The Dangers of Lead-Free Solder By Josh Blagden | JB - Mac Help | JBlagden

The Dangers of Lead-Free Solder      By Josh Blagden

In 2011, Apple switched from using leaded solder to using lead-free solder in its products. It’s a much bigger issue than you might expect. The problem with lead-free solder is that when it melts, spikes form in the solder. Each time the solder melts, those spikes become larger. Eventually, the spikes become long enough to make contact with another line of solder, thus shorting out the circuit board. 

Admittedly, this isn’t a big issue for most of Apple’s products because they don’t generate enough heat to melt the solder. However, the 15” MacBook Pros (with GPUs) and the Mac Pros (2013-15) do generate enough heat to melt the solder because in addition to having a CPU, they also have a GPU. The GPU is what changes the dynamic. I have copied a lot of DVDs and play a lot of games on my late 2011 13-inch MacBook Pro, but it’s fine because it doesn’t have a GPU generating extra heat. But a GPU can add an extra 100 degrees, which is rather problematic in a laptop. The lead-free solder is the reason why many 15” MacBook Pros have needed new logic boards and many Mac Pros have needed new graphics cards.

Apple switched from leaded solder to lead-free solder because it was required to by the EPA and the European Union. Those two agencies necessitated the change because lead-free solder is supposed to be better for the environment. In a way, they’re right. But the problem is that GPU-equipped MacBooks which have lead-free solder are prone to failure and need replacement. So, lead-free solder might seem like a better option for the environment, it actually isn’t because Mac owners will have to go through more logic boards, resulting in piles of failed logic boards sitting in landfills.

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