Some strange things
have arrived on our shop bench over the
Broken hinges, dark
displays, stuck discs, dead drives, damaged
keyboards, haunted trackpads, pooched ports -
machines that have been shot, punched,
drowned, dented, dragged
behind a truck and survived fire. Some of the more notable examples
appear below, from old PowerBooks to today's
worse than no info is: Bad info.
info + assumption = trouble. Wondering why
your Mac refuses to startup? Following
online advice might solve it, but will
probably make matters worse unless you can
identify the actual problem. No room for
guessing or assumptions, and some issues are
more obvious than others.
Following are examples of accidents,
neglect, abuse and failures...
But first: A sample of sounds you
never want to hear from a computer.
Hard drive hammer
sound says it all. If you know what you're
hearing, you'll also know it's probably too
late to do anything about it. You _do_ have
a backup, don't you?
Here's an odd one: This hard drive
repeatedly tried to free its stuck
read/write heads resulting in some rather
By the way: If you think you're gonna
freeze, heat, beat, shock or torture a drive
into submission, odds are you'll only make
No mystery with this drive failure, and
no need for a stethoscope, either. If
computers could have bad brakes, this might
be what they'd sound like.
If only it could keep a beat... This
drive was attempting to read, but its
read/write heads kept getting slammed back.
Normal (operational) HDD
For the sake of comparison, here's a
functional, if rather old, hard drive
starting up then shutting off (edited for
time.) Barely audible, as it should be.
While we're at it...
Set the Wayback Machine to the mid-90s
and enjoy a montage of various
failure-to-boot sounds that signaled
disaster on vintage Macs running System 7.
Each of these were actually hard-coded in
"I just have a quick
questions' only lead to more questions, as
do any explanations offered. From a tech's
point of view, it's quicker and easier to
fix it than to explain it.
Questions are often prefaced with an
admission of ignorance, then sometimes
followed up with internet "solutions" that
didn't work. So here's a quick answer:
Spend a little time learning how to use your
computer and how it works.
Runaway Kernel_Task (RKT)
problem tops the list. Symptoms include
glacial-speed operation, apparent lack of
cursor control, and fans running at full
speed (common). The official Apple explanation is that
machine is overheating and doing all it can
to cool down, including max fan speed and
throttling back processors (CPU).
In cases where fans are clogged, it may
indeed trigger a runaway kernel task (RKT),
tho older Macs would typically just shut off
before damage occurs. (See "Mah Biscuits are
Burnin'" below for examples of clogged
fans.) A good cleaning is the solution for
this, obviously. But excessive heat isn't
always to blame. Worse, the problem may be
intermittent with brief periods of normal
Screen shot above clearly shows runaway
kernel task (RKT) in Activity Monitor window
with CPU running at over 540% and CPU load
near maximum (89%, arrow).
%CPU number typically fluctuates between
200% and 500% during RKT and may momentarily
go as high as 1000% or more.
Window at right shows
sensor temps, all of which are near their
lowest operating values. Despite low temps,
fan is running fill tilt at its maximum
speed due to RKT (6200rpm in this
case). Data shown here was identical
in both MacOS 10.11 and 10.12, but 10.14
Mojave was a different story.....
Kernel_task is missing entirely in 10.14
Mojave's Activity Monitor window (below), but RKT shows up in System
activity graphic at almost 89% as with the
other OS versions.
Temps are also the same, regardless of OS
version. Heat is clearly not the issue here,
but fan(s) run at top speed anyway.
RKTs will always show up in Activity
Monitor, if present, as shown above.
Common solutions range from resetting
machine's SMU to a good cleaning to
removing/replacing battery to whatever
else you can think of. Countless
suggestions out there, but most are
guesses or unworkable.
The two identical machines that arrived
here suffering from RKTs both had logic
board component failures. Only way to
determine cause is by trial and error.
Definition of "duh"
First question: Do you have a
Anything on it you care about? "A few pics
What happened? "I dunno..... I just want it
Drive had been erased and reformatted
Who on earth would do such a stupid thing to
"I took it to [PC shop]," she said, "but
they told me they couldn't help me." Uh-huh.
Format SSD correctly, install a current OS
and machine was good as new.
If you don't know what you're doing...
