With a new study, Microsoft is taking the first steps towards better repairs

With a new study, Microsoft is taking the first steps towards better repairs

Tech Highlights:

  • The study (PDF download) was put together by UK consulting firm Oakdene Hollins, using Microsoft’s data regarding its repair operations. It compared two older devices: the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Book 3 that were refurbished in factories in China to the newer Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio, repaired at authorized service providers, or ASPs.

  • Microsoft provided an independent analysis on the device’s long-term viability and repairability. On Friday, Microsoft released a paper looking into the waste and greenhouse gas emissions produced by its existing repair process as it advances toward self-repair. The action is part of a deal struck with a group of investors last year to explore and promote independent repair. The study was initially reported on by Grist.

Some of the benefits of more localized repairs are eye-popping. Specifically, the report claims it can reduce the average waste by up to 92% and average greenhouse gas emissions by up to 89%. Partial benefits come from a repair-friendly design. The Surface Pro 8 has an SSD door, and much less waste was generated repairing storage on that tablet than the older Surface Pro 6. On the Surface Laptop Studio, repairs to the battery and trackpad generated less refuse and emissions.

“Microsoft has a longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Tom’s Hardware in a statement. “We also have a longstanding commitment to building high-quality, innovative, and safe devices that customers love. We have been taking steps for years to improve device repairability and to expand the available choices for device repair.”  Microsoft is looking into more options to put in place by the end of 2022, including increasing the number of repair locations near customers and expanding the number of organizations authorized to repair the company’s devices. It’s also planning a small pilot program to enable independent shops to repair some devices by 2022.

Oakdene Hollins also looked into transportation. Hauling devices by air to Chinese factories for refurbishment isn’t great. The study suggests almost any number of customers driving to repair facilities (where one might even be available) could negate greenhouse gas reduction. Its writers recommend mail-in services to more local repair sites, with the suggestion of one in Mexico to service the whole of the United States. One item that wasn’t mentioned: self-repair. The report’s authors noted that the report is based on Microsoft’s data and “represents only a partial view of possible repair scenarios as the data only includes data from repair operations under its direct control.”

Last fall, Microsoft reached an agreement with As You Sow, a nonprofit investor group focused on environmental advocacy. The group retracted an investor resolution when Microsoft agreed to investigate independent repair of devices. This report was due on May 1, with more action coming “by the end of 2022,” the original release said.

Microsoft has made some slow progress towards repairability in its devices. It has added SSD access doors to an increasing amount of its notebooks and tablets. Microsoft released a teardown video of the Surface Laptop SE, a low-cost device for education markets, showing how easy it is to replace parts. This week, Apple launched its Self-Service Repair program in the United States. It allows customers to buy parts and download manuals to repair the iPhone 12 and 13, with parts for M1 Macs set to show up “later this year.” Other companies, like Valve and Google, have made agreements with iFixit to make parts available through an online storefront.

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