Repairability has become a big part of my decision making when I buy new devices these days. I don’t know much about electronics, but learning to make minor repairs on my iPhone, Android, and Roomba made me realize that I could easily give new life to old and hobbling tech. It felt good to keep something going, and I’m hoping that this will help save me money and reduce my e-waste in the long run. So, when it came time for me to find a new laptop, I wanted to make sure that there was a chance for me to at least swap out a few components if I needed to.
I’ve been a Mac user for many years now, so I thought it made sense for me to do some research on the latest MacBook Pro laptops first. I was hoping that the newest MacBooks would be just a little bit modular, but I wouldn’t be writing this if it did, would I?
I found out that the new MacBook Pros only scored an abysmal 1 out of 10 on iFixit’s reparability rating. I had a feeling because the MacBook that I have right now also scored a 1 out of 10! Apparently, they’ve all had terrible scores since 2012. They have everything soldered and glued together which meant that I wouldn’t even be able to upgrade the drive or RAM if I wanted to. It was clear that I was going to have to leave macOS if I’m adamant about getting a repairable laptop. (There are repairable Macs out there, but they’re desktops and not laptops. The Mac Mini scored a 6 out of 10, and the Mac Pro scored an amazing 9 out of 10! But even if I wanted a desktop, a Mac Mini is too underpowered for work, and the Mac Pro is almost too excessive.)
Trying it out
I wasn’t sure if I could even pull off moving to another OS. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to use Linux for work, but could I move to Windows? I didn’t have fond memories of Windows growing up. I remember spending a lot of my time on Windows XP defragging the hard drive and removing malware that I downloaded from LimeWire. (I learned that Dani California.mp3.exe wasn’t actually a song.)
I thought that the best way to know was to try it out. So, I committed to using Windows 10 on Bootcamp for a week to see if it was any good. I told myself that if it didn’t work out, I could just get a Mac like I always did.
After a week, I was surprised at how good Windows actually was. A lot of the things that I enjoy on the Mac are now on Windows like virtual desktops, Do-Not-Disturb mode, Spotlight-like search, a screenshot annotation tool, an emoji picker, and even a Unix environment! Past Me would have laughed at the ridiculous idea of Microsoft creating a Linux compatibility layer on Windows.
Most of the apps I use are fortunately cross platform. Figma Desktop, Krisp.ai, Arq, TiddlyWiki, VSCode, and Zoom all work the same way on Windows. For everything else, I had to do some work to find alternatives. Here’s where I moved to:
- Image compression: ImageOptim to Caesium
- File transfer: Transmit to Cyberduck
- Website blocker: Hey Focus to Cold Turkey
- Screen recording: Quicktime to Captura
- Transferring files: Airdrop to Resilio Sync
I’m sad that nothing really comes close to a Fantastical alternative on Windows. The built-in calendar is fine to manage both my personal and work calendars, but it’s missing a lot of the features that I use. It doesn’t have calendar groups/sets, and it doesn’t understand natural language. Typing in “Order chicken wings every Friday at 7pm” just won’t work on Windows.
The repairable laptop
I was convinced that Windows was good enough for my day-to-day work, so I went ahead and got a Dell XPS 17. Its slightly smaller counterpart got a 9 out of 10 on iFixit, and it’s got some good reviews online, too. I’ve been using it for a week now as I’m writing this, and I’m loving it.
I’ll still have my old MacBook Pro around to use from time to time (looking at you, Principle and Rotato), so I won’t be 100% on Windows. There’s also a lot to look forward to on the Apple side. They recently released their environmental progress report, and they talk about making it easy for people to repair their devices. I hope to one day see more repairable laptops from them.