Not that hard to find...
Apple has a long history of playing cat and mouse with software coders who seek to make its iOS operating system more accessible to their fellow geeks. Now the game is being played with hardware hackers. The Mac maker isn't terribly keen on letting ordinary folk tinker with the insides of its products, most notably with the …
Massive geekery follows. Those are five-pointed stars, with a hole - known as secure Torx. These have no hole, and the lobes are oval shaped, not triangular, meaning a torx driver could easily strip them. They're not easy to track down because the patent holder doesn't want them to be widely available.
"Apple has been using torx screws for many, many years, making early Macs tricky for anyone but an authorised repair engineer to open.
The access the internet brought to Asian markets eventually made torx screwdrivers available to anyone keen enough to seek them out, and they're now readily available from many hardware shops."
Um - not to appear too picky - but Torx wrenches and drivers have been readily available for donkeys years - how far back are you thinking ? (I used to use them to open up HP HVD SCSI drives for amusement, rune inspection etc)
For some of these to appear on Ebay, just like the tri wing driver required for Wii and DS repairs.
Really cannot see why Apple have bothered. Why do they care what people do with product THEY bought and therefore THEY own? If they void the warranty, so what? That's their lookout, not Apples.
I guess Apple are concerned that botched adjustments by less ethical people may lead to greater support costs at their end. Though, like you, I don't really see that they're likely to see any real improvements from this change.
First person to make a workable pun about Apple screwing things up wins a prize.
I think Apple is protecting themselves from idiots cracking open the case, screwing up their computer, and then trying to get it repaired under warranty. Apple can say no, sure, but then they are stuck with an unhappy customer who feels ripped off. Making it harder to open makes noobs more likely to take the computer to someone who knows what they're doing.
People knowledgable enough to do their own repairs already have the appropriate tools to open up their computer, or at the very least, know where to get them.
"Should Ford, Mercedes and BMW (to just name three) stop using proprietary fittings because people might what to fix THEIR cars that THEY own? Prat."
Um, actually; none of these have proprietary tools to get into anywhere. BMW is actually well known for needing just three commonly available tools to dismantle more than 95% of the car.
Surely the people who like hacking kit (both in a hardware and software sense) would be doing it if the things were held together with thumbscrews too? Putting odd screws in there isn't any sort of challenge to a hacker. None of them get any hacker cred just by being able to order a particular screwdriver from Amazon.
I think this report is massively overstating the significance of the type of screws Apple are using. Are you sure you're not becoming a bit obssessed?
"Wiens beef with this is that the use of obscure screws makes Apple's machines less easy to repair. That, in turn, reduces the hardware's longevity, ensuring that more machines will end up in landfill.
In fact, Apple machines - Macs particularly - are notoriously long-lived, with owners passing them on to friends and relatives after new models have been bought"
Uh ... can you back this up with any, y'know, facts/statistics? Or is this just opinion?
I know lots of heavy mac users who have needed to have theirs repaired, or have done their own repairs, myself included.
Not sure why mac hardware would be any "longer-lived" than other brands which use the same generic intel hardware, care to explain ...?
None of these points are backed with any stats - I'm not going to that effort for a Reg comment post for an AC. So, points to consider:
* Mac owners tend to pay more for their kit than PC owners and be prouder of it (fanboi stylee), so tend to keep it longer before replacement.
* PCs often get replaced when they get slow due to Windows cruft, or infestation by malware, or they've just broken. Macs get replaced when they're broken (but often have 3 year warranty so even that can take longer) - or a new shiny! comes along.
* Macs replaced by new Shiny!s get passed down the family or sold, rather than tossed in a cupboard/bin, because they're still worth a lot of cash on eBay etc. So they tend to live on.
* Mac owners are much less likely to go digging into the innards of their kit - because there's nothing to upgrade apart from RAM, maybe HD, and they're often a bit tricky to get into. Less digging by random people = less breakage.
* Mac kit is of sturdier construction than the usual plastic shatterable £250 laptop. It has to be, to partly justify the pricing.
* Older Macs are still viable for running modern software. I know various people still using G3 and G4 iBooks and Powerbooks, kit six or more years old.
