How to start a keyboard repair for your MacBook or MacBook Pro, and what to expect

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2018
With Apple's launch of the repair extension program for the MacBook plus 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro keyboards comes uncertainty about how to start it, and what to expect. AppleInsider explains the process, and tells you what you should do before you send your machine away for service.

MacBook Pro keyboard


First of all, the repair program announced late on Friday is not a proactive one. Apple won't allow you to come in for a checkup for your MacBook, or 2016 or 2016 MacBook Pro or give you an advance replacement. It is only for machines actively experiencing issues.

But, should your machine be manifesting symptoms like repeating keys or keys that don't register on press, starting the process is simple. If you're afflicted by the problems, contact AppleCare, or make an appointment at your local Apple Store's Genius Bar.

While you're waiting, make sure that you have a backup, because the repair will not be done while you wait and your data is not guaranteed. If you even find an Apple Store that will do it on the premises, it is still a long process, basically involving taking the back panel off, and completely stripping the computer down to get to the upper case -- which will be replaced in its entirety.

We trust Apple's technicians, but we still suggest that after you have the backup, you wipe the machine of your data. Things can happen, machines can get lost in the process, so better safe than sorry. We also suggest you take a series of pictures of your machine before you hand it over or send it away for the same reason -- accidents can and do happen.





If you're not within range of an Apple Store, Apple will mail you a box to send your computer in for repair. While they do use FedEx overnight shipping for both getting the box to you and getting it back in to the service depot, this may add a day or two to the process depending on how late in the day you start the process.

Regarding the four years timeframe: the time starts on the first day of the purchase from Apple or an authorized vendor. If you bought a MacBook or MacBook Pro refurbished by Apple, then the four-year counter starts on that day, not when any previous owner may have purchased it.

How long without?

Sources inside Apple's device repair chain have told us that as of Monday, they were still quoting and seeing between three and five days turnaround time if the machine is brought in to an Apple store, and five to seven business days if shipped, exclusive of the shipping box arriving at the customer's location. But, as the repair program was only announced on Friday, it remains to be seen how long that short window will last.

MacBook Pro keyboard


Much of it will depend on if people have been living with the problem until now, or have turned to an external keyboard to solve the problem in the short term. If there have been a lot of people "sitting" on the problem and waiting because it's an expensive fix, the repair extension might have a surge in the short-term.

We'll keep an eye on it, and let you know if things change.

For now, though, AppleInsider's advice is, if you have the problem, deal with it immediately. If you put it off for a week or two after the program was announced, you will likely be without the machine for longer than the estimates currently stand on this, the first business day after the program's announcement.

While iPhone owners outnumber the Mac using population about 20 to 1, when the battery replacement program began at the tail-end of 2017, the time that it took to get a battery replaced quickly expanded to weeks. This repair situation with the keyboard is logistically a simpler situation for Apple, though, necessitating four different upper case models between all the Macs afflicted, as opposed to nine different batteries.

Another possibility is a third-party Apple-authorized repair shop. They will likely do the repair on the premises, but will still probably need at least two days to do it, given how the Apple repair process works with core replacement return.

The keyboard isn't replaceable by itself. The upper case assembly includes the keyboard, the battery, and the upper case metal surrounding the keyboard and Thunderbolt 3 ports. We've seen out-of-warranty pricing with labor and parts exceeding $700 for the job.

A permanent fix?

Exclusive AppleInsider research showed that the 2016 MacBook Pro keyboards were failing at a higher rate, as a percentage of service calls, than the 2015. However, it also showed that the 2016 model keyboards were failing at a higher rate than the 2017 model.

Externally, the 2017 and 2016 keyboards differ in only one respect -- the different markings on the option and control keys. It's not clear what, if any, changes Apple has made, but the differing rates suggest at least some.

Since we published the original report, we have been told by more than one source that the 2017 keyboard is "better." However, we have not been able to get any elaboration on that in regards to what may or may not be different between the years.

So, other than the four-year from initial purchase window acting as a de facto insurance against future failure, it's not at all clear that the problem is resolved for good after a repair.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Only Apple would take care of its good customers so well. Microsoft would never do anything like this. Neither would Dell or HP.
  • Reply 2 of 11
    LoneStar88LoneStar88 Posts: 285member
    I have a late 2015 12" Retina MacBook. Its keyboard is fine, and I've never had any issues with it.

    But I did an online chat with Apple this morning just to check if I could bring it in to my Apple Retail Store for a check, anyway. I was told that the program is only for machines with issues.
  • Reply 3 of 11
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,636administrator
    I have a late 2015 12" Retina MacBook. Its keyboard is fine, and I've never had any issues with it.

    But I did an online chat with Apple this morning just to check if I could bring it in to my Apple Retail Store for a check, anyway. I was told that the program is only for machines with issues.
    That's a good point, and I assumed that point was clear -- but it looks like maybe not. I'll add to the piece.
  • Reply 4 of 11
    dcgoodcgoo Posts: 213member
    I had my 2016 keyboard/top case replaced in late May (AppleCare).  The weird part for me was the problem was intermittent and variable.  It seemed to affect different keys at different times. But it was driving me nuts, and finally set up a genius bar appointment.  Actually the day I took it in, I could not replicate the problem.  But the in store tech offered to fix it for me anyway. I had multiple good backups, so I left it with the store.   The Store tech, noted on the ticket he could not reproduce the problem, but ordered a keyboard top case replacement anyway.  In my case, I was defintely having problems, but I could replicate the problem at the time I dropped it off. 

