Owners of the latest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar are in for a rude surprise if the logic board inside their laptop gives up the ghost. Apparently Apple tweaked the design of the 2018 models in such a way that makes data recovery practically impossible when the system is no longer able to boot. Even Apple Store employees are not able to help.
The issue relates to the soldering of the solid state drive (SSD) to the motherboard inside the MacBook Pro. Apple has been doing this for at least the past couple of years, though it also built a special tool to allow Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Serviced Providers to extract data from the SSD when the logic board is toast (assuming the SSD didn’t go bad as well).
Apple’s tool is a little black box with a flex cable that connects to the data recovery port on the faulty logic board. The box also connects to a working MacBrook Pro through a USB-C connection, and is able to pluck a user’s data off the faulty system. It works with 2016 and 2017 models of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Unfortunately, it seems the tool is not compatible with the 2018 model.
This was discovered during a recent teardown by the folks at iFixIt, which noted that Apple stripped the data recovery connector on both the 13-inch and 15-inch models with Touch Bar. Like previous generation MacBrook Pro models, the SSD is soldered to the logic board on the 2018 variants, so removing that data port is a big deal.
It appears Apple ditched the data recovery port to make room for a custom chip that provides hardware encryption for the SSD (among several other functions). So basically, Apple is trading data backups (in the event of a major board failure) for improved data security.
Consider this the price of progress, in terms of laptop makers chasing increasingly thinner and lighter designs. It should also serve as a reminder that everyone should be backing up their data on a regular basis, whether it’s to an external device (like a NAS box), the cloud, or both.