compaq laptop that still works.

But do you use it daily as your primary system?

Dell, HP, and IBM produce(d) some really good models, too. Precisions, EliteBooks, ThinkPads. Even some of the mid-tier ones will last quite awhile, and if not quite 7 years, a lot of them are more repairable than an Apple.

I still semi-frequently use a 2007 consumer-grade Dell that served as my only machine for 4.5 years, and as my primary laptop for another 5. It took six years for it to need a repair other than replacing a battery, and even today I get two hours of life from its latest replacement battery, and can swap in the next-oldest for 75-90 minutes more away from a power outlet.

Apple laptops do tend to last a long time, but if my goal were to buy a laptop I could use forever, I'd buy something else that was more repair-friendly instead.

I'm on a 2012 MBP with similar experiences. Every year I think about finally replacing it, but hold off on it because everything still works fine apart from some increased fan noise and reduced battery capacity (which doesn't concern me too much). If you treat your laptop with care it really does last a long time.

At some point I expect I will stop getting MacOS updates which will force me to upgrade to a newer model.

I’m still running my 2010 MBP (it was worth maxing out the config, and I've replaced the optical drive with an SSD), though recently I bought a 2009 Mac Pro for my main machine. The MBP has fallen several feet into a concrete shop floor with only a squished corner in that milled aluminum case, and is on its third or fourth battery (I should stop cheaping out). I did splurge a few years ago on a replacement keyboard when the original's PCB traces started corroding. That's one of the first parts they integrated to the detriment of its repairability.

With a tweak I was able to get Mojave on it, and another tweak to get Xcode to compile for iOS 13 on it. That should do me for a while, until either the video cable exposed through a hinge breaks, or they can’t get the latest iOS to compile on it. But I’m loathe to get a machine that won’t let me keep it alive the next 10 years.

Intel CPUs haven’t advanced that much since this machine's 2.66x4 i7. The video probably hurts more. It points to a future where we can just expect to put some money into maintaining our computing machinery instead of consuming it like it's a service. But given that John Deere has moved this way, I’m not hopeful that computers will go back that way. Support right-to-repair bills!

> I’m still running my 2010 MBP (it was worth maxing out the config, and I've replaced the optical drive with an SSD), though recently I bought a 2009 Mac Pro for my main machine. The MBP has fallen several feet into a concrete shop floor with only a squished corner in that milled aluminum case, and is on its third or fourth battery (I should stop cheaping out). I did splurge a few years ago on a replacement keyboard when the original's PCB traces started corroding. That's one of the first parts they integrated to the detriment of its repairability.

Exact same story here. I finally bought a Lenovo last fall after giving up hope that Apple would make a machine I could also get 3TB into. I still use the old MBP for photo management.

I have an Early 2011 MBP which I stopped using precisely because it couldn't get Mojave and therefore couldn't run the latest Xcode and therefore couldn't build for iOS 13. When I searched it sounded like any hacked upgrades would leave the graphics in a pretty poor state and it sounded like it just wouldn't be worth it. So I am curious on your results?

Another happy mid 2012 MBP owner here. I am happy that I could upgrade the RAM as soon as I bought it to 16GB, and replaced the HDD with SSD after 5 years, and have replaced batteries twice. Running 10.15 without any problems. The screen hinge has loosened, but nothing a screw driver and ifixit couldn't fix.

Dell's business line models are very good. I still use my Latitude from 2010, 10 years of heavy usage. It cost 2000$ but well worth it.

Back in 2006, all my coworkers bought brand new MacBooks. Within a month, all those MacBooks were in the shop for repairs/parts replacement. I bought a $900 Compaq. Aside from the occasional cleaning, that thing worked for ten years plus.

2006 had a bad run of MacBooks, so this is not an indictment of Apple equipment in general. But Apple equipment is not universally particularly durable, nor is Apple the only vendor to make durable laptops. They've taken a lot of shortcuts recently, and currently they've set the expected service lifetime of a new MB at around four years.

I just replaced the battery on my early 2011 13-inch MacBook Pro. The original battery gave out ages ago and so did the Chinese aftermarket battery. Other than replacing the battery and replacing the old 320 GB 5400 RPM HDD with a Samsung SSD, there's not really been any issues with it.

I was actually surprised how usable the computer still was after all this time, although the thermals suck quite hard. I imagine the 2011 thermal paste is nigh on useless at this point. Granted, I don't use the laptop much these days, but it'd still serve for basic browsing when needed.

