Find all your DIY electronics in the MakerShed. 3D Printing, Kits, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Books & more!
pentalobe.jpg

Our pal Kyle Wiens of iFixit writes:

Apple is switching to a new type of tamper-resistant screw across their product line. It is not a standard Torx, and there are no readily available screwdrivers that can remove it. They chose this ‘Pentalobe’ fastener specifically because it was new, guaranteeing repair tools would be both rare and expensive. The iPhone 4 originally shipped with Phillips screws, but Apple has transitioned completely to this new security screw. Shame on them.

This screw head clearly has one purpose: to keep you out. Otherwise, Apple would use it throughout each device. Instead, they only use it at the bulwark–on the outside case of your iPhone and MacBook Air, and protecting the battery on the MacBook Pro–so they can keep you out of your own hardware.

That’s bad enough on its own, but Apple’s latest policy will make your blood boil: If you take your iPhone 4 into Apple for any kind of service, they will sabotage it by replacing your Phillips screws with the new tamper-resistant screws! We’ve spoken with the Apple Store geniuses tasked with carrying out this policy, and they are ashamed of the practice.

Read Kyle’s article, with photos of the different Pentalobe screws on various Apple products, and learn about iFixit’s iPhone 4 Liberation Kit here.

The complete DIY solution: You can also make a casting of any proprietary screw head using Silly Putty and then use a cheap hex wrench as stock and a Dremel tool to grind the hex into the shape of the putty cast. Instructions for this are found in MAKE Volume 03. Not sure how this would work with these Pentalobe heads. If anybody tries it, please let us know!


Apple’s Diabolical Plan to Screw Your iPhone

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


Related

Comments

  1. Nic says:

    All you need to do is get a tube of epoxy (the stuff that you can pinch off and knead). Pinch off some, knead it, roll into a cylinder and then push the end down into the screw hole. Remove and let dry/harden. Now you have a pentalobe screwdriver. Depending on how tight the screw is and the quality of the epoxy, you might only get one use out of it, but that’s all ya really need, right?

    1. wdancer.myopenid.com says:

      Back in the day of the original Gameboy, my external power pack died. The pack had the security Torx and there was no place in 1996 where I could buy them in rural Montana and Ebay didn’t exist yet. What I did was take the strongest rod of plastic I had that fit in the hole, melted the end with a lighter and shoved it in the hole. I let it cool and proceeded to unscrew the cover (I had to remelt a couple times), replaced the Ni-Cads inside and replaced the screws with phillips. It worked great until the Gameboy gave up the ghost.

  2. Maker Dino says:

    I can almost guarantee that within a month there will be a screw driver available for purchase online from the hacker community. I’d produce them NOW if I had the facilities… this is extremely lame on Apple’s part, but par for the course. Apple sucks so BAD!

    1. Bassman59 says:

      Seems like their whole article was an ad for their tools. Sheesh.

  3. sindicate says:

    These security screws are nothing new, rounded, 5 point “Torx Plus” came out during the early 90′s. You can get em on amazon.

  4. evvo says:

    You can get an iphone 4 toolset (including the pentalobe) for $9 on ebay

  5. tgmake says:

    This kind of behavior makes my blood boil! For Apple to replace screws with these on a phone they don’t even own any more is utterly unacceptable. It’s wasteful, greedy, almost offensive. Glad I don’t have Apple products, I would feel bad supporting behavior like this.

    Make, you really need to use the “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it” slogan more. I think it’s one of the best lines you’ve ever printed. And when crap like this happens, it means even more.

    1. afterhours says:

      I don’t feel your pain. Apple has to honor warranty repairs on many of these devices. People are constantly getting into (or have an ‘expert’ friend get into) their devices, as if they could possibly do something useful once they are in. Then the fool fries a component because they didn’t take the static seriously, or the beer running down their chin drips in — and then they expect Apple to fix it for them. And whine if Apple doesn’t feel compelled to financially cover their foolishness.