There once was a nice chap who
used to stop by occasionally with a
question or two - until the day he
brought over a dead iMac. After wasting
my time opening it up to find machine's
display connector had been ripped from
its logic board, he finally fessed up:
It wasn't his computer, he only was
trying to make a few bucks, would I save
his bacon and fix it for him....?
No. What else got damaged? Haven't seen
All data destroyed for
musician was in town finishing up a music
video when the hard
drive in his MacBook Pro died. Fortunately,
he had a backup. So, he took his machine and
backup drive to a local PC shop
hoping to be back in
business ASAP. And that's exactly what
should have happened.
He showed up here about a week later,
complaining that his computer was virtually
useless. It had an OS that couldn't run his
music apps and all
his files were long gone. Sadly, he was correct on both
counts. His backup drive had been erased
and reformatted NTFS (DOS/Windows) by some
moron; only thing left was a directory of
empty folders. All that damage and $600 too?
replaced his OS with the proper version, got
his editing software and comms working
again, and suggested sending his DOA drive
to DriveSavers for recovery. (Mechanical
failure - it happens.) If he had come here
in the first place, he would've been back in
business within 24 hours for a lot less than
Dubious diagnostic doubleheader
time, both Apple _and_ a local PC shop
wasted client's time and money on a very
simple and easily solved problem. In fact,
we saw it the minute the machine arrived.
Client explained that it was his son's Mac,
it kept shutting off at random and had been
left in a closet for six months because it
couldn't be fixed. They'd taken it to Apple
where it got a new Operating System that
didn't fix it, then took it to a PC shop
where its SSD was (needlessly) replaced.
When problem kept reoccurring, they returned
the new SSD, got a refund, and into the
closet it went. When dad walked in with the
15" MacBook Pro and a cheap AC-adapter from
Amazon, the problem was obvious.
Adapter produced 50w, machine requires 85w;
anything less is asking for trouble and can
do damage. Machine couldn't run or charge
its battery, so it goes down. Problem
solved. But, at client's request, we
stressed its CPU/GPU for two hours while
monitoring temps and charging battery.
Machine never faltered, sensors never
exceeded a cool 108F, battery charged to
100%, and we tracked down a new 85w adapter
for him. Client left happy, bogus adapter
went into the trash.
iMac sets new malware record
Machine was so slow that owners
thought they needed to replace it. Was it
the kids downloading games? Adults
Turned out to be both. Over the course of
three days, we picked-out and deleted a
whopping 6GB of junk from this iMac, 6,000 files in the
first pass alone.
Besides an assortment of unwanted games,
they downloaded practically every phony PDF
app, fake video viewer and sham "updater"
they came across, along with all the bogus Mac
fixup/speedup/screwup utilities that they
could find. Even had one called
"MacUpper" which, I guess, is a nod to
tweakers wanting a faster computer. No joke,
before we were finished we had removed a
two-page list of malicious apps and a slew of
adware, not including
outdated/expired programs, and all
Afterward, the iMac was operational but
still seemed a bit skittish, so we decided
to replace its banged-up OS as well. That
was when the internal hard drive gave
up the ghost (code 8). Luckily, we'd already
copied everything off.
Machine left the shop after a good cleaning
of fans, boards and vents, with a fresh (upgraded) OS
installed to a new hard drive and all client
iMac arrived DOA with a dent in lower-right
corner below screen. Glass wasn't cracked or
broken, display looked to be intact. Owner
said the glass had been replaced and machine
serviced at BestBuy shortly before it died.
iMac power supply
destroyed by a loose screw
disassembled machine to find a screw welded
to the back of its display, directly
opposite burn marks on the iMac's power
supply (above). Other screws were missing,
some had been stripped, masking tape was
used to secure cables. Two plastic mounts
were shattered leaving the remaining pair to
hold power supply in place. A piece of one
mount still held its screw to power supply,
but the other screw had fallen out and
and repaired both plastic mounts with
aluminum sleeves and used longer screws to
make certain the problem couldn't happen
again. Fortunately, damage was limited to
the power supply.
in short hole
notebook arrived following an "upgrade" by
a local PC tech, it had no signs of life
other than fans running at full speed.
