Magic Keyboard for MacBook Air
The Magic Keyboard with Touch ID has built-in features that make it easy to enter emoji, switch keyboard languages, lock your MacBook Air, and perform many system functions with the touch of a key. When you set up Touch ID, you can use your fingerprint to unlock MacBook Air; quickly lock your screen; or make purchases from the App Store, Apple TV app, and Apple Books, and on websites using Apple Pay.
Set up Touch ID. You can set up Touch ID during setup, or at a later time in Touch ID & Password in System Settings. For more information about Touch ID, see Set up your MacBook Air.
Turn on your MacBook Air. Lift the lid, press Touch ID (the power button), or press any other key.
Use Touch ID. After you set up Touch ID, when you start up or restart the computer, you need to log in by typing your password. After initial login, whenever you’re asked for your password in the same session, you can just place your finger lightly on the Touch ID sensor to authenticate. You can also use Touch ID to make online purchases securely with Apple Pay. For more information about Apple Pay, see Use Apple Pay on your Mac.
Lock your MacBook Air. Press Touch ID to quickly lock your screen.
Turn off your MacBook Air. To turn off your MacBook Air, choose Apple menu > Shut Down. To put your MacBook Air to sleep, choose Apple menu > Sleep.
Use function keys. The function keys on the top row provide shortcuts for these common system functions:
Brightness (F1, F2): Press or to decrease or increase the brightness of the screen.
Mission Control (F3): Press to view what’s running on your MacBook Air, including all your spaces and open windows.
Spotlight Search (F4): Press to open Spotlight and search for something on your MacBook Air.
Dictation/Siri (F5): Press to activate dictation—you can dictate text wherever you can type (for example, in Messages, Mail, Pages, and other apps). To activate Siri, press and hold , then immediately speak your request.
Do Not Disturb (F6): Press to turn Do Not Disturb on or off. When Do Not Disturb is on, you won’t see or hear notifications on MacBook Air, but you can view them later in Notification Center.
Media (F7, F8, F9): Press to rewind, to play or pause, or to fast-forward a song, movie, or slideshow.
Mute (F10): Press to mute the sound from the built-in speakers or 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Volume (F11, F12): Press or to decrease or increase the volume of sound from the built-in speakers, 3.5 mm headphone jack, or Bluetooth audio device.
Note: Function keys can perform actions in specific apps or may have alternative functions—for example, the F11 key can hide all open windows and show the desktop. To trigger the alternative function associated with a key, press and hold the Function (Fn)/Globe key key while you press a function key.
Use emoji or switch keyboard languages. Press the Function (Fn)/Globe key to switch to a different keyboard. Press repeatedly to cycle through emoji options or other languages you specify in Keyboard settings, or press twice quickly to start dictation (if you turned on Dictation in Keyboard settings).
Adjust keyboard settings. To specify options for your keyboard and the Function (Fn)/Globe key , open System Settings, click Keyboard in the sidebar, and choose options to change your keyboard or input source, show emoji and symbols, start dictation, or define functions.
Learn about keyboard shortcuts. You can press key combinations to do things on your MacBook Air that you’d normally do with a trackpad, mouse, or other device. For example, press Command-C to copy selected text, then click where you want to paste the text and press Command-V. For a list of commonly used shortcuts, see Keyboard shortcuts on your Mac. If you’re new to the Mac, you might also be interested in Are you new to Mac?.
MacBook Pro / Air Butterfly Keyboard Issues (Repeating, Stuck, Unresponsive)
Apple in 2015 and 2016 introduced updated keyboards for its MacBook and MacBook Pro, debuting new butterfly keys with home switches beneath each key that minimize thickness while also providing a satisfying press under the fingers. Butterfly keys were offered in Macs between 2015 and 2019.
Unfortunately, Apple’s butterfly keyboards were highly controversial and have been called out as one of the company’s worst design decisions due to their penchant for failure due to small particulates like crumbs or heat issues. All butterfly keyboards in MacBook Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Air models introduced between 2016 and 2019 (and 2015 in the case of the MacBook) have butterfly keys that could be vulnerable to failure.
