The case of the repaired MacBook case

As I mentioned in yesterday's post my MacBook's palm rest had cracked in an area where this apparently happens quite often. Since the MacBook is only 4 months old (though I have AppleCare just in case) I assumed this would be covered under warranty; it was.

I went to the Apple web site and made an appointment - my local Apple store in Tysons, VA is usually quite busy all the time. I brought it in at noon EST today and, as usual, the place was packed. The Mac Genius I spoke to (Rob) was about as friendly and knowledgeable as you get. He asked a few questions about the MacBook and when I explained to him that I just did a Time Machine backup right before coming in he high-fived me for using Time Machine. Just a real upbeat guy - it was a good customer experience and it was nice to see someone that clearly loved what he does.

When I asked him why this was happening he said that the magnets they use in the lid to keep it closed were too strong and that they created too much pressure on the edge of the case, causing the cracking.  He said they would need to replace the top-cover, that they had them in stock and fortunately they would be able to get it down within an hour.

I headed off to my lunch appointment and about an hour in the Apple store called to tell me the machine was ready. I inspected the machine - there was a new top plate replacing the cracked one. It seemed to have a slightly different texture than mine.

When I asked if this could happen again the person at the counter went back to talk to the technicians and returned to tell me that the new palm rests were made of a different material that should eliminate that from happening again. If you look at the before and after pictures above you will note that the repaired version sits a little more flush than the previous one.

Not wanting to leave this to chance I went on Amazon and ordered a Macally Protection Shell for my MacBook based on the recommendation I received here. It should arrive in a couple of days.
Though my MacBook is under the care of a three year warranty the hassle of driving all the way to the Apple store (especially at $4+ per gallon) is not something I look forward to.

The nice experience I received at the Apple store has helped assuage the frustration I felt when my new machine started cracking, though I'm still a bit disappointed. I've had several friends tell me that they have the same problem on their MacBooks but they are out of warranty so they are out of luck. I personally think that since this is a design defect—not an abuse issue—that Apple should repair these even if they are out of warranty.

I do find myself holding Apple to a slightly higher standard than I would say HP or Microsoft. Part of this is because I am getting everything from one vendor; no finger pointing that it's the fault of the OS, a driver or the hardware vendor. But the main reason I take Apple to task is that I do believe that Macs are outstanding devices. 

The few problems I've had stand out in glaring contrast to what otherwise has been an outstanding experience.


Anonymous said…
I've got the same problem in a black macbook and i've got a free replacement from apple.
Cathartic Rage said…
Interestingly enough, the magnets in the Macbook's Display Housing Assembly are actually to the right of where the Macbook has shown a penchant for cracking. Likewise, were it a magnet issue, the problem would be localized to BOTH sides of the top case, not just the right side.

In 2006 and 2007, many Macbook owners experienced problems with their Macbook display bezel's and top cases discoloring and and cracking. It was determined that this was due to defective plastics in manufacturing. Apple issued a limited REP (Repair Extension program) and the top cases and bezels were replaced at no cost to the consumer. The plastics were also replaced in parts inventory, in order to keep possibly defective parts out of the loop.

At this point, any recent Macbook shouldnt suffer from the problem. If it does, one would hope it was under AppleCare. Otherwise, its a matter of calling Apple Customer Relations (1-800-767-2775) and attempting to sweet talk them into issuing a CS(Customer Satisfaction Code) which would then cover the repair of the defective plastics.
Anonymous said…
I recently bought a refurbished MAC Book Pro from Apple’s website and within about a week the mouse button seemed to be harder to push. After testing the mouse button on a few other MAC Book Pro I discovered mine was not as easy to push. I did the same thing scheduling an appointment with the Tyson’s Geniuses Bar. I took it in and they replaced the cover with the attached mouse pad and mouse button. Everything was working great and the next day while sitting on the couch with my wife in the dark watching TV I noticed the keys no longer light up. I scheduled another appointment and 10 minutes later after reconnecting an internal cable I was fixed.

I ask people not to compare MAC OS X versus Windows compare support. I say tell me what other computer maker for any OS has a place I can schedule an appointment within 24 hours and meet with a person not a phone and get straight answers and a hardware repair within 24 hours and not have to ship somewhere.
Anonymous said…
I've read a lot of comments about this cracking in different forums (thankfully, it hasn't happened to me...yet). It seems that Apple has more than once repaired this problem even if the macbook was not under warranty if anyone has this problem I would urge them to go to their nearest Apple store, even if the warranty is up. (Of the 3 other grad students in my department who use a macbook, this cracking has happened, in exactly the same place. That's 75% of my macbook friends...disappointing. I personally keep a felt pad between the keyboard and screen when I close the lid. It seems to be working so far.

