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The case of the cracked MacBook case

I've had my MacBook for a total of 4 months now and have generally loved the little machine, so much so that I switched to Mac completely, dropping Windows and buying a Mac Pro. There has however been one problem that has cropped up recently that is rather frustrating. The front of the MacBook palm rest area has developed a hair-line crack in it.

I treat this machine quite well and am very careful with it so the fact that it cracked after just four months of ownership is pretty disappointing. When I say I treat it well I mean "kid gloves" well. I've never dropped the machine or even handled it roughly. I gently open and close the lid, careful not to let it slam shut. If I take it anywhere it is immediately placed into a snug black neoprene Incase sleeve. Travel means the MacBook is first placed inside the Incase sleeve and then placed inside a padded laptop briefcase. Kid gloves.

My oldest daughter's MacBook on the other hand has developed no such crack, even though it is 7 months older and treated with a tiny fraction of the care mine receives. Hers has a large decal on the shell and makeup stains from residing in her cramped college dorm room. When it's not laying around on a couch or coffee table it is crammed into a large bag with enough female products to go camping for several weeks. Yet hers is fine.

I did a little research on the interwebs and sure enough a large number of people have experienced the same exact problem I have. It even got so bad that Fake Steve Jobs put up a note about it in December.

Not pleased about this I called up Apple Care. The gentleman told me that I could either take the machine to a nearby Apple store for repair or they would send out a box so that I could pack up my precious machine, ship it to them for repair, then they would send it back to me. Since I have an Apple store about 30 minutes away that was my preferred method.

The earliest I can get to the Apple Care store is Monday so this will have to wait until then; I'll add information on this as I go. When I put up a post in April about how to clean a MacBook case with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers Charles mentioned in the comments that the top of the case may be one of the "problem" ones that were not varnished properly. Hopefully when this is repaired it will address the fact that the palm rests gets dirty so easily too. 

In the meantime I will be using a machine that sharply pokes right into underside of my wrist as I type. 

Ouch.

Update: Check out this Flickr group dedicated to MacBook case cracks.

68 comments:

Michael Wulff Nielsen said...

This is a known problem with the macbooks. Normally Apple just replaces the topcase under warranty.

A good tip to prevent hurting yourself is to put a small piece of tape over the cracked spot.

Ast A. Moore said...

Ouch, indeed. I understand how frustrating it may be. I'm extremely (one may even say, overly) careful with all my gear, and you know what I've noticed? The more careful I am, the higher the chances the my gear will develop some sort of a defect. It's totally unfair, but then again, life is generally unfair.

I hope you'll have your MacBook fixed soon.

AndyBo said...

Once the case is fixed, I can recommend the Marware Protection Pack. Kind of high priced for what it is, but the wrist rest pad does help to make typing more comfortable. I have had mine since the first or second week after I got my Macbook so maybe this has also helped protect me from case cracks. (Nine months in now, and also the catalyst that got me to switch over to Mac full time.)

The grey screen protector cloth also helps to keep finger oil transferring from keyboard to glossy screen when you close the lid.

Good luck with the repair!

Neil Winton said...

I noticed my MacBook had a crack there about a month ago. I didn't think I could get it fixed so thanks for pointing out that it's a warranty job!

Cheers.

David Alison said...

@Michael: Thanks man - that did help.

@Ast: It is funny how that works out but I seem to experience the same thing with some belongings.

On closer inspection it's clear that this is a product defect. The screen/lid has two plastic ribs that prevent the screen from actually resting on the keyboard. Those ribs strike the palm rest in the exact same place that the crack developed. When you close the lid on the MacBook and pick it up the natural tendency is to grasp the 5lb device at the leading edge to place it in a case or move it.

Pressing it closed like that is what creates the pressure that ultimately cracks the palmrest. If Apple had moved the plastic ribs closer to the edge of the display or used a soft material for the ribs this likely would not have happened.

Sophie said...