    Dropped off in a Store, returned to me at home by Fedex.  It was out of my hands for 10 days, including the Memorial Day holiday.  The store tech did not know for sure where it was sent, but the return trip to me originated in Memphis.  

    This was the first time I have had anything "sent out" for depot repair by Apple.  Process was simple, although the online "check status" option was not particularly helpful. Basically "received" "tech looking at it" and "shipped"  But the process worked fine, and the new keyboard is way better than the old in all respects.   The only bad part was my baby was gone for over a week.  I was able to get by for that 10 days, but I can see that it might a bigger hardship for other folks. 
    edited June 2018 avon b7
  • Reply 5 of 11
    dcgoo said:
    I had my 2016 keyboard/top case replaced in late May (AppleCare).  The weird part for me was the problem was intermittent and variable.  It seemed to affect different keys at different times. But it was driving me nuts, and finally set up a genius bar appointment.  Actually the day I took it in, I could not replicate the problem.  But the in store tech offered to fix it for me anyway. I had multiple good backups, so I left it with the store.   The Store tech, noted on the ticket he could not reproduce the problem, but ordered a keyboard top case replacement anyway.  In my case, I was defintely having problems, but I could replicate the problem at the time I dropped it off. 

    Dropped off in a Store, returned to me at home by Fedex.  It was out of my hands for 10 days, including the Memorial Day holiday.  The store tech did not know for sure where it was sent, but the return trip to me originated in Memphis.  

    This was the first time I have had anything "sent out" for depot repair by Apple.  Process was simple, although the online "check status" option was not particularly helpful. Basically "received" "tech looking at it" and "shipped"  But the process worked fine, and the new keyboard is way better than the old in all respects.   The only bad part was my baby was gone for over a week.  I was able to get by for that 10 days, but I can see that it might a bigger hardship for other folks. 
    The repair facilities have terrible communication when it comes to repair status, but usually they are quick and for the most part do a pretty
    good job. 

    Thank you Mike for adding the point of backing up your computer before you drop it off. Even though a top case replacement usually goes smoothly, these logic boards are very delicate and if you end up accidentally breaking a connector on it, you'll have to replace it and the hard drive is soldered to it so you will loose your data if it's not backed up. 
  • Reply 6 of 11
    My experience with this issue happened about two months ago... On my MacBook Pro (late 2016 model), the "z" key (the one I use all the time for undo and our company name has a z in it too) stopped working consistently. I took it into an Apple Store and I was told the repair would take 3-5 days because they don't repair them in house. Fortunately, I had AppleCare, so I wasn't concerned with the cost, but with the time without the computer, as this is my main computer. So, I asked if there were any other repair options. They said I could try some of their authorized dealers. I called around and was told that since it was such a new computer that no dealers could fix it in house, that they hadn't been trained on it. I ended up leaving my computer at the Apple Store around 4 pm on a Monday and asked for it to be shipped back to my office. I was pleasantly surprised to receive it back the following Wednesday morning by Fedex (early delivery). Without AppleCare (before Apple agreed to repair them for free), the total would have been $700 plus tax.
    edited June 2018
  • Reply 7 of 11
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,764member
    I have a late 2015 12" Retina MacBook. Its keyboard is fine, and I've never had any issues with it.

    But I did an online chat with Apple this morning just to check if I could bring it in to my Apple Retail Store for a check, anyway. I was told that the program is only for machines with issues.
    This is for 2016 machines. 

    Mine is fine, so far. I've had one or two brief instances of individual keys feeling a little weird, but forcefully blowing into the gap around the offending key has fixed it every time. 
  • Reply 8 of 11
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,636administrator
    spheric said:
    I have a late 2015 12" Retina MacBook. Its keyboard is fine, and I've never had any issues with it.

    But I did an online chat with Apple this morning just to check if I could bring it in to my Apple Retail Store for a check, anyway. I was told that the program is only for machines with issues.
    This is for 2016 machines. 

    Mine is fine, so far. I've had one or two brief instances of individual keys feeling a little weird, but forcefully blowing into the gap around the offending key has fixed it every time. 
    It's also for the 2015 MacBook.
  • Reply 9 of 11
    idanidan Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    What are the chances of getting the 2nd gen butterfly keyboard as a replacement in my 2015 MacBook 12in?
  • Reply 10 of 11
    I took mine in for this and the mysterious popping sounds problem last week.
    I was told they would overnight parts to fix it and then do it in 1-2 days over the weekend. Basically everything but the motherboard will be switched out including the display.
    I still have not heard back to drop it off.
    I use this laptop every day for video editing and audio mixing. I am taking it on the road with me this Thursday (thus why they said they would overnight parts) and probably will not have the repair done before then.

    The 2015 MBP I had was great.
    The one before it had the bad video card problem that ended up (after several visits to Apple) in exchanging it for a new one.
    1 out of 3 isn't very good Apple!

  • Reply 11 of 11
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,636administrator
    idan said:
    What are the chances of getting the 2nd gen butterfly keyboard as a replacement in my 2015 MacBook 12in?
    That's a good question. I'm not sure that the 2nd gen as found in the MBP fits in the MacBook. We'll keep our eyes open about it.
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