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(Pocket-lint) - Apple has extended its keyboard replacement programme to all MacBooks with butterfly keys, free of charge. Here's what you need to know.

What's wrong with Apple's butterfly keyboards?

In 2015, Apple ditched the "scissor" mechanism below each key on the MacBook and began releasing laptops with butterfly switches, as part of an effort to make its MacBooks even thinner and lighter. However, users immediately criticized the design, claiming the keyboards could be easily damaged by something as simple as dust. And, initially, the fix was expensive and time-consuming.

Apple doesn't usually just replace the bad keys, but rather the whole keyboard, and out-of-warranty fixes could cost as much as $700. Apple later redesigned the original butterfly switches at least three times to address the issues, but users have still complained. Class action lawsuits, naturally, have been filed against Apple. So, Apple conceded with a free keyboard replacement programme.

What is Apple's keyboard replacement programme?

In 2018, Apple promised to replace "a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models" - if their keys felt sticky, failed, or didn't respond consistently.

This programme covered MacBooks released from 2015 to 2017. Now, it covers all MacBooks with butterfly keys - including the 2019 models. Apple is clearly trying to put potential buyers at ease with this extension.

If your keyboard stops working, Apple wants you to know you can get it repaired for free, up to four years after purchase. Apple is also claiming it has sped up the time it takes for a keyboard to be repaired, though it didn't give specifics. It only said Apple Stores will now prioritise repairs. And your new MacBook will get the latest keyboard design, which, in theory, should protect you from more fails.

Pocket-lintIs your MacBook butterfly keyboard acting up How get it fixed for free image 2

How to initiate a free repair

Keyboard issues

You can only initiate a free repair once you've detected one of the following keyboard issues:

  • Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
  • Letters or characters do not appear
  • Key(s) feel "sticky" or do not respond in a consistent manner

Eligibility requirements

Next, determine if you have a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro equipped with a low-profile, butterfly mechanism keyboard. So, any model from early 2015, up to the latest 2019 models. All others are ineligible. If the laptop has any damage that may impair the service, then the issue will need to be fixed first, and there may be repair fees. And if it has any liquid damage, it'll be ineligible.

To identify if your laptop is eligible for this programme, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the top-left corner of the screen
  2. Select About This Mac.
  3. A window should open, and in the Overview tab, the model should be listed.

Here's a full list of eligible models

  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)
  • MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2016)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2018)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (15-­inch, 2019)

Contact Apple or a service provider

Apple or Apple Authorized Service Providers will service eligible laptops, free of charge. Apple said the process may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard. A technician will also examine your laptop prior to any service to verify it is eligible for this programme.

There are three ways you can get started:

  1. Find and go to an Apple Authorized Service Provider.
  2. Make an appointment at an Apple Retail Store.
  3. Mail in your device to the Apple Repair Center.

Want to know more? 

For more information, check out Apple's support page.

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Writing by Maggie Tillman.