Microsoft will make repairing its hardware easier – could it shame Apple into action?

Surface Laptop 4 side view of ports
(Image credit: Future)

Microsoft is going to make its hardware, such as Surface devices or Xbox consoles, easier to repair in the future, making repairs by a third-party independent repair shop – or maybe even consumers themselves, at least those who are techy (and confident) enough – an alternative to an authorized servicing outfit.

This is good news, obviously, when it comes to making repairs to Microsoft devices more widely available, and more competitively priced no doubt – with the move being made following pressure from As You Sow, a non-profit shareholder advocacy group which aims to promote environmental responsibility.

Grist reported that Microsoft has come to an agreement with As You Sow to make spare parts for its devices more available, as well as tools for repair jobs, and instruction guides.

Microsoft has promised it’ll investigate how to progress along those lines (in conjunction with a third-party), and evaluate the environmental impact of making devices easier to repair, further determining “new mechanisms to increase access to repair, including for Surface devices and Xbox consoles”. The firm will act on these findings by the end of 2022.

Analysis: A necessary move realistically – but still welcome

As You Sow noted that rival hardware manufacturers Dell and HP are already getting ahead of US repair legislation by “complementing their authorized repair services with the provision of some instructions, parts, and tools to independent repair shops”, and that “Microsoft has received substantial negative publicity for our products being more difficult to repair than those of these competitors and others.”

Therefore to some extent, this is pretty much a necessary move for Microsoft, given that legislation; not to say that it still isn’t welcome, and indeed it’s good to hear a commitment to realizing all this in not much more than a year’s time.

To be fair to Microsoft, it has already been improving the repairability of some of its more recent Surface products, like the Surface Pro X. And of course a fair bit changed with the introduction of the Surface Laptop 3, which finally allowed for (relatively) easy replacement of the SSD for example – moves like this can extend the longevity of hardware.

With Microsoft making further strides along these lines, perhaps Apple will start to come round more to this way of thinking – you never know. As Tom’s Hardware, which spotted this story, observes, Apple has already seen a similar shareholder resolution filed with it.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft reminded Tom’s that customers who go ahead and perform work on their devices themselves are voiding their warranty, and this wouldn’t change with these further reforms to the accessibility of repairs. Punters would still have to use a third-party repair shop if they want to keep their warranty intact.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).