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Microsoft Hardware Technology

You Can't Open the Microsoft Surface Laptop Without Literally Destroying It (vice.com) 313

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Microsoft's latest Surface Laptop may have earned glowing reviews from certain sections of the tech press, but don't tell that to iFixit. The company, which provides repair tools and manuals for popular gadgets like the iPhone and PlayStation, has handed the Surface Laptop a score of 0 out of 10 in terms of user repairability, stating definitively that the laptop "is not meant to be opened or repaired; you can't get inside without inflicting a lot of damage." iFixit's detailed teardown illustrates just how difficult it is to open the Surface. For starters, there are no screws, proprietary or otherwise, on the outside of the laptop. Instead, the laptop is literally welded together using a type of "plastic soldering" that is rare to see in consumer electronics. Anyone hoping to get inside the "beautifully designed and crafted" computer will have to pry it open with a knife or dedicated pick in order to defeat Microsoft's plastic welding. Whether or not it's actually worth going through the trouble of defeating said welding is another matter, given that the "glue-filled monstrosity," as iFixit dubs the laptop, has none of the user-upgradeable parts you'd want to see in a PC, like memory or storage.

"It literally can't be opened without destroying it," the repair company concludes. "If we could give it a -1 out of 10, we would," iFixit said in an emailed statement on Friday. "It's a Russian nesting doll from hell with everything hidden under adhesive and plastic spot welds. It is physically impossible to nondestructively open this device."

You Can't Open the Microsoft Surface Laptop Without Literally Destroying It

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  • Well, assuming the evil maid doesn't know your login password, of course.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 16, 2017 @05:38PM (#54636133)

    Physical security of the device may be a blessing - leaving it in a hotel room in a politically hostile place would not enable direct access to storage components as on a conventional portable system. Not to say that it is unhackable, but denying physical access is a good first step.

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @06:08PM (#54636309)

      I doubt that Microsoft has created something that's unhackable, and since once a vulnerability is discovered it can usually be exploited through some automated process, it won't take l33t h4xx0rs to make use of stolen devices once an automated tool is in the wild.

      My complaint about any device whose storage is soldered on is that if there's a physical fault, it may not be possible to retrieve the contents. And while the goal is for a "cloud" system, where the contents are backed-up, I neither trust the reliability of the network nor the security of the storage provider to ensure that my stuff is both backed-up and remains exclusively mine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

      Physical security of the device may be a blessing - leaving it in a hotel room in a politically hostile place would not enable direct access to storage components as on a conventional portable system.

      Is there anyplace left that's not "politically hostile"?

    • Right to Repair (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @07:27PM (#54636699)

      Well, that sort of puts the Right to Repair arguments to rest. No doubt people will still whine about apple but this takes it to a new level.

      • by Z80a ( 971949 )

        How can you make this even worse? Epoxying the whole thing? An encryption that have the decryptor program stored on a ram chip on the battery that wipes itself out when you try to open the device?

      • Re:Right to Repair (Score:4, Informative)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @06:06AM (#54638367)

        Right to Repair is not about making sure devices can be disassembled. It's about ensuring that parts are available and that replacing the parts doesn't cause some lockout. There's nothing in the arguments saying that a device needs to be repairable without an ultrasonic spotwelder or without a BGA reflow oven to remove parts.

        No one really has complained much about Apple either except for that issue with the error caused by swapping out the TouchID controller.

        Right to Repair != Ability to upgrade components. We bitch about the latter a lot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It also means the NSA can add hardware at the factory and nobody will ever know.

      • "It also means the NSA can add hardware at the factory and nobody will ever know."

        The factory is probably in East Asia so it's likely not the NSA adding stuff there. That said, the NSA is probably one of the few entities with the resources to prize this monstrosity apart, change something, put it back together, and have it work.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      leaving it in a hotel room in a politically hostile place would not enable direct access to storage components

      I wouldn't go that far. With the tools, materials, and methods, of a state sponsor, some way to get into it or to get the data off of it can be found - no question.

    • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @10:34PM (#54637497)

      Not to say that it is unhackable, but denying physical access is a good first step.

      But then it runs Windows. Now your uncrackable hardware will let in every virus there is.

    • Security? The article is implying that you can crack the laptop open, It's just that you can't put it back together once it's opened
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Not worth much. That makes it tamper evident, not tamper proof. If someone really wants at the storage, they'll cut it apart as required.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @05:40PM (#54636137)
    is that a "thing"?
    • I've worked in user support and I'd say no. Most of them have defective firmware that prevents any form of updating, even with a very large stick. Better to chuck them away and get new ones.