Apple in 2019 began phasing out the butterfly keyboard, and as of May 2020, it is no longer in use in new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models, though older machines will continue to experience issues as these cannot be updated with the new scissor switch mechanisms.
What’s the problem?
Butterfly keys use a butterfly mechanism that’s different from the scissor mechanism used for traditional keyboards. It’s called a butterfly mechanism because the components underneath the key resembles a butterfly’s wings, with a hinge in the center rather than overlapping like a pair of scissors.
Apple swapped to a butterfly mechanism to make a thinner keyboard, which is possible because each key moves less when pressed so less space is needed. The keyboard provides a satisfying amount of travel and stability when each key is pressed, but unfortunately, the thin butterfly mechanism can get jammed up with crumbs, dust, and other particulates, resulting in keys that don’t press properly, keys that skip keystrokes, or keys that repeat letters.
Keyboard failure is an in Apple’s notebooks because replacing the keyboard requires the entire top assembly of the computer to be replaced, which is not a cheap repair.
Which Macs are affected?
All MacBook models have the potential to experience keyboard issues because the 2015 MacBook was the first machine to get a butterfly keyboard. All 2016, 2017, and 2018 and 15-inch MacBook Pro models are vulnerable to failure despite some generational changes Apple has made to the keyboard with different models, which we’ll explain more below. It’s not yet clear if the 2019 models are vulnerable due to component updates.
Apple’s 2018 MacBook Air uses the same butterfly keyboard that’s in the MacBook Pro, which has also been the subject of some failure complaints on Reddit and the MacRumors forums.
Note: Not all MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air owners have experienced issues with the butterfly keyboard. It is a problem that seems to be related to dust, crumb, and small particulate exposure, with some complaints of heat issues, that affects a portion of MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air owners.
According to Apple, only a “small percentage” of Mac users have experienced problems with the butterfly keyboard, but anecdotal claims and the high visibility of the issue have resulted in a public perception that most butterfly keyboards fail. This isn’t true as some people have keyboards that are fine, but any Mac with a butterfly keyboard has the potential to experience issues.
What has Apple done?
Apple in June 2018 launched a keyboard repair program for MacBook and MacBook Pro models equipped with butterfly keys, and in May 2019, the program was expanded to encompass all MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air machines equipped with a butterfly keyboard, including the new 2019 models.
- MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015)
- MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2016)
- MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, 2017)
- MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018)
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
- MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)
Customers with eligible 2015 to 2019 machines that are experiencing keyboard issues can visit an Apple retail store or Apple Authorized Service Provider to receive repairs free of charge. The repair program is a huge deal, as prior to its initiation, some customers had to pay upwards of $500 in fees to get their MacBook and MacBook Pro models repaired.
All MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air models are covered for four years from the date of purchase, so 2019 machines are covered until 2023. Some machines are no longer covered under the program and do not have keyboards that Apple will replace.
What about 2018 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models?
Apple in 2018 debuted MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models that use an updated third-generation butterfly keyboard. The third-generation butterfly keyboard has a thin silicone barrier behind each key, which was put in place as an ingress-proofing measure to prevent dust from getting in the keys.
The silicone barrier on the third-generation MacBook Pro keyboard, via iFixit
There was hope following the launch of the third-generation butterfly keyboard that it would cut down on failures, but as a recent report from The Wall Street Journal pointed out, the 2018 MacBook Pro is still prone to keyboard issues. Apple in a statement apologized, but did not outline specific repair options or future keyboard plans.
We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry. The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard.
It’s possible 2018 machines with updated butterfly keyboards are failing less often, but 2018 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners have still been reporting issues, so these models should be avoided if you’re planning on buying an older machine.
What about 2019 MacBook Pro models?
Apple in May 2019 debuted new MacBook Pro models with additional improvements to the third-generation butterfly keyboard. The 2019 MacBook Pros have keyboards built with a new material that Apple claims will significantly cut down on the keyboard failures that users have seen.
Apple did not provide specific details on the material change in the updated butterfly keyboard. According to an iFixit teardown, Apple made changes to the membrane that covers the keyboard switches.