Among other problems, we found missing,
loose and stripped screws; pinched and
incorrectly routed cables; and an
unsecured hard drive. Photo tells all: Misplaced long
screw protrudes thru frame where it
drilled the DC-power cable dead-center.
is visible around edge of indentation,
revealing short circuit to ground. Hard
drive data was intact, but machine was
Ham-handed repairs are easy to
order service this particular machine, all
cables must be disconnected from the logic
board, including display's video connector
here x5). When this
machine arrived, it booted to a Kernel
Panic with a monitor displaying only
shades of red. Careless assembly and a
mashed video connector turned out the be
Another one, this time the backlight
pins on a display LVDS
cable have been destroyed - actually bent
and broken - by someone forcing it into
socket an an angle. Only fix is to replace
the entire display module, a costly
mistake. These connectors are delicate and
must be handled with care.
And here's the
logic board socket of another LVDS
connector, this one destroyed by liquid.
Moisture sensor under cable has turned
red, and liquid shorted the high-power
backlight pins. Those two pins happen to
be right next to each other, only
separated by a hair, so the slightest hint
of moisture is enough to cause a short.
Backlight is protected by a fuse, but not
And WTF is
this? Unbelievable..... A coax antenna
connector (below), which is only 2mm in
diameter and designed to snap onto Wifi
card, got mashed somehow and would no
longer connect to board. Blue arrows point
at intact cable and connector, red arrows
are crushed cable end and board's missing
But wait, what? The mashed connector was
in place with what appeared to be clear
epoxy (insert). Who did this? Why? We'll
factory repairs - aren't.
Client brought in his wife's
notebook. Said wine had been spilled on it
when new, he'd paid Apple $750 to replace
logic board and machine was fine - until
lately. Back to Apple, he was told it
needed a new logic board, new optical
drive and a new hard drive. He canceled
the repair order, and the notebook was
returned to him from a facility somewhere
in Tennessee (at no charge) with a letter
and report bearing Apple's letterhead. And
now, the notebook's display was black,
First, a lump under keyboard turned
out to be the Airport antenna trapped
under a shield. Bottom case and bottom
shield still had substantial residue and
stains. Top case and top shield were
missing all retaining screws, all eight
logic board screws were missing, and all
but two bottom shield screws were gone.
Worse: Fan was unplugged, as were display
backlight, microphone and sleep light. We
replaced missing screws, connected cables,
reassembled machine and bench tested it:
All tests passed with flying colors,
machine operated perfectly. Weird.
Notebooks with drinking problems
into a modern MacBook Pro or MacBook Air is a costly disaster
these days, for a variety of reasons.
Moisture sensors will void your warranty,
and a tiny amount of liquid can do major
damage. Design and construction of newer
notebooks adds to potential damage, too.
machines are built from the keyboard down,
which means complete disassembly to replace
top case/ keyboard - which is why we highly
recommend keyboard covers for all laptops
(links posted on our home page).
If liquid gets to the logic board,
odds of machine working properly again are
slim. Even if it can be made to function,
it's quite likely that corrosion may cause a
failure soon. New machines are just too
delicate and complex for many repairs to be
cost-effective, which is why Apple won't
touch a machine that has suffered a spill -
and we now have to agree. Photo (left) was
taken thru a scope and shows corrosion
attacking copper traces within 24 hours of
drinking a beer - but corrosion isn't what
did this MacBook in; it was powered on at
the time and critical components got fried.
Doesn't take much moisture to short
connections separated by a hair's breadth.
More spills, corrosion and... critters?
No sign of a spill, no residue and
no moisture sensors were triggered in this
MacBook Air, yet it had enough corrosion
spread around inside to prevent operation.
Machine spent a few months in Australia and
failed the moment it returned to the States,
arriving here at the shop next day. Interior
was cleaner than expected, little or no
dust, and completely dry. Best guess at what
might have caused such corrosion was
condensation caused from leaving a warm/dry aircraft and moving into a cold, wet
Notebook spills seldom end well.
If it's beer, wine, tea, coffee, juice -
whatever the liquid was, it most likely will
leave residue and cause corrosion over time.
(This one drank a cup o'tea.) If the device
powered on, and the spill was something
non-corrosive, it _might_ eventually work
again, but only if promptly disassembled,
thoroughly cleaned and dried. Any delay will
cause further damage. Unfortunately, most
people seem compelled to immediately fire it
up to find out if it still works - which
will probably finish it off.
This MacBook Pro sat long enough
to have some copper dissolve completely.
