Clarification Apr 11, 2015: This article originally stated that Apple will "repair vintage models or newer," which implied that Apple repairs Macs that are less than seven years old. But in most countries and states, Apple only repairs Macs that are less than five years old (i.e., ones that have not yet turned "vintage"). The only exception in the U.S. is California, which requires Apple to provide service for all vintage Macs.
Update Feb 26, 2016: Added yet another repair for August 2015.
First, let's learn about vintage and obsolete Macs. From Apple's support page:
Vintage products are those that were discontinued more than five and less than seven years ago. … Obsolete products are those that were discontinued more than seven years ago. Apple has discontinued all hardware service for obsolete products with no exceptions.
If your Mac has a hardware issue and is less than five years old, you can pay a flat-rate $310 repair fee and have Apple ship it to a centralized repair facility. (In California, Apple is required to provide service and parts for vintage Macs, so that gives consumers a seven-year window for repairs.) Apple technicians will then repair or replace every hardware component that’s faulty. This is actually a pretty good deal if your Mac has a bunch of accumulated issues.
Second, if you had to pay for a repair, and later discover that there’s a repair program for your model, Apple will reimburse you. I had to pay for my iPhone 5’s battery to be replaced, just a day after its one-year warranty expired. When Apple announced its iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program, I called AppleCare, and the advisor happily gave me a refund.
These are all of the repairs and modifications I’ve made to my four-year-old MacBook Pro.
- I replaced the stock 4 GB of RAM with 8 GB of cheaper, third-party RAM.
- Problems: The battery began to fail, and the right-hand speaker was vibrating annoyingly.
- Solution: Apple replaced the battery and the speaker.
- Cost: Covered under AppleCare.
- I replaced the stock 500 GB, 7200 RPM spinning hard disk with a 250 GB Samsung SSD. App launch times, noise level, and battery life improved enormously.
- Problem: The top row of letters on the keyboard was broken.
- Solution: Technicians replaced the top case, an integrated unit that includes most of the MacBook Pro’s chassis, keyboard, and trackpad. This is a complicated and expensive procedure; even the most diehard DIYers recommend having a certified technician do this.
- Cost: Covered under AppleCare, which was going to expire a month later.
- Problem: The GPU failed, likely due to long-term thermal stress. And since the GPU is soldered to the logic board, the logic board failed, essentially killing the computer.
- Solution: Apple sent the MacBook Pro to a repair facility in Texas, and ended up replacing a shitload of hardware, including:
- The logic board and GPU.
- The Hi-Res Antiglare display.
- The left and right speakers.
- The microphone.
- The bracket for the front of the top case, because some cables were defective.
- Cost: The flat-rate repair fee. Apple reimbursed me for this repair on Feb 19, 2015.
In short, I have new:
- Top Case / Keyboard
- Display (2x)
- Logic board and GPU (2x)
So yeah, I’m basically using a new computer for free—albeit one that’s a cobbled-together, Frankenstein’s monster-like monstrosity. Even though it’s been incredibly unreliable, I could easily use this computer for another year or two.
But hey, it could be worse. I could still be using my 2007 MacBook, which liked to shut down after playing Netflix videos for 10 minutes because doing so exceeded the CPU’s thermal design.