2018 MacBook Pro parts on left, 2019 MacBook Pro parts on right in each image
The membrane is clearer and smoother to the touch, and appears to be made with polyacetylene. There are also subtle changes to the metal dome over each key switch, perhaps designed to alleviate problems with durability, bounce-back, or other issues.
According to Apple, 2018 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air machines that experience keyboard failures will be able to be upgraded with this new upgraded third-generation butterfly keyboard. Older machines that do not use the third-generation butterfly keyboard will not be able to be updated with the 2019 technology, but even this newer technology is prone to failure on occasion.
What do I do if my butterfly keyboard fails?
Regardless of which MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro you have, you should contact Apple support or visit an Apple retail store for repair options. Now that all butterfly keyboards are covered, customers with an affected machine will have no problem getting a fix as long as they are within the purchase parameters of the program.
Apple is prioritizing MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard repairs and requiring Apple retail staff to perform the repairs in store rather than sending machines off to a repair facility, which takes days. Apple is now aiming to offer next-day turnaround time MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard replacements, which should improve the inconvenience of repairs.
In some cases, if you get a large crumb underneath a key, a key will feel locked in place. There are occasions where you can wiggle the key to break up the crumb and get it working again, and Apple also recommends cleaning out the keyboard with compressed air.
No more butterfly keyboards?
With the launch of the 2020 16-inch MacBook Pro, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple has eliminated the butterfly keyboard from its notebook lineup. As of May 2020, there are no MacBooks made that feature the butterfly key mechanism, with Apple’s newest machines all featuring a newer, more durable scissor switch mechanism for the keyboard, which Apple calls the “Magic Keyboard.”
The scissor mechanism in the Magic Keyboard offers 1mm of key travel and a stable key feel, plus an Apple-crafted rubber dome that’s designed to store more potential energy for a more responsive key press. Apple says that Magic Keyboard delivers a comfortable, satisfying, and quiet typing experience. Design wise, the keyboard is similar to the butterfly keyboard options, but there’s a physical Escape key instead of a virtual key on the Touch Bar, and the Touch ID button is a separate button too.
Have feedback on this guide or see something that was missed? Send us an email here
MacBook Pro Owners With Faulty Butterfly Keyboards Now Receiving Emails About $50 Million Lawsuit Settlement
Thursday December 15, 2022 12:12 pm PST by Juli Clover
Back in July, Apple agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over the faulty butterfly keyboards that were used in MacBook machines between 2015 and 2019, and now emails about the settlement are going out to MacBook Pro owners eligible for a payment. Dear MacBook Owner, You are receiving this email because you previously reached out to our firm regarding your MacBook…
Judge Approves Apple’s Plan to Pay $50 Million to Settle Butterfly Keyboard Lawsuit
Tuesday November 29, 2022 10:09 am PST by Juli Clover
Apple’s plan to pay $50 million to settle a long running class-action lawsuit over the faulty butterfly keyboard today received preliminary approval from a California federal judge (via Law360). The payment will include $13.6 million in attorney fees, up to $2 million in litigation costs, and $1.4 million in settlement administration costs, with the rest distributed to class members. Dating…
Apple’s $50 Million Settlement Over Faulty MacBook Keyboards: What to Know
Saturday July 23, 2022 11:03 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Earlier this week, Apple agreed to a proposed $50 million settlement in a class action lawsuit alleging that the butterfly keyboard used in certain MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models is defective, which can result in usability issues. Image via iFixit The settlement still needs to receive final court approval. In the meantime, here is everything to know about the agreement as…
Faulty MacBook Butterfly Keyboards Cost Apple $50 Million in Lawsuit Settlement
Tuesday July 19, 2022 9:35 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple will pay $50 million to settle a 2018 class-action lawsuit over the faulty butterfly keyboards that were used in MacBook machines between 2015 and 2019, reports Reuters. Customers in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington claimed that Apple knew about the faulty butterfly mechanism and concealed it while continuing to sell computers with the keyboard. …
