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Is the battery in the 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro really not replaceable? Is there a "hack" to replace it?
Please note that all Macs mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The "Early 2009/Unibody" 17-Inch MacBook Pro was replaced by the "Mid-2009" 17-Inch MacBook Pro on June 8, 2009.
Unfortunately, the battery in the 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro -- the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 17-Inch (Early 2009/Unibody) -- is not designed to be "swapped" or even replaced by end users.
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 provided complete details on the company website -- and the price varies in different countries -- but in the US it costs a whopping US$179 to have the battery replaced (including the new battery). 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.
It's probably overkill to refer to replacing the battery yourself as a "hack", but it is not authorized by Apple.
Nevertheless, the always excellent iFixit disassembled the 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro and discovered that it is not particularly difficult to replace.
Photo Credit: iFixit (Removing the Battery)
iFixit's "First Look" provides all the details -- and it should be read in its entirety -- but replacing the battery requires the removal of a mere thirteen screws (ten to remove the bottom case and three to remove the battery) -- compared to nineteen screws when replacing the battery in the MacBook Air -- but Apple has used fairly obscure "tri-wing" screws to secure the battery to the case and discourage end user replacement.
Ultimately, those with some technical skills need not worry about replacing the battery in the 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro themselves.