New MacBook Hardware Test Yanks Extended Testing, Very un-Apple Corner Cutting

I’m a bit miffed, as I was checking out the new 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, with its most excellent Crystal Well processor. I decided to run Apple Hardware Test on the machine (by holding down the D key during boot).

First, I was mildly dismayed to find the Mac OS 8-era user experience gone, and replaced with the more generic Apple EFI look and feel. The test suite is now totally automated – it just runs from the moment it’s finished loading. Which, is nice.

What isn’t nice, however, is the fact that Apple has completely removed the extended memory diagnostics. There’s no way to test all the memory banks of the RAM inside of the MacBook.

I can take one stab at why Apple did this. Today, only one Mac portable has replaceable memory. Aside from the base 13-inch MacBook Pro (still stuck in the Ivy Bridge-era, and likely to stay there), Apple now has all their portables soldered to their RAM.

Which means if the Mac’s RAM is bad… the whole Main Logic Board (motherboard) has to be replaced. The CPU, GPU, and everything else that’s soldered to the MLB is a complete write-off. I can imagine why Apple doesn’t want to let a small memory glitch cost them hundreds of dollars, when it previously cost them only dozens.

But that’s corner-cutting. It’s very un-Apple. And, quite frankly, I’m disappointed. There’s no way for a user to use an Apple tool in the field to test their Mac fully now.

Apple actually has given this change a brand: Apple claims they “upgraded” from the Apple Hardware Test suite to the newer Apple Diagnostics. Nice branding change, but still a clear downgrade in features.

Our remaining choices are a third-party Mac tool (TechTool Pro, for example) which can’t test all the memory – since the OS itself is running and protected memory means possibly gigabytes of RAM are untestable. The other options are memtest86 (which is now in EFI, and that’s neat), memtest86+ (which for years was the superior app, but has had Mac bugs in the past), and the Windows Memory Diagnostic (we won’t go there, it’s just too easy to poke fun at).

Apple, of course, has the Apple Service Diagnostic (ASD) suite in-house and for field technicians. I’ve long called for Apple to offer these diagnostics in some form to advanced users, a request that has clearly fallen flat in Cupertino. The removal of the extended memory test, lack of ASD, and being forced to run a Windows diagnostic for testing my Macintosh, all make me ask why I’m appreciating Mac so much.

The walled garden keeps rising around Mac, thankfully Android keeps rising period.

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