MacBook Owners’ Butterfly Keyboard Lawsuit Against Apple Gets Class Action Certification
Monday March 22, 2021 9:33 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple customers unhappy with the butterfly keyboards used in MacBook models from 2015 on will be able to proceed with a lawsuit against the Cupertino company, as the judge overseeing the case has given it class action status [PDF]. The suit covers anyone who purchased a MacBook with a butterfly keyboard in California, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, and Michigan. As…
RIP Butterfly Keyboard: Apple Finally Completes Transition to Magic Keyboard
Monday May 4, 2020 5:55 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
After years of complaints over sticky or unresponsive keys, Apple has finally finished transitioning its notebook lineup away from its issue-prone butterfly keyboard. With the new 13-inch MacBook Pro featuring the same scissor switch Magic Keyboard as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple no longer sells any new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air models with a butterfly keyboard. If you are browsing Apple’s…
Lawsuit Against Apple’s Faulty Butterfly Keyboards Moves Forward
Monday December 2, 2019 12:49 pm PST by Juli Clover
A federal judge this week rejected Apple’s request to dismiss a class action lawsuit over its faulty butterfly keyboards, reports Reuters, which means the lawsuit will proceed. The complainants believe that Apple knew of and concealed the fact that its 2015 and later MacBook models had keyboards prone to failure and that its repair program does not serve as an effective fix because replacement …
16-Inch MacBook Pro First Impressions Praise Return of Scissor Switch Keyboard and Larger Retina Display
Wednesday November 13, 2019 5:29 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
Apple today announced and launched the long-awaited 16-inch MacBook Pro, which has now replaced the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro models in the line of Apple notebooks. Alongside the announcement, a handful of YouTubers and tech bloggers have begun sharing their first impressions of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, after having used it for a few hours. The two big updates to the new notebook include…
16-Inch MacBook Pro Debuts With New Magic Keyboard, Physical Esc Key, Up to 64GB of RAM, and More
Wednesday November 13, 2019 4:35 am PST by Juli Clover
Apple today announced its much-rumored high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro, which is the largest MacBook Pro that’s been offered for sale since the discontinuation of the 17-inch MacBook Pro back in 2012. The updated 16-inch MacBook Pro features a larger display with slimmer bezels than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which it has replaced in Apple’s notebook lineup. The display has a resolution of…
New MacBook Air and Base 13-Inch MacBook Pro Have Same Keyboard as Higher-End 2019 MacBook Pros
Tuesday July 9, 2019 9:13 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Good news: both the new MacBook Air and the new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro models introduced today have the same third-generation butterfly keyboard design with an updated material as the higher-end 2019 MacBook Pro models introduced in May, we’ve confirmed directly. 2019 MacBook Pro keyboard teardown via iFixit Apple previously said the new material should substantially reduce issues…
Kuo: Apple to Use New Scissor Switch Keyboard in Future MacBooks, Starting With 2019 MacBook Air Refresh
Thursday July 4, 2019 2:33 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple will do away with its controversial butterfly mechanism keyboard in future MacBooks, beginning with a refreshed MacBook Air later this year. In a report obtained by MacRumors, Kuo says Apple will instead use a new keyboard design based on scissor switches, which should provide better key travel and durability than the more failure-prone butterfly…
Apple Debuts New 8-Core MacBook Pro With Updated Keyboard
Tuesday May 21, 2019 10:01 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple today announced the surprise launch of new 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, which are the fastest Mac notebooks ever at the top of the line. The updated machines feature Intel’s 8th and 9th-generation processors, with high-end models featuring eight cores for the first time. According to Apple, the new MacBook Pro offers two times faster performance than a quad-core MacBook Pro and…
2018 and Newer MacBook Pro and MacBook Air Now Eligible for Apple’s Keyboard Service Program
