Apple Makes It Difficult to Replace M1 Mac Batteries

You can't even buy a spare one—yet

  • Apple's Mac Self-Service Repair program is now live.
  • Repair is essential for sustainability and saving money. 
  • A battery repair will cost you $500 because you have to replace the entire top case.
Laptop with open case and a card that says "Repair is noble"


Apple's Self Service Repair will help you keep your Mac alive for years, all by yourself, with some expensive caveats.

Apple's self-repair scheme kicked off earlier this year with the iPhone. Now, the Mac has joined the party, although only a specific subset of Macs: M1 MacBooks Air and Pro. Just like with the iPhone, you can buy replacement parts, rent the tools required to complete the repair, and use Apple's comprehensive repair guides. And while your iPhone is probably more likely to get damaged, we typically keep our laptops for much longer, so repair is in some ways even more essential to keep things ticking along. But, weirdly, Apple hasn't made it easy for users or independent repair shops relying on the parts and guides. 

"Of course, there are lots of ways to repair Macs," Jason Snell, an Apple watcher and journalist, wrote on his Six Colors blog, "There's the Apple Store, Apple's mail-in repair program, a network of 5000 authorized Apple repair providers, and more than 3500 independent repair providers. But for some people, whether it's because of geography or predilection, fixing a broken Mac is something they'd rather do themselves."

Repair and Reuse

Person repairing a Macbook


Being able to repair your computer is essential. Even if you never break anything and you never drink liquids near your desk, at some point, the battery will give up and need to be replaced. It used to be that you could also upgrade the RAM and SSD/hard drive storage in a laptop, but those days are gone now that everything is just soldered onto the circuit board or even built as an integral part of it.

But the battery is still replaceable, even in Apple's locked-down laptops, because it's a consumable part, like ink in a printer or CO2 in a SodaStream. And that means that Apple has to replace it. 

On the iPhone, screen replacements and battery replacements are pretty straightforward. You can buy a kit from iFixit containing the battery and tools for around $45. Over the years, these common repairs have gotten easier, most likely to help an Apple Store repair technician fix more phones in less time. 

If we want to make Right to Repair wildly successful, we need to make it open-source, open to auditing, less focused on money for Apple, and more focused on independent repair shops.

So, with the Mac being much bigger with relatively more wiggle room inside and less pressure to stuff as much battery as possible into it, you might think the MacBook battery repair would be a cinch? Think again. 

No Battery Available

Person working on an open laptop

Chonticha Vatpongpee / EyeEm / Getty Images

According to iFixit's Sam Goldheart, Apple's new repair guide for the M1 MacBook Pro battery replacement runs 162 pages. That's right. 162. iFixit's guide has 26 steps and takes 1-2 hours to complete. Why such a huge difference? Because Apple insists that you replace the entire top case of your computer, including the keyboard. If that sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is. You pretty much have to disassemble the whole machine. 

The price of this part is also absurd. Apple won't sell the battery alone, says Goldheart. You have to buy a new top case as well. It'll cost you around $500. and, of course, you've wasted a perfectly good keyboard in the bargain. iFixit doesn't yet have a replacement battery for the new MacBooks, but generally, its batteries run at $100 or less. 

The good news is that the guide promises that "in the future, a battery replacement part will be available."

In the future, a battery replacement part will be available.

For devices to be sustainable, they need to be repairable. And that means that you should at the very least be able to easily replace consumable parts like batteries, and we should be able to buy them easily, without having to enter the serial number of your computer to get permission, so that repair shops can keep things like batteries in stock. 

"If we want to make Right to Repair wildly successful, we need to make it open-source, open to auditing, less focused on money for Apple, and more focused on independent repair shops," sustainability specialist Alex Dubro told Lifewire via email.

While it's great to have slimline, lightweight computers with all-day batteries, it's also great to have laptops that the average person can service without a spare day and the possibility of an anxiety attack. Apple's repair program is a good start, but it doesn't go nearly far enough.

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