      • I've worked in user support and I'd say no. Most of them have defective firmware that prevents any form of updating, even with a very large stick. Better to chuck them away and BUY SOMETHING DIFFERENT NEXT TIME.

        fypfy

        • Unfortunately we don't buy users yet. But give the Trumperor a second term and who knows, maybe we'll get rid of that pesky 13th amendment.

    • by tomxor ( 2379126 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @06:03PM (#54636285)
      get off my lawn...
    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @06:15PM (#54636343)

      Even if it's not user-repairability, IT shops for sufficiently large organizations like being able to fix devices when they're damaged, or at least being able to retrieve user data.

      We've basically migrated away from one vendor because they promised us portable computers that were serviceable and that there'd be parts availability. Instead we got portables that used a lot of adhesives, had a lot of integration where ports were on mainboards such that damage to ports would destroy the mainboard, and where parts were available they were extremely expensive and very slow to arrive. As a result we re-evaluated and switched to a different vendor, and in the eval process we disassembled machines and saw just how good claims of repair and reliability were. We ended up with machines with connectors on inexpensive and easily-replaced daughterboards, with modular storage, and with inexpensive replacement plastic housings. It's still expensive if a screen gets smashed, but if someone drops the laptop/convertible-tablet with a USB flash memory stick plugged in we don't necessarily have to replace the whole computer. We can replace a daughter-card with the USB and power input ports for $50, replace the broken bezel surrounding the keyboard for $30, not have to buy a $500 mainboard etc.

      • by TheFakeTimCook ( 4641057 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @06:30PM (#54636431)

        We ended up with machines with connectors on inexpensive and easily-replaced daughterboards, with modular storage, and with inexpensive replacement plastic housings. I

        And the best thing is, it's only 4 inches thick, and 16 inches wide for a 13 inch version!

        Surprised you could find any laptop with such antediluvian packaging. Do you realize just how much extra labor those are to build, and how much less of a computer you get, because it still have to be reasonably-priced with an assembly cost of $20 per unit?

        Does it have a 486 in it, too?

      • Great for IT, absolutely horrible for the poor bastards that have to use the laptop.

        I wonder how many will leave when given these "laptops". Or just ignore the one you provide and use a MacBook.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Considering the user gets told "Sure we can fix that and get it back you tomorrow", as opposed to "Sorry, your laptop is going to be out of service for at least a week", I'm sure the users are much more content than you would think.

          • How about this? "Sure we can fix that. Here's a refurbished unit today. After you put in your password, all your applications and repositories will be restored within the hour."

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            It looks like even the SSD is soldered on, so it's more like

            "We can have it fixed by tomorrow, but all your data is gone..."

            Also, after 18 months

            "Sorry, the battery warranty has run out and you can't get a third party replacement because fitting it destroys the machine."

            Presumably battery replacement cost is the same as a buying a new one.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          1. People looove their assigned gear. They will bitch and moan to no end if their ten year old laptop with missing keys gets replaced. Users like the familiar.

          2. People quitting because they don't like their company laptop. What insane, entitled world did that thought come from? That's far, far off the deep end.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I came close to quiting a job over the stock laptop provided by the company. I run ram- and cpu- data analyses, and couldn't believe it when they handed me a 10 yr old dell with 4gb of ram. It took months of arguing to be allowed to use a non-standard high performance machine. People will quit if they can't get the hardware they need to do their job, and they see their career sinking as a result

            • Thank you for giving the one corner case where that would make sense. Also I heard several Nascar drivers threatened to quit because they were given 10 year old cars to drive.

        • RE: "Great for IT" if this trend keeps going soon most the IT will be looking for another job.
        • Pretty entitled users who would just quit their job over the laptop issued to them. And if the company is doing network security correctly, good luck getting non-approved devices into the corporate network. MAC-based access lists, certificate-based VPNs, port monitoring...sure, you might be able to get to the Internet via the guest wifi, but the VLAN won't let you go anywhere else. I would just close any tickets on it and cite whatever Computer Use policy the company has against connecting non-business syst
          • One site I support frequently doesn't even have an open guest wifi. You need to request permission, and the support desk will respond to the employee sponsoring you (for me that's the local IT team) with a login and password.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )

          Users complain no matter what. Users lie too. These both must be considered when planning and implementing widescale IT policy.

          In my experience it does not take a long time for users to get used to the replacement computer. It's usually within a matter of hours if the OS version remains the same, or a matter of days when the OS version changes. It takes longer for users to grow accustomed to the OS changing on the same machine than it takes for users to grow accustomed to a new machine with the same OS

      • by eddeye ( 85134 )
        Ah, so you're the jerk who does my office's IT purchases. Thanks for sticking us with the largest, heaviest, most unwieldy and least portable laptop known to man. That part was bad enough - but the sharpened corners is just mean. :P
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 16, 2017 @06:17PM (#54636359)

      To me it is a huge thing. For example, clean water was accidentally spilled on a lenovo laptop. It was a small amount but enough to ruin the keyboard. Few days and $13 later new keyboard was installed and working perfectly well. Instead of throwing away perfectly good laptop, it is still working and will be working for at least few more years. And it was relatively cheap - under $1000. I would take user repair-ability over portability any time. I don't need to show people my superiority by sitting at Starbucks with a mac book or surface. I actually need to get the job done and need to concentrate while doing it.

