Apple's Butterfly Keyboard Repair Program for MacBooks is Nearly Over

Apple's long-running butterfly keyboard service program for MacBooks is ending soon, with only a few models still eligible for a free repair.

MacBook Keyboard Close
Below, we take a look back at Apple's butterfly keyboard problems that led to the program.

The Butterfly Keyboard

For much of the 2000s, MacBook keyboards had a traditional scissor switch mechanism. That changed in March 2015, when Apple released an ultra-thin 12-inch MacBook with a low-profile keyboard that used a new butterfly switch mechanism. While the keyboard fit in the 12-inch MacBook's thin enclosure, it is prone to issues, such as letters repeating unexpectedly or failing to appear when keys are pressed.

It was not until Apple updated the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models with its second-generation butterfly keyboard in October 2016 that customers began to complain about sticky and unresponsive keys in earnest. Apple expanded the butterfly keyboard to the MacBook Air a few years later, leading to even more complaints.

The situation came to a head in May 2018, when Apple was hit with a class action lawsuit in the U.S. alleging that the company knew the butterfly keyboard was defective. An online petition about the issues that year gained nearly 43,000 signatures.

The Program

In June 2018, Apple launched a "Keyboard Service Program" worldwide after it determined that a "small percentage" of keyboards in certain MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
  • Letters or characters do not appear
  • Key(s) feel "sticky" or do not respond in a consistent manner

Apple and Apple Authorized Service Providers have been repairing eligible MacBook keyboards, free of charge, for up to four years after the first retail sale of the affected laptop. That window is nearly over, as all eligible models except the two 2019 versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro were discontinued more than four years ago.

ifixit butterfly keyboard macThe butterfly switch mechanism for a 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard (iFixit)

The list of all models that were eligible:

  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12­-inch, Early 2016)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-­inch, 2017)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2019)
  • MacBook Pro (13­-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-­inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, 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)

Apple discontinued the 2019 model of the 13-inch MacBook Pro in November 2020, so some customers who own that laptop may still be eligible for a free keyboard repair until as late as November 2024, depending on when they purchased it. After that, the service program will be completely over, unless it is extended by Apple.

The Apology

In March 2019, Apple finally apologized about the keyboards.

"We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry," an Apple spokesperson said, in a statement shared with The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern. "The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard."

The Fix

Starting with the 16-inch MacBook Pro in November 2019, Apple ditched the butterfly keyboard and returned to using a scissor switch mechanism. The change was extended to the MacBook Air in March 2020, and to the 13-inch MacBook Pro in May 2020, marking the end of the problematic butterfly keyboard era for the Mac.

The Settlement

In July 2022, Apple agreed to pay $50 million to settle the U.S. class action lawsuit related to the butterfly keyboard issues. Affected customers who submitted a valid claim by the March 2023 deadline will receive a payment of between $50 and $395.

Top Rated Comments

Naraxus Avatar
5 weeks ago
This thing was an absolute disaster from day one. Just a garbage garbage design.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tomtad Avatar
5 weeks ago
Another Cook debacle
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Simplifier Avatar
5 weeks ago
This keyboard was interesting (I initially liked the typing experience) and fun in the first few months, then it became an absolute nightmare, making my MacBook Air completely useless. I got it replaced once and the issue came back exactly the same.
So no, it wasn't "a small number of users". Apple took something that was working perfectly and made it far worse for the sake of changing things.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LeeW Avatar
5 weeks ago

I have a MacBook with this keyboard and never had an issue.. maybe it only applies to those disgusting enough to eat and compute at the same time?
Yeah, I treated mine perfectly, I got two faulty keyboards.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thejadedmonkey Avatar
5 weeks ago

I have a MacBook with this keyboard and never had an issue.. maybe it only applies to those disgusting enough to eat and compute at the same time?
Maybe. But I had a mac with the butterfly keyboard, a keyboard cover on it, and don't eat at it since it's a work machine and I don't eat at my desk. And I still got a replacement keyboard.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Spotlighter9 Avatar
5 weeks ago
Even if it was a "small number" (and it was not), how could someone rely on a computer whose keyboard might become unusable at any moment. Like buying a car where the steering wheel could randomly lock up. And the silence, the years of deafening silence from Apple...only to finally admit the issue. This gets me so steamed.

But the ultimate proof of failure is that the magically innovative Butterfly Keyboard is no longer in use.

Kept me from buying a new MBP for six years.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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