Tuesday May 21, 2019 9:59 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple today extended its Keyboard Service Program to all MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models equipped with any generation of its butterfly mechanism keyboard, not long after apologizing over the issues. This means 2018 MacBook Air, 2018 MacBook Pro, or just-announced 2019 MacBook Pro models that experience keyboard issues such as sticky or inconsistently responding keys now qualify…
Apple Now Prioritizing MacBook Keyboard Repairs With Quoted Next-Day Turnaround Time
Tuesday April 23, 2019 9:41 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple has indicated that most MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard repairs will be required to be completed at Apple Stores until further notice, rather than being shipped to an off-site Apple repair center, according to an internal memo shared with Apple Store employees last week and obtained by MacRumors. Apple’s memo, titled “How to support Mac customers with keyboard-related repairs in…
Apple Apologizes Over ‘Small Number’ of Users Who Continue to Have Issues With Third-Generation MacBook Keyboards
Wednesday March 27, 2019 8:48 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Last year, Apple introduced new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models with a redesigned third-generation butterfly keyboard that was meant to address issues with sticking and non-responsive keys. However, as noted by The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern, some customers are continuing to experience these issues. Third-generation butterfly keyboard on 2018 MacBook Pro via iFixit In a statement,…
Apple Exploring New Glass Panel MacBook Keyboards That Could End Sticky Key Problems
Monday February 4, 2019 2:19 am PST by Tim Hardwick
Apple is exploring a new keyboard design that could eventually replace its butterfly switch MacBook keyboards and finally solve the problem of “sticky” or inconsistently functioning keys. Issues that Apple has acknowledged can occur with some current MacBook keyboards are widely believed to be caused by dust or other particulates getting lodged in the butterfly mechanism underneath the…
iFixit Tests Silicone Membrane on 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard With Dust Exposure
Thursday July 19, 2018 12:29 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Following the release of the new 2018 MacBook Pro models, iFixit last week tore apart the 13-inch version and discovered the presence of a new silicone membrane underneath the keyboard’s butterfly keys that Apple internal documents have since confirmed has been added to prevent dust and other small particulates from causing key failures. To give us a better look at the new third-generation…
Apple Offers Technicians Additional Training on MacBook Keyboards With Series of Web Broadcasts
Thursday July 19, 2018 8:06 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
It has been an eventful few weeks for MacBook Pro keyboards. Last month, Apple finally acknowledged that a “small percentage” of MacBook and MacBook Pro models with butterfly switch keyboards may experience issues with “sticky” or inconsistently functioning keys, and launched a worldwide service program offering free repairs of affected keyboards for up to four years. The issues are…
Apple Confirms 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard Has ‘Membrane’ to ‘Prevent Debris From Entering the Butterfly Mechanism’
Thursday July 19, 2018 5:41 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers, obtained by MacRumors from multiple reliable sources, Apple has confirmed that the third-generation keyboard on 2018 MacBook Pro models is equipped with a “membrane” to “prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. “ Image Credit: iFixit The relevant excerpt from Canadian and European versions of Apple’s…
Apple Says Third-Generation Keyboards Exclusive to 2018 MacBook Pro
Sunday July 15, 2018 4:34 pm PDT by Joe Rossignol
Last month, Apple initiated a Keyboard Service Program for MacBook and MacBook Pro, after determining that a “small percentage” of the keyboards in 2015-2017 MacBook and 2016-2017 MacBook Pro models may experience keys that feel “sticky,” repeat, or do not respond in a consistent manner. Apple did not identify a cause for the issues, which they call “behaviors,” but they’re believed to be…
Magic Keyboard for MacBook Air
The Magic Keyboard with Touch ID has built-in features that make it easy to enter emoji, switch keyboard layouts, lock your MacBook Air, and perform a variety of system functions with a single keystroke. Once Touch ID is set up, you can use your fingerprint to unlock your MacBook Air, quickly lock the screen, or make purchases on the App Store, Apple TV app, Apple Books, and websites that support Apple Pay.
Touch ID setup. You can set up Touch ID during initial setup or later in Touch ID & Password in System Preferences. For more information about Touch ID, see Set up your MacBook Air.
Turn on your MacBook Air. Lift the lid and press the Touch ID key (power button) or any other key.
