Apple Is Finally Admitting MacBook Keyboards Have a Problem

Apple is admitting there is a problem with the keyboards in several MacBook and MacBook Pro models and said it will offer free repairs to affected customers.

It's hard to make a satisfying laptop keyboard. Manufacturers have to use switches that don't require too much depth, are reliable enough to withstand constant movement and, in many cases, have to support at least some form of backlight. (Plus the keyboard has to be comfortable to, you know, type on.) Apple thought it solved those problems with the proprietary butterfly mechanism and its second iteration. Yet many people who purchased recent MacBook and MacBook Pro models have reported that some of their keys either stick or don't work at all.

Several class-action lawsuits related to the butterfly mechanism were filed between May and June. The complaints allege that Apple has known since 2015, when the mechanism debuted with the new MacBook, that it was all too easy for keys to become inoperable. Many people couldn't fix the problem themselves, and getting it fixed by Apple could cost hundreds of dollars' worth of repairs if the laptop was out of warranty.

Now, Apple is offering a free repair program for the following models:

  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)

You can find out if your MacBook is covered by going to the Apple menu and selecting About This Mac. This will display your machine's model description.

If your model doesn't appear on this list, it's not covered by the program, and sending it to Apple for repairs will incur the usual cost. If it does appear on the list, you have the option of going to an Apple Authorized Service Provider, Apple Retail Store, or Apple Repair Center to have someone assess the problem and figure out what it's going to take to fix it.

Apple said the repairs "may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard" and that "the service turn-around time may vary depending upon the type of service and availability of replacement parts." That isn't particularly comforting for people who can't part from their laptops for that long, but if you don't mind going without one for a while, at least now the repairs will be free instead of costing an arm and a leg.

Now we'll just have to see if that's enough to convince frustrated customers not to join the class-action lawsuits over these malfunctions.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • Solandri
    And Apple learns the difference between "courage" and running head-first into a brick wall because you're too over-confident and self-absorbed to look where you're going. I got the impression the artistic design people got too much sway within the company. A major cosmetic design change is just an annoyance if it turns out to have a problem. OTOH, a functional design change like a redesigned keyboard can result in crippling problems if it doesn't work. So it's OK to roll out a cosmetic design change to your entire product line. But you want to roll out functional design changes to a single product, and evaluate it for a year or two before rolling it out to other product lines.

    "the service turn-around time may vary depending upon the type of service and availability of replacement parts." That isn't particularly comforting for people who can't part from their laptops for that long,
    Lenovo's Thinkpad service gives you the option to have the parts shipped to an authorized service center, and they'll call you when the parts come in. You can then take your laptop to the service center, where they'll install the replacement part while you wait. Does Apple not have anything similar? Or is the Apple Store service first-come first-served?
  • mapesdhs
    Louis Rossmann has been covering this issue for *months*. If someone needs their Apple notebook fixed, get him to do it (or someone equally good), because so-called "authorised" shops generally haven't a clue what they're doing, and Apple highstreet stores have been lying to customers for years telling them things like this cannot be fixed, when they most certainly can.

    I've been watching a lot of Louis' videos to learn SMC repair techniques. In the process of doing so, it's become very clear that much of what Apple produces is just junk in terms of design quality, manufacturing, circuit sophistication, etc., but the way they treat their customers is even worse. That people should be so loyal to a company which treats them so badly is bizarre.
  • therealduckofdeath
    Liars, liars, pants on fire. Apple being Apple. Nothing new under the sun here. No wonder they're so popular in the US.
  • aztec506
    WOW! free repairs for defective merchandise.