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Repair guides and disassembly information for the 14-inch MacBook Pro released in November of 2023, featuring M3 Pro and M3 Max SoCs.

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Bought a used MacBook, has someone been inside it?

Hello all,

As the name suggests I'm a bit of a worrier. However I have always been proudly pro-second hand. I've bought all of my ipads, macs and iphones on eBay for the past decade or so with no issues. However, recently something in my brain has switched.

I bought an 'opened- never used' M3 Max Macbook Pro for a great deal and excitedly waited for it's arrival. When it did, it was indeed in perfect condition, boxed with all sheets and pre-packaging included, the charger hadn't been touched. Great!

I turned it on.... nothing. No power- weird I thought, I'll charge it up - and sure enough that worked. The mac went straight to recovery, it had been wiped but MacOS hadn't been re-installed. I wiped it again using Disk Utility and hit re-install.

Uh-oh, it was Activation locked!! Alarm bells are ringing at this point, but I decide to give the seller the benefit of the doubt and contact them. Sure enough they apologised and logged out remotely. It was at this point I started to get majorly paranoid, why was it drained to 0% battery? Why had they wiped it but failed to de-activate it in the process? In fairness, the seller had been extremely polite and helpful, so I couldn't justify sending it back at their expense.

Also for all intents and purposes the macbook was working fine now. It isn't enrolled in any management, activation lock is now disabled. All seems well. I also used my MBA to perform a complete DFU restore on the machine.

But still, I opened it up to have a look inside, to make sure there's no 'false chips' or some kind of keylogging hardware. Like I say, my paranoia kicked in. I had no idea what I was looking for. The only thing I thought seemed out of place was this one pull tab (for the keyboard, circled) looked extremely creased. Could this be evidence that the previous owner had tampered with it? Or is this generally how it looks from the factory?

Anyway thanks for reading- despite the deal this was still a huge purchase for me, I think the stakes were just too high!

TL;DR: I noticed this pull tab had been disturbed inside my Macbook, can this be from the factory assembly or is it definitive proof someone has tampered with it? Note: I disturbed the trackpad cable myself while opening it, so it is slightly askew- nothing else has been touched (by me).

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there are stickers covering screws around fans. if they are firm and glued, no one really opened this device or he did such a good job removing them, that there is nothing to worry about.

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@inwerp

I spotted those in my pics vs some teardown videos, I was worried you could simply re-place them perfectly so it wasn’t a great indication- but you’re right it’s definitely worth checking that they’re firm and completely stuck down. Reassuring if so, thanks Ripperdoc!

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@stressederic i disassembled approx 70 such devices for now and honestly i have no clue how to do it perfectly, it is either impossible or would take ridicilous amount of time to pull out.

i try to assembly device the way it looks factory-clean even if there was CPU or NAND replacement with ton of flux and USC cleaning and i hate these things for being that sticky.

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@inwerp haha I'm opening her up again this weekend to confirm (I'm cautious because I made such a hack job of it the first time, almost breaking the trackpad cable by sliding my tool along the bottom face- d'oh) but if those stickers are completely untouched I will take that as a flag this has never been dissassembled.

Thanks for your reassurance!

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@inwerp can confirm that the stickers are solid and undisturbed, meaning nobody has dismantled this laptop in the past, thanks for your help!

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I won't worry about the cable pull being wrinkled. You may want to look underneath the pull to inspect the keyboard connector (reference Step 48 in this guide Macbook Pro 14" Late 2023 (M3 Pro and M3 Max) Logic Board Replacement does it look messed up or missing the ZIF cable latch?

The areas I look at is the screws for excessive wear marks and to gage the usage I look at the fan blades and the lyric board for dust traces. From what I see in these limited views it looks like someone changed their minds or it was sold after an evaluation (YouTube or publication house Mac geek)

Assuming the connection looks good I think you have a good system. I would make sure you can see the system within Find My Mac service as yours with your own unique system name.

A dead battery is not uncommon when sitting unused. If you do store the system away make sure to have only a 50~60% charge not flat and not full.

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That all makes sense Dan thanks for the response.

I’ll inspect the connectors closer.

I suppose a follow-up question would be, if it has been tampered with inside, what could have been changed? If the system works fine at a software level and doesn’t pull up any errors, is there anything to worry about?

For example could the keyboard have been replaced with one that has a built in keylogger or similar malicious hardware?

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@stressederic - Sorry you're reaching! There is no hardware level hacks for someone to see or interact with your system. So nothing to find that isn't visible to the eye. Apples clean design makes it hard to hide anything. And as most of the chips are custom they are not going to waste efforts emulating them with anything nefarious imbedded (James Bond level).


Now as far as software OS and App level that would be my concern but you've done your part wiping the drive and as long as you can see the system within FindMy App from your other system you've got the only access to your system via your Apple iCloud account.


Enjoy your new system! Don't forget to score and accept the answer if you're set - Thanks!

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Ah phew, that’s what I wanted to hear! I haven’t attached my AppleID to the system yet as I’ve been too worried about malicious hardware changes. However I have confirmed that activation lock is currently disabled through a dummy account. I’m confident that the DFU restore will have removed software nuisances, if any.

Thanks again Dan!

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Stressed Eric will be eternally grateful.
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