Apple Seemingly Unable to Recover Data From 2018 MacBook Pro With Touch Bar When Logic Board Fails

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In 2016, when Apple introduced the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models, the repair experts at iFixit discovered the notebooks have non-removable SSDs, soldered to the logic board, prompting concerns that data recovery would not be possible if the logic board failed. Fortunately, that wasn't the case.


Apple has a special tool for 2016 and 2017 models of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that allows Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers to recover user data when the logic board fails, but the SSD is still intact.

The tool is essentially a little black box that is able to transfer data from a failed logic board to a functioning MacBook Pro. The box has a flex cable that connects to a data recovery port on the failed logic board, while the box and a functioning MacBook Pro are connected via USB-C to USB-C cable.

Apple's internal Customer Data Migration Tool

Once the logic board is placed into a special holder, and all cables are connected, technicians simply power on the functioning MacBook Pro, open Migration Assistant, and proceed with the standard steps for data transfer.

Customer Data Migration Tool connector on 2016 MacBook Pro logic board

While not fail-proof, the tool is a convenient, last-ditch option for data recovery when a MacBook Pro's logic board goes kaput. But, unfortunately, it appears the tool will not work with the latest models.

Last week, iFixit completed a teardown of the 2018 MacBook Pro, discovering that Apple has removed the data recovery connector from the logic board on both 13-inch and 15-inch models with the Touch Bar, suggesting that the Customer Data Migration Tool can no longer be connected.

MacRumors contacted multiple reliable sources at Apple Authorized Service Providers to learn more, and based on the information we obtained, it does appear that the tool is incompatible with 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models.

Multiple sources claim that data cannot be recovered if the logic board has failed on a 2018 MacBook Pro. If the notebook is still functioning, data can be transferred to another Mac by booting the system in Target Disk Mode, and using Migration Assistant, which is the standard process that relies on Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The data recovery port was likely removed because 2018 MacBook Pro models feature Apple's custom T2 chip, which provides hardware encryption for the SSD storage, like the iMac Pro, our sources said.

Apple's internal 2018 MacBook Pro Service Readiness Guide, obtained by MacRumors, advises technicians to encourage customers to back up to Time Machine frequently, and we highly recommend following this advice, as it now appears to be the only way to preserve your data in the rare event your MacBook Pro fails.

MacRumors also confirmed that Apple's internal document for its Customer Data Migration Tool has not been updated to reflect use with the 2018 MacBook Pro, and nothing else we've seen outlines any alternative solutions.

While it appears Apple itself is unable to recover data from failed 2018 MacBook Pros, the Service Readiness Guide does state that customers can consult with data recovery specialist companies, such as DriveSavers, Knoll, Seagate, and Payam, but it's unclear how they might be able to help.

Update: MacRumors has received the following statement from Mike Cobb, DriveSavers Director of Engineering:
None of the changes mentioned in the iFixit article regarding the MacBook Pro 2018 have had any affect our ability to recover data for our customers. This is due to our advanced capabilities in addressing the logic board. DriveSavers has been very successful in recovering data from the 2018 model as well as all others. It is worth noting that customers need to send us the whole device to complete the data recovery service.
We've reached out to Apple for clarification. If we receive any information, we'll update this article accordingly.

Article Link: Apple Seemingly Unable to Recover Data From 2018 MacBook Pro With Touch Bar When Logic Board Fails
 
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Appleaker

macrumors 68020
Jun 13, 2016
2,198
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A very stupid move.
Really, the best option would be to retain a removable drive, but if they are adamant to solder it to the logic board then getting rid of the data recovery port is inexcusable.

And it provides such a bad user experience in the long run.
There will be no way to recover customer data when the logic board fails, which no doubt would turn them away from Apple, not helped by the fact that it would be possible on a PC.
 

Quu

macrumors 68030
Apr 2, 2007
2,659
4,186
Everyone should be backing up and it's very easy with Time Machine.