Huh, I was annoyed when this happened to my fairly new Macbook. I was then stunned to see my friend's computer break in exactly the same place.

Thanks for pointing out that it's covered under warranty - although I don't want to be without my beloved computer long enough for it to get fixed! Decisions, decisions....

topfunky said...

I had the same problem and it took only 30 minutes to fix at an Apple store.

David Alison said...

@Topfunky: Glad to hear that; my only concern is that this is going to repeat itself.

I updated the original post to include a link to a Flickr group that has over a hundred pictures of people with similar problems.

VesperDEM said...

If you are sending it to Apple for repair, I suggest backing up the hard drive on it before hand.

I have heard many horror stories of folks that did this for one reason or another and when they got their machine back, they found that the hard drive had been changed and they had lost all their data.

Of course, those stories were for other problems, but my guess is that they are going to give you a new machine to replace the case. In theory, they should swap-out hard drives and RAM, but one never knows about these things.

Just a word of caution...

David Alison said...

@Vesperdem: Thanks for the advice. I'll force a Time Machine backup before I take it in but I fortunately have an Apple store pretty close by. Appointment is already set for tomorrow.

rahuldowlath said...

Hi David, I've been reading your blog for quite some time now (I'm also a C# programmer, but a hobbiyst one though!), and i'm really sorry about your MacBook man! I was also planning on getting one (I'm a Windows user atm) but I've decided to wait for the apparant "aluminium" case re-desingn... hopefully this won't happen in that redesign...

Hope your MacBook gets fixed though! :)

devburke said...

I've got pretty much the exact same crack in the exact same place, so I'm interested to hear if they fix it for you.

Bill said...

Same problem here. I covered it with tape until I could get it fixed by the local Apple store without having to leave my machine. No hassle with the repair except the scheduling due to workload at the store.

The other case issue I'm having is that the left-front side of the case flexes. Not a real problem but a bit of a distraction.

Bill said...

Don't just show up at the Apple Store. Make an appointment for hardware repair. Ignore the Apple phone tree about repairs and talk to the store directly.

Trisha, KI4PCM said...

The irony of the Mac crowd... we're vocal about our love for our machines, but we are also more vocal about any issues we have than is normal with more 'generic' devices...

Great blog! I've learned so much from reading it. I'm a developer, primarily with Java, and switched to Mac 3 years ago coming mostly from Linux. Actually, a good half dozen computer science students switched from Linux to Mac when the college had a liquidation sale selling the old Macs from the art and design labs. :-)

David Alison said...

@Bill: Appointment made through the web site for that store. Thanks for the heads up.

@Trisha: Glad you like the blog! You are correct, Mac users tend to be a bit more demanding than Windows people. I think in part this is because with Windows it's hard to figure out who to blame: Microsoft? The hardware vendor? The driver author? It's hard to pin responsibility on any one entity. Macs are much easier in this regard.

Anonymous said...

Try the Maccally case:

http://www.amazon.com/Macally-Protection-Shell-Macbook-BookShellB/dp/B000RNBVWG

It protects the outside, looks nice, fits better than any case a the retail store (I know, I'm an employee there), and is cheaper. It generally protects the case from those cracks. That repair should also be covered no problem. They replace the topcase on it.

David Alison said...

@Anon: Thanks for the tip on the case. $26.98 from Amazon w/ free shipping sounds pretty good.

dangerous dave said...

Get covercase.com. Listen. It's so amazing they raised the price. It's leather with a plastic hard core but red felt on the inside. While i was not crazy about showing off the apple logo since i thought it was a weak spot in the case. After much HEAVY hard use it hasnt been a problem and FRANKLY looks great. If i hit an apple store it's about 30 sec before someone walks up and asks where i got it and if they can get it there. I was not crazy about the soft italian leather but everyone else is and it has grown on me. After beating the hell out of my laptop taking it everywhere including the beach and many countries as well as jerks stuffing their bags by force in airplane overheads right on my laptop. i have not a scratch or crack!

