Old MacBook Pro just died on me

Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,721
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
It was the last of its kind - one where Apple officially supported DIY upgrades - but really only for the memory and drive. I think I got it for $900 on sale in 2015 when it was still being sold. Technically it's called the mid-2012 13" "Unibody" model. It's been a good run, and it was doing really well after I installed an SSD and especially after I maxed it out with 16 GB RAM.

I've had weird things happen to it over the years. I've had it lock up and I forced it to restart, and one time the drive came up corrupted and wouldn't boot, but I had a backup and restored from that. I've swapped in a couple of different SSDs - 512 GB first, but then upped it to 1 TB when I found a WD Blue 3D on sale. A few times it just locked up and wouldn't restart, but I could tell that it was partially powered up (a light electronic buzz) but couldn't get it to restart without pulling the battery connector.

But today it just went splat for no apparent reason, although it restarted almost immediately. Then it went splat again and wouldn't turn on. Don't know if it's the battery, the power system, the logic board, or something else.

I'm holding out hope that it still works. It wouldn't power up with just the power adapter connected (a lot of older Mac notebook computers will do that even without a battery), although it the light on the connector will glow green like it's a full battery. However, the battery indicator lights (supposed to flash lights for the approximate charge level) on the side don't light up when I press a button. The battery was always weird. When I got it it was already at maybe 94% of rated new capacity. I definitely bought it new and there was maybe 1-2 cycles on the battery. It finally reported that it should be serviced and I've been living with it until I could get the battery replaced - and I was thinking that Apple can still do it even if they don't list it as serviceable (kind of a long story regarding California repair laws). If not, I might be willing to plunk down $30 on one of those cheap batteries from Amazon just to see if it works. If it doesn't, I might just see what I can find used, because there are a lot of these out on the market, and would just drop my current SSD in since the most important thing I did with it was make backups of my devices.

I have an appointment to bring it into an Apple Store, but I'm not sure if they can even fix one since it's older. But I'm hoping maybe they have access to diagnostic equipment. I'm really hoping that it's just the battery and that they can replace it with an OEM one. This is in really good cosmetic shape, with only wear on the keys. I've seen a few older ones, and they typically have visible scratches or dents.
 
Joined
Oct 28, 2008
Messages
1,800
Location
MD
I have changed batteries on these. It's not that difficult. I have bought used batteries on eBay, also new Anker brand.
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2013
Messages
9,937
Location
The Midwest
I have an early 2012 13” MacBook Pro. I installed Chrome OS Flex on it. I replaced the battery a few years ago with a cheap aftermarket one and it works fine.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Joined
Dec 14, 2002
Messages
48,623
Location
New Jersey
Typing this off my 2013 MPB 15" i7.

Battery is still surprisingly capable. I did replace the battery in my 2010 MBA, though the capacity of the aftermarket is definitely lower...
 
Joined
Feb 14, 2017
Messages
176
Location
SW of Chicago, IL
Typing this off my 2013 MPB 15" i7.
Typing this off my 2012 MBP 13", the last 13" model (I think) with a DVD drive. Replaced the 500 MB spinning platter drive with a 1 TB Samsung SSD a few years ago, and the external power supply a few months ago. It still does what I need it to do.
 

y_p_w

Thread starter
Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,721
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Typing this off my 2012 MBP 13", the last 13" model (I think) with a DVD drive. Replaced the 500 MB spinning platter drive with a 1 TB Samsung SSD a few years ago, and the external power supply a few months ago. It still does what I need it to do.

Yeah - that's the one. Core i5 2.5 GHz with SuperDrive. Still sold new by Apple for a solid 4+ years from 2012 to October 2016. I heard with SSDs that the revision of the SATA drive ribbon connector mattered. The original version was apparently really thin and could get damaged because it snakes up and down and is partially held in by a clamp. I've seen hacks to it that involved electrical tape. The newer versions were apparently more robust, and replacement of the ribbon connector was a courtesy fix that Apple Stores would do on demand for free.

But yeah I'm just wondering if it's the battery, or if they'll even try anything at an Apple Store like just plug in a known good working one to see if it works. They may just say they can't repair it. I don't see it listed as a device that Apple still supports, but then I'm in California where it's a little bit different. I've experienced electronic devices burning out, and there's always a smell to it.

