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How do you replace the battery in the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro? Is it even possible?
All 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models have an integrated "95-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery."
This battery is not designed to be replaced by end users. Unfortunately, as first discovered by iFixit in the site's trademark "teardown" of the initial "Mid-2012" release of the notebook, in addition to making the battery more difficult to access than it needs to be, Apple actually has glued the battery in place.
If you're not sure whether or not you have a 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro or another model, these models can be quickly identified at the moment as they lack an internal optical drive and all other 15-Inch MacBook Pro models have one. However, as future models no doubt likewise will lack an optical drive, more specific details are needed for long-term identification.
The 15-Inch "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" Retina Display MacBook Pro models share a unique model number, specifically A1398. These models also can be pinpointed by a shared model identifier in software -- MacBookPro10,1. For the battery, these details are sufficient to identify these models.
However, as future models likely will share the same model number, and there may be important differences, the EMC number is better for long-term identification. Specifically, the 15-Inch "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models are EMC number 2512 and the "Early 2013" models of the same size are EMC number 2673. As always, EveryMac.com has painstakingly hand documented these details for your convenience.
Finally, EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- additionally can uniquely identify each of the Retina Display MacBook Pro models by the last four characters of their serial numbers.
Official Replacement Option
Formally, when the battery no longer holds a sufficient charge it is necessary to provide Apple with the entire notebook to have the battery replaced. Apple has posted complete details on the company website -- and the price varies in different countries -- but in the US it costs US$199, in Canada it costs C$209, in the UK it costs £159, and in Australia it costs A$229 to have the battery replaced.
Those who live near an Apple Store can have the battery replaced the same day with an appointment or opt for service by mail which takes 3-4 days.
Self-Replacement Dangerous & Not Cost-Effective
Unfortunately, Apple's decision to use copious amounts of glue to attach the battery to the upper case means that self-replacement both is potentially dangerous and unlikely to be cost-effective.
As first reported by Treehugger, which received a copy of an Apple internal service document for the "Mid-2012" 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro, Apple informs its own service personnel that "batteries must be replaced with the top case assembly" and that "the battery alone is not a replaceable part." EveryMac.com also has been provided with a copy of the internal service document for the "Early 2013" 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro and although there are internal differences, the battery design is the same.
Additionally, Apple warns its own technicians that "batteries should not be separated from the top case assembly for any reason," as attempting to do so could puncture the battery and lead to fire or injury. Do not attempt to pry the battery apart from the top case.
The top case assembly includes the trackpad and related parts and as a result, iFixit estimates that it likely would cost a third-party "over US$500" to replace the battery. Needless to say, such a price is not cost-effective. Furthermore, replacing the entire top case assembly requires one to throw away parts that work properly just to replace the battery. One should not have to risk injury simply to not throw away working parts.
Battery Access Design Evaluation
There has been a fair amount of chatter across the Internet by armchair commentators that a "sealed" and "disposable" notebook design represents "progress," battery replacement is not possible with Apple's "Unibody" notebook design, and glue was a necessary compromise to make the Retina Display MacBook Pro so thin.
Those making such statements must have limited knowledge of Mac history. The original -- and truly groundbreaking -- "Unibody" MacBook and MacBook Pro models released in 2008 have a latch that makes replacing the battery quick and easy.
The still "Unibody" MacBook Pro models released in 2009 no longer sported a latch -- perhaps to make the underside of the notebook sleeker or perhaps to discourage upgrades -- but battery replacement still is straightforward in these models. The 2009 models also are the exact same dimensions as the 2008 models, so obviously Apple made this interior access change for reasons other than reducing the thickness of the notebook.
Nevertheless, a "latch" does occupy some space, and it seems quite feasible that a company could decide to forgo a simple latch-based or otherwise "swappable" battery design in an effort to make a notebook as thin as possible.
However, MacBook Air models are considerably thinner than the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro, and although these models lack a latch, the bottom panel simply is screwed in place (albeit with proprietary screws to discourage access). Even though they are thinner, batteries are not glued in place (yet) in the MacBook Air line.
Consequently, as the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro is thicker than the MacBook Air models, it is not particularly believable that it was necessary to create a glued in place battery design as a "thinness" requirement for the Retina models, either. It certainly is hoped that Apple will return to more elegant designs that do not involve adhesive.
Battery Replacement Feasibility Summary
Essentially, it is not possible to replace the battery yourself in the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro.
The battery in the Retina Display MacBook Pro likely will last most users 2.5 to 3 years (1000 charge cycles), and perhaps these consumers are happy to drop it off for a battery swap at an Apple Store or even will just purchase a new computer when the battery no longer holds a charge.
Ultimately, if you're not comfortable being required to turn over your entire notebook computer to someone else simply to replace the battery or dislike the idea of working components being discarded needlessly to replace the battery, the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro is not for you.