I bent my macbook's unibody. Fix or forget?
March 11, 2011 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I did something dumb and really bent the corner on the bottom of the unibody of my MacBook Pro. Three questions under the fold.

Short story: I fell asleep in bed with my 15" MacBook Pro and, inevitably, I kicked it onto the floor in the night, slightly warping a corner of the top case.

So I had the utterly genius idea of trying to bend the corner back with a needle nose pliers, and of course I just ended up really indenting the underside of the same corner, on the bottom case.

So far it just seems cosmetic, but it's kind of irking me. Three questions:

1) Are there any actual problems this might cause beyond the mere cosmetic? Should I take it in for diagnostics or anything?

2) Is there a fairly cheap way to fix it or have the bottom case replaced?

3) If it's working fine and it's just a dent underneath the thing, should I try to just get over it and be more careful next time? i.e. am I freaking out unduly here over something merely material?

Thanks everyone.
posted by The Pantless Wonder to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Was it on (even on standby) when you left it on the bed? I'd run a hard drive diagnostic test just in case you didn't effect anything. Otherwise, it would mostly be cosmetic.

Those snap-on protectors are pretty cool for protection, I have one for my Macbook Pro but I prefer the InCase variety.

The aluminum is cool and sleek, but it does make it more prone to denting over hard plastic.

And as a side note, sometimes I fall asleep with my Macbook Pro next to me too, but it's on the side of the bed facing the wall. I figured I wasn't the only one that left MBP in bed after drowsy webbrowsing. :)
posted by xtine at 12:53 PM on March 11, 2011

I would second scanning the drive for errors (there's probably a utility for this built in, but I rarely use OS X so I don't know the specifics), but if the machine was asleep then you should be in the clear. The major worry with the hard drive is that the heads (which read data off the disks) hit the disk platter, but when sleeping the heads are parked elsewhere. I believe that MacBooks also contain an accelerometer that can detect when the machine is dropped, and park the heads to protect against damage.

If the machine boots normally, the only other problem I can think to watch for is if the warping blocks vents or otherwise changes airflow. You should be able to tell fairly quickly if this is the case because of the excess heat.

Otherwise, it's just cosmetic. Look at it as a battle scar, or a way to quickly identify your machine, or a chance to tuck a watch battery and an LED in there if the gap won't close, or a chance to tell a story about swatting a bullet away with your MacBook before quickly subduing a shadowy assassin.
posted by truex at 1:30 PM on March 11, 2011

There's not much that you can do about the damage, although it's almost certainly cosmetic. That aluminum is never going to bend back the way it was.

If you want, you can get a Speck case, but I really, really don't care for them. In my experience, they tend to drag an incredible amount of dust, dirt, and grime into the space between the case and the computer, making the whole thing look yucky and messy and requiring frequent cleaning. For impact protection, I keep my laptop in a neoprene sleeve.
posted by aaronbeekay at 1:30 PM on March 11, 2011

(Also, if the gap won't close you should probably block it off somehow to prevent dust to get inside. In some parts of the country ants can actually infest warm electronics, it's freaky. I'd worry about the dust more, unless you live in one of the aforementioned parts of the country.)
posted by truex at 1:32 PM on March 11, 2011

Make an appointment and talk to a mac genius in the store.

I don't think it's that expensive.
posted by jchaw at 2:00 PM on March 11, 2011

I have a problem with my Powerbook G4, as a result of improper handling over time. Often, I would pick up the machine by the right corner edge, which has caused the machine not to close properly (it leaves a 2 or 3 mm gap when closed). Separately, I kept getting disaster messages to turn off the machine immediately, with no other way other than a hard power down. When I booted up again, I got "kernel panic" reports.

2 Mac techs I spoke to suggested it is likely a stressed or cracked motherboard, which is not really fixable from a financial perspective. I still get the messages occasionally, and must now take extreme care when moving the machine while it is on (to the point where I have to place the laptop on a pillow when I am working on the couch or anywhere besides a flat table).

I'm saying this because you may have an internal problem that is not immediately apparent (like mine). Definitely get it checked out.
posted by sundrop at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2011

It actually IS fairly expensive to fix unfortunately. The top case isn't all that cheap, and labor is fairly involved, considering you have to completely disassemble the machine to replace the top case.

Run utilities on the hard drive if you're concerned about that, but more than likely this is just cosmetic.
posted by BryanPayne at 7:43 PM on March 11, 2011

You can't really re-bend aluminum, as you found out. Don't try.
Also, don't drop it on the corner again - if it's the back left corner where the ports are, that's where the case is weakest (due to hte ports) - and now that it's deformed, it's even weaker.
Even a small drop, in a case now could cause further bending.

As long as your HD (if was SSD no worries) is okay, and everything seems to be working, I'd say don't worry about it. You'll get used to the look of it and eventually ignore the fact that you bend your otherwise perfect mac.

Somewhere along the line you'll spend some tiime wondering if unibody aluminum is actually a good choice for durability, as something with more give to it would actually have bent back or been fixable :)
posted by TravellingDen at 7:56 AM on March 12, 2011

Ditto taking it in to the Apple stor and having a Genius take a look at it. Frankly it can be a bit of an expensive repair to replace an entire computer enclosure but they've been known to make exceptions and it's worth a shot.
posted by raygan at 11:55 AM on March 12, 2011

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