M1 Development Board From Scraps

Apple is fairly notorious for building devices that are difficult to repair, but with the right tools it’s often not completely impossible to circumvent some of their barriers. As they say, every lock has a key. [dosdude1] has wanted a specific M1 development board for a while now and has been slowly piecing together everything he needs to cobble one together, and finally got this unit running despite many roadblocks put in his way by Apple.

The development kit is a Developer Transition Kit  or “DTK” meant for developers during Apple’s transition from Intel chips to their own in-house ARM-based M1 platform. This particular version is in a Mac Mini form factor but it has a few hurdles to clear before it powers on. First, the board was cut in a critical location that shorted out many of the PCB layers, so this had to be carefully filed down to remove the shorts. It was also missing a few tiny surface mount components and a NAND chip, but these were scavenged from other scrapped parts and assembled into a fully working machine.

There are a number of other non-physical problems to solve here as well, too. Apple coded their NAND chips to work with specific WiFi modules so if these aren’t programmed to work together the computer will get stuck in a boot loop. But with that and a few other details out of the way [dosdude1] finally has his DTK up and running in a 2018 Mac Mini chassis, right down to the working power LEDs. We’ve seen all kinds of PCB damage before (although not often quite this intricate) and even PCBs repaired that were snapped in half.

Thanks to [CodeAsm] for the tip!

29 thoughts on “M1 Development Board From Scraps

  1. I had a (most likely) 50-cent part go bad in my iMac when it was relatively new, a thermal sensor. I found out where it was on the motherboard, but the manufacturer had created an Apple-specific part number and wouldn’t divulge it; they did have other similar ones that probably would have worked.

    Apple of course wouldn’t fix it and demanded $600 for a new board, which I had little choice but to cough up since I needed to get stuff done. But, I asked for the old one back so I could try to fix it. Nope. Apple will refuse to do the repair at all if you demand the original part (your property) back. Dick move.

    1. I wonder how long it will take for the luxury association with Apple’s flat pieces of glass to wear off. They haven’t really innovated anything since Jobs died. The Vision Pro will be a ludicrous flop, even if it has some impressive tech. They got a big kick from Woz doing some new and interesting things in the early days… Another kick from the wise decisions to get ’em while they’re young and make school computers all Macintosh.. And of course the latest was their creation of the smartphone.

      But since then? I am bearish long-term, especially with their latest cringeworthy ads. They at least knew how to make slick ads once upon a time. Now, like so many others in the Valley, they only have ham-fisted bourgeois morality plays, very out-of-touch and sclerotic

      1. Discarded iMacs make great Linux machines after Apple stops supporting them, for all their flaws the hardware is mostly really good quality and the screens are incredible.

        1. Plus you get them at the bottom of the depreciation curve! My last three dailies have been ‘obsolete’ iMacs running Linux. The latest, a 27″ 2013 model (i7 chipset) set me back £180, runs Mint faultlessly while driving two external monitors and doing everything I need from a computer.

  2. “Apple is fairly notorious for building devices that are difficult to repair”

    Give me any of big players that have made repair easy / very different what Apple is doing.

    I’m not holding my breath..

    1. ThinkPads have replaceable SSDs, RAM, batteries, keyboards, …

      Unibody Macbooks were quite serviceable as well back in 2012. Apple started to take the turn with Air/Retina: gluing down batteries and soldering memory to the boards. Sacrificing repairability and functionality (butterfly keyboards) for thinness is/was a design choice.

    2. Hp, dell, Toshiba have been really supportive and i got some replacement boards and even some parts. Please look a bit further and many big manufacturers actually have been really helpfull and some even admitted they locked down their devices/made their devices impossible to repair which i dont hear apple saying. Also i never seen any other laptop then apple refusing to work with random wifi modules and non oem parts and also they have nand chips and parts which dont have an serial code or whatever rubbish, just sometimes the System management/controller chip having oem firmware but thats about it.

    3. That’s why we should encourage buying from smaller non user-hostile players like Framework and others like them. Their laptops aren’t cheap, but you can easily upgrade one by yourself, then buy an enclosure from their store and make a working MiniPC out of the old mainboard.

    4. Lenovo has publicly available service manuals, a parts store for everything from motherboards to tiny screws, and are trending away from soldered down everything on recent models.

      1. That’s why I love my Thinkpads… I have a T43, T430, T470, T490 and a Lenovo Chromebook…

        The T430 got a CPU upgrade, SSD, RAM upgrade, cooler upgrade, better screen… good luck doing the same on an iThing…

    5. How about you find me another big player that seemingly goes as out of their way to make it cumbersome/difficult/impossible to repair their hardware as Apple does.

    6. Dell, HP, Asus, Intel, how many would you like?

      Plus none of those go after you with hordes of lawyers if you dare to repair their stuff commercially.

      Apple will try to sue you out of business if they can rather than actually competing or offering better value/service and have done since before they moved to PowerPC processors.

      Ask me how I know…

    7. It’s not as common for other manufacturers to create custom variants of generic parts and have the suppliers agree to not sell to anyone else or give away any information about them.

      In the posters case, the thermal sensor probably has a generic replacement that would work perfectly. The supplier isn’t allowed to even supply that information

      1. Tell that to Dell.

        They use non standard ATX power supplies.
        Same connector though.
        Use a real ATX on a Dell and it fries the MB, same as vice versa.
        They planned it that way.

    8. Delusion of this level doesn’t warrant a proper response. It’s immediately obvious you haven’t spent any time seriously trying to repair/modify different brands of electronics.

    9. Isn’t it enough if the company is always the first one implementing new restrictions to repairs and constantly being the most locked ecosystem also repair-wise?

      If one would build revenue maximising consumer electronics company from scratch, it probably would mimic Apple fully.

    1. The only things near are a bunch of decoupling caps for power rails which will be tied to large planes anyway so no tiny traces. I’d find it stranger if any signal traces were buried/routed all the way out there in the middle of nowhere (unless it was intentional to say prevent easy repair!).

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.