My M1 Macbook Air is DEAD

Don’t make the same mistake as I did.

Tan Han Wei
Mar 31 · 6 min read
Okay, I may have exaggerated a little. The GIF that I have created doesn’t depict what happened. In reality, it was even scarier because there weren’t any early signs of failure.

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.

Apple Store at Marina Bay Sands. It’s a beautiful Apple Store. I photographed using Ricoh GR III.

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:

Adobe Illustrator for graphic design and graphic asset prepration 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, colour correction and colour 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).

Alright, these are the lessons that I learned:

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 its 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.

Conclusion

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.

Are you an Apple M1 device user? Did you encounter any similar issues? I would greatly appreciate it if you can leave a response.

So What’s Next?

Actually, that’s not the END of the story. I did further tests with the repaired unit and did some quick research, and I can’t believe what I discovered. Read the full story here:

More like this:

UPDATE: Thank you for taking the time to read this article! I’m grateful for all the comments and responses because I learned so much from my readers! I will do my best to reply to all your responses as soon as I can! Thank you once again!

CodeX

Everything connected with Tech & Code

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store