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Apple Just Made the First Retina MacBook Pro Obsolete. We Still Got You.

I remember when rumors went out that Apple was about to unveil the first MacBook Pro with a Retina-quality display. I remember because I was relating to a friend the engineering challenge Apple faced in scaling up from phone-size displays to laptops, without having to discard the majority of them for small defects. I got so excited in relating the world-shaking impact of this that I had not noticed the friend had actually picked up a phone call, right as I was comparing the process to cookie baking.

Now the first Retina MacBook Pro—”MacBook Pro (Retina, Mid 2012)” or A1398, in Apple parlance—is “obsolete.” It was “Vintage” in 2018, meaning that Apple could only repair it if they could find the spare parts, or if you lived in California or Turkey or other repair-minded spots. “Obsolete” means Apple won’t fix anything on your big, crisp MacBook, “with no exceptions.”

What does that mean for you and iFixit? Nothing. We still offer many parts for the first Retina MacBook Pro, along with the guides to install them. If you’ve been wondering what to do with your own well-honed, first-gen Retina MacBook Pro, consider a battery swap, a bigger and better SSD, finally replacing its missing feet, or any of the many other fixes and updates we can walk you through.

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MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display Mid 2012

2.3GHz, 2.6GHz, or 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache.

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The first Retina MacBook Pro (MBP) is a real turning point for MacBooks, especially when it comes to repair and longevity. The Retina MBP was thinner, because Apple removed its built-in ethernet port and optical drive. But it still contained a host of ports, features, and amenities, before Apple removed more and more of them as the years rolled on. Many modern-day MacBook fans can probably pick out a couple things they’d take back in exchange for a few millimeters’ thickness: MagSafe connector; SD card slot; two (!) Thunderbolt ports; upgrade-and-repair-friendly storage; a Magic instead of Butterfly keyboard; an Escape key.

And yet, starting with this model, all those ports and features, and everything else inside a MacBook Pro, got a lot harder to get to. You can do it—believing in your ability to follow directions is our brand!—but Apple made ease of service one of its lowest priorities.

Removing the battery from the “Unibody” 15-inch MacBook Pro from the same year involves taking off the bottom case, disconnecting the battery, removing three tri-point screws, and pulling the battery out with a plastic pull tab that Apple included. The guide is seven steps. This MacBook Pro scored a 7 out of 10 for repairability in our teardown.

Our guide for replacing the battery for the 15-inch MacBook Pro from mid-2012 is 53 steps. It involves disconnecting everything, removing the entire logic board, warnings about adhesive remover fumes and eye contact, propping your MacBook up on something to let the adhesive run through, and then running backwards through reassembly. Most of the screws are proprietary pentalobes. The first Retina MBP received a 1 out of 10 repairability score. CEO Kyle Wiens wrote a post for Wired, noting the new design had “serious consequences not only for consumers and the environment, but also for the tech industry as a whole.”

And now that first era-defining, vanguard laptop is “Obsolete.” Super-high screen resolutions are the norm. Meanwhile, we’re doing everything we can to make sure heavily glued-down batteries, hidden behind proprietary screws, are not.