* The upgrade cycle can be much slower on kit where no games can be played! It's only very recently that games have come onboard for Mac users, so this may change in future.
Wiens beef is just nonsense. Anyone who really wants to repair a Mac - and can afford the evil prices for the screen and motherboard parts - can do so, with the help of ifixit.com and similar.
Nintendo used a weird 3 triwing type of screwdriver on some of their devices too, it wasn't long before the necessary screwdrivers became widely available... Using a nonstandard type of screw head is just ridiculous.
What does annoy me however, when the first unibody macbook pros became available you could easily remove the HDD from the slot underneath, with the newer ones you now have to take the whole bottom panel off which involves something like 10 very tiny screws, plus 2 more screws holding the disk down and 4 more (Torx headed) screws in the drive itself...
With most other laptops the drive is on a tray that slots in the side and is easily removed. I have to change drives for different purposes, and sometimes when working on a particular job am expected to leave my HD behind on the customer's site etc...
5 point torx have been very common on cars for the last 10 years or so. They are a damned nuisance, as the Mercede's dealers service departments found when Mercedes decided, I believe quite recently, to use them in door mirrors. but forgot to tell the dealerships. The service managers were not at all pleased, as, apparently it quintupled the time taken to change a door mirror, when the mechanic had to make a new tool to fit the head! Having over the years produced various bastard type screwdrivers to undo things, I totally loathe any product which is made difficult to repair. Probably Apple were led into this move by a supplier who wanted to increase his lockin. It fails, as the tools are readily available and easy to fabricate with a Dremel, a cutting disc and a little patience. They are easily replaced with normal screws in most circumstances.
Torx head woodscrews however, are much better for insertion than the normal four point type.
If you've got the skills needed to safely replace these sorts of "non-user-replaceable" parts, you likely already own the Torx TS drivers needed to remove the screws. After all, these 5-point Torx screws are hardly restricted to Apple, and your usual industrial tool distributors are happy to sell you the correct drivers for them.
As an authorized reseller and repair center for numerous vendors, MOST of them were using Torx in some form or fashion, especially on notebooks, and the screws securing the contents of many internal drives, back in 1997.
I've had a set of T6-15 bits since at least 1995, readily available at most hardware stores at the time. Every single screwdriver with replacible tips I've acquired since then has come with torx bits. A recent purchase of a drill bit set came with over 100 different security tips in addition to the hole boring bits, and the penta bit was included.
No, your average schmoe probably isn't going to have these on hand, especially in a generic screwdriver, but a trip to a local hardware store and $10 out to get you the bit set for this.
the bits that are really hard to come by are the ones with pins inside the holes, and other security oriented bits, requiring hollow tip or other specialty drivers, but even those bits are available at loews, sears, and even sometimes target in the larger bit sets.
Worst case, order some replacement screws and use a stripped screw extractor to remove the screw you don't have a bit for. This is a barrier to some home users, but no barrier at all to ANY authorized repair center or even remotely professional repair shop.
"I've had a set of T6-15 bits since at least 1995"
just another Johnny-come-lately to Macintosh…
my 1986-vintage Mac Plus used Torx screws to secure the case halves; and I strongly suspect so did the original 128K and 512K Mac cases going back to 1984.
(I myself got my first Torx driver in about '92, so I could crack the case of my Plus to install a rip-roaring 40MHz Total Systems Gemini 68030 accelerator card, with its gob-smacking 4MB of 60ns RAM.)
A simple trick for getting almost any screw out of plastic whatever the socket shape is this: Find a flat blade screwdriver just wide enough to span the inside of the screw head. Carefully warm up the screw head with a soldering iron for a few seconds. The heat conducts through the screw and softens the plastic around the threads enough to let go slightly. Gently wind out screw with screwdriver. This works fine with even or odd lobed screws, such as Nindendo's tri-wing. Screw heads without a socket at all can still be done with the same technique but use needle-nosed pliers instead of a screwdriver.
Every time Apple do this, I show a relevant article to my boss, and he signs a form so I can get a new set of tools.