    • Sure. I repair laptops every so often. I just repaired my daughters, which is about a year old.

    • It also scores a 0 out of 10 for Technician repairability. That means you CANNOT repair it, only throw it away. If you live on Earth, that should matter to you.
      • It also scores a 0 out of 10 for Technician repairability. That means you CANNOT repair it, only throw it away. If you live on Earth, that should matter to you.

        Many things that "cannot be opened" can be opened when you have the right tools. For example, Apple offers an "out of warranty" repair for phones and tablets where you pay have the price of a new device, get your device exchanged, and your old device will go straight back to the manufacturer where it can be refurbished or recycled for parts.

    • The boy has a cheapy tablet (Hipstreet Pilot) on which I am about to perform a second screen replacement, as he's a bit careless. The first screen replacement cost me £15 (under $20) and took about 30 minutes because I was being careful and methodical as I had no instructions.
    • is that a "thing"?

      It is with the right expertise. It's not necessarily expensive either. Users just don't see a #0 Philips screw and assume that a device can't be repaired. Have a look at some videos of people replacing cracked screens for $5 by carefully removing OLED films from them and then gluing the resulting mess back together.

  • Bad headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @05:41PM (#54636159)

    I suspect most people reading a headline stating "you can't open laptop X without destroying it" will not interpret that as meaning "open the case for repair or upgrade".

    I open my laptop all the time... it's the only way to type on the keyboard and view the screen.

  • At least... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @05:50PM (#54636219)
    must be waterproof!
  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @05:56PM (#54636249)

    Okay Microsoft, we get the point. You really wanna be like Apple. You can stop copying Apple now, thx.

    Having one major computer vendor with a user-hostile hardware division is more than enough. We should be DIScouraging this behaviour, not encouraging it!

    Incidentally, has there been any progress on those 'right to repair' lawsuits I've read about?

  • by WolfgangVL ( 3494585 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @05:56PM (#54636251)

    Bestbuy offers the i7, 16g, 512GB SSD for $2199.

    Assuming the battery will last 2 years, that's 91.62/mo. with no extras or failures.

    That's 200 soft tacos, or 5 cases of cheap beer. Every month, for 2 years.

    I've owned a few surfaces so far. Handy tablets for taking a shit, but the AC adapters are all so horribly designed that they fail within a month or 2. A few warranted replacements before that expired. I eventually went with the cheapo Chinese off brand and its solid and 10% the price.

    Within 6 months the magnetic keyboard attachment point for the expensive keyboard stopped working 9 out of 10 times it was attached, and it began missing keys. I never use it anyway, so never got it fixed.

    Pro 2 had the exact same problems as the 1, AND the internal SSD went shithouse RIGHT after the warranty expired.

    I'll never buy another Surface. They require repairs that simply cannot be done.

    But like a I said, great for taking a shit.

    • I feel kinda bad. I have an SP3, that is still in the box. I bought it to install lubuntu. I didn't.

    • ... the internal SSD went shithouse RIGHT after the warranty expired.

      I had a graphics chip fail on a Lenovo ThinkPad once. (Motherboard replacement required). To my surprise, they let me retroactively extend the warranty. (Of course I didn't mention the hardware failure until after renewing the warranty). Later had a Dell laptop repaired after retroactive warranty extension. Sometimes it pays to ask.

  • Every device in the Surface line has scored a 1 or below on iFixit.

    Then there's the guy who upgraded the SSD in his Surface Pro 3 by cutting the side of the case out.
    http://surfacepro3ssdupgrade.b... [blogspot.nl]

  • Why did you go through a 3rd party article? Shared ad revenue? Why not directly linking to ifixit in the first place????
  • Not cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @06:24PM (#54636389)

    Consumers need to know this and punish device makers like this by not buying it and telling them WHY. If you use it a lot, the battery will be shot in just a few years, rendering a very expensive device to the landfill. It is one thing to not have a "user replaceable battery", and another thing to make it difficult, but quite another universe to make it impossible to replace the battery.

    First manufacturers lock things down to prevent people from installing their own OS or trying to "unlock" it so that at least they can root it so they can get full control over what they bought. And now this?

    • Re:Not cool (Score:5, Interesting)

      by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @06:44PM (#54636501) Homepage

      If you use it a lot, the battery will be shot in just a few years, rendering a very expensive device to the landfill.

