Apple’s T2 security chip makes life tough for independent repair shops, electronics recyclers

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The Apple T2 chip could be the source of mysterious crashes afflicting two of Apple's newest computers.
Many repairers and recyclers aren't too fond of this chip.
Photo: IFIXIT

Apple’s built-in laptop security safeguards, introduced with the 2018 MacBook Pros, are hitting independent repair shops and electronics recycling companies hard, a report by Motherboard claims.

The system combines software security locks, various diagnostic requirements and Apple’s T2 security chip. Together, they mean that Macs stop working if they’re operated on by someone not using Apple’s proprietary repair tools.

Apple’s proprietary locking system is intended to ensure that customers get the best possible support by only having their Macs serviced by officially sanctioned Apple repairers.

But Motherboard, in a report published Monday, points out that it has made it more difficult to “breathe new life into old MacBook Pros that have been recycled but could be easily repaired and used for years were it not for these locks.”

The report quotes a recent tweet by John Bumstead, a MacBook refurbisher and owner of the RDKL INC repair store. “The irony is that I’d like to do the responsible thing and wipe user data from these machines,” Bumstead wrote. “But Apple won’t let me. Literally the only option is to destroy these beautiful $3,000 MacBooks and recover the $12/ea they are worth as scrap.”

The locks mean that people who don’t reset their Macs before selling them essentially render them useless. “Recyclers are obviously prohibited from selling computers with user data on them,” Bumstead told Motherboard. “But now they literally have to scrap the boards because Apple is giving them no way to remove user data if they don’t have passwords, as they most often don’t.”

T2 security chip: Apple and the Right to Repair

Apple introduced the T2 security chip in iMac Pro in 2017 and began adding it to MacBook Pros and other models the following year. The T2 chip makes it impossible to replace a faulty part on a Mac without the correct software.

In some ways, this is entirely in keeping with Apple’s proprietary approach to technology. In the early days of the Mac, just opening it up would void your warranty. And over the years, Apple spent money lobbying against “right to repair” legislation. In opposing one such bill in Nebraska, Cupertino said giving users and third-party repairers access to Apple components and service manuals would make the state a “Mecca for bad actors.”

When it comes to Apple hardware, the company frequently glues components in place. This makes Apple devices notoriously tough to upgrade.

However, it does seem to clash with Apple’s pro-recycling stance — seen by its use of recycled aluminum for various products and its decision to power its facilities with sustainable energy.

What do you think of Apple’s security measures in this area? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.