Follow These Steps before Bringing Your Mac in for Repair

It has finally happened. Keys on your MacBook Pro aren’t responding, there’s a crack on the screen, or the battery no longer holds enough of a charge to make it useful. A repair is in your future, which entails bringing the Mac to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider or shipping it back to Apple. Regardless of what repair approach you take, there are some steps that I highly recommend you follow first.

Why? Three reasons:

  • You need to protect yourself from data loss. The Mac could be lost or damaged while it’s out of your control, or the repairs might require replacing the Mac’s internal drive or logic board (or even the entire computer), even if you don’t anticipate that as a fix. Sometimes a battery replacement results in accidental damage, in which case they will often just give you a replacement computer.
  • You need to protect your data from prying eyes. This is especially true if you store passwords in an insecure way. But you’re using a password manager, aren’t you?
  • Apple needs to be able to use the Mac sufficiently to determine that it works.

Here’s what you should do, if possible. Depending on what’s wrong with your Mac, you may not be able to perform all—or any—of these tasks. If that’s the case, complete as many as you can.

Back Up Your Mac

The one thing you must do is make a backup of your data, or preferably two. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the same Mac back with the same internal storage. Since you’re already backing up (right?!?), this should mostly be a matter of updating your backups.

I recommend using Time Machine. If you don’t have that set up you should get a backup drive and start. I generally recommend the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD. Pick it up in a size that is double the capacity of your Mac’s built-in storage.

Enable Guest Access

For some problems, the repair technician may need to verify that your Mac functions normally after the repair—imagine trying to verify that each of the keys on the keyboard work. Don’t give a repair tech your admin password if possible because that gives them full access to all your data. They would be in huge trouble if they were found to be poking around, but don’t give them the opportunity.

Instead, head to System Preferences > Users & Groups. Click the lock icon at the lower left of the preference pane to unlock the pane. Click Guest User in the sidebar and then select “Allow guests to log in to this computer.” Also, click Login Options and make sure Automatic Login is turned off (it’s locked off when FileVault is enabled, which I strongly recommend) and Display Login Window As is set to List of Users.

Turn Off Find My Mac

Apple says it can’t repair a Mac that has Find My Mac enabled, presumably due to Activation Lock preventing certain types of fixes, although some people have pointed out that this requirement is also useful for proving that the Mac isn’t stolen.

Regardless, it’s easy to turn off. Open System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud and deselect the checkbox next to Find My Mac. Make sure to turn it back on when you get your Mac back.

Turn Off Your Firmware Password

Few people have enabled a firmware password, and Macs with Apple silicon don’t support them, but if you have an older Intel-based Mac with a firmware password enabled, you’ll need to turn it off before the Mac can be repaired.

To do this, start up in macOS Recovery, choose Utilities > Startup Security Utility or Firmware Password Utility, click Turn Off Firmware Password, and enter the firmware password when prompted. Quit the utility and then restart the Mac.

Encrypt Your Data

I recommend you turn on FileVault, which encrypts the entire contents of the Mac’s internal storage. This is quick and easy on Macs with T2 chips or Apple silicon, where it piggybacks on the fact that internal storage is already encrypted. On older Macs, encrypting a large drive can take many hours.

In an ideal world, of course, you would have turned on FileVault as soon as you started using the Mac. If that’s not the case, turn it on now.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Rawf8)

Further help

If you are an existing customer who needs help with this or if you have other questions, or if you are in San Francisco and interested in becoming a client I invite you to book an appointment with me. Otherwise, you may wish to contact Apple Support or find a local Apple consultant.

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