      This is where I become sad. I am in the electronics recycling business and it's sad times to see manufacturers making devices in such a way that they will never be viable for re-use, by design. So much for striving for sustainability. So much sad. This is wrong on so many levels, I really wish people would look at the big picture when considering purchasing one of these abominations. I don't give a flying F how well it works, when you design something so no one can fix it, you are broken and flawed and need to go away.

      It's up to the IT departments that buy this shit to make a statement. You're either for sustainability, or you're not. This product is a slap in the face to sustainability.

      • Re:Not cool (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sims 2 ( 994794 ) on Friday June 16, 2017 @10:10PM (#54637419)

        Related in companies destroying industries.

        Most video sales are very rapidly moving to digital copies i'm starting to see more and more stuff that is digital only that you can't buy physical copies of.

        We thought blurays were going to eventually replace dvds but it looks more like online video is going to kill them both before that happens.

        This is a problem.
        You pay the same amount for a digital copy as you do for a physical copy and while it doesn't get lost (unless the company goes under) or damaged you also can not lend, trade or sell your copy often times you can't even watch your copy offline it's yours permanently with a physical copy you may have been able to buy a blueray set for $30 watch it then sell it to one of your friends for $15 lowering your own net expense.

        Second hand sales seem to be theft to the industry possibly of the same level as piracy.

        They are doing a very very good job of destroying the used video industry by making sure no one has discs to sell.

        As for related to your post.
        Why are they making so many laptops now without a hard drive door? It's only the 3rd most replaced part after the battery and keyboard.

    • Consumers do not care. Really, they don't.

      • >"Consumers do not care. Really, they don't."

        Only when they don't know or understand. The moment I explained some of this about certain phones to some people, most seemed horrified. But yeah, many didn't care because they couldn't understand how/why/who would have a phone for more than two years. Even so, a little different with a laptop.

    • And now this?

      And now this what? One of the thinnest and lightest fully featured laptops can't be opened due to special construction techniques? What's the outrage?

      Consumers do know this. They actively asked for this. Consumers are the reason these devices are manufactured the way they are. This has absolutely nothing to do with locking down devices to prevent them installing their OS (anti-consumer). This is all about providing exactly what consumers have been asking for. I mean FFS even on Slashdot the biggest complain

  • High security (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The inability to open the case and get inside makes it harder for bad guys to insert tracking and keylogging devices. This might be a good laptop to take through airport security in China, for example. If only it came with a more secure OS...

  • thanks for the info, i will be sure to avoid this product in the future because i do like to buy gently used laptops and clean the dust out and upgrade the RAM, and harddrive to SSD, and since this thing is a brick i wont be buying one new or used
    • I'm sure Microsoft will miss your $0 you may have given them buying a second-hand Surface.some time in the future.

  • Locking owners out of the device sounds great for manufacturers (owners have to pay for expensive repairs or buy a replacement). Until a component that's normally trivial to replace turns out to be defective and fails catastrophically. And a recall which should've cost about $25 per device ends up costing several hundred or several thousand dollars per device.
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      And a recall which should've cost about $25 per device ends up costing several hundred or several thousand dollars per device.

      Nah, they'll just pull the same maneuver all companies do.
      - Deny there is a widespread problem until lawyers get involved.
      - Drag out legal proceedings for several years.
      - Come out with a settlement once the plaintiff class gets tired of fighting.
      - Make providing proof of purchase a requisite to claim the settlement

      (Remember, it's been several years since those devices were sold by this time. How many people have have gotten fed up with the product and replaced it already so t

  • I know this is anathema to the geek. But consumer electronics has been headed in this direction since the invention of the transistor.

    You see it as well in the evolution of the automobile, major appliances home maintenance and so on. Compare your granddad's household repair kit to your own --- or read through the 200 page back issues of Popular Science from the 40s and 50s to be found searching Google Books. Learn how to replace the sash weights of a double-hung window. The perils of ladder work at twen

    • Learn how to replace the sash weights of a double-hung window.

      Why the hell would you ever replace the weights? The cords, yes, but the weights last a lifetime. Of course if your window is reasonably new it probably has springs instead.

  • We need more info. Just because iFixit could not figure out how to take it apart nondestructively dose not mean it cant be done. Remember they are the same guys that couldn't get the cover off the Rift sensor/camera with out damage and all it took unscrewing the mounting post.

    Don't get me wrong, they do a great job, but they are flying blind.

  • I could never fix TTL chips or discreet transistors either. If surfaces end up as $0.25/unit for less than a dozen and $0.20/unit for a dozen to 100, and $0.18/unit for quantities over 100 in the catalog, then I have no problem with this.

  • Hang on, I can't replace the CPU, RAM, storage or battery on my phone either.

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