Atlantic Wave Radio Podcast said...

I have a macbook that is only a few months old and have lost most of the plastic on the right of the machine at the front and also the screen bezel has cracked after a piece came off the rim.

D.O. said...

I am facing exactly same problems with you on my macbook black =(

S. Lute said...

I had this happen as well. It's caused by the little bevels in the top lid that come down and hit when it's closed and carried around. I've started carrying mine under the hinge side when I carry it so that I don't put pressure on those bevels when it's closed.

The Apple Store is able to fix it very quickly, but it can happen again if you're not careful when you carry it/close it.

GrlGeek said...

The same thing happened to my MacBook - only mine cracked at the hinges too. Since we have no local Apple retailer, I sent it in and it was repaired under warranty, but while it was there they discovered that my hard drive also fell under a recall notice and replaced it with no notice and without moving anything. Luckily I had a back up because I had to start fresh at the Welcome screen.

David Alison said...

@Grlgeek: OK, that really sucks. Nice that they swapped out the hard drive, not nice that you got no warning.

MagerValp said...

So is this a known defect that is covered by an extended warranty (like the battery problems), or is it just the normal 12 months? My MacBook is 22 months and cracked just this week :/

David Alison said...

@magervalp: As I mention in today's follow up post, I think this is a design defect. I would argue that you should be able to get it repaired, but again, that's just me.

Andy said...

I've had this crack happen twice on mine now, both times under warranty, first time was fixed in less than an hour, second time was 24 hrs. repair cost would have been £65 if it had not been in warranty. My problem is my warranty ends in 4 days, and even if I had apple care, the "genius" in store said that cosmetic damage isn't covered and i'd still have to shell out for the repair.
Have invested in an invisible shield for the wrist rest and a silicon keyboard/wrist rest cover. One to soften the impacts and the other to hold it together if/when it cracks again - i'm guessing 6 mths tops!

Fly On Wall said...

i just noticed that my case has cracked... AGAIN. The first time it was only about 5 months after i ahd bought it and so it was easily fixed under the warranty. It's now been 13 months and the warranty is over so i have no idea if they will fix it.
This is really shabby of Apple.
Wish me luck for getting it fixed.

jennifer said...

Chiming in with the same issue! Mine is a couple of years old and out of warranty. I want to know what it will cost without having to drive the 50 miles to the apple store. I found this DYI store: http://www.ifixit.com/MacBook-Parts/MacBook-Upper-Case-with-Keyboard-White/IF186-000

Can anyone tell me the cost for the replacement in the US?

donutsXareXgood said...

I've had a small, centimeter sized crack down the left side of my macbook for a while now. Just today, I noticed on the opposite side, there's a 3 centimeter crack going down the side. Is this covered by the apple store?

Anonymous said...

My MacBook developed cracks along three edges for no apparent reason when I first bought it a year and a half ago. I had the tpp shell and keyboard replaced under warranty after convincing them it was an inherent defect. Now it has happened again n the same locations. I have always treated my MacBook with care. Apple told me they haven't had any similar reports of cracks from other people. It's obvious why it's happening, though. Putting a thin sliver of plastic on top of the edge of the bottom shell right where people rest their hands is just asking for trouble. My theory is that the constant warming and flexing of this edge by users resting their palms on it eventually stresses the plastic to its breaking point. The screen's two tabs hitting this plastic edge also contributes to the problem.

Michael said...

So, we had a chip on our palm rest on the macbook, a 2nd one, this week.

The first one happened last summer and it was still under warranty and they replaced it for free...This time, at the G Bar, they weren't going to and tried to charge us $200 but I complained pretty resolutely at the Apple reps and manager and they ultimately said they'd do it 'this time' for free...Seems like such a scam.

