Apple changes iPhone screws to deter DIY repairs, mods

By on January 20, 2011, 3:48 PM
It's no secret that Apple frowns on customers performing DIY repairs and mods, and it seems that stance won't be changing in the near future. According to iFixit, the company has started using proprietary tamper-resistant "Pentalobe" screws that sort of resemble the familiar Torx format except they have five rounded points instead of six sharp ones.

"This screw head is new to us. In fact, there isn't a single reputable supplier that sells exactly the same screwdrivers Apple's technicians use -- which is Apple's point. They picked an obscure head that no one would have," iFixit said. "Apple chose this fastener specifically because it was new, guaranteeing repair tools would be both rare and expensive."


Apple reportedly began using Pentalobe screws to secure the mid-2009 MacBook Pro's battery and they're used on the lower case of the latest MacBook Air models to prevent users from accessing the system's internals. Additionally, many non-US iPhone 4s shipped Pentalobe screws from day one and new US versions use the obscure fasteners.

iFixit also notes that if you bring your iPhone to Apple for "any kind of service," they'll swap your Phillips screws with the new proprietary type. As much as we hate intentional roadblocks, the average user isn't going to dissect their smartphone. For you DIYers, iFixit is selling a new "iPhone 4 Liberation Kit" with everything you'll need to get inside.




User Comments: 35

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Guest said:

Try defending this one apple zealots

princeton princeton said:

How did ifixit get their hands on the screwdrivers so fast if they're supposedly "rare and expensive"?

Staff
Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

The iPhone 4 has been out for nearly seven months. Seems like enough time to make arrangements if you ask me.

princeton princeton said:

Matthew said:

The iPhone 4 has been out for nearly seven months. Seems like enough time to make arrangements if you ask me.

So these screwdrivers were intended more for the EU iphones that started with the screws. That makes more sense.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

There is probably a factory in China already mass producing these, so they won't be rare and expensive for long.

I bet you can take the right size flathead screwdriver and unscrew these new heads anyway. I've been opening dead hard drives for years that way. If they really wanted to make it difficult to open they would have created a "pentalobe security" head.

Leeky Leeky said:

I'm guessing the "average" user won't consider using a flat-head screwdriver instead of the real tool.

Seems a bit pointless really, as it'll be easily overcome - the Chinese are good at that!

Jibberish18 said:

Nintendo did it and still does it. Lots of companies use special security bits. They're easy enough to find. By now, I'm sure there are Chinese makers selling them on ebay, as mentioned before. Because it's Apple, everyone has to point the finger and say "That's the bad guy!" <--See what I did there?

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Sheesh...any kid in high school metal shop could make one of those. I honestly don't know why Apple is so paranoid about DIY repair attempts. I'd bet half the people trying a DIY repair end up permanently breaking their iPhone rather than fixing it anyway.

Leeky Leeky said:

[link]

See, didn't take long - even appears to be a UK seller and UK stock.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Yeah, but people aren't going to "chip" their iPhone they way you'd "chip" your game console.

This isn't a move to stop people from playing pirated games on their consoles, its to prevent people from making small fixes to their phone so that they can instead charge them an arm and a leg to do the same thing themselves.

Smart from a business standpoint, but I see a difference between console makers trying to stop loss of profits due to piracy rather than Apple trying to make even more profits by forcing its users to go to them for repairs.

negroplasty negroplasty said:

One more reason I'd never own an Apple product.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Jibberish18 said:

Because it's Apple, everyone has to point the finger

I see people pointing out this nonsense from other companies too, but it does seem like Apple gets the bigger headlines.

princeton princeton said:

Relic said:

Jibberish18 said:

Because it's Apple, everyone has to point the finger

I see people pointing out this nonsense from other companies too, but it does seem like Apple gets the bigger headlines.

Because apple has more nonsense to point out :P

Mikymjr Mikymjr said:

Why not search for screw drivers made for nitro RC cars, cause they have a lot of accessoires. They have like almost all configurations of screwdrivers =P

Leeky Leeky said:

Because apple has more nonsense to point out :P

They don't help themselves admittedly, but I tend to find the biggest basher of their products haven't ever even used them.

I'm not by any means a Apple fanboy, but I do own Apple products, and they are quality items, and last very well. In a sense I find myself caught between two worlds.. The world of Apple (and its expensive ways), and the world of the PC (Windows and Linux), and its infinite extensible ways.

I have to say Linux is winning out of all of them now. My iMac gets rarely used, and my PC's Windows install is really only used for gaming these days as well.

Though I'll be the first to admit I much prefer Android to the iPhone (and I own both, though my wife now uses the 3GS since her phone broke!).

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Princeton said:

Relic said:

Jibberish18 said:

Because it's Apple, everyone has to point the finger

I see people pointing out this nonsense from other companies too, but it does seem like Apple gets the bigger headlines.

