Apple Devices I own

Apple Error 53 & tech repairability

I’ve been considering this for a long time but over recent weeks the ability to repair my own technology has become far more important to me. Only a few weeks back, I was unfortunate enough to splash a few drops of coffee onto the keyboard of our Macbook Pro. We cleaned it off & thought nothing more of it until later in the day, when the machine failed to switch on. This was such a stressful thing to happen. The Macbook is 4 years old but is still in great condition & used constantly. It doesn’t warrant an upgrade.

I looked online & the tear down guides & forum posts looked complex. By all accounts, the liquid had fried the logic board and it was toast. I enquired about repair which was starting at many hundreds of £££. I then considered a refurbished machine which would have been £500+ for the exact same laptop (age & spec). I then snapped back into my old ways & started troubleshooting.

Out came the screwdrivers & apart came the unibody. After carefully removing the keyboard ribbon cable & starting the laptop using the diagnostic power pads on the logic board, I was surprised to see it boot up. I plugged in an external keyboard and the Macbook was fine. This instantly pointed to a faulty keyboard. As the power button and keyboard are on the same circuit it would appear that the liquid had bridged the power circuits permanently and that’s why it wouldn’t power up. It was like permanently holding the power button down.

I headed over to eBay & a new keyboard & backlight was only £24.99 delivered. This was for a brand new, official apple replacement. I bought the keyboard & the next day installed it in the Macbook. The dismantling was tedious, over 100 screws most of which are tiny. But I installed the keyboard, reassembled the machine & it’s now better than it was before. Brand new, grippy matte keyboard and backlight.

Apple Devices I own
Apple Devices I own

This is why the ability to repair an item is so important. The laptop would have been scrap, like I’m sure many are, for the sake of a simple replacement keyboard & a bit of labour. Without this I would have been unable to replace the laptop due to cost & would have likely gone into debt to acquire a new one.

I’m not one to throw things away, technology lasts a lot longer in my household than it does in most. I had an original Xbox 360 for 10+ years which became a Frankenstein of a machine, most components repaired or replaced. The same with my old iMac which is my main machine. In fact I’ve always been like this.

The fact that technology is now being crippled by software updates is worrying. Apple have essentially ruined my old iPad 2 with iOS 9. It’s slow & laggy and the ability to downgrade to a useful iOS has been removed. This is forced obsoletion. This week in the news we are learning that Error 53, caused by the replacement or damage of the home button/finger print scanner in modern iPhones, essentially causes the handsets to brick on update. This is wrong. Apple say this is a security measure, but surely the software should disable the fingerprint scanning capability and not the whole handset. I’m sure people would still be angry about this but at least they could use a pass code and still use their phone.

This sounds less like security & more like apple clamping down on unauthorised repair of their products. Everyone will know that apple repairs are far more expensive than a local repair shop, or even self repair. I’m glad to see this is being investigated legally, as it sets a dangerous precedent for us as consumers of technology. If an item we own can be made redundant by a software update, surely that can be classed as criminal damage. At the very least it can be classed as a perfectly usable product not being fit for purpose.

Can you imagine if your car needed repair & you took it to a normal mechanic (not affiliated with the manufacturer) only to find your car had become a useless hunk of junk. I for one pay more for Apple Products than I did for my car so this analogy is not that far out.

This corporate control of devices after purchase needs to stop. I’ve always been a hardware hacker, I like to see what technology can be pushed to do. The way I see it, when I buy hardware, I want to be in charge of what I can do with it.

For this very reason, I’m now actively seeking out repairable tech. Companies like Fairphone are challenging the corporate attitude to closed systems. They offer an easily repairable smart phone & will supply all the parts & help required. They are also ethical & transparent. This pleases me greatly. Smart phones are expensive. If anyone told you 15 years ago that you would spend £600+ on a mobile phone you would have laughed, but here we are. Convergence of technology means we rely on them more than ever & so pay the high price tags. Surely that means that if we are so invested, we should be able to at least attempt repair.

Fairphone 2 - Fully repairable & open
Fairphone 2 – Fully repairable & open

If you have any views on this I would love to hear from you. I’ll do a full write up of the Macbook repair & diagnostics as soon as possible.

John Large

My name is John Large. I am a Web Developer, E-commerce site owner & all round geek. My areas of interest include hardware hacking, digital privacy & security, social media & computer hardware. I’m also a minimalist in the making, interested in the Tiny House movement & the experience economy along with a strong interest in sustainability & renewable energy. When I’m not tapping on a keyboard or swiping a smart phone I can be found sampling great coffee, travelling the world with my wife Vicki (who writes over at Let’s Talk Beauty) & generally trying to live my life as unconventionally as possible.

One thought to “Apple Error 53 & tech repairability”

  1. John,
    I have to agree with you here, I am equally frustrated at having older Apple hardware being obsoleted by software updates. I have a perfectly good iPad 1 that can’t be update past IOS 5 (I think). Problem is all the newer apps need IOS 8 or 9. An example is I used the iPad 1 for running the Logitech Harmony Remote app, it was great, even better than using their remote control unit itself. After a “forced” upgrade of the Harmony remote and hub firmware by LogiTech the remote on iPad informed me the present version of the app no longer works with the latest firmware, upgrade the app. I tried that but the latest app said it needed IOS 7 or later. Tried to update the iPad OS and was told the latest version available for my iPad was IOS 5. So in a nutshell, LogiTech forced a firmware update that wouldn’t work with the older IOS app and the later app wouldn’t install on the iPad as it wouldn’t install under IOS 5.
    Perfectly good and useful use of an old iPad destroyed by these forced changes!

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