      I don’t feel your pain. I work on Apple kit for a living, along with HP and Lenovo. I have limited tolerance for the vast majority of folks who feel a manufacturer ‘owes’ them for their own cluelessness. Hey — I’m all about learning, and I think it’s great that some folks honestly want to learn to change out their own batteries, or add RAM or upgrade a hard drive. I also think it’s great when people want to replace their head gaskets on their cars because they forgot to check the radiator or lug the engine rather than downshifting. But that doesn’t obligate Toyota or Honda to do warranty repairs when you don’t get that timing chain back on right.

      I don’t feel your self-righteous pain at all. No manufacturer should be left holding the bag because personal responsibility is no longer in fashion in this country. Pathetic. And the screwdriver to get around this is less than $12. Man up, won’t you?

      1. tgmake says:

        Sorry you feel that way, we definitely disagree, although your examples of car repair and personal responsibility support my position, not yours. Toyota wouldn’t dare lock me out of my car and create a scenario where I cannot repair it myself or find an non-Toyota dealer to do it. They simply state that the botched repair has voided the warranty. But, with Apple changing the screws on a product I already own, they increase the barrier of a non-Apple approved repair. Toyota knows they can’t pull a stunt that that, its bad for customer relations. I’m not concerned about people who break their phones because they do not know how to repair something, that’s been happening with consumer products for decades. It’s hardly a new problem. I’m in favor of people being self sufficient, not relying on companies to solve all of their problems.

        1. Bassman59 says:

          tgmake: “Toyota wouldn’t dare lock me out of my car and create a scenario where I cannot repair it myself or find an non-Toyota dealer to do it. They simply state that the botched repair has voided the warranty.”

          You seem to forget (or not even know) the history of the Torx screw, or anything other than a slotted screw. Another scenario: can you get ALL of the Toyota diagnostic codes from the OBD computer? Even the secret ones? Didn’t think so.

          ” But, with Apple changing the screws on a product I already own,”

          Did they actually change the screws on YOUR phone when YOU sent it in for repair? Did this actually happen, or is it some internet rumor that has somehow become truth?

          “they increase the barrier of a non-Apple approved repair. Toyota knows they can’t pull a stunt that that, its bad for customer relations.”

          Yes, Toyota has barriers to non-factory repair: secret OBD codes, non-standard and expensive tools, etc. Stop saying that Apple is the only manufacturer that prefers that its products are repaired by authorized depots.

          “I’m not concerned about people who break their phones because they do not know how to repair something, that’s been happening with consumer products for decades. It’s hardly a new problem. I’m in favor of people being self sufficient, not relying on companies to solve all of their problems.”

          And yet you’re yelling that Apple does something every manufacturer does.

          1. tgmake says:

            Yes, I’m familiar with lots of cases where the vendor tries to lock out the customer from some repairs. I don’t know about the others who are participating in this discussion, but I actually repair stuff on my house, in my house, in my computer, and in my car. I place value on repairability of the products I buy and favor products that provide that. I’m not arguing that Apple should be in favor of me soldering chips on my phone and then standing behind the warranty, I’m plainly stating that it is unacceptable behavior, to me, to intentionally make it more difficult for a customer to open their phone after they take it to the Apple store than it was prior to the visit. A lot of you don’t value that. I get it. Consider me a maker who favors open source, open standards, and ease of repair. I don’t want to throw something away if I can fix it, and I don’t see the merit of buying yet another tool to open something when the vendor is simply trying to stop me from doing something to a product I own.

            Sure Toyota has secret codes, but they wouldn’t dare finish up a repair of my car by installing a brand new locking mechanism on the hood and telling me to come back when I need the key. Some people don’t mind having a car with the hood welded shut. Not me. Count me out.

          2. afterhours says:

            I have to remind myself that we, all, here, like to take things apart. Thanks for the gentle reminder Gareth — I think tgmake and I simply have some points from each side of the issue that are important (to us). I should not have made it sound more personal than I did.

            To the best of my knowledge, the screw program is on warranteed repair. If I am the company paying for the repair, and I have to honor a warranty on said item, I think I ought to have ‘rights’ to protect against consumer fraud or foolishness. If that includes putting a sticker over the crack in a case, or over a philips head screw (as is often the case) or changing a screw to a less familiar one, then I would do it.

            I see Apple doing that. Not to non-warranteed items. But to items that they are still held responsible for in a financial sense, and are at the mercy of customers who may attempt to open said product when there is no good reason under normal use to do so.

