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How do you replace the "non-upgradable" batteries in the "Mid-2009" through "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models? Is doing so a "hack"?
Replacing the battery in the "Mid-2009," "Mid-2010," "Early 2011," "Late 2011," and non-Retina Display-equipped "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models is probably too simple to really refer to it as a "hack", but these batteries are not designed to be replaced by end users and Apple does not support end user replacement either.
If you're not sure which "Unibody" MacBook Pro model you have, these models share model numbers, unfortunately. EMC numbers are not externally listed, either. As a result, they only can be externally differentiated by the last three or four characters of the serial number.
Models with eleven character serial numbers can be uniquely identified by the last three characters and models with twelve character serial numbers only can be uniquely identified by the last four characters courtesy of EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature.
However, in software, it also is possible to get "close enough" to an exact match to determine the battery type by model identifier. In turn, each model can be uniquely identified via model identifier and one or more secondary identifiers (like processor speed and/or processor type). For example, the 15-Inch "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models -- which have the same battery and the same type of screws -- can be identified by the MacBookPro8,2 model identifier. The 15-Inch "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models also have the same battery as the lines from 2011 and can be identified by the MacBookPro9,1 model identifier.
Official Replacement Option
Officially, 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$129 to have the battery replaced in the 13-Inch and 15-Inch models and US$179 to have the battery replaced in the 17-Inch models.
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.
Even though Apple does not support self-replacement, doing so is not difficult.
iFixit first disassembled the 13-Inch "Mid-2009" MacBook Pro and confirmed that like the 17-Inch "Late 2008/Unibody" MacBook Pro before it -- which also has a "non-upgradable" battery -- it is not challenging to replace.
Photo Credit: iFixit (13-Inch MacBook Pro, Removing the Battery)
As also noted by iFixit, different 13-Inch, 15-Inch, and 17-Inch MacBook Pro models in the "Mid-2009," "Mid-2010," "Early 2011," "Late 2011," and "Mid-2012" lines use different types of screws -- either tri-wing or five-point Torx screws -- to hold the battery in place. The 13-Inch models, for example, use two tri-wing screws, the "Mid-2009" 15-Inch and 17-Inch models use three five-point Torx screws, and the "Mid-2010," "Early 2011," "Late 2011," and "Mid-2012" 15-Inch and 17-Inch models use three tri-wing screws.
After removing the bottom panel on any of these models, replacing the battery only is relatively difficult because of the use of fairly obscure screws. If one is willing to track down an applicable screwdriver and a replacement battery, odds are good that the battery swap will not be an insurmountable task.
Ultimately, those with some technical skills need not worry about replacing the battery in the "Mid-2009," "Mid-2010," "Early 2011," "Late 2011," or "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models themselves should they choose to do so.