Tan Han Wei’s M1 MacBook Air suddenly died on March 29, 2021, while he was working on an Adobe Photoshop project. He lost 800GB of data, including cache files and a project he had been working on for the past two months. Fortunately, he had backed up 300GB of data to an external storage drive, but the loss of 200GB of data was still a major setback.
The M1 MacBook Air was introduced in November 2020, and it was praised for its speed, efficiency, and long battery life. It was powered by Apple‘s M1 chip, which was specifically designed for Macs. However, Tan’s experience shows that even the most advanced technology can fail unexpectedly.
After his M1-powered MacBook Air died, Tan took it to the Apple Store at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, where he was told that the logic board needed to be replaced. He was given a repair bill of S$642, which was a significant amount of money. Tan was understandably frustrated, as his M1-powered MacBook Air was still under warranty and had only been used for a few months.
In his blog post on Medium, Tan shared his experience to raise awareness about the potential risks of relying solely on technology to store important data. He also warned others to back up their data regularly to avoid losing it in case of a sudden failure.
Tan’s experience is a reminder that technology can fail, and it is important to be prepared for such situations. Backing up data regularly and keeping important files in multiple locations can help to minimize the impact of a sudden failure. It is also important to consider the cost of repairs and the warranty coverage when purchasing expensive technology, as unexpected repairs can be costly.
Tan’s story serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who relies on technology to store important data. While technology can make our lives easier, it is not infallible, and it is important to take measures to protect our data and be prepared for unexpected failures.
From Tan’s blog post on Medium ⤵️
Back in November 2020, I got a new M1 Macbook Air through Apple’s online store. I must say that this machine is a beast (in a very good way) because it handles everything very well. Battery life? Fantastic! I could sit down and do my video editing for about 3 to 4 hours on-battery!
However, on 29 March 2021, this laptop suddenly died when I was using Adobe Photoshop for a project. Yes, dead. It wasn’t taking its time to “shut down”. It just blacked out and showed no signs of life at all. The battery was about 50% charged, and it wasn’t plugged into the power outlet. Initially, I thought it was a power failure. So I plugged it into the power outlet, but I couldn’t get it to boot up at all. I tried resetting its NVRAM, and it just wouldn’t turn on.
I got worried because I had around 800GB of data on the laptop. Immediately, I used my phone and contacted Apple Support for help. After few minutes of online chat, I was told that I need to send it to the nearest Apple Store for inspection.
Two hours later, I was at the Apple Store at Marina Bay Sands (it’s a lovely place, by the way). An Apple Genius greeted me, and she told me that the technician needs to use their own device to see if they can force the laptop to turn on. But before that, I was asked to sign a “Work Authorization” form that I fully acknowledge that I’m OKAY with the possibility of losing all my data in the recovery process.
To be honest, losing 800GB worth of data is NOT okay. I tried asking whether the technician could extract my data from the hard drive directly. Guess what? It cannot be done because the SSD was soldered onto the motherboard. I had no choice but to sign the consent form.
Ten minutes later, I was told that the technician couldn’t switch on the laptop too. And the entire motherboard has to be replaced. In other words, I’m definitely losing all my data. The copy of “Work Authorization” I received comes with this Repair Estimate:
For some reason, even the Touch ID has to be replaced. I was told that it “comes together” with the Logic Board. If you apply the 50/50 repair rule, the repair cost wasn’t too high because it is around 26% of the laptop’s price (S$2399). But still, S$642 is not a small sum. Thankfully, this laptop is still under warranty coverage, and I won’t be billed for this repair.
Two days later, I collected the laptop, and everything got back to normal. Well, sort of because I have lost 800GB worth of data. I have around 300GB backed up in an external hard drive, but the remaining 200GB contains projects I have been working on for the past two months. The rest of the data were cache files.
Don’t get me wrong here. Writing this Story is not to rant but to share the lessons I have learned from this incident with my readers. I’m sharing it here so that you don’t have to go through the same thing.
But first, let me be clear:
1. This is still an excellent laptop. I still like it a lot. No, I’m not an Apple fanboy. In my opinion, a good laptop must have high “lapability” and can perform the user’s daily tasks. What’s the point of having a laptop that constantly needs to be plugged into a power outlet? It’s much cheaper to get a desktop computer in a similar price range in terms of cost per performance. The Macbook Air with M1 has long battery life, and it performs very well even on battery. That’s why I love it.
2. I’m a very heavy user. I have been using it for video editing, visual effects, 2D & 3D animation, and 3D modeling on a daily basis. This laptop handles everything very well. I’m a heavy user due to the nature of my full-time job. I got the 1TB + 16GB RAM version because I need a very large disk cache for my video projects. Sometimes, I would even leave the machine switched on for overnight rendering (~10 to 20 hours). Most of the time, I would have the following Apps opened at the same time when I’m working on a video project:
– Adobe Illustrator for graphic design and graphic asset preparation for After Effects.
– Adobe Photoshop for photo editing.
– Adobe After Effects to create all VFX shots and 2D animations.
– Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing (including compositions created in After Effects), sound effects, color correction, and color grading.
– Adobe Media Encoder for proxy creation and shot replacement.
– Adobe Audition for audio mixing.
In addition, the Macbook Air with M1 is not the only machine I used for heavy works. I have a custom-built Windows desktop (Ryzen 9 3950X, RTX 2080 TI, 64GB RAM) that I would typically use for Cycles rendering and simulations (fluid, smoke, and cloth).⤵️
After he loses everything, he learned some new lessons:
1. ALWAYS have a backup: Even if the machine is new. Why? Because you’ll never know. There might not any early signs. Although the M1 Macbook Air I used didn’t die due to a failed SSD, it’s still essential to have a backup. A hard disk can fail at any time due to various reasons. Also, always check your SSD’s health by using apps such as DriveDx.
2. REMEMBER that its SSD is soldered directly onto the motherboard: The chances of losing all data are even higher because there is no way to extract the hard drive data. You can technically desolder the SSD from the logic board, but it’s a non-standard SSD. In other words, it’s not something that you can connect easily to another M2 connector.
3. I wasn’t the ONLY ONE who encountered this: You should check out the posts in MacRumors and this long thread in Reddit. Some said that it’s due to USB C dongles but I can confirm that mine wasn’t connected to any. But my point is, who would have thought that there are many around the world facing the same issue? I mean, I wouldn’t have googled it if I have already made the purchase, right? So if you’re reading this, I hope that you are aware that the new Macbook Air with M1 DOES have this potential issue.
4. It’s the FIRST-GEN of its kind, after all: Usually, first-gen products would have more issues than next-gens. For example iPhone X: burnt-in OLED, unresponsive screen, cracking sound at loud volume (source). Airpods: Weak battery life (source).
So the Apple’s M1 devices might be suffering from “first-gen” issues, and you should be aware of that.
There is no 100% guarantee that your new device will not fail, even for Apple products. No matter how new your machine is, you should always have a backup of your data. If you’re working on expensive projects, losing your project data could cost more than your laptop cost and repair fee combined. Also, the first-gen device always has the most issues compared to future generations.