Why it's almost always impossible to refurbish some MacBook M1 (2020) ?

First introduced in 2018 by Apple, the T2 security chip has increased the level of security offered by the latest generations of MacBooks. However, its features very quickly became the nightmare of reconditioning specialists.

In the workshops of refurbishers, some recent MacBook Pros and Airs are piled up with no prospect of being able to delight a new owner… and this, despite their perfect working order. This is what Vice points out this week, in an article devoted to the phenomenal mess caused by the Activation Lock functionality enabled by the Apple T2 chips, integrated into MacBooks launched since 2018.

Second-hand Macs completely blocked… with no hope of being put back on the market

This feature, touted by Apple for the enhanced security it provides in the event of theft or loss of a Mac (and which is also found on iPhone and iPad), has the effect of completely blocking the device. When the activation lock is in place, it becomes impossible for anyone, except the initial owner, to identify themselves and access the Mac's data deletion settings, thus preventing de facto any reset or manipulation in for resale.

In other words, any recent Mac that arrived in the reconditioning circuits without having first been properly reset by its original owner is good for recycling without any other form of process.

“As has been the case for recyclers for years with millions of iPhones and iPads, it's pretty much over with MacBooks now – there's nothing to do if a device is locked,” comments for his part John Bumstead, refurbisher specializing in Macs and owner of RDKL INC, a repair brand. “Even jailbreakers/bypassers don't have a solution, and they probably won't, because Apple's proprietary chips are truly formidable,” he continues, resigned.

Strengthen security? Or kill the second-hand market?

And in this regard, Apple's position seems quite cloudy. Officially, the firm wants above all to strengthen the security of its Macs as much as possible to protect users from the theft of their devices and potentially the data they contain. That said, this policy has particularly harmful consequences for the second-hand market and the sale of second-hand Macs. A situation that benefits Apple and tends to strengthen its sales of new devices, or refurbished through its own channels (through the discreet “Refurbished” tab of the Apple Store).

In this case, the problem becomes all the more visible as the 3-year use cycles in place in many companies are coming to an end for machines purchased by the thousands in 2018 and 2019. These firms are therefore returning large volumes of MacBooks to the refurbished and used market… but a significant number of these devices are blocked through inadvertence or negligence.

“Now we're seeing a lot of devices coming in because companies have 3-year internal product cycles. So they're starting to get rid of their 2018/2019 models, and inevitably a lot of them are locked out," says John Bumstead, adding that it's rare for reconditioners to reach the original owners of the affected machines to achieve to an unblocking in the rules of the art thanks to their identifiers and their assistance.

“Old owners don't answer phone calls and big companies that get rid of 3,000 machines assume they've been destroyed. It is therefore essential that we have a solution that does not depend on the approval of the previous owner”.

The solution can only come from Apple

So what to do? For John Bumstead the only real solution will come from Apple… if however the firm decides to make a move. Which seems rather improbable in the state, the brand remaining not very open to requests from second-hand professionals and repairers not belonging to its official program.

Bumstead has a plan though: “When we come across a legally acquired locked machine, we should be able to log into our Apple account, enter the serial number and any other information, then click a button to submit [this information] to Apple. for unlocking,” he said.

“Apple could then explore its records, interview the original owner if it wishes, but if there are no suspicious items, and the original owner does not come forward within 30 days, the device should be automatically unlocked,” he suggests.

A feasible solution which would have the main advantage of avoiding sending for recycling perfectly functional but blocked devices that end up in repair shops and in reconditioning circuits. Everyone would win, even Apple to demonstrate in a very concrete way that its “eco-friendly” communication is not just a facade.

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