I'm reading this on a late 2012 Macbook.

Same here! My main change was getting an SSD. If you're in this boat, I highly recommend it. If I wanted to really push it, upgrading to 8GB of RAM would probably make it work extremely well.

It's nice to have things that run well with relatively small changes.

Upgraded mine to 16gb ram and ssd years ago. I also replaced the battery last year. My only wish is to have more cores, but otherwise it's working fine.

I wonder if the current MBP lineups can last 8 years of constant software development use like this 2012 model.

don't buy a 2016-2018 MBP. these have to be the worst built laptops from apple.

Side note on cleaning Apple products, may be of interest to iPhone users.

My 2017 6S wasn't charging properly. Charge would start, then a few minutes later, sometimes less, it would stop. I found that many times, if I inserted the plug with a bit more force, it would start charging, but later, it would stop. As is common the cable was frayed near the plug, so I replaced the cable. The situation didn't change.

I was at the point of deciding to replace the iPhone, since it was getting dated anyway, when my daughter suggested I clean the plug receptor.... the light bulb went on.

I grabbed a toothpick and started pulling out lint. Like your bellybutton lint. There was a lot of lint. It had become packed into the base of the receptor sufficiently to prevent the plug from making the contacts.

I had carried it in my pocket for 3 years, it likely gathered a few specks of lint each time I put it in there, and then I compacted the lint when I plugged it in next.

Same thing happened to me. An alarmingly massive ball of lint came out of my phone.

I'm on a maxed out 2013 Macbook Pro and I will fight tooth and nail to keep this laptop functioning for as long as possible. It has a decent keyboard, still powerful processor (2.3 GHz Intel Core i7), 16GB RAM, dual GPU. and MagSafe!!! Beloved MagSafe why on earth did they kill you I will never understand..

I had the Apple store replace the screen and battery about a year ago. The screen was suffering from the anti-reflective coating (1) recall, but I missed the repair program window. In every customer support conversation I had leading up to the repair, they would hint at "consumer protection law". This was a clue that if I then said "CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW" they would be forced to do the recall for free even though it was out of date. They ended up giving me the screen and battery for free.

Apple Store failed to identify and fix one issue that plagued me though, which was spontaneous black screen and poweroffs, especially when running on battery below 80%. It seemed like a power issue, or heat issue. I lived with it for two years, lugging a power brick around whenever I moved spots. With the Apple Stores closed due to covid, I contacted a local third party mac repair person. They said they've seen this before, it's a CPU power issue, and if you run a small script to keep the CPU out of really-low-power state it will stop happening (2). And they were right! So if you're experiencing this annoying problem as well, try this python script:

  from time import sleep
  import os
  while True:
You may have to tweak the sleep value - higher values will let your CPU relax more but may trigger the power issue. Lower values will increase the CPU load but decrease the chance that the CPU hits this condition.

I've been running this script for 2 weeks now and no freezes. It generates about 6-8% CPU load, so obviously my battery time is suffering, but the alternative (random freezes all day) was so annoying that I'm okay living with this.

1: https://www.macrumors.com/2017/11/17/apple-extends-free-stai...

2: https://www.reddit.com/r/mac/comments/9pyort/apple_macbook_p...

I'm curious if this Thunderbolt driver issue is what you've experienced (when the CPU load gets too low, something weird happens with the electrical system).

Here's [1] what's worked for me.

1: https://www.reddit.com/r/MacOSBeta/comments/c6f6e7/catalina_...

Thank you!! I'm trying this now without the CPU busy script, fingers crossed

MagSafe2 is what killed my 2013 MBPr.

I work in metal fabrication, so the MagSafe2 constantly attracted tiny metal particles that follow me around.

I ended up replacing the DC in board, $25 part, then two weeks later it started behaving weird, pulled it apart again and reseated all the cables etc but it completely gave up.

Oh well, 7 solid years at AU$2000 end up costing less than $6 a week.

I’m now split between a new MacBook Air, or a Lenovo or HP with similar specs and screen resolution.

I have some Windows software I’ve paid for, but maybe I just run that in a Windows VM on the Mac..... hmmmm

There are 3rd party replacements for USB-C MagSafe connectors if you do ever need to upgrade. Don't know if they get the sweet spot for retention force that the old MagSafe connector did but I have seen some co-workers use it without issue.

1: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=usb-c+magsafe&crid=20NMLJRE2HMRI&...

Hi, Can you elaborate on what was happening to your machine regarding 'which was spontaneous black screen and poweroffs'?