Personally I'd rather have the encryption and not allow easy ex-filtration of my data than easy recovery. Just get yourself a backup drive for home, lots of routers offer Time Machine compatibility so you can plugin an external USB drive to them and have it work over WiFi.
 

apolloa

macrumors G5
Oct 21, 2008
12,243
7,697
Time, because it rules EVERYTHING!
Well best factor in a decent sized back up system to your MacBook Pro purchase seeing as they killed of Time Capsules... usual Apple stupidity considering they used to make everything, now they expect the consumer to go elsewhere!
IMO if they pull a stunt like this they should bring back the Time Capsules, because they worked over wireless and were relatively easy to setup.
 
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hajime

macrumors 603
Jul 23, 2007
5,384
750
I find it hard to believe Apple would have done this just for the sake of having the T2 chip and "Hey Siri". I get that a customer's data is not Apple's responsibility, but if there is no recovery option then this is very bad.
If the 3rd gen keyboard also fail and require a replacement, will the SSD be also taken away?

If the SSD fails, after the warranty, we also need to pay high price to replace things that are not broken because they are all soldered together?
 

cmaier

macrumors G5
Jul 25, 2007
14,048
8,522
California
Everyone should be backing up and it's very easy with Time Machine.

Personally I'd rather have the encryption and not allow easy ex-filtration of my data than easy recovery. Just get yourself a backup drive for home, lots of routers offer Time Machine compatibility so you can plugin an external USB drive to them and have it work over WiFi.

Except that Apple has also end-of-lifed time capsule, so things are going to be quite interesting going forward...
 

nguyenhm16

macrumors newbie
Aug 13, 2004
25
30
I'm not surprised. Previously, Apple SSDs were basically just PCIe/NVMe SSDs with a different connector (for example, my cylinder Mac Pro is running a 1tb Samsung 960 Evo using an adapter card meant for Apple laptops that merely remaps the physical pins). Like most other NVMe SSDs, all the SSD controller logic to talk to the NAND chips was on the SSD itself, so all you had to do was connect to the SSD to access it.

Now instead, and like in the iMac Pro, all the SSD controller logic is in the T2 chip, which talks directly to and manages the raw NAND chips themselves instead of through a third-party controller. So unless the T2 is powered up and functional, you can't access the SSDs, because the T2 is the controller.
 

lederermc

macrumors 6502a
Sep 30, 2014
533
469
Seattle
I find it hard to believe Apple would have done this just for the sake of having the T2 chip and "Hey Siri". I get that a customer's data is not Apple's responsibility, but if there is no recovery option then this is very bad.
Lost data is fact of digital life. That's why we have Time Machine. This isn't much difference from a failed hard disk that can't be recovered from.
 

jonblatho

macrumors 65816
Jan 20, 2014
1,324
3,289
Missouri
Apple introduces a feature on Macs which is very similar to iOS, and MacRumors forum users still manage to scream and cry.

Just like you don’t have to physically back up iOS devices (you can use iCloud Backup), you don’t have to physically back up Macs (you can use third-party solutions like Backblaze). Better yet would be if Apple had a first-party solution for proper cloud backups on macOS. Of course, they already have Desktop & Documents in iCloud Drive, but that’s obviously just part of the story.

It’d be nice if they would expand the iCloud storage tiers and bring iCloud Backup to macOS. It’d be even nicer if they brought automated Time Machine backups to iCloud. (With, of course, the option to create physical Time Machine backups whenever possible in addition to iCloud backups.)

Please forgive the nuance.
 

bladerunner2000

macrumors 68020
Jun 12, 2015
2,464
9,841
I'm not surprised. Previously, Apple SSDs were basically just PCIe/NVMe SSDs with a different connector (for example, my cylinder Mac Pro is running a 1tb Samsung 960 Evo using an adapter card meant for Apple laptops that merely remaps the physical pins). Like most other NVMe SSDs, all the SSD controller logic to talk to the NAND chips was on the SSD itself, so all you had to do was connect to the SSD to access it.

Now instead, and like in the iMac Pro, all the SSD controller logic is in the T2 chip, which talks directly to and manages the raw NAND chips themselves instead of through a third-party controller. So unless the T2 is powered up and functional, you can't access the SSDs, because the T2 is the controller.
If only guys like Louis Rossman had the tools and schematics to repair defective parts in accordance with the right to repair. Of course, Apple doesn't respect anybody except it's shareholders so you know could be alleviated in SOME way but hey... this typical Apple being as evil as they've always been.