Working second-hand MacBooks scrapped due to activation block

Apple MacBooks manufactured as recently as 2020 are being scrapped by recyclers due to the company’s Activation Lock feature, Vice reports.

The Activation Lock makes it impossible to log in and factory reset second-hand T2 MacBooks — including M1 models — that retailed for as much as $3,000 (R51,500, excl. VAT) a few years ago.

MacBook refurbisher and owner of the RDKL INC repair store, John Bumstead, took to Twitter to voice his frustration at the scrapping of the still-supported and still-powerful laptops.

“How many of you out there would like a 2-year-old M1 MacBook? Well, too bad, because your local recycler just took out all the Activation Locked logic boards and ground them up into carcinogenic dust,” Bumstead said.

“As I predicted years ago, Activation Locked T2 MacBooks are flooding into recyclers (15 of these are 2020 M1!) Recyclers willing to violate the R2 cert sell to uncertified barbarians like me who use them for parts, but most just scrap due to liability paranoia.”

The culprit is the Cupertino-based tech company’s T2 security chip, first introduced in 2018.

When Apple released its own silicon with the M1, it integrated the T2’s features into those computers.

“The functionality of T2 is built into Apple silicon, so it’s the same situation,” Bumstead told Vice.

“But whereas T2 with activation lock is basically impossible to overcome, bypass developers are finding the M1/M2 chips with activation lock even more difficult.”

However, Bumstead noted that, even if a bypass is found, reselling Activation Locked MacBooks would be unethical as they will revert to the locked state if wiped or factory reset.

According to Bumstead, Apple makes life in the second-hand market more challenging every year.

He explained that the company first introduced certifications with unrealistic data requirements, forcing recyclers to remove drives from the machines.

It then embedded the drives in the motherboards, resulting in recyclers having to remove the entire board from the device.

Now the boards themselves are locked, effectively making them worthless.

“You can’t even boot locked 2018+ MacBooks to an external device because, by default, the MacBook security app disables external booting,” Bumstead added.

Apple lists nine steps on its website that Mac owners must follow to prepare their machines before selling, giving them away, or trading them in.


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Working second-hand MacBooks scrapped due to activation block