My late-2013 Macbook Pro has recently started similar behavior. Somewhat randomly the screen will go black, sit like that for a while, then fans speed up for maybe 10 seconds then it eventually turns off. This whole cycle is something like 20 seconds.

Is this similar to what you observed which was fixed in your case by the script?


This is exactly what I was experiencing. Well, to be exact, there were three or four different failure modes. What you described is one of them.

Another was sometimes I close the lid to put it to sleep, and instead the fans would rev to 100% and sit there forever until I held the power button.

I have the script running in a terminal window and haven't had a spontaneous poweroff for 2 weeks now.

Awesome tips, thank you!

I'm in the exact situation - same MacBook, same goal to keep it running, & same screwup missing the reflective coating recall. I think you might have bought the trusty ole thing a new lease on life, cheers!

Welp, C6/C7 are great for battery life and heat management... I wonder if it's a hardware or software problem. Haswell has the VRM integrated on the die, so it's highly unlikely to be the processor itself.

I read one of the threads linked from that reddit post, I may have had to use archive.org. Someone names a specific power management IC and says they reflowed it. Sounded like a timing issue between CPU and the power management.

I mostly use my laptop in sporadic short bursts so battery time is not a huge issue, and the freedom of moving it around without it crashing is huge

This is why I loved the no-suffix "MacBook". No fans - no vents - no dust - no cleaning! For me, the most valuable feature and very under-appreciated.

Eventually I had to replace it and now I'm stuck with a noisy dusty MBP. I suppose the iPad now fulfills the role of "maintenance free computer".

> I suppose the iPad now fulfills the role of "maintenance free computer".

...but he didn’t need to maintain his MacBook Pro in this video either. It worked fine until the battery degraded and he had to recycle it for that reason. The MacBook also had a battery that would expire after time.

Could be his battery was overheating.

Never use a vacuum on electronics! Use cans of compressed air instead. The author partially addressed this in the article but I feel that the message doesn't really come out as clear as it should. The static generated by a standard vacuum cleaner can damage electronic components, the author is wrong in their belief that this only applies to desktops and not laptops (and why would that be the case?).

PS air compressors are not a good alternative: they might suffer from internal condensation and emit air that is too moist, that's why it's best to use cans instead.

PPS there are vacuum cleaners specifically designed for electronics. They tend to be pretty expensive. It's OK to use those.

Moist air is fine, wet is not. It even helps to cut down on the static risk. And you should always let it sit for a bit after cleaning before turning it on in case there was moisture build up.

The biggest risk is to reach into the guts and zap a component, that's a much higher chance of incidence than any effect from the air itself, after all, the fan also sucks air through all day long and usually is not grounded.

Make sure you always reach for the frame first before touching anything else in the guts of a computer.

Wait, recycling a 2013 laptop? What? I hope he means selling it on, not actually recycling. Computers just don't age the same way anymore, a 2013 laptop is still perfectly usable nowadays, it would be an incredible waste to recycle it.

Looks like the anti-glare coating is coming off too. That happened to my MacBook and Apple replaced the whole screen for free, that's pretty good considering it was 4 years old.

I ended up rubbing it off. Used a mouthwash for it (alcohol didn't work, perhaps "microcrystals" did the job). If you do that there will be lots of micro scratches on screen, but it's still better than looking at stains, and quite pleasant in dark.

I couldn't get the replacement (didn't know "stain-gate" was a thing).

Never use alcohol anywhere near an IPS screen. You might get away with it if it only touches outermost layer but if it leaks to inner layers the screen will be ruined for good.

This... is a good warning (after I found this googling [1]), thank you!

But, this made me more curious; is there something specific about IPS panel (vs. TN) that I should know? In that link, it seems like that the panel survived but the backlight diffuser layers got ruined. Theoretically, one could replace that...

I ask this because I wonder if you meant the glass-sandwich construction of the panel when you say "inner layers", and some chemistry of the liquid crystals. Or am I assuming too much?

In any case, thanks!

[1] https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/isopropyl-alcohol-under...

Unfortunately I'm not knowledgeable on displays. I only learned it after pouring isopropyl alcohol into SIM slot of an iPhone 6S. It hasn't touched on top of the display.

On the first boot it had a lot of moisty look and funky colors. After leaving it rice and under sunlight for some time the moisture has dried but left a dirty stain.