David Alison said…
@Carthartic Rage: That is very helpful information - I'll ask a couple of friends to try that path and see if they have any luck.

PS - love the name
Devin said…
I had a really good experience with the genius the one time I had to go for help at the Apple store too, so I don't think your experience was an isolated incident. They have really good customer service (in the store at least, that's all I can vouch for), which is part of the reason their customers are so loyal.

But I'm glad to hear they'll fix this, I'll have to head to my local Apple Store soon!
Anonymous said…
Just to put a vote on the side of not having this problem. My MacBook is 2 years old now and it doesn't have any problems at all with the case.

I don't see any discoloration, cracks, etc... I am having a small issue with the backlight on the display where it flickers for a few minutes while the screen warms up. Once it's warmed up completely, it stops flickering.

This doesn't bother me all that much since I don't use the built-in screen all that much. I mostly have it hooked up to my HDTV as a media center computer for now.

Once I start getting some money in (hoping that I get this job that I am hearing I am being offered...), I might look closer at an Apple TV so I can watch rented HD movies.

Anyway, I just wanted to send a positive note when it comes to Apple's hardware. In fact, both my MacBook and Mac Pro have been functioning pretty much flawlessly (except for that screen flickering issue with the MacBook).
Anonymous said…
Hi !
I have followed your blog and I find it very good and educating for new and also more mature Macusers.
To become the ultimate zealot you have to watch the keynotes.
this is the last of them, you can also find 3 more in the iTunes store section under podcasts. Not only does Mr. Jobs do a great job when introducing new stuff but also it is a great way to learn how to make Keynote presentations.
A big laugh reading and watching. Thank you for your good work and excellent blog .
Anonymous said…
Hi Dave
Good to see that the MB was repaired without troubles. it's usually like that with Apple.

About Gaz, here, one liter is 1,5 euros (1L = 0,26 US Gallon + and 1 euros = 1,56 USD)
... the bright side of this is that my car can go as far as 45 miles with one gallon ...

Take Care
MagerValp said…
When I get back into town I'll visit an authorized Apple service provider (no Apple stores around here) and see what they say.

Anonymous said…
you might want to add also a marware "protection pack" o "protection pack plus"

have a look at it at the marware .com page

Unknown said…
Don't want to play "Can You Top This" but I had my nearly 4 year old iMac G5 repaired at the NYC 5th Avenue Apple Store for FREE in about 10 minutes. The power supply had died, and they actually *apologized* for the inconvenience. They had problems with these power supplies and want to make good on them. What incredible service. This is a really strong reason to buy a Mac - has anybody ever had a service experience like this with Dell? (Hint: NY State successfully sued Dell over bad service on behalf of their NY customers.)
Anonymous said…
A quick comment about the Apple Geniuses.

My wife has one of the 24" iMac 2.8Ghz machines. She had a hard drive fail and after extensive testing at home, called Apple, who set up an appointment at the local Apple Genius Bar for her. She took her machine in on a Sunday morning with the response that it would take about 5 days to replace since they didn't have any drives in stock at the moment.
2 days later, she gets a call that the machine is fixed and ready to go. We arrived at the store, where my wife discovered a scratch on the display glass that went up across the aluminum bezel. On looking back, we determined that the scratch occurred while one of the Geniuses placed the computer screen-down on the counter to read the serial number off the base. We pointed it out to the Genius returning the computer to her and after just a short moment, were told that a replacement screen was not available in-store, but they would order one and let us know when it arrived. They proceeded to check us out (no charge; warranty service) and we took the computer home.
Another 2 days and we get a call that the glass is in and that they can install it any time we wish. We asked if we needed to set a new appointment and they said, "No, just bring it in and we'll get right on it." We called Monday to see if they could work on it, and they asked if we could wait til Tuesday (today) to let them get through a 'Monday rush.' We did, and I carried the iMac in at 10:30AM.
On entering the store, they had no trouble accepting the machine and offered to have it ready in an hour. Since it takes me 30 minutes to drive from the store back home, I decided to wait. Sure enough, 1 hour later they call and tell me the computer is ready.
The real surprise was that not only did they replace the glass, they also buffed the aluminum enough to remove the black coloring from the bezel and only leave a slight mark where the scratch was, making it essentially invisible. They then proceeded to carry the computer out to the car in 92+ temperatures and offered any time to help carry any computer in from the parking lot if I call them on arrival.

