Is Apple Thwarting DIY Repair? New Screws Keep You Out of Your iPhone

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I’ve taken apart (and put back together) a few Apple laptops in my time, and contending with the numerous tiny screws is always a pain. As reported by iFixIt, a new policy rumored to be implemented by Apple is going to make it even harder for Apple owners to disassemble their own hardware. By switching to an odd, tamper-resistant screw on MacBooks and iPhones, Apple’s making it supremely difficult for you to repair your own devices.

This new screw, known as the “Pentalobe”, looks like a normal Torx head, except that it has five rounded lobes instead of the six points standard with Torx screws. Even more interesting is that iFixit claims that no reputable supplier of screwdrivers wound furnish them with a driver that’d handle the new Pentalobe screws.

The Pentalobe in at least three different sizes has been making an appearance on iPhone 4s that have been sent into the Apple Store for repair, replacing two standard Phillips screws, as well as on the outer case of MacBooks. And this diabolical screw isn’t entirely new---it’s been seen on MacBook Pros since at least 2009, as well as the current MacBook Air and non-US iPhone 4. Pentalobe screws will purportedly be making appearances on all iPhone 4 units shipped in the US.

iFixit sells an “iPhone 4 Liberation Kit” for under $10, which includes a screwdriver for the Pentalobe screws, two Phillips screws to replace their pentalobe cousins, and a Phillips driver. (Which begs the question, how did iFixit get their hands on a suitable Pentalobe driver?)