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Replacing the upper case of my Macbook Pro: learn from my mistakes

by Philipp

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My Problem

After an accident involving my macbook pro, a cup of coffee, a train and very bad timing, I spent a year lugging around a bluetooth keyboard everywhere I went. When the airport card also started failing on me, I finally decided to take action.

I really tried to like the new retina - macbooks, but I never warmed to their glossy-only option, and I’m still not willing to abandon the ancient technology of storing data on an optical medium. That and financial considerations made me decide to try and fix the laptop myself. iFixit makes it look so easy… and after all, if I’d mess up, I’d take it as a sign of destiny that this isn’t meant for me and I should just get a new computer.

My Fix

I got a new upper case, an airport card and a SSD drive to replace the old disk. Also, the necessary tools from iFixit. Thanks to the detailed instructions on this site, everything went as smoothly as one could wish - until the very last step, when I realized the the upper case I bought was just the pure aluminum body with the keyboard, and with none of the many little plastic knobs and glued in parts of the original. After prying the bluetooth antenna out of the optical drive - socket and nearly crushing it in the process, I managed to move all the parts over to the new case, in some cases with the help of some thin double - sided tape. The only thing left were those strange oval metal strips glued firmly to the front of the case… their function only became clear to me after I reattached the screen and tried to close the case to put the internals back in.

It took a hairdryer, a carpet knife and some almost severed fingers to get 2 of the magnets out; I had to give up on the small one in front of the trackpad - luckily the lid closes just fine without it.

From here on, everything went smoothly again, until it was time to connect the new keyboard to the logic board. There was this tiny little blue strip of plastic stuck on the cable end and all I could think of was: how thoughtful of the manufacturer to shield those delicate connections; so I peeled it off - experienced users reading this are probably screaming at their screens right now. I closed the retaining flap on the socket, put everything back together, and eagerly powered up the computer - just to be disappointed when it turned out that only half the keyboard was working.

Opening it up again I realized the keyboard cable was sliding out of the socket almost as if something was missing that would give it stability… for a moment, I was faced with the possibility that I just ruined my 2000$ - machine by removing a tiny little piece of plastic that would cost the mili - fraction of a penny.

Fortunately, when i checked the original case (something I just maybe should have done before tearing off something that might be vital), there was the same plastic strip glued to the cable, and I was able to carefully remove it and attach it to the new cable. I guess it’s called beginners luck that everything worked out in the end!

My Advice

TL;DR: if possible, get an upper case that at least has the magnets attached, or prepare yourself for some work with the heat gun; never even think of removing anything without making absolutely sure first that it is in no way a vital part!