It's not going to be supported by Apple for much longer. I'm kind of hesitant to spend $90 on a new battery from iFixit or some other vendor if it doesn't otherwise work. The $30 ones kind of scare me though, but not as a sanity check to see if it's really just the battery.
 
Joined
Mar 4, 2017
Messages
23,220
Location
...
Ask the Apple person about this possibility if it’s unfixable or not financially feasible.


 
Joined
Oct 20, 2005
Messages
7,879
Location
Scruffy City
Possibly the 13 inch would be different but they consider 15 unibodies legacy and won’t even work on them including batteries, I got one that came with the special tri screwdriver.
 

y_p_w

Thread starter
Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,721
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Well - I got in to an Apple Store and they say they can still do this (calling it a "vintage" device) even though Apple doesn't list it as serviceable. It'll take up to 5 days for it to be ready for pickup since they don't have the battery in the store (a nearby store has one) and they can't guarantee when someone will be available to do the replacement. $129 plus tax.

It wasn't listed here as either "obsolete worldwide" nor "vintage worldwide". I guess it's considered "vintage" in California and thus eligible for service. But it's not on this list.


It was really odd too as I just was waiting around for a technician (got there late and the tech took a break) where I just pulled it out and pressed the power button where it turned on. But even without any other issues, the thing was telling me to service the battery and it was slightly swollen, so obviously it needed a new battery since my current one is flaky, low capacity, and slightly swollen.
 
Joined
Nov 23, 2015
Messages
1,900
Location
US
I still use the 15" version as a make-shift desktop now.

Try unplugging the battery and see if it will boot off the power adapter. I've seen weirdness occasionally where a bad battery(as in one with problems beyond not holding charge) would keep one from booting. In fact I have a 17" 2010 where I've had two Newertech batteries cause this symptom.

BTW, I don't have a proper 13" 2012, but someone gave me their 2011 with a dead LoBo. I bought a 2012 LoBo on Ebay, which is a drop in for the 2011 chassis, and it continues to work perfectly. In fact lately my wife has been using it as with 16gb RAM, it's peppier than her 2015 base model MBA.
 
Joined
Jul 11, 2015
Messages
7,709
Location
New England
I was impressed 3.5 years out Apple changed my failing MacBook Pro 13 from 2017 battery no charge. It was only at 100 cycles because I use it as a desktop mostly for work.
 

y_p_w

Thread starter
Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,721
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
I was impressed 3.5 years out Apple changed my failing MacBook Pro 13 from 2017 battery no charge. It was only at 100 cycles because I use it as a desktop mostly for work.

When mine was new I didn't think too much of the reduced battery capacity when new because I didn't really use it much other than as a "desktop replacement". By the time it hit "service battery recommended" it was at maybe 125 cycles. After that I saw some weird things. It was listed at about 77% nominal new battery capacity, but once it shut down unexpectedly and then reported about 65% immediately, but that came back up to about 77% again. The battery capacity is just an estimate and bounces around quite a bit sometimes.

I've seen some weird cases too like when my 2007 MacBook reported negative battery capacity after a sudden shutdown must have corrupted the data on the battery. I was planning on getting it replaced, and Apple would do it for a service replacement (and not retail since those were sold without a specific service for the user to install) price with exchange. But they didn't have it in stock that day I had an appointment and I put it off. Then it swelled, but with that design it just pressed out since the battery attaches more or less on the outside. Imagine one of these, only it presses outside. The replacement I did get after it swelled looks different since the polycarbonate ages/yellows a bit, so the new one looks different.

FCdeHSX4TaQkA41t.medium
 

y_p_w

Thread starter
Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,721
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Possibly the 13 inch would be different but they consider 15 unibodies legacy and won’t even work on them including batteries, I got one that came with the special tri screwdriver.

Apple has gone crazy with various screws over the years. I do have a bunch of Torq screwdrivers that I used to remove the screws that held on the "drive sled" for my 2007 MacBook. I think that was T8. Then the 2012 Unibody needs a T6 to move the mounting screws that hold/clamp in the drive to the chassis. The "tri-wing" has been used by Apple since the first Unibody MacBook Pros. But it's not that expensive to toss in a throwaway screwdriver. A lot of the replacement battery kits come with screwdrivers. I have no doubt that I could competently replace the battery with the right tools, even if Apple doesn't consider it to be user serviceable.