I don't do a great deal of work on Macs, but you have to be prepared...
Back in the day Mac SE30s had a plastic lid melted over the screw holes, and any DIY repairs would be immediately apparent, and warranties voided. It was a bit of a bugger - there was a half AA battery on the motherboard that powered the PRAM, and when it went flat, the Mac stopped work - I forget how much Apple wanted to replace it, but voiding the (already expired) warranty and fitting a 50p battery from Mapin saved shed loads of cash. I think it was the advent of the Centris and Performa models that allowed a little user intervention, but very limited - only Apple CD-ROMs and HDDs etc would work...
Plus ça change and all that....
As for the longevity of Apple products - they're not any better in my experience than any other well made machine, and in the case of the polycarbonate unibody macbooks, not as good- it's amazing how quickly a student can make the shiny white case look shabby.
Total bollocks. Torx are popular in the electronics industry and have been for yearssbecause they are easy to use at very small sizes. Getting hold of the drivers might have been trickier in the days before the internet but then so was getting hold a 58mm socket. RS, Rapid and Farnells have always carried them.
Even Torx Security were never that hard to find.......
Ok things are getting smaller. take a look at the first image above, its look to patrude a good couple of mm up from the base of the head, the middle image looks slightly flatter and the final *new* image looks the the screw head is only about 1or2mm deep, thus smaller gadgets need smaller componants. small compoanants needs small things to hold them together.
its ok making things small, but you gota make them tuff.. perhaps a torx head isnt as strong once you start to machine the head thinner....? thus a redesign of a stronger design is needed.
But yeh, they wana stop you opening up there 'majic box'!
Major fail by Apple. Up till now I would guess that pentalobe screws pretty secure as not many would know about their existence (amazon not withstanding) and not many products would have them. Now that Apple use them they've just made the screws mainstream. Now it will be worthwhile for companies to start mass producing the screws and drivers. In short order everyman and his dog will be able to get the screwdrivers. So all that Apple have done is created a slight pause in the hackers work. They will never be able to stop them.
I'm getting to the point of wanting to switch the office workstations back to Windows (Not a hater, just a bit MORE management required). It's not like I'm going to be able to run off of XServes anymore!!!
This is just bullshit that they continuously do this, and they are wasting their own time by going through all this extra effort just to annoy people that will find a way around these things anyway.
All it is is a mold and some metal pours, that' all it takes! Or, some will just be stripped trying to get into the machine, and then be replaced with philips heads that fit, that will undoubtedly be sold soon.
Others might say: "But this screws (no pun intended) the warranty!" Do you really think the people opening their Macs care about the warranty THAT much?
Didn't Apple/Jobs (hand-in-hand) say that they wanted to get their machines into the enterprise? Not with their constantly retarded screw changing policy to INTENTIONALLY keep people out of doing something as simple as a memory upgrade!
Why doesn't every machine just come stamped with the words "FUCK YOU" in the middle of the Apple logo? (Hey, it hasn't hurt Facebook at all!)
Pass a law making it illegal to make non-user-serviceable devices, anywhere. The only reasons I've seen for non-user-serviceable labels are for stuff that can give nasty electrical shocks (like CRTs) or stuff that gets ruined by opening it (like HDDs). Those should keep the wacky screws, but the rest of it is pointless.
Soldered RAM should be a jailable offense as well.
....aren't intended as anti-tamper bits. They're used because they're more suited to the automatic drivers used on assembly lines. They're quicker for the operator to attach to the driver head than a Phillips (or more likely Pozidriv) screw, and the bit doesn't slip out when the screw is tightened (oooer...).
btw, Phillips != Cross-head.
in reality they don't care and it's just a way of cutting cost? I know a carpenter who uses nothing but torx screws and replaces any philipps screw he comes across with torx screws for the simple reason that it's a lot harder to screw up (pun intended) a torx head and a lot easier to safely (for the hardware) handle torx screws.
Apple appears to be yet another corporation which is controlled by lawyers.
By making their devices harder to dismantle they avoid product liability lawsuits.