This Apple Store is proving to be what Apple wants them to be; efficient, courteous and honest. Unless I have to custom-order an Apple (as I did the 2 iMac Extremes when they were first announced) I will continue to come to the Apple Store for all my hardware needs.
Anonymous said…
@ vesperdem
I maintain 5 white MacBooks at home (3 children in homeschool, my mom's and mine). One of them had the flickering problem so I took it to the Apple Store her in Las Vegas. They fixed it in-store and said it was a bad inverter. 2 months later it started flickering again and my daughter felt she could deal with it. Well that was until the flickering stopped all together and so did the backlight. A screen stuck on dim is all she had, I took it back to the Apple Store and this time they shipped it off to be fixed. Hope this is the last time. Apple Care said the third time is a charm and she will get a brand spanking new MacBook the next time it occurs. I love all my Apple brand products, and Apple Care has a clause about fixing a product to the consumer's satisfaction. So rather to keep fixing something and causing frustration they offer alternatives. Don't wait until your screen is stuck on dim.
Anonymous said…
i had the same problem and hopefully they changed the design of the top cover, it doesn't help that im 200 miles from an apple store.
Anonymous said…
I have a 10 day old white macbook which has developed a vibration under the palm rests which is due to the hard drive. It's stronger on the right side (where the drive is) and is eliminated when pressure is applied to the palm rest.

Unfortunately, just placing my hands on the palm rest is not enough to stop the vibration and I find it quite annoying. Never in my life have I had a laptop that vibrated due to a powered on hard drive. I need to talk to Applecare I guess... I don't like tingly hands after about 5 minutes of typing...
Anonymous said…
David, I suffered the same exact crack and would like to report that I just took it to the Tysons Corner Apple Store and they are replacing the topcase in my late 2006 Macbook for free.
nadarine said…
I just came across this post- searching to see if anyone else's macbook case was having the same issue as mine. Oh, my, yes they are.
Good news: I took the macbook to the genius bar today, and it was a free fix in under an hour. (My macbook is about 2 years old, no Applecare.) No hassle, no trouble. I'm pleased.
Anonymous said…
I also have a MacBook with the same issue. Mine is out of warranty as well, so hopefully like nadarine, they'll be able to fix mine for free.

Wish me luck!
Moose said…

I know i'm late to the party but I just bought a macbook from a friend of mine and had this problem too. It's a known defect and even though my Macbook was out of warrenty they repaired it for free. I just say this in case someone else has this issue again...

JGSweetpea said…
I had same problem and had replaced in December - just now noticed I felt a little indent in the same place... took a look and it is about to crack once again. Frustrating! The geniuses didn't say anything to me about the 'new' material in the top cases... I have a warranty so it's covered, but this is very frustrating.
David Alison said…
@JGSweetpea: Looks like Apple will be fixing these cracked cases moving forward regardless of whether they are still under warranty (if AppleInsider is to be believed).

More details on AppleInsider.
Anonymous said…

Unknown said…
So, how is your "Macally Protection Shell" working? I'm considering getting one to prevent external scratches. Does it stay on the MacBook at all times?

I also had the problem with the top case cracking. Apple's INTERNAL MEMO # on this issue, for anyone interested is TS1964. I'm taking mine in tomorrow to be replaced.
David Alison said…
@Joanne: Not long after the Macally arrived I gave the MacBook to my daughter. She immediately removed it because she couldn't stand the look of it. I offered it to my wife for her MacBook and she also declined, not liking the look it gave her clean, white MacBook. It sits in a closet, unused for now. It did however secure very well to the MacBook.
Mike said…
@David Alison:

I have a 2008 black Macbook and it has developed the exact same crack as your Macbook, even same place. Haven't contacted Apple yet but I'm pretty sure there's not much they can do for me since Apple doesn't make black Macbooks anymore.
zouch said…
i just had a cracked case on my Late '06 BlackBook replaced at a local SF Bay Area Apple Store yesterday. just made an appointment online, and it was no fuss or cost at all, in spite of the fact that it's long out of all warranty coverage. took about 10 minutes, and now i've got a nice fresh keyboard without letters wearing off and a track pad without a shiny spot in the middle as well. texture and design is obviously slightly different and the keystroke touch is a little different as well, but nothing objectionable.
Anonymous said…
i have had the same problem twice and I think it is because a lot of people grab hold of their macbook with their right hand and if the lid is closed they are pressing the top screen mounting against the bottom section
I have seen three friends with the same problem and it is definitely a design fault because the new pro and air do not have this design with the protruding lid rests

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