The latest are the new Macs with the pentalobe screws on the case. They really don't want people to mess with them at all. The batteries are glued into the top case/keyboard assembly and even when Apple replaces them it's as a complete unit where they refurbish them with new batteries at central locations. Even when Apple had SSDs that could be replaced, they were these weird proprietary setups with a few aftermarket companies claiming to be compatible. Now it's mostly just flash and the SSD controller fixed on the logic board.
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2004
Messages
9,581
Location
California
I’ve replaced the battery in my 2013 rRBP. It was an OK task, but a delicate operation to remove the old batter. Chlorinated brake cleaner worked better than acetone to break the adhesive bonds.

Someone gave me a 2019 rRBP Touch Bar, it needed a screen. I’ll use that until I can’t get macOS updated on it but the new M2 MBA looks good.
 
Joined
Nov 23, 2015
Messages
1,900
Location
US
Reportedly the new 14" and 16" M1X/Ultra MBPs have abandoned glued batteries and gone back to screwed in ones.

The screwed in place "Replaceable if you know what you're doing, but not swappable with a lever or coin" batteries like the 2009-2012 Macbooks, the Macbook Airs up through the 2015 model, and the unibody Macbooks let Apple squeeze in a larger battery by getting rid of the hardware and access to the battery. The 2008 aluminum MacBook and the late 08 Unibody MacBook Pro actually had a really interesting set-up where a removable bottom case panel(two levers) lets you access a removeable battery that's very close in size to the screwed-in batteries introduced a year later.

The tiered glued in place batteries are honestly kind of a mess, but were used for a reason. Basically the idea is identify empty space, or places that can be made empty, and stick part of the battery there. To me, it's almost elegant how they were able to squeeze so much battery into a relatively small space, but it also makes replacement a nightmare.
 

gathermewool

Site Donor 2022
Joined
Jan 9, 2009
Messages
9,486
Location
New England
Well - I got in to an Apple Store and they say they can still do this (calling it a "vintage" device) even though Apple doesn't list it as serviceable. It'll take up to 5 days for it to be ready for pickup since they don't have the battery in the store (a nearby store has one) and they can't guarantee when someone will be available to do the replacement. $129 plus tax.

It wasn't listed here as either "obsolete worldwide" nor "vintage worldwide". I guess it's considered "vintage" in California and thus eligible for service. But it's not on this list.


It was really odd too as I just was waiting around for a technician (got there late and the tech took a break) where I just pulled it out and pressed the power button where it turned on. But even without any other issues, the thing was telling me to service the battery and it was slightly swollen, so obviously it needed a new battery since my current one is flaky, low capacity, and slightly swollen.

Is the $129 just to replace the battery or also to trouble-shoot the issue?

Will that $129 go toward a new device if they can’t fix it?

I wouldn’t pay $129 on that old of a laptop, unless there was an easily fixable problem or it was known for sure that the battery is the issue. However, kudos to you for potentially saving it from the landfill.
 

y_p_w

Thread starter
Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,721
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Is the $129 just to replace the battery or also to trouble-shoot the issue?

Will that $129 go toward a new device if they can’t fix it?

I wouldn’t pay $129 on that old of a laptop, unless there was an easily fixable problem or it was known for sure that the battery is the issue. However, kudos to you for potentially saving it from the landfill.

Troubleshooting anything at an Apple Store is always free. I've gotten so many free evaluations at Apple Stores for this or that, and there's never a charge unless there's something done like replacing a part. And even then I've gotten fixes for free, like the time my kid banged so hard on the escape key that the cap fell off when a prong broke. Or when my wife was in a hurry and inserted a SIM card without the tray. However, Apple's authorized service providers may charge diagnostic fees at their discretion. I've never actually gone to one since I live close to a couple of Apple Stores. It was crazy around the time of Apple's iPhone battery special promotion. It was nearly impossible to get an appointment, and they were shifting so many employees to handling iPhone battery replacements.

This is a flat rate $129 for the MacBook Pro battery replacement. If they can't do it, I don't get charged anything. I was told that they will perform a detailed hardware diagnostic and will advise if there are any problems, where they'll ask if I would like to go ahead without fixing them.

