Apple Spent $10,000 and Two Weeks for a MacBook Pro Issue That Cost $0 to Repair

The MacBook Pro 2018 is no stranger to weird issues. But the one we are reporting today will blow your mind. A Photographer and developer by the name Greg Benz wrote about the ordeal on his website. Greg’s MacBook Pro was inaccurately diagnosed with severe hardware issues that cost Apple $10,000. Only later did they realize that the issue had nothing to do with hardware and fixed it for free!



Greg’s account of all the issues with his MacBook Pro and the resolution offered by Apple

My laptop “failed” again for the 4th time today. The first 2 motherboard replacements seemed odd, but I was given a completely new laptop from Apple on the 3rd failure. Just like before, the screen was pure black after clicking the power button and there was a slight fan sound. The only other indication that anything was alive was that the machine would still make an audible chime when plugging in power and the capslock key light could be toggled off and on. So after losing about 2 weeks of my time, >$10,000 in Apple warranty repairs (2 logic boards, new cables, and a complete replacement of a >$7000 computer), troubleshooting input from several Apple Geniuses, level 1 and 2 tech support from Apple Corporate, diagnostic tests at the Apple Store, and diagnostic tests twice at Apple’s repair facility in Texas; what was the root issue?

As outrageous as it might sound the issue was caused by screen brightness turned all the way down.

Greg went on to explain that he usually makes use of an external monitor. In the past, he faced a problem when Mac went to sleep while using an external monitor. He then devised a workaround which included turning the screen brightness all the way to zero (so that it doesn’t distract) and then uses the external monitor. Greg shut down the laptop and when restarted it appeared to be dead. It seems like he had forgotten about the screen brightness turned all the way down.

What ensued was a series of under warranty repairs carried out by Apple. Apparently, Apple never considered such a situation and went about with the usual troubleshooting.

Greg listed out a series of scenarios wherein the MacBook Pro screen brightness would go undetected and might very well cause a series of confusion.

1. The screen brightness at bootup is the same as whatever it was when shutting down the machine before. If you completely black out the screen when you shut down, both the Apple logo and login screen are completely black at startup (no backlight at all, even if you tried to view in a dark room). The brightness is only increased to a minimum value AFTER you log in. While most people probably don’t turn their screen completely off, I do so routinely when I have the laptop connected to an external monitor (I leave the clamshell slightly open to avoid going to sleep, as I’ve run into glitches there before). I also turn it off when leaving the room and the computer has restarted due to an (unrelated) kernel panic while unattended a few times this past year.

2. This same completely black condition is allowed when running recovery mode, target disk mode, etc at boot. So none of the normal troubleshooting will turn on a monitor that was black last time you used the computer.

3. The brightness control on the Touchbar is not available until after login. So there is no way to turn on the screen during boot or login. And a completely black Touchbar further suggests that the computer is not working. It’s not the sort of detail you tend to watch closely during boot and would remember when things go bad.

4. External monitors are disabled during boot and login. I had tried these and Apple support recommended it as well. I can’t think of any security reason why external monitors shouldn’t be allowed for login (and it would be so much more convenient when working with a docked laptop so you don’t have to move stuff around to open the laptop just to log in).

5. An external keyboard cannot be used to change monitor brightness during login screen (even the Apple USB keyboard)

6. The keyboard key lights are always off during login, even if they were on during the last normal restart/shutdown.

7. The Apple troubleshooting guides are out of date. They do not note that if you have a firmware password on a T2 Mac, you cannot reset PRAM as expected and therefore cannot resolve screen brightness issues this way. You also cannot run diagnostics due to the black screen. And lastly, they should probably ask users to try to log in blind knowing this list of shortcomings above. [Note that I use and recommend firmware passwords for security reasons, including to disable a thieve’s ability to turn off “Find my Mac” by simply holding down a few keys during boot.]

Finally, a Genius (quite literally!) came to the rescue and used his phone’s flashlight to shine on the screen. He could see the little circle wherein the login avatar would be shown. The blind login worked and once logged in, the brightness could be changed easily. Greg lamented about the time that was wasted and dismal level of troubleshooting support. Greg hopes that Apple will take a look into this software design flaw and rectify it in the future updates.

[via Greg Benz]