Tim Parker: You might be thinking of "tamper-proof" TORX(r) which had restricted distribution of the bits. Snap-on Tools was the only licensed maker of these bits and drivers who sold them only to professional electronics and mechanical technicians and until the patent expired at which point cheapie Asian knockoffs became available.
Note: "Torx" is a registered trademark of Acument Camcar .
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How did you get from awkward screw heads to soldered-in DIMMs?
I think the only Apple machines that you could be talking about is the Air, but as with other ultra thin and light laptops I don't think it's a unique problem, but it is a niche market.
I have a MBP that is just coming up to three years old, it still has the same HD and memory that it came with, still boots in under two minutes and is every bit as usable as it was when I first got it, even running the latest version of OSX.
By contrast, the slightly better specced Windows machine that I acquired at roughly the same time couldn't even run the copy of Vista that it shipped with in any meaningful way, so had to be downgraded to XP (perhaps I should say upgraded) and really needs a rebuild as it now takes ~15 minutes to boot. I might try W7 to see how it copes.
In short, you're not comparing like with like.
The new "pentalobe" head has no straight edges. The bit that drives them in, composed of five hemi-orbs, will easily engage the screws and be a lot less likely to leave scratch marks anywhere, compared to the previous sharp-edged torx head. Yet another example of Apple perfectionism.
"Apple has been using torx screws for many, many years, making early Macs tricky for anyone but an authorised repair engineer to open."
Just how early are we talking here? From what I remember, many of them were unbelievably easy to open. From memory, some of the 68K machines like the IIci had no screws at all, simply to plastic clips to flick back and the lid came off. The IIVx (also Quadra 650 and some Performa models) used 1 bolt which just needed a flat-head screwdriver to loosen. Even some of the fiddly machines like the Alu PowerBook G4 (not particularly early... just a few years old) were held together with fairly standard little countersunk screws that just needed an everyday ordinary set of allen keys to open.
Torx drivers aren't difficult to obtain either - any local DIY store sells them, probably even your average small hardware shop would have them in stock. I can't see that these 'pentalobe' drivers will be particularly hard to come by either.
"Apple has been using torx screws for many, many years, making early Macs tricky for anyone but an authorised repair engineer to open."
...let's not forget those *really* difficult to open Macs, the Blue and White G3 towers, which went on to spawn the whole G4 tower designs ('graphite', 'quicksilver', 'speedhole'). So hard to open that you had to fully lift the latch and lower the side door to lie flat offering complete access to the motherboard and all peripherals - the whole point being that it made upgrading so much easier!!!
Come on Reg - history goes back further than 6 months, even in the tech industry.
"Apple machines - Macs particularly - are notoriously long-lived?"
Not my experience, My three year experiment with a G4 Powerbook surely ended when the hardware just died. And don't even ask about the extremely expensive and notoriously short lived power adapters.
Maybe Macs last longer for most fanbois because of the neoprene and lambswool condoms that are used to protect them from the big bad world.
I am annoyed that they are moving away from Torx. Not that many people have or carry a Torx set. That means the common person is not going to casually open and damage the computer. Those who have invested in a Torx set probably also has the background to deal with the innards of the machine.
I think is also useful to consider Apple sales and repair policy over the long term. In the 90's when most computers were implementing a one week or fortnight return policy, Apple continued to accept returns for thirty days, though now it 14 days. They have always fixed anything on any of my under warranty computers. The fact that they don't want an average person to open the computer, fry the motherboard, and then try to return the damaged merchandise is not a huge issue with me. If these new screws, which will not prevent me from repairing my kit, are what it takes to keep the liberal return and warranty policy it may not be such a bad trade.
Apple is really wasting it's time as these 5-point Torx variants are easily defeated.
Start with <http://silverhilltools.com > or < http://www.brycefastener.com/ >.
If you can't access these sources locate a machine shop. The one we use uses PINS, made from hardened steel 'wire' mounted in a stainless steel handle. Taking a casting and subsequently making a mould is hardly worth while for low quantities.
The idea for using pins comes from the extraction tool sold by the manufacturers of the 'clutch' screw - the slotted style with 'ramps' that force a regular screwdriver out of the screw-head.