            Once an item is no longer under warranty, and there is no financial stake in its condition, then I can see the point tgmake and others press. However as a stock holder, if you are asking the company I invested in to look the other way and take a hit every time someone gets ‘a little curious’ and breaks their widget, then I’m going to side with the manufacturer. Warranty fraud takes many forms, and warranties are intended for product failure WHEN it’s the fault of the manufacturer. Undoing a screw, in my mind, should be reason enough to not need to honor that contract.

            That’s where I’m coming from. Just ordered my pentalobe driver from Amazon for under $10, btw.

          3. Louie says:

            Oh man, I’m calling Apple to put round pattern screw heads in your phone!

            Try to get in that Macgyver!! :)

    2. Bassman59 says:

      tgmake: “For Apple to replace screws with these on a phone they don’t even own any more is utterly unacceptable.”

      Has this actually happened, or is it some hypothetical scenario?
      And even if it DID happen, when something is repaired by the manufacturer, it is returned to the customer in the standard configuration. So if you replaced (or lost) the screws, they’d come back with whatever the assembly drawing calls for.

  6. Louie says:

    It’s an Apple product that is designed and manufactured by them that shouldn’t be taken apart anyway.

    Regardless if you own it, doesn’t mean you have a “right” to get into it, but you have a right to try (as I do).

    If not for the battery, they have the right to weld the darn thing shut if they so choose. The post above me says “It’s wasteful, greedy, almost offensive”.. Whaaaaat? but he is right, go somewhere else if you don’t like it. Its all about choice.

    I make cellular retail software for POS registers that customers can load on their PCs. To cut down on support issues I plan to offer a closed box that cannot be tampered with by loading additional software. Guess what, that’s my right! And I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it would make the experience more successful. Think about it.

    1. xrazorwirex says:

      I concur with most of this comment.
      Apple has every right to do make their products however they choose and if they want to be dicks then it’s completely up to them. There will be repercussions to every choice they make and they have the right to weigh the consequences and take the action that they want to take.

      Understand that it’s still important to express positive and negative sentiments towards people’s actions whether or not the actions are justified.

      HOWEVER, once I own a product made by them, it is now mine to do with as I please (as long as I don’t use it to trespass against anyone else). If I want to modify it to ssh into my server then I’ll do it and nobody’s gonna tell me I don’t have the right to.

      1. Louie says:

        Hey thanks for the sound reply. Your comments are simply an extension of mine. I chuckled at your last line..

        “If I want to modify it to ssh into my server then I’ll do it and nobody’s gonna tell me I don’t have the right to”

        No, nobody can tell you that you don’t have the right, but they have the right to lock it down where you may do damage trying to get it. Right/Wrong, that’s a fact. Consumers should be smart enough to know that and make a smart decision. Many, sadly not.

        Later bro.

    2. tgmake says:

      I buy an iphone. It has phillips head screws. It’s not working so I have to take it to the store and have their experts look at it. They open it up, fix it, use pentalobe screws to close it back up, then give it back to me. I can’t open MY phone anymore. And they didn’t replace the screws because they dropped them in the sink, they replaced them because didn’t want me to open it.

      You don’t think that’s wrong? You don’t think that’s underhanded? You think Apple still owns the phone? I didn’t rent the phone, I bought it. They aren’t going to take it back when my service contract is over, I keep it. So it’s mine when it doesn’t work, but theirs when it does?

      Is it good to throw away a perfectly functional phone because the battery can’t be easily replaced by the owner?

      1. Louie says:

        Dude, I hear you and understand your point (as a consumer) as I also own a few Apple products. The difference between you and me as I also understand Apple’s point of view and decision (as a small business owner). Are these new patterned screws simply to screw over the public? I think not. That’s bad business and a large expense.

        I definitely side with you saying that they are altering a product post support as it was from when you purchased it, is a bit questionable. But buying a new one locked down is valid.

        Thanks for your reply..

      2. Bassman59 says:

        “I buy an iphone. It has phillips head screws. It’s not working so I have to take it to the store and have their experts look at it. They open it up, fix it, use pentalobe screws to close it back up, then give it back to me. I can’t open MY phone anymore. And they didn’t replace the screws because they dropped them in the sink, they replaced them because didn’t want me to open it.”

