Thanks for Telling EPEAT Why Upgrades Matter

Images: Adding a second hard drive to upgrade a 27″ Intel iMac

Two weeks ago, we were dismayed to learn that EPEAT gave the Retina MacBook Pro a “Gold” certification, defining any device with a USB port as “upgradeable.” That’s not how we define “upgradable.” You agreed: nearly a thousand of you emailed EPEAT CEO Bob Frisbee to tell him about upgrades you’ve made to your devices, demonstrating how upgrading has made a difference in your life.

DIY computer upgrade of a 27" Intel iMac

That’s a thousand stories of upgraded computers, televisions, mp3 players, tablets, headphones, and video game consoles. That’s hundreds of terabytes of added RAM and hard drive storage. That’s thousands of devices that stayed in use instead of ending up in a junk heap.

I read every one of those emails. Reading your stories reminded me that the people who use iFixit are awesome (but I knew that, of course). You’re quietly fixing computers for your friends and family, keeping electronics working, and spreading the repair gospel far and wide. And you have great stories about repair and upgrade. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Repairable and upgradeable hardware creates jobs.

Many of you own small repair businesses or perform upgrades as part of your job. Like Rob Marin, a computer consultant who added solid state drives to many clients’ laptops—Rob says they’re so satisfied with their computers’ performance that they “now feel they can bypass at least one upgrade cycle.”

Debbie Emmons’s job also depends on upgradeable hardware. She’s been repairing Macs since 1990. She says,

I find it difficult to tell a customer I can’t repair their computer because of its design not allowing me to access the internal parts. Small business people can’t stay profitable if they have to spend money on new equipment or on replacement costs that exceed the normal price point on a replacement part.

Even non-repair small businesses sometimes depend on repairable hardware. Eric Newman says that his small business “can’t afford to buy new all the time, especially laptops for engineers working in the field.” So instead they buy older used equipment, then fix and upgrade it to make it workable.

2. “Unfixable” designs cause problems far, far from Cupertino, California.

Petra Rolinec lives in Botswana, and when her graphics card failed in her 2008 MacBook Pro, there was no Apple service provider around to fix it. Many people told her just to toss it and get a new one—but she wouldn’t take “unfixable” for an answer. Instead, she tried baking the logic board to reflow the solder: “a rather risky fix,” she said, “but since the alternative was to throw the MacBook Pro out, I tried it.” It worked. But she worries about the environmental consequences of the “throw-it-away” mindset of the people around her.

Along similar lines, Jeff Shear points out that “turning good hardware into junk” doesn’t just make his world more cluttered. He says, “We’re talking about natural resources, too: think coltan and the war that raged, rages, will rage in the Congo.”

3. Upgrades and repairs make technology available to people who need it.

Lee Theofanis says:

I’ve upgraded dozens of computers as a free labour service for my local community over the last year, with upgrades such as adding additional memory, adding faster drives, upgrading power supplies replacing laptop batteries (in many cases replacing the cells in the battery pack), replacing fans in laptops etc.

Mark Smith tells a similar story:

I’ve refurbished and upgraded computers for use in schools serving underprivileged children, whose families have never owned computers. […] Upgrading computers is not just for geeks. It is for anyone and everyone, whether or not they have the assistance of a local or related geek.

Adrian Ramirez describes how he ended up with his laptop:

I was in the market for my first laptop last year and went to Best Buy. On the way inside, someone jammed a laptop, a fairly nice Compaq Presario into the recycling bins in the entrance to the store. Seriously? It would be no loss to me to take it home and see what I could do to it. 20 dollars later, I had a new battery and charger from Amazon, and I am still using it to this day.

Upgradeability is important, in hundreds of countries, for thousands of reasons, to millions of people. Thanks for telling EPEAT what upgradeability means to you—if they’re going to stand up to manufacturers, they’ll need evidence that this stuff matters to consumers. And you’ve proved to them that it does.

Your stories inspire all of us here at iFixit. We’ll keep fighting for your right to repair and upgrade your hardware.