Because apple has more nonsense to point out :P

I find it to be pretty equal, just that what they do tends to sting more with the geeks than mainstream.

princeton princeton said:

Relic said:

Princeton said:

Relic said:

Jibberish18 said:

Because it's Apple, everyone has to point the finger

I see people pointing out this nonsense from other companies too, but it does seem like Apple gets the bigger headlines.

Because apple has more nonsense to point out :P

I find it to be pretty equal, just that what they do tends to sting more with the geeks than mainstream.

Yah. I wasn't being completely serious. I think what people dislike is how apple feels they should be allowed to control a product that YOU own. But what these people don't acknowledge is that nobody forces them to buy an iphone or ipod touch.

HaMsTeYr HaMsTeYr said:

I fix Apple products for a living and I find this one particularly irritating. It just means that they want everyone to send the products back to the apple "geniuses" or something, and have them charge 10000 bucks extra while laughing themselves silently.

Leeky said:

[link]

See, didn't take long - even appears to be a UK seller and UK stock.

This is the 5 Spoke Star, not the pentalobe. Arguably however, you could use a small sized 5 star spoke to open this one um...

Btw, I have this:

[link]

And nothing really stops me from opening stuff up. You can't really use a flat head screwdriver however to open the 5 star pentalobe. Notice that there wouldn't be any good places to "catch" onto the screw.

At most, you risk damaging the head of the screw, and voila, you have a screw that can't be removed. Forever. Well, not forever, but you get the drift.

aj_the_kidd said:

Damn Apples getting into the hardware industry lol, throw away your flathead and phillips head screw driver, the iPentalobe is the future. Ahh Apple, you're for good for a laugh, thankyou.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

SNGX1275 said:

If they really wanted to make it difficult to open they would have created a "pentalobe security" head.

That's a good point. I bet you could open it with a different security bit still.

Nima304 said:

Just another reason I'd never own an Apple product.

Guest said:

While I understand and respect Apple's business decision and also acknowledge their branding expertise [Steve Jobs], I think this might be a bit much. Many of the iSheep I know, through various Computer Science classes, have modified their Apple products. This type of marketing will be harmful to this specialized segment which will go on into the professional world.

Different strokes for different folks. I'm a Windows guy because I like having options. If you want to be told what to do, pick Apple! I jest... the build quality is awesome... but I personally don't think that it it worth the saturated hardware prices.

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

Apple "screwing" people, who's surprised. har har har

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

And Apple continues to give more money to external companies that make hacking products =)

Guest said:

Why do people keep going on about good build quality, I worked with both PCs and Macs suites for 5 years, the Macs were breaking down left right and centre, bad hardware errors, failing memory, all the mechanisms were cheap and worst of all most parts were non replaceable without sending them back to apple :/. If a PC needed repairing it was a 5 min job and 1 screwdriver.

Also Ipods, i saw the media students complaining nearly every week that an iPod had died, it was a running joke in our department that we were lucky we did not have to service them as well as it would easily double our workload. While the students bought/broke/bought/broke iPods like they were a consumable item my Sansa worked (and was accessible to change the LiPol battery with a philips screwdriver) and is still going strong since 2006.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Coming soon from Apple: screwless devices and a uncustomizable OS. Anything that allows a user to do what they want with their property they paid an arm and a leg for is unacceptable :P

Tanstar said:

Just normal Apple business.

peperonikiller peperonikiller said:

I might just take apart my windows phone and HTC Evo again just for the lulz of how easy it is.. now where's my philips screwdriver

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

You can't really use a flat head screwdriver however to open the 5 star pentalobe. Notice that there wouldn't be any good places to "catch" onto the screw.

At most, you risk damaging the head of the screw, and voila, you have a screw that can't be removed. Forever. Well, not forever, but you get the drift.

I still think you could remove it. It would probably just require a more specific size than the star ones do. Even if you totally mangled it, you'd still remove it easily with an E-Z Out.

Guest said:

It's time for Microsoft to run back the famous 1984 Apple's McIntosh commercial!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8

tengeta tengeta said:

Just remember, Apple was the first technology company to be "certified platinum" in its green ways, and is also the first company to lose that rating. It was purely because of the near impossibility of replacing parts and tucking the battery away.

Guest said:

If Apple was especially clever, the dictators would create a screw with the Apple logo and patent the design, so that no one but Apple could create a screwdriver.

But then again, the Chinese don't care about such things and would create one anyways....

Guest said:

Not that it matters but i have my Masters in Computer Science, 7 years working on Apples, PC's and Linux. And by far the best is linux..Windows a close second and Apple just fails.

I used to use apple products, till my Macbooks hard drive gave out. i used to use OSX to perform system repairs on other mac's and well, i dont believe in my opinion that Mac's are created to be extensively used everyday to do hardcore things. Just a casual use computer. I have a dj friend who uses a mac, he's on his 8th mac, and has been five years in the business.

Just my opinion. i'll wait for the fanboy to criticize everything i've said.

unrealmp3 unrealmp3 said:

They're might be a bit hard to find at this time, but the Chinese will take care of that.

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