Use Touch ID. After setting up Touch ID, when you start or restart your computer, you must sign in with your password. After logging in for the first time, you can lightly tap your finger on the Touch ID sensor when you are prompted to enter a password for your current session. With Touch ID, you can also securely pay for purchases with Apple Pay. For more information about Apple Pay, see Use Apple Pay on Mac.
MacBook Air lock. Press the Touch ID key to quickly lock the screen.
Turn off your MacBook Air. To turn off your MacBook Air, choose Apple menu > Turn Off. To put your MacBook Air to sleep, choose Apple menu > Sleep.
Using the function keys. The function keys at the top of the keyboard can be used for typical system actions:
Brightness adjustment (F1, F2). Press the or key to increase or decrease the screen brightness.
Mission Control (F3). Press the key to view running processes on your MacBook Air, including all workspaces and open windows.
Spotlight search (F4). Click to open Spotlight and search for any content on your MacBook Air.
Dictation/Siri (F5). Click to enable dictation. In Messages, Mail, Pages, and other apps, you can dictate text instead of typing. To activate Siri, press and hold, then immediately start speaking.
Do Not Disturb (F6). Press to turn Do Not Disturb on or off. When Do Not Disturb is turned on, notifications don’t appear or sound on your MacBook Air, but you can view them later in the Notification Center.
Multimedia (F7, F8, F9). Press to rewind. Click to start or pause playback. Click to fast forward. These keys work for songs, movies, and slideshows.
Mute (F10). Press to mute the built-in speakers or the 3.5 mm headphone audio jack.
Volume control (F11, F12). Press or to increase or decrease the volume from the built-in speakers, 3.5 mm headphone audio jack, or Bluetooth audio device.
You can use the function keys to perform various actions in certain applications. In addition, they can be assigned alternative functions – for example, the F11 key can be used to minimize all open windows and display the desktop. To launch an alternate function assigned to a key, press the key while holding down the Function (Fn) / globe key.
Enter emoji or switch keyboard layout. Press the Function (Fn) key/globe key to switch the keyboard layout. Press the key repeatedly to cycle through emoji or other languages that are specified in the keyboard settings, or quickly press the key twice to start dictation (if dictation is enabled in the keyboard settings).
Keyboard settings. To customize keyboard settings and the Function (Fn) key/globe key, open System Preferences, click Keyboard in the sidebar, then select options to change the keyboard or input source, display emoji and symbols, start dictation, or customize other functions.
Keyboard shortcut information. By pressing keyboard shortcuts on your MacBook Air, you can perform actions that are normally performed using a trackpad, mouse, or other device. For example, you can press Command-C to copy the selected text, then click anywhere you want to paste the text and press Command-V. For a list of commonly used keyboard shortcuts, see Keyboard shortcuts on Mac. If you haven’t owned a Mac before, you might find the information in the New Users section helpful.
Additional cooling for MacBook Pro – in the fight for quiet laptop operation / Sudo Null IT News But not all users are suitable for this architecture. It seems to me that this is mainly due to the specifics of the work.
In addition to experimenting and creating all sorts of startups, I work as a back-end developer and I often have to run a lot of Docker containers that drive my laptop coolers crazy.
Since I work from different places in the apartment (mainly those that are not occupied by a child), and sometimes I go to work in cafes / co-working spaces, my main working tool is a laptop, not a PC. About 7 years ago, I started using Apple technology, which led to the purchase of a Macbook. And so, in 2021, I bought myself a Macbook pro 2019 16 ‘laptop (on Intel i9). But to my surprise, it also makes a lot of noise like the previous 2018 model (although the cooling, according to Apple, has changed). In the struggle for quiet work, I started surfing the Internet and came across a funny post from Suzuki Akinori :
10 yen copper coins were used. Which should have been better to dissipate the heat outgoing and entering the laptop. I liked this idea so much that I began to look for opportunities to repeat the experiment and conduct real tests. As a result, I expected to get a quiet operation of the laptop during load and, as a result, higher performance (since I often saw posts about this model trotting, which can be confirmed by grinding during operation).
