Beating Apple’s Secret Lid Angle Sensor Calibration With Custom Tool

Among the changes made by Apple to its laptops over the years, the transition from a Hall sensor-based sleep sensor to an angle sensor that determines when the lid is closed is a decidedly unpopular one. The reason for this is the need to calibrate this sensor after replacement, using a tool that Apple decided to keep for itself. That is, until recently [Stephan Steins] created a tool which he creatively called the ‘nerd.tool.1‘. This widget can perform this calibration procedure with the press of its two buttons, as demonstrated on [Louis Rossmann]’s YouTube channel.

This new angle sensor was first introduced in late 2019, with Apple’s official reason being an increased level of ‘precision’. As each sensor has to be calibrated correctly in order to measure the magnetic field and determine the associated lid angle, this means that third-party repair shops and determined MacBook owners have to transplant the chip containing the calibration data to a replacement sensor system. Until now, that is. Although the nerd.tool.1 is somewhat pricey at €169 ($179 USD), for a third-party MacBook repair shop this would seem to be a steal.

It is however unfortunate that Apple persists in such anti-repair methods, with recently [Hugh Jeffreys] also calling Apple out on this during a MacBook Pro M1/M2 teardown video. During this teardown [Hugh] came across this angle sensor issue by swapping parts between two otherwise identical MacBook Pros, indicating just how annoying this need to calibrate one tiny lid angle sensor is.

Thanks to [John Sutley] for the tip.

33 thoughts on “Beating Apple’s Secret Lid Angle Sensor Calibration With Custom Tool

    1. Seriously. Apple has a penchant for implementing technically inept, overcomplicated “solutions” to fairly simple problems. This one IS that; but at its core it’s an asshole, anti-customer move.

    2. Take into account that Apple aren’t the only ones (and well and truly not the first) to do this. Also consider that sensors relying on magnets are a PITA to anyone who wears jewellery with magnets as the laptop goes to sleep as soon as they go near it to type, to bring some perspective on the change. While it is truly a PITA to service, there are other reasons than Apple and others being nefarious.

      1. I don’t get why people feel the need to justify a trillion dollar company’s actions. It *never* is a calibration issue.

        I haven’t heard of laptops going to sleep by jewellery with magnets, but if something like that really happens, then the solution is as simple as moving the sensor closer to the hinge area – most laptops have it there anyways…
        I recall one customers’ laptop that turned its screen off when I lay a bare 2.5″ hdd on the left side of the touchpad (i use a SATA to USB3 adapter and a bunch of old HDDs for install media etc). The sensor was *there*. Never happened again though

        On iPhones everything seems to need calibration, but then the “calibration” is connecting a device that copies the data from one module to another. and then everything works fine anyways. I’d assume that the screen does need it for accurate colors, but that’s probably where it ends

        BTW i’m not entirely sure, but from what I understood the new lid sensor is still magnetic. Probably a Hall sensor detecting angle rather than magnet presence. In any case, we’re all aware of the existence of trimpots or easily tunable software settings.

      2. What’s the point of (strongly) magnetic jewelry?
        Also an auto calibration would be no problem. The movement range of the lid is well defined and an easy procedure like open and closing it it’s full travel once after installation would technically be sufficient.

        1. I personally have a magnet on my watch band that functions as the clasp. I can’t use the traditional silicone bands because my skin reacts badly, and leather bands don’t flex enough for my wrist shape.

          I don’t have a MacBook, but the magnetic sensor in my foldable laptop triggers when my hands are in just the right place and turns the whole thing off.

          I would assume they put the sensor near the front of the laptop because there are already magnets on the lid (which hold the lid in place while folded and work to attach a stylus)

  1. Amusingly described as a security feature, depends on who benefits, I guess.
    This reminds me of a similar calibration issue with screens of another product, in which anyone wishing to swap it for a new display would also be required to swap the surface mount calibration chip.
    I wonder if similar software calibration tools will become available. Perhaps it’ll just cause a jailbreak style arms race.

    1. Depending on the interface it uses it might be possible to write something for Asahi. But it’s also possible that the pins required for calibration are not connected to anything on the laptop itself (which is stupid and anti consumer ofc, this should have been a simple procedure in some service mode)

      1. My advice: “Dicking around” with Linux is not productive. Decide to use it and then do it.

        In my case, after being screwed over by u$oft for the nth time, and after shopping Apple enough to realize that any option that interested me there cost 2x what equivalent PC hardware would, I built a PC running Mint Linux and never looked back. That was >10 years ago. Since then, as other household machines, netbooks, laptops, whatever have died, they too have been replaced with hardware running Linux.

