Surface Laptop – no more Repairs?

Surface motherboard showing integrated parts

For some time now, many technology products have been produced which have severely restricted upgrade and repair options – when something goes wrong it’s usually straight back to the manufacturer. Whether its cost cutting during the manufacturing process or for some other reason, manufacturers have deliberately been producing devices that have fewer repairability options compared to previous devices.

One well-known example is Apple products which are notoriously difficult to repair anywhere other than at an Apple store (and in many cases they just send the device back to the manufacturer anyway) – third party repairers are not exactly welcomed. Whether it’s a special glue that holds the glass screen in place, special tools being required or for some other reason, the ability to repair and also to upgrade is becoming much more controlled, but not by the user.

It now looks as though Microsoft are following suit, as their Surface laptop has been given a lower repairability rating than the previous version – it simply isn’t meant to be repaired.

Starting with no screws, the case needs to be pried apart and the external fabric has a high chance of being torn in the process.

Once inside, things like battery and keyboard are glued to the case. There are a number of thermal pads attached to the internal circuit board (motherboard) which are likely be damaged and needing replacement due to opening. Upgradeability is pretty much nil, as the CPU (processor), RAM (memory) and storage are all soldered to the motherboard, unlike in the past when customers could increase performance and storage by replacing them.

Some may say that this makes sure that repairs are controlled by the manufacturer, which is a fair point. However the other side of the coin is that in the past you could, for example, get a laptop keyboard replaced fairly easily, but even this basic option is no longer available on many devices.

Similarly, upgrading to more RAM has been fairly easy to do for many years and short of replacing the CPU, is the second best way to speed up performance – but if you can no longer do this, then replacing the whole unit is more likely.

Whether or not you agree with restricting customer options, the fact is that this trend is likely to continue. So when purchasing, you need to bear in mind that any repairs (if at all possible) would need to be done back at the manufacturers or their “authorised partners”, which means that the device needs to be sent away and you will not have it for some time, it will certainly be out of your hands longer than a local repairer.

Alternatively you may just get a replacement instead of a repair, which is okay so long as it isn’t a refurbished device that you get back or that in the process you no longer have important files that were on the old device – so backups are vital.

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