        That’s not how product-repair depots operate.

        You send your product in for repair, and it gets restored to the latest version of that product’s assembly. So if that assembly calls for a different firmware load, or a different screw, then that’s what the assembly techs will use. They don’t know, and they don’t care, that your product had something else installed.(You wouldn’t believe how many times a customer tries to fix, or modify, a product, then break it, and send it back for repair. The first thing the repair techs do is strip out the mods and restore it back to factory spec.

        Having said that, the iFixit article is full of hyperbole. First of all, the new screw is much less likely to strip than a Philips-head screw. (After all, the Philips screw was designed to slip, to prevent overtorqueing.)

        Second, the article says, “Apple chose this fastener specifically because it was new, guaranteeing repair tools would be both rare and expensive. Shame on them.” Citation, please.

        Come on, people, don’t be so quick to denounce Apple (or any other manufacturer) for doing something. Don’t forget that the vast majority of users would never even consider opening their device. They just want it to work. Making the product reliable is the mandate, not making it “make-able.”

    3. Maker Dino says:

      Well, it’s my RIGHT to cut the damn thing open if I want!!!

      1. afterhours says:

        And if you didn’t have a philips head screwdriver, would you be complaining to Apple because YOU had to go buy a tool? Don’t be a TOOL, go spend $10 and get over yourself. And man up if by exploring a product, you break it.

        Hey, you break it, you OWN it, right? That means, no one else is left holding the bag to bail you out financially because of your OWN choices, such as opening up kit that you likely don’t know how to fix.

        Hey — I get your sentiment, mostly. I just don’t have some expectation that I’m owed free labor (and/or parts) by some company because I chose to open their product.

        Apple changed a screw — big deal. Nearly all of my geek friends are thrilled to have an excuse to go buy tools. Growing up, when we were working on our cars for fun (the general theme of this website is about the how and why of ‘stuff’, no?) — we were immediately frustrated when we needed that deep socket and didn’t have it, or the extension bar, or the dwell/tach meter. It was an excuse to run down to Sears or over to the SnapOn truck for some new addition to our toolbox. And we learned, too.

        Doesn’t seem to be the same mindset anymore — there’s this expectation that everything has to be given to you, not earned. THIS is the decline of America — the ‘give me’ generation.

  7. cancerouspete says:

    chances are a slotted screwdriver of the precise size will open this with little to no damage….along time ago i figured out you could use a slotted driver on a torx security by finding one thin enough to go from one spline, along side the security pin and to spline across.

    draw a rectangle in the “pentalobe” and im sure you’ll find a size that fits tight

  8. Improviser says:

    The battery will fail and the case will be blown off in the explosion all by itself!

  9. Maker Dino says:

    That pretty much sums you up.

    Apple sucks.Period.

    1. Louie says:

      Maybe, but also a 35 year old man with a business, wife, new baby and more important things then to worry about screw heads on my phone.

      I’m simply having a conversation with some good people and voicing my opinion. Funny how “fanboy” is suppose to be bad. I appreciate how far Apple has come since 2007 and how everyone is trying to catch up.

      But your last comment shows who’s bloggin.

      Appreciate your comment..(kinda)

  10. Maker Dino says:

    Since 2007??? How about I was using a Mac 512 in 1984 when their slogan was “think different”. They totally sold out from their philosophy. Then they went downhill… and yeah, the ipod saved their asses.

    I can appreciate the fact that you’ve worked hard to get where you are and that you have a wife and a kid.

    If you have more important things to worry about than screws on a phone then why are you defending something that keeps people from fixing something themselves?

    Why do we need to be held hostage to a silly screw if we have the ability to repair something?

    …just having a conversation. :)

    1. Louie says:

      Yeah since 2007. I’m a c# coder so I’m tied to MS Workstations, and Apple stuff has always been a bit pricey for me “just to have”.

      I’m pretty technical with an “almost” Masters degree and I can’t fix a phone. So maybe I’m just less smarter than everyone else and rely on the Genius Bar (whatever its called). If I get shiny new screw for free, then cool!

      Me defending this issue uses much less energy then everyone’s heads blowing up cuz they can’t get into the phone without destroying it to diagnose the A4 chip or rearrange the antenna so not to lose a signal.