        BTW, the “always-have-to-tinker-with -Linux-to-make-it-work” trope is nothing more than FUD (that u$oft is more than happy to perpetuate). There was some truth to it maybe 20 years ago, but it’s certainly not true now. In fact, before I eventually replaced my wife’s Winbloze 7 computer, I routinely spent a LOT more time fighting crashes, driver issues, and other annoying, unexplainable malfunctions on her machine than I ever did on my Linux boxes.

        If you work in a specialty field and rely upon expensive software that will only run in the Winbloze or Apple’s OS ecosphere, you’re somewhat painted into a corner. But I submit that 80% of ordinary household desktop and laptop machines could easily be switched to Linux, and if the owners noticed any difference at all, it would be because their machine had suddenly become more responsive and less buggy.

      2. Not to be that guy, but Windows isn’t thaaaat bad.

        It has it’s problems and archaic bits, sure, but it’s a well accepted enterprise solution for good reason.

        It’s the go-to “works out of the box” OS for anyone that doesn’t want to pay the Apple tax for their hardware spec.

        1. Why would it be e-waste? After a few years when macOS drops support for them, just install Asahi Linux, the hardware will still be relevant considering how fast and far-ahead it is now.

  2. If you are into DIY fixes, just vote with your wallet and buy something else. Simple is as simple does. Same with ‘upgradability’. Take laptops, first thing I check is ‘can I upgrade disk and memory’ as a minimum. If not, look for another laptop. And of course price is always a consideration (for me anyway). Also Linux compatibility, but that has not been a problem I’ve had to deal with in quite awhile. Both the last two laptops had no problem with Linux. Loaded over Windoze, all worked as it should, and never look back.

  3. Dicking around with Linux is not all that bad. I offer Linux Mint as an example. If you’re “tech savvy” enough to operate a computer, Linux Mint shouldn’t be a problem for you. My non techie brother and some other non techie friends have no problem with it, and I benefit by not having as many “Windows isn’t working” phone calls.

    1. Antron said: …not having as many “Windows isn’t working” phone calls.
      Boy, do I agree. For example, since I changed my dad over to KUbuntu LTS several years ago now, I’ve had very few support issues to handle. Practically zero. And my dad is NOT tech savvy BTW. Up next, is upgrade his system to latest LTS sometime in the next few months so he stays up to date.

  4. I’m honestly a bit surprised that this sensor would be calibrated this way; just because of it not being in Apple’s interest.

    It doesn’t look like there’s some sort of precise calibration where an external reference would be needed(eg. if for some reason it needed to have precise lid angle externally measured so it could be correlated with field strength); it just needs to know what the field looks like when the lid is closed; and I can only assume that the lid gets opened and closed at least one or twice during assembly and inspection.

    That seems like a situation where in-system calibration would be faster, simpler, involve fewer mating cycles on the fiddly little connnector, etc. than some sort of external calibration tool.

  5. So if your fruit brand of PC needs a sensor replacement you don’t have to pay EUR1000 for an “official repair” but you can buy an EUR169 tool to send a handful of commands over I2C or SPI or whatever.

    Gosh, that is a whole improvement.

  6. Still don’t understand why ppl (mostly in US) sell an arm and a leg (and a kidney) for apple’s gilded crap. Watching Rossmann videos is like seeing a detective tv series where in each episode you find the same murderer having a queue of willing victims to pay to get killed.
    God forbids to see the day when apple goes to “make” medical devices. Or cars, or planes, or anything that moves in any medium. And the day when you didn’t pay the subscription for you fruit watch and feeling ill you cannot measure the pulse and the blood presure. And you expire cursing the fruit you choose to enrich.
    And you deserve to get buried with 20 old macbooks in your coffin cause they don’t have any space to store them.

    1. Everyone (I think) buys a product for their own ‘reasons’ so I don’t knock them for that. What I like, someone else will dis-like and visa-versa. That is the way it should work. Vote with your wallet :) and products will come and go. That said, I don’t see what the draw is to Apple either, but hey, I am not forced to buy it, so all good. What I ‘really’ dislike is when people try to ‘force/legislate’ their opinions on the rest of us… Like climate theory, or fire-arms, or whatever other hot topic comes up.

      1. Apple’s practices and policies are terrible but battery life, size, weight, sturdiness (keyboard flex, what?!), trackpad, screen, webcam and speakers feel like a decade ahead of any other laptop. Not sure it outweighs the shortcomings though, but it is convenient for certain jobs

  7. This system makes no freaking sense to use when other systems of the last few decades did quite well. I had no idea this was even a thing being used in this way. Hope apple wises up and stops with this kind of overengineered bullshit. It has gotten quite ridiculous. When a button isn’t a button and everything attached has to be defined and locked to the system, there are base level logical choice issues being created. Just sad.

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