Apple Confirms that T2 Chip May Block Certain Third-Party Repairs

Apple Ipad Repair Credit: PRESSLAB
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Apple has confirmed that its proprietary T2 security chip may block certain repairs at unauthorized service centers.

The T2 chip is an ARM-based co-processor that controls and introduces a variety of functions, from always-on Hey Siri to automatic device encryption. But the chip also locks down Mac products from being repaired at third-party repair centers.

According to a leaked Apple Support document distributed to Authorized Service Providers (via Motherboard), the T2 checks for authorized parts during a post-repair boot process. As a result, repairs will could lead to an “inoperative system and an incomplete repair” unless the chip detects that a special diagnostic software has been run.

Apple publicly confirmed to The Verge that this behavior is baked into the T2 chips for certain components, such as the logic board and Touch ID sensor. The support document reveals that affected parts also include display assembly, top case, and flash storage on various devices.

T2 chips are included in most newer Mac products — including the recently debuted 2018 MacBook Air and 2018 Mac mini, as well as the iMac Pro and 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models.

The first-party silicon takes over a variety of under-the-hood systems with a built-in SSD controller, audio controller and image signal processor. It also features various security-related mechanisms, like audio and video gatekeeping that keeps hackers from spying on you via a Mac’s microphone.

DIY Repairs May Be Impossible

But the authorized component checking may render a variety of third-party or DIY repairs basically impossible.

The only choice if consumers want to get their products repaired are brick-and-mortar Apple locations and Authorized Service Providers.

iFixit theorizes that the change may be a security measure to mitigate the risk of compromised hardware being installed in a Mac, or a mechanism that ensures consumers are getting the right components at the right prices when going to third-party repair shops.

Cynics, of course, may point out that the T2 chip behavior is simply a way for Apple to lock down third-party repairs and take back market share in the repair sector.

It’s worth noting that iFixit, long advocates of DIY and third-party repairability, were able to swap a display without any complications related to the repair “kill switch.” This makes it unclear when exactly the T2 boot process was introduced.

Mac Products Easier-to-Repair?

Presumably, in an effort to make its products more repairable and environmentally responsible, Apple has recently begun making some of its Mac products easier-to-repair. The company also touted the fact that its new MacBook Air and Mac mini were made out of 100 percent recycled aluminum.

But Apple devices are still some of the hardest pieces of consumer technology to repair, due to a variety of factors from manufacturing and design decisions to the T2 chip diagnostic requirements.

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