I've researched this problem a lot and it's an admitted design flaw from Apple...The magnetic latch for closing the macbook eventually wears down the plastic palm rest and it eventually cracks...They have no solution for it either which seems ridiculous as we spent the last year using a soft layer of felt to try and protect the surface on closing and it STILL cracked a year later (So, surprisingly, even with some sort of cushion layer it still broke in nearly the same amount of time)...This means it will definitely crack again and so I'm not sure what to do...I'm thinking of trying to unload the laptop and simply buy the aluminum version or something...Seems like such a joke...Any suggestions?

And to be honest, it does boggle the mind how Apple simply won't come out with a fix/solution to the problem instead of still peddle these plastic macbooks that will continue to have the same problem

David Alison said...

@Michael: The replacement surface they gave me did seem to sit much more flush on the MacBook. Hopefully it will solve the problem. My daughter's MacBook is now a year old and she treats it pretty roughly, yet hers is not showing any signs of cracking yet. Good luck!

Em Sixteen said...

I bought my macbook when they first came out, in September 2006. I first noticed my crack a year and a 1/2 later in April 08, took it to the Apple store and had it replaced under applecare. I treat my computer with much care! YET Again, I found a crack in it this week, only 4 months later! They assured me that the new plastic would be improved but obviously it's worse. Seriously not sure what to do--shell out another thousand for a pro from a company with such a BAD product?

Anonymous said...

- discovered case cracked right of trackpad despite limited use
- had it fixed on 8/18
- have only used mouse since & been VERY careful closing cover
- on 8/26 discovered another crack in front and to left of trackpad
- this is discouraging- feel like I'm getting f#%k-ed by Apple

D.O. said...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielooi/2569589956/

Well, I had the same problems months ago and I have it warranty claimed from Applecare =)

How's your macbook now?

D.O. said...

and now I have a thin film sticked on the palm rest area which i think it may helps to protect it =)

David Alison said...

@D.O.: I've since given the MacBook to my youngest daughter. In checking it just yesterday it seems to be holding up fine. So far, so good.

SwasBoss said...

Just thought I would add my name to the list of users who are like ... I thought I was buying something of quality. Notice that the new MacBooks address this problem. I just don't have time to send my MacOhGoodness away. Thanks for all the good tips :D

The Thaikid Returns said...

Add me to the list. I bought a 13" white macbook in Dec 06'. And after 2 years of use, I noticed hairline cracks on both sides of the trackpad 2 months ago. Today, a 2" piece broke off the right side. I also have a 4" crack on the left border of the screen (which I didn't notice anyone one else mentioning). In addition, I have 3 cracks under the computer next to the vent as well. After hearing so many good comments about Macbooks, I'm disappointed Apple would continue to produce a product with a casing known to be flawed. I'm living in Thailand. I guess I'll find out soon what kind of hassle I'm in for about trying to get it fixed here. I have the extended warranty. Hopefully, they will be a aware of the "case" problem. If not, I'm stuck. Trying to argue, in most cases, is futile.

Richard

amy said...

I went to the Apple store the other day for something unrelated, and the genius at the bar noticed my cracked case and mentioned that Apple will replace it and the keyboard for free, even if I'm out of warranty. Maybe they started doing this because of the high incidence of the problem? Anyway, I would ask them directly before buying a new topcase somewhere else.

Rafael said...

Add me to the list of palm rest crack victims. My 10 month old white Macbook cracked on the left palm rest. The piece is hanging lose. They are still selling this product. They need a real solution. Disappointed.

Self said...

just to say that your good work has reached as far as india! my macbook cracked in the exact same place as the one in your pic... i was making do with insulation tape and such because i thought i'd never be able to prove that it was not my fault... after seeing this page i approached the apple service center nearby... they graciously acknowledged the problem and gladly replaced the the case... took a couple of hours...

thanks much!

David Alison said...

@Self: Glad to hear you were able to get it repaired. The MacBook pictured above was repaired and it has not had a problem since. It is now my youngest daughter's primary machine and again get's a fair amount of abuse (at least compared to MY treatment of it), yet the repaired top case show's no sign of wear or problem.