The top of the Macbook Pro keyboard heats up to 48.2°C. This story is repeated with other MacBook models with Intel processors.
Thermal image of a 2012 Macbook Pro
This is the area where the processor and discrete graphics card are located. The heating of the panel behind the keyboard is directly related to the hot air outlet, since there is no direct contact of the cooling radiators. At the same time, it is important to note that air intake for cooling occurs from the sides of the laptop (near the speakers) and from the side of the display. Pictorial images from apple.com:
Blue lines – air intake, red lines – air outlet
As a result, we have a common part of the laptop case, which heats up due to the exit of warm air and it is taken (theoretically hot) from the same side to cool the device. There is also an air intake from the side faces, but in this case there is no intersection with a hot stream.
Calculation and design
This shape is standard for radiators, allowing heat to be dissipated by dissipating it from the bottom. Thanks to this form, it will be possible to apply active cooling (in the form of a cooler 4010 – 40×40×10 mm). The height of the radiator of 15 mm was chosen in order not to overlap part of the screen, the length and width – according to the size of the laptop.
Initially, the idea was to choose from existing, ready-made, profiles. On aliexpress I found many options, including those made of copper. But in this case it would be necessary to adjust the sizes, and also to wait for delivery. And I wanted to experiment quickly enough.
As an alternative, I started looking for local companies or just people with access to the necessary machines and materials. The possibility of choosing copper (which by the way has a thermal conductivity of 401 W / (m K)) immediately disappeared as soon as the price tag for manufacturing was named (more than $ 200). Aluminum is not an ideal material for heat dissipation (thermal conductivity 202–236 W/(m K)), but a good start for an experiment.
After a long search for a company that would undertake the manufacture of one copy, it became clear that we need to look for local craftsmen who would take up the job, but with their own conditions. So, one of the conditions was the manufacture of two strips 175 mm long, which would simplify the work for the master, but for me it did not play a special role. We managed to increase the number of ribs and now there are 5 of them (instead of the planned 4). According to the master, this was to improve the heat dissipation coefficient. The cost of products was $ 25
One day later I received a radiator (two, to be exact, of which we can get one of the required length).
The radiator was in oil, it took a long time to clean it and wash it from chips. And of course, the geometry of the lower part of the radiator was not perfectly even, but I relied on thermal paste (it could have been a thermal pad – but I didn’t have it at hand, and the price for it was higher than I expected).
Before testing with a heatsink, I did some tests in GeekBench 5 while recording video. In parallel, running Macs Fan Control to monitor the temperature and speed of the laptop fans, because it is the fan speed that leads to noise. After all, it is the fan speed that comes to the noise and, considering that in the MacBook Pro 16′ 2019a new cooling system, the speed of rotation of the propellers has increased. Also, during testing, I used stands under the rear legs of the laptop to capture more air and after that the tilt of the keyboard became more convenient, as it seemed to me (I used the national currency as a stand – several layers of 5 kopecks).
As a result, there are 3 videos that demonstrate the results of using such cooling:0141
Without heatsink: Single-core – 1118, Multi-core – 6649
With heatsink: Single-core – 1183, Multi-core – 6464
With heatsink and cooler : Single-core – 1181, Multi-core – 6447
after testing in GeekBench 5 – the result is not impressive, it is surprising that in the multi-core test minus 200 (parrots) and in the single-core test plus 60 (parrots). But it is noticeable that a couple of seconds later the cooler accelerates to 5000 rpm when using a radiator with active cooling. At the same time, the temperature of the radiator during the tests is already about 25-30 degrees, which confirms good heat dissipation.
One of the key points was being able to work quietly while performing the main tasks related to my field of activity. And also get a performance increase, and as a result, get rid of overheating throttling. But, when running ordinary applications or containers, the rotation speed of the screws increased to 4500 rpm, which led to the creation of unpleasant noise despite my efforts with this radiator. Performance improvement, as we can see from the test results, was also not achieved.
Another disadvantage was that it is strictly forbidden to close the laptop lid!
This is how the test turned out. I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you have ideas on how to improve laptop cooling systems – share in the comments, I will be glad to try.