      Anyway, thanks Dino. I’d conversate with ya anytime..

  11. Maker Dino says:

    Cool… peace. :)

  12. salec says:

    I can think of two hypothetic solutions:

    First, if there was a screwdriver with adaptive head, designed on the same principle of universal socket wrench (http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6928906.html), only with much thinner pins. Pins would fill the odd-shaped hole in the screw’s head and lock. You could screw and unscrew whichever shape (except pure circular with buried slots in the hole wall) with it.

    Second, a drill bit that drills when turned ccw. I wonder if this already exists? It would dig into the screw head (unlike cw one which would slip) and then unscrew it, because the resistance torque to unscrewing is lesser then the amount of torque needed to drill the material of the screw. Of course, this method would damage the screws but we want to replace them with “normal” ones anyway.

    1. kansel.myopenid.com says:

      Back-out bit, reverse bit or left-hand bit. I don’t know if any are available small enough, but that’s what you’re looking for.

  13. Tom says:

    I’m sure that Henry Phillips was hated a lot more than Apple when rural mechanics in the forties had to buy those new-fangled screwdrivers.

    And I’ll bet that George Hex and Steve Torx were equally hated. Let alone Dave Bathroom-divider-screw.

    Perhaps there’s a much less sinister motive for the use of the pentalobe than assumed. It looks like a better torx because the blades at the perimeter of the circle don’t have to be so thin, and better than hex because it doesn’t have to lock in perfectly and won’t strip.

    And if there is a sinister motive, don’t you appreciate the challenge?

  14. Tom says:

    I’m sure that Henry Phillips was hated a lot more than Apple when rural mechanics in the forties had to buy those new-fangled screwdrivers.

    And I’ll bet that George Hex and Steve Torx were equally hated. Let alone Dave Bathroom-divider-screw.

    Perhaps there’s a much less sinister motive for the use of the pentalobe than assumed. It looks like a better torx because the blades at the perimeter of the circle don’t have to be so thin, and better than hex because it doesn’t have to lock in perfectly and won’t strip.

    And if there is a sinister motive, don’t you appreciate the challenge?

    @tgmake, yeah – that would piss me off too. My theory would make a lot more sense if they didn’t implement it into existing products.

  15. wonder-wheeler says:

    They are engaging in anti-competitive practices, trying to make their product (unsucessfully) so that it can not be repaired or upgraded by anyone else.

    The FTC should be looking into this. Maybe a group of lawyers should start a class action?

    Can you imagine an auto manufacturer trying to make a car with special screws and bolts that could only be opened by them?!

    This is outrageous. There should be a (specific) law against practices like these. You can’t even get in to replace or upgrade the battery?

    No Apples for me today thank you!

    1. Tom says:

      Yep, I can imagine it — Phillips head, GM.

      Calm down and invent something. Let somebody else try to fix it and see how pissed off you get when they tell you that your design is flawed.

      1. afterhours says:

        I cannot replace or upgrade the battery in my phone without buying a $10 tool. Oh no! What am I to do? Why, I’ll spend 90 minutes on forums fussing about it. I could have gone to work at Walmart and earned that $10 and bought myself the tool (to thwart that rascally wabbit Jobs from denying me access).

        Do you folks whine as much when you buy a $2 LED flashlight only to find the watch batteries for it will cost $9? No, I can’t imagine you do — because they are user-accessible.

        As for the battery — how many of you have actually replaced a battery in an iPod or iPhone? The people reading this forum might be a little more tech savvy (or not), but I suspect there are only a handful of us who have. How many of you actually KEEP your same cell phone long enough (~3 years) for the battery to require replacement? Very few of you, I wager. There is NO NEED for you to get into the kit, but if you wanted to, there IS A TOOL you can buy. You are just here fussing about a non-issue. Foolish.

  16. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Folks, please remember that we have a “be nice” policy here on MAKE. It’s great that we’re having a heated discussion on this issue, but please try and refrain from calling people tools, fools, etc.

    Thanks!

  17. repairAcar says:

    Shocking to read about these under hand tatics

  18. repairAcar says:

    Shocking to read about these under hand tatics

In the Maker Shed