'Dustgate' could make your MacBook Pro unusable — what you need to know

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020) review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Dust getting under your screen and damaging your devices is something we’ve seen in the past with the best foldable phones. However, it was never something we ever could have imagined would affect laptops, let alone the best MacBooks.

As reported by Forbes, a new display fault that has been given the name ‘Dustgate’ is now causing issues with several MacBook Pro models according to repair specialists that have dealt with this problem themselves.

Essentially, the issue appears to stem from the screen flex cable that’s used to connect the display on some MacBook Pro models to the bottom half of the laptop. This is because there’s a gap that can collect dust and dirt between one of the affected laptops’ screen and its keyboard. 

Over time when you open and close the lid of a vulnerable MacBook Pro, any debris caught in this gap damages the screen flex cable. You’ll know if your laptop has fallen victim to ‘Dustgate’ once purple vertical lines begin to appear on its screen when opened at a certain angle.

While we’ve yet to hear about until now, ‘Dustgate’ is already a common problem among MacBooks that were released between 2018 and 2020. However, MacBook Pro models sold between 2016 and 2020 sport a similar design that could leave them susceptible as well. In fact, founder and CEO of the Mac repair company NoteBookNerds, Stephan Steins told Forbes that they see several MacBooks affected by ‘Dustgate’ each week.

An expensive fix that likely isn’t covered by your warranty

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As ‘Dustgate’ affects older MacBook Pro models that are likely past their warranty period, getting your laptop fixed will likely be expensive.

When speaking with Forbes, iCorrect founder Ricky Panesar explained that the repair itself is quite difficult as the damaged calves “connect on the back of the screen itself.” This means that the device’s screen needs to be removed from the outer shell without breaking it before new flex cables can be swapped in and soldered in place. For this reason, it’s easier to replace the entire display. However, doing so without AppleCare could cost you upwards of $625.

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, say the recently released MacBook Pro M3 or even the previous generation MacBook Pro M2, you don’t need to worry about ‘Dustgate’ as Apple has since resolved the issue. For those who aren’t ready to upgrade just yet, Panesar recommends that they regularly give their laptops a rigorous clean to prevent dust from building up where the screen meets the keyboard.

We still haven’t heard anything from Apple officially regarding ‘Dustgate’ but now that the news is out there, the company will likely publicly address the issue. Even if it doesn’t though, I’m glad the problem has been fixed as among the best laptops, Apple’s are often the most expensive notebooks around.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.