MacBook Butterfly Keyboard Service Program begins expiring

In 2015 Apple started transitioning the MacBook lines to use an ultra-low profile “butterfly” keyboard mechanism. This new keyboard allowed Apple to make their computers significantly thinner because these keys pressed down less. However, the tiny mechanical pieces ended up having trouble with breaking easily and crumbs and dust jamming them up. Later generations improved this by adding a membrane to the keys to keep dust out. In fall 2019 Apple decided to return to the older scissor mechanism keyboard for now.

Because of the lower reliability on these keyboards (some keys sticking, repeating, not responding, etc.) Apple introduced a service program offering to replace any keyboards exhibiting these problems for four years after the initial sale.

Since these keyboards have been in use now on some computers since 2015, many of the earliest 2015 12″ MacBooks have already passed the end of this extended four-year warranty.

This keyboard was introduced to the MacBook Pro line in October of 2016, and that was a rather popular computer so a lot more computers are going to be passing that four year mark toward the end of this year.

If you have a computer with a butterfly keyboard and you have any keyboard problems I suggest you contact Apple for a free repair. You can look up your computer model with these instructions. Here are the affected models:

  • 12″ MacBook (all years)
  • 13″ MacBook Pro (2016-2019)
  • 15″ MacBook Pro (2016-2019)
  • MacBook Air (2018-2019)

If you are not having problems with the keyboard, I recommend you mark your calendars or set a reminder for a few weeks before the four-year anniversary of your purchase. Check in with yourself again then.

You can look up your warranty at checkcoverage.apple.com which should show your purchase date.

There are several things to be aware of:

  • This warranty extension only covers problems with the keyboard.
  • Most people do not have a problem with this keyboard. Apple will only replace the keyboard if you are having this problem.
  • If you previously paid for a keyboard repair you can request a refund from Apple.
  • The repair is very invasive. There is a good chance that the computer will be damaged during this process and you’ll simply be given a replacement so backing up your computer is imperative. Apple is not responsible for your data. I recommend backing up using Time Machine. If you are one of my customers and need assistance I recommend you book an appointment. If you don’t have a backup drive my recommendation is the My Passport Ultra.
  • The repair can take several days, and in the current health crisis may take about a week. Normally it’s done in store in a few hours or overnight.
  • If there is any significant damage to the computer such as water damage, a cracked screen, or damaged body, Apple may require that these issues are corrected as well. This might be at a cost to you or, if you have AppleCare+, with a deductible.
  • The replacement keyboard will still be a butterfly keyboard, though people are reporting that older computers are sometimes getting an upgrade to the second-generation butterfly keyboard which does have a significant improvement to reliability.
  • After this warranty expires it can be a very expensive repair to pay for out of pocket. If you use your computer mostly at a desk a low-cost option might be to connect a USB or Bluetooth keyboard.

A possible fix you can do

If it’s simply that something is lodged in the keyboard, Apple has advice on using a can of compressed air at specific angles to knock it out. You can read about that here.

Workaround

If you miss the opportunity and don’t want to pay for a repair or if you need to get by until your computer is fixed, you can use a Bluetooth or USB keyboard if that works for your workspace.

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 to find a local Apple consultant.