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The arrival of Apple’s new M2-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro landing in stores officially marks the arrival of the second generation of Apple Silicon. It’s also the first Apple Silicon Mac to be re-released with a newer chip.
Since the 2020 M1 MacBook Pro and the 2022 M2 MacBook Pro are so obviously similar in design and specs, this has led many to ask the obvious question. Can an older 2020 MacBook Pro with an M1 chip simply have the M2 chip swapped in?
To be clear, this question is more of an intellectual curiosity than anything else. Apple is not Intel; it does not — and almost certainly never will — sell the M2 chip in its retail stores. This means that, right now, the only way to get your hands on an M2 chip is to buy Apple’s newest 13-inch MacBook Pro. Once you’ve done that, there’s not much point in putting the chip into the 2020 model.
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Still, Apple enthusiast Luke Miani decided to try and answer this question on his YouTube channel just for kicks.
Today’s video is dumb, and pointless, and frankly serves no real purpose. But I’m gonna do it anyway, because a lot of you guys have asked. Luke Miani
A Tale of Two MacBooks
Leaving aside the futility of such an undertaking, Miani’s project was nevertheless fascinating in revealing how incredibly similar both MacBook Pro models are.
We already know that Apple’s newest M2 MacBook Pro is visually indistinguishable from its predecessor, but it turns out that it’s almost entirely unchanged on the inside as well.
After taking the covers off both the 2020 M1 MacBook Pro and 2022 M2 MacBook Pro and placing them side by side, it was obvious they were virtually identical.
The only change Miani discovered at first glance was the flash memory (SSD) storage. The older MacBook Pro uses a pair of 128GB chips, while the latest model has a single 256GB chip with space for an additional one. Nevertheless, the chips are soldered on, so this is more about cost-efficiency in manufacturing, not upgradeability for end users.
Miani then took the logic board out of the M1 MacBook Pro, noting how clean and thin the board was, followed up by doing the same with the M2 logic board. He also noted that many tiny connectors and hidden screws must be carefully detached to accomplish this. Unsurprisingly, Apple doesn’t intend for mere mortals to attempt to disassemble its latest MacBooks.
Nevertheless, the logic board from the M2 MacBook Pro physically fits into the older MacBook without any problems. All the mounting screw holes and connectors lined up the same.
After installing the M2 logic board into the older M1 MacBook Pro and hooking everything correctly, the result was: nothing. The older MacBook Pro simply wouldn’t power on.
Miani then proceeded to try swapping over the Touch ID sensor from the newer M2 MacBook Pro and then checked, rechecked, and rechecked everything again. However, the M1 MacBook Pro with the newly-installed M2 logic board simply refused to wake up at all. Even trying to put it into “DFU mode” with Apple Configurator wasn’t successful.
I honestly don’t know what to say at this point. I have double, triple, and quadruple-checked every single connection on here. I’ve swapped over the Touch ID button from the M2, so it’s the correct, matching one. I even tried using Apple Configurator to try and get this thing in DFU mode and restore it. There’s absolutely nothing. Luke Miani
So, Miani proceeded to switch everything back to how it was and see if the MacBooks worked in their original hardware configurations. Once he did that, he discovered that both booted up just like they did before he began the experiment.
There are no apparent explanations for why the older MacBook Pro failed to boot with the M2 logic board. Miani pointed to one possibility highlighted in a Tweet by Hector Martin, a developer working on porting Linux to Apple Silicon, that mentioned a new keyboard and trackpad interface. This suggests the top case may have changed in the latest MacBook Pro. However, Miani hasn’t explored that any further.
This may be an academic question right now, but it could matter someday. Apple’s self-service repair program only covers iPhones right now, but it will eventually expand to Macs, and when it does, customers may be able to order new logic boards. While the cost of parts would likely make a DIY M2 upgrade cost-prohibitive, as Miani explains, an M1 MacBook Pro owner with a dead logic board might latch onto the idea of ordering an M2 logic board as a replacement. However, that sadly won’t work, as Miami’s experiment demonstrated.