Anonymous said...

I'm really disappointed too. I've had my MacBook for 8 months now. I bought it used, previous owner had it for 10 months. He was very careful with it, so it was in a really good condition when I bought it. It cracked 2 days ago on the right wrist rest side. The piece is still hanging there. Does anyone know how much it cost in UK to get it fixed? Thanks in advance.

David Alison said...

@Anon: Check with your local Apple store if you have access. It has been widely reported that Apple will repair it for no charge. If you find out otherwise please drop a note here. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I just called my local store. She told me I was out of warranty and it would cost approx. $200 US for a replacement top case/keyboard - R/S palm rest went from cracked to now missing a 2 inch piece. This in itself does not bother me much, but I'm starting to drop my "P's" a new key board would be nice.

David Alison said...

@Anon: That's too bad. I believe the top case is separate from the keyboard though; if you're dropping letters that's likely a keyboard problem and unrelated to the case cracking. It may explain why they want to charge you for the repair. Good luck!

Cuvtixo said...

I think that's not true for macbooks, certainly not my late 2006 model. Upper case, keyboard AND trackpad are all one unit. Powerbooks and iBooks had separate keyboards of varying quality for different models... some "unibody" macbooks uppercases have backlit keyboards, and all unibody macbooks can be fitted with these.

Anonymous said...

My MB slowly developed a crack in the front left edge and a sliver started flaking off. Did my research on the web, called my local Apple Store, they said to make an appointment. In the meantime, I checked closely for other cracks and the area around the camera on the screen bezel had also developed hairline cracks.

At the Genius Bar, they inspected it and said they'll replace the bezel and top case. No fuss, no fight. Parts were in stock and I got my MB back the next day with a new screen bezel and top case which included a new keyboard and track pad.

My MB (Aug.'06) turned 3 years old the day I brought it in and was long out of warranty.

Nolan Giles said...

wat the heck!!! mine got a crack in EXACTLY the same spot!!!

Dessito said...

Another case of palm-rest crack out of nowhere. One thing I want to mention, however, is that having a beautiful (otherwise) protective case such as the one recommended by an Anon above (http://www.amazon.com/Macally-Protection-Shell-Macbook-BookShellB/dp/B000RNBVWG) WILL NOT PREVENT such crack from appearing. I bought this case at the same time as I bought the laptop (Jan 2009) and have never taken it off, yet I still ended up with the problem. I was shocked not only because I am generally extremely careful with my MacBook, but because the previous two non-Mac laptops I have owned lasted me an unbelievable 5 and 4 years respectively and while I had some software and HD issues, it never even occurred to me to worry about the box itself.

As others said - it's the feeling of disappointment that our beloved Apple is far from perfect after all...

I hope they replace the box quickly at the Apple store where I am going on Saturday (my computer and warranty were purchased abroad - fingers crossed).

Cody said...

I just got a MacBook today on eBay, it is used. I noticed it cracked by the palm rest, I called Apple support just now, and the very nice lady gave me a CASE ID number, and it is getting replaced free of charge!!! AND THERE IS NO WARRENTY, IT EXPIRED. :) I love Apple, but do the same.

Anonymous said...

My husband brought me my macbook 4months ago and today i am gutted to see the case is cracked where lid meets base... looks like its a trip to my store on monday. not a happy bunny

Anonymous said...

SAME PROBLEM! Talking to mac this afternoon about it - don't think it should be a problem, though. I found this just recently....

http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2009/04/apple-tweaks-warranty-policy-on-macbook-cracks.ars

cienne said...

i am having the same problem, i already contacted the supplier where i purchased my mac. i just hope that they will cover this since this is still under warranty. seeing it in that state is such a heartache. I live here in the philippines so i really hope this will be settled the soonest possible time and less expense on my part.

Mahesh said...

Had the same problem, took it to the apple store and they replaced the top case. The guy said it is a manufacturing refect.