Another interesting point is that few of these security fasteners are patented - another opportunity for more Apple Tosh - although the principle is likely outside even Apples range of plagiarism.
Perhaps Apple could try reverse threading screws for their next failure of securing their boxes. I can understand why their their latest portable is secured - there's so little in it for the price charged.
Have seen the infamous nintendo tri-wings used on cameras as well.
Now, what would be particularly nasty is to use a low melting point alloy, which when set is permamently unremovable by *anything* unless you have the special tool.
There are alloys which are soft enough that they can't be removed with conventional tools, but hard enough that they hold the appliance closed for its lifetime.
(scuttles off to the Patent Office)
AC, because he is SOOO going to get lynched for this.
I still think your hatred for anything Apple is clouding your judgement here.
Has Apple stated it is using this type of screw to stop people messing inside their computers/phones/etc? Thought not. So it's just conjecture on your part.
Oh yeah - you didn't mention Lemon anywhere in your rant.
An ideal world for apple is everyone having exactly the same phone, same laptop, and same whatever else they're selling.
No-one can have a better version of something in that world and everyone is the same and not alowed to complain (Remind anyone of 1984?).
Glad i bought into Android then as no-one in the right mind wants a limited spec computer, a phone the same as everyone elses, and hardware you can't upgrade yourself (should you want to do so).
What's all the fuss about?
I think Wiens's speculation is rubbish and El Reg bit on a piece of iFixit marketing bait.
Most people I know who shell out ~£1K for an Apple computer buy the AppleCare 3 year warranty. They don't give a stuff about what screws are used to hold the box together. Sure I can repair computers but why would I bother when I can buy an excellent warranty for so little money?
By the time the AppleCare runs out, the tools are readily available if you need or want to effect a DIY repair. I recall having to swap a hard drive in a five year old desk lamp iMac. The screws were unusual when the computer was new but after that time getting hold of the correct screwdriver bit was no drama at all. El Reg is right, Apple owners do tend to hold on to their kit and it does last a long time. That iMac is now over 7 years old, still works great and used every day by a member of my family.
Apple have a track record of very close attention to detail in the engineering of their products and relentless improvement of every aspect of their design. I suspect the new screw heads afforded some sort of practical engineering advantage and using them has nothing to do with wanting to keep DIY repairmen out of the boxes. I don't believe Apple give a rat's ass about that issue.
A quick look on eBay for the pentalobe drivers shows much.
One seller in California is flogging them off for around $8. And $80 shipping to Australia.
My arse. This rings alarm bells. California indeed. Cupertino I bet.
Thankfully, another seller in Hong Kong is doing them for $10 and free shipping.
This greed of Apple goes all the way back to the beginnings of the Mac, when they designed the case in such a way a (probably patented) separator tool was required to open it without destroying the case.
At the time, I remember their corporate excuse was protecting unqualified personnel from possible electrocution from the integrated CRT.
Also when Apple issued their first ROM upgrade, it was at no-cost UNLESS you had upgraded your Mac's RAM with non-Apple SIMMs .
The original Mac came from Apple with 128 kbytes of RAM (2 off 64 kbyte SIMM); I suspect the ROM upgrade would have triggered the need to upgrade RAM as well to 512 kbyte (2 off 256kbyte SIMM).
Legendary reliability? I hope you're being ironic with that statement.
A mate of mine, and plenty of others too, make good money out of fixing old MACs and selling them on eBay. Often or not he sees the same faults occurring time and time again; crap cheap components mostly. The trend at the moment seems to be display panels failing, which aren't especially economic to repair.
It illustrates the power of the Cult of Apple quite nicely; people spend a lot of money on a fruit theme something or other, and don't appear to mind when it breaks prematurely. Apart from my cousin who was rightly incandescent when her iPad stopped working after 3 months.
Compare that to PCs; I can't remember the last time I saw a PC just fail because of old age (normally dust, user miss-use, the occassional dead hard drive or PSU). And even when they do break they're awfully cheap to repair.
I wonder if Apple truly believe their own legend? I imagine not, and suspect that they take their large sale revenue down to the bank with a little bit of a cackle.
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