The nasty surprise was dead pixels. There's a grain sized area in mid-bottom left side of the screen, some black, some green colored. I'm not knowledgeable on nuances of different types of display defects but I've tried variety of things like massaging, stuck pixel fixer videos etc. but no dice, I guess they're proper dead.

Laptop makers who make it nigh impossible to take the back cover off without special tools: "Performance degradation due to the inescapable characteristics of typical user environments is God's sign of favor for planned obsolescence."

A reminder that Apple refuses to fix 2017 Macbooks that were poorly constructed (Flexgate), even after having acknowledged that they were poorly built (by offering a free fix for the same issue on a previous model and changing the part on later models).


I recently did the same on my MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2012) A1425 while performing a battery replacement. Definitely helped to have a thorough cleaning. Documented here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAYFDDxUxHA

Good stuff right there!

I know very little about electricity. What is it about vacuuming particles that produces static electricity where shooting the particles with compressed air does not?

The dust traveling through the plastic vacuum tube is what gives rise to the static electricity. When you blow clean air into the fan the dust goes into a cloud in the air.

Mini rant only tangentially related. I have a 6 year old MacBook Pro (Mid 2014 NVidia). It mostly works fine.

Except, the GPU drivers are crap and Apple has no intention of fixing them. This shows up as bugs in Firefox and Chrome, the apps that hit the most GPU edge cases, and when I've filed bugs I've basically been told "too old, get a new machine"

Which isn't an unreasonable POV. I'm sure there just are not that many 2014 NVidia MBPs in the world. Apple doesn't care to fix the bugs. Why should the browser teams waste time working around GPU driver bugs for so few users?

And yet, it's really hard to justify spending $3400 for a new MBP when nothing will actually change in my day to day usage.

I also have a 3yr old 1060 Razer gaming laptop. That actually enabled something, VR, to justify spending $$$$ on it. But, getting a current dual GPU MBP gets me nothing that my 2014 MBP doesn't already get me except fixing a few annoying bug livable browser bugs.

Note I have a similar issue with the Razer. Windows won't update to the most reason version and says their are issues with the hardware and maybe some day in the future once the issues are worked around Windows will update. Unfortunately that means I can't use WSL 2 so again, I can spent $3000+ for a 2020 Razer but when I'm done all that will happen is some software bugs will be fixed, my actual day to day usage won't change.

Tech can be really annoying and it's frustrating to be told the solution is spend $7000

Just Kvetching

I got the 2-for-one variant of this with my 2016 MBP where I purchased a replacement battery assembly from iFixit to replace the swolen ones. In the kit, they include: the tools, a link to their iFixit video on the steps as well as some protective gear to do the job. Highly recommended! Replacing batteries is a way more involved task on MBPs, but while you're there in the early stages, you can vacuum or take compressed air to anything you see.

I'm a bit sad that his MacBook is not getting more love after 16800 hours of service.

I have 2013 MacBook Pro 15, never opened, the battery lasts for 1.5 hours, tends to overheat a bit. Same story. Morally it felt old but it was still good and fast machine for me. I was contemplating of buying 16" but just could not justify throwing away this solidly engineered machine.

During quarantine bought iFixit battery replacement. Disassembled every part, cleaned religiously every area with blower, replaced swollen battery and assembled again. Took 2 hours, works fine, no fan noise, battery lasts for a long time, finally upgraded to Catalina.

Now I have a great laptop and after 7 years of using same machine I felt that I still needed to upgrade something. So I went to buy a desktop PC. It was interesting to assemble a modern PC, try Alyx and Windows 10 with WSL. I no longer need to use Paperspace for SketchUp rendering. After COVID I am planning to leave PC at home and have my MacBook at Office / Co-working.

Not saying this is the best decision, just sharing a different path taken when it came to computer upgrading.

I used my 17 inch Macbook Pro everyday for six years. It would still be going if not for a failed GPU. I did take it apart hoping it was dust and heat causing the problems but no it was a fatal hardware fault. It's now just a shiny aluminum lump.

There's nothing worse for electronics than heat. The damage is cumulative but nearly impossible to notice until it's too late.

I replaced the thermal compound my trust old dell Latitude. Barely an hour of effort undoing Phillips screws and scraping off the seven year old gak. Roughly a 15 C decrease under load. Fans are less of a blowdryer and more of a hand warmer.

I just got my 4 year old macbook pro's battery replaced. The guy who did it also cleaned up the internals. I can easily use my laptop for another 2-3 years. I spent 100 USD to get it cleaned and battery replaced. Best 100 USD spent.

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