Anonymous said...

Okay, mine cracked in the same spot too and I take good care of my macbook. Thanks for pointing out that it's a product defect! What a relief!!!

chan said...

I am surprised why any of us should settle down for a repair, when it's a design defect and even after knowing that, apple continues to stock the shelf with defective product. Yes! the same crappy thing is still sold in apple stores with defective casing and those ignorant people like me are get caught it believing Apple makes great products, but in fact it isn't. It seems, everyone here is fine with paying $1000 and live with cheap plastic, that is sure to crack again. I bought mine last fall and it has cracked twice so far. And, now i am seeing that this has been happening for almost 3 years now and apple doesn't give damn about it. Is anyone with me?

Darkstar said...

They just refused to fix my today. I never knew about the recall until recently. that piece of shit cracked before my 1st year of ownership. I am thinking about filing a lawsuit against apple. Anyone else Up for that?

Anonymous said...

The day I noticed my little crack along the bottom close to the track pad - I called apple immediately. I told her and she said it was covered by apple because it was on their end. Tomorrow I am calling apple to get an appt. Tonight I removed my plastic cover case, and noticed cracks by the hinges on the bottom. I'll be damned if they say no to fixing it - and I'm not going unless the parts are in stock. They aren't keeping it over night - nor will I allow them to replace or wipe my HD.

Anonymous said...

The day I noticed my little crack along the bottom close to the track pad - I called apple immediately. I told her and she said it was covered by apple because it was on their end. Tomorrow I am calling apple to get an appt. Tonight I removed my plastic cover case, and noticed cracks by the hinges on the bottom. I'll be damned if they say no to fixing it - and I'm not going unless the parts are in stock. They aren't keeping it over night - nor will I allow them to replace or wipe my HD.

Anonymous said...

I went to an apple store with my 13" white macbook and showed the Genius Bar guy "Michael" the cracks on the bevel and top case. Michael drew up the paperwork; I initialed and the parts were onsite so I got back my laptop same day! No questions asked at no cost. I bought it in 2008 (no receipt in person) and had it repaired in 2010 after living with the cracks for over a year. Thanks Michael for not giving me a hard time about the damages on my laptop!

Katie said...

I had the same crack and got the topcase replaced free of charge at Springboard Media here in Philly just this week. Looks like new! Hard to tell if it looks any different but it seems to feel a little more matte.

roger ward choir musician said...

now what to do if the bezel cracks...

Anonymous said...

For Everyone trying to figure out why your macbook cracks, Well guess what? It's not a defect. In fact, it is due to wear. It has been discovered that your sleeve, or watchband is constantly pounding on the edge of the plastic. Finally, the repeated sleeve/watchband wear causes the plastic to deform and crack. It took us a while to determine the problem, but once we did, we came up with a little trick to protect the unit. we glued some hi tech SiC wafers to the area. The SiC (Silicon carbide) wafers are Very Very Very hard, and do not wear out.

ET Manila said...

Although it is now 2011, I thought I'd still share - This happened to my 2008 Macbook only a year ago - perhaps it took longer before it cracked/peeled off because I live in a hot humid tropical climate ? Last year I took the unit with me to Toronto for one month - that's when the cracking and peeling began.

Last week I finally took my Macbook in to find out what Apple would do with it. It was 3 days before its AppleCare would expire and I expected it to be covered under AppleCare - I was told that there was a recent recall on this model so even if the AppleCare expired they'd replace the parts that cracked and the keyboard.

I am very careful with all my notebooks and gadgets. I've enjoyed using this 3 year old Macbook daily but ONLY at home for photos and internet, as it is TOO HEAVY for me to carry around to client meetings - I have a much lighter 4 year old Acer Travelmate I use to carry around for work - so my Macbook has never been subject to overuse or abuse.

Ashley McCarthy said...

Step 1, get a wrist rest skin and you will never see any more crack line.
I got mine from skinstyler, reputable seller and good product.