The price is no longer listed by Apple, but here's where it was listed (archived from April 2020):


I could probably buy a working used machine for about $150-200, but I don't know if I would find one in as good a cosmetic shape as what I have, and there's some sentimental value since I'm the sole owner. And used, the battery is probably old and/or maybe with an aftermarket replacement. There are zero dents or scratches on the top of mine, although it could probably use a bit of cleaning. It's also the last of its kind with a 2.5" SATA drive, where I could conceivably upgrade to 2TB (or more) when the price goes down. It's really used as my backup device, and if I want to get a new Mac (for easier backing up of my Apple portable devices) any storage is going to be expensive. I'm thinking of getting a new MacBook Air, but I'm not spending $400/800 more just to get a 1/2TB drive. Of course back when I got mine, getting an SSD factory installed was really pricey and probably only 120 or 240 GB. But I had options later on. The equivalent 1TB SSD I bought 3 years ago is cheaper now.
 
Joined
Nov 23, 2015
Messages
1,900
Location
US
Even if Apple doesn't official support this machine, the 2012 13" stuck around as the "intro model laptop" for quite a long time-I want to say you could still get them up until 2016 or so.

That's still getting close to the 7 year cut-off Apple has on a lot of service, but this is a computer they sold piles of for a really long time(by Apple standards) so parts aren't exactly difficult to find.

Compare that to my much-beloved 15" 2012(the only easily-upgradeable quad core dGPU laptop without GPU issues Apple made), which was only around for a year or so...
 

y_p_w

Thread starter
Joined
May 6, 2005
Messages
8,721
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Even if Apple doesn't official support this machine, the 2012 13" stuck around as the "intro model laptop" for quite a long time-I want to say you could still get them up until 2016 or so.

That's still getting close to the 7 year cut-off Apple has on a lot of service, but this is a computer they sold piles of for a really long time(by Apple standards) so parts aren't exactly difficult to find.

Compare that to my much-beloved 15" 2012(the only easily-upgradeable quad core dGPU laptop without GPU issues Apple made), which was only around for a year or so...

Sure. The way Apple had traditionally operated was that when the new model came out, Apple immediately pulled older models from stores. I think Apple kept many of those around as replacement devices for warranties and other servicing. Maybe some retailers sold older models as new, but they certainly couldn't order any. And it was really tightly controlled where often nobody knew a new model was going to be dropped until the day it came out and was already shipped to stores. Apple runs an extremely tight ship when it comes to leaks. My polycarbonate MacBook was only available new from Apple for less than 4 months before the newer version came out.

The 13" mid-2012 "non-Retina" was the one that they kept around, and yeah it was still sold new by Apple until October 2016. That was pretty much all they had if one wanted to tinker - at least minimally. And there were a ton of these because it might not have had all the bells and whistles, but it was a solid computer at a much lower price than other Mac models. I bought mine for $900 from Fry's Electronics. Sure it only had a 500 GB 5400 RPM drive and 4 GB standard, but these were cheap DIY upgrades by the time I did them. I paid $40 for 16 GB of RAM about a month ago.
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2004
Messages
9,581
Location
California
Reportedly the new 14" and 16" M1X/Ultra MBPs have abandoned glued batteries and gone back to screwed in ones.

The screwed in place "Replaceable if you know what you're doing, but not swappable with a lever or coin" batteries like the 2009-2012 Macbooks, the Macbook Airs up through the 2015 model, and the unibody Macbooks let Apple squeeze in a larger battery by getting rid of the hardware and access to the battery. The 2008 aluminum MacBook and the late 08 Unibody MacBook Pro actually had a really interesting set-up where a removable bottom case panel(two levers) lets you access a removeable battery that's very close in size to the screwed-in batteries introduced a year later.

The tiered glued in place batteries are honestly kind of a mess, but were used for a reason. Basically the idea is identify empty space, or places that can be made empty, and stick part of the battery there. To me, it's almost elegant how they were able to squeeze so much battery into a relatively small space, but it also makes replacement a nightmare.
And now the PC makers have followed Apple’s lead - the batteries on a Dell Latitude/Precision Mobile as well as the last 5 generations of the ThinkPad have been screwed down internal. Which are kinda easy to replace - unscrew the lower cover, and then more screws to liberate the battery. At least there’s a separate CMOS battery to keep the real-time clock and NVRAM alive.

I think the glued in, terraced batteries Apple used was elegant in theory but boy, a pain to deal with. If the PC makers did that, Dell and HP would get an earful from their major clients. Microsoft has somewhat did that with the Surface - to take one apart without destroying it seems like a task.
 
Top