(#1) shows what used to be the keyboard
backlight connector, unplugged to expose
missing traces. When machine finally lost
video after glitching for awhile, it came to the shop - too far gone
and beyond reasonable
problems, no backlight, no video and age was
enough to call this logic board done. (#2)
shows missing traces at display's LVDS
(data) connector; no
telling what other functions were
compromised or on the way out.
Visual signs of a recent spill may
be much more subtle and
difficult to find without inspection under a
In another spill-damaged machine, a drop of
water found its way thru a notebook keyboard
onto a pair of microscopic pins. Clear
evidence of the resulting spark may be seen
when magnified (and was probably audible).
We were able to bring this MacBook Air back
to life and make it fully functional again,
despite last rites from Apple. Nice to pull
a rabbit outta the hat now and then.
spilled something into her MacBook Air
awhile back, would you take a look at it?"
I was greeted by eight colonies of dead
critters (like the group pictured, left),
eggs, bug poo and lots of green, fuzzy
corrosion, along with dried residue from a significant
SSD tested fine, but logic board, keyboard,
and I/O board were destroyed. Machine sat
for months until disposal, only SSD
What else did you forget to mention?
Pro arrived with a damaged screen. Display
module's inner frame had broken an inch or
two above a hinge, and opening/closing
notebook was prying its display apart.
(Apparently a weak display frame on this
particular model has generated many
complaints.) Client was present when we
removed the back and discovered what you see
below. All bets are off.
Using an external monitor, we managed to
boot it up and tested all keys on the
keyboard. All worked perfectly, so there's
no way this much liquid entered thru
notebook's keyboard. After a thorough
disassembly and cleaning, we found the
broken tip of a headphone plug buried deep
in headphone jack, eliminating audio output.
It had no wifi functions, its battery was
showing its age, and it had a head-stripped
fan screw that had to be surgically removed.
All that and a broken display, too.
We managed to fix display housing and hinge
without replacing the entire display module
(not recommended), then got wifi working.
Replaced all four missing hard drive mounts
and a few other missing
screws, removed and
replaced the stripped fan screw, replaced
missing feet, even got the optical drive to
burn a DVD, then got audio output back.
Needs a new battery, but this machine
returned from the grave in pretty good
Urine trouble again?
Ewww, yech! A pMac... instant
corrosion. The only thing to come of this
was an entertaining tale of woe and a
wasted pair of rubber gloves. Seems
owner's boyfriend peed on her 'puter.
Machine was DOA. Down the drain, so to
And here's what vomit
does to a notebook (in this case, cat
puke). When this machine arrived - hours
after some poor puddytat had spewed into
its keyboard and ports - battery was still
connected, fan was going full-tilt, and
machine was sizzling hot.
With the perfect combination of corrosive
liquid and heat to accelerate this logic
board's demise, it arrived baked to
perfection. There's no recovery from this
kind of destruction, can't even recognize
components or printed circuits anymore,
it's D-U-N, done. That's why it's so
important to prevent accidents
like these by keeping equipment
out of harm's way at all times and
protecting that machine with a keyboard
cover. You'll be glad you did.
A little leverage goes a long way
Air arrived with "loose hinges" that were
too weak to hold up display properly. Airs
are so light, being able to open 'em
one-handed leaves just enough hinge tension
to support display - under normal
conditions. Between little or no hinge
tension and having loose screws, this one
was flopping open and shut unless balanced
Removed display and clutch cover to find the
screws were indeed loose, but worse than
that, both hinges were broken (blue arrows).
Replace hinges? Not possible. All cables to
display, camera and antennas pass thru the center
of these hinges (red arrows), meaning a
whole new display was the only repair
Shocking! Power strip goes kaput
plugging your computer into a power strip
only to hear a pop and catch a whiff of ozone.
Photo below is an opened-up Rhino brand surge protector.
This is the back of
the outlet that shorted, one of 12 inside this
Rhino's steel housing. All 12 outlets are
wired in parallel using bare solid copper
wire; top wire is hot, middle is neutral,
bottom is ground.
Plug pushed top (hot) connector free of its
no-name plastic housing and directly into the
neutral copper wire next to it. (Neutral
connector is capable of shorting-out, too.)
It's lucky nobody got hurt by this.
The I/O board from
an AirBook, that's what. A tiny bit o'metal in
just the wrong place was enough to make this
USB port too hot to handle within a matter of
seconds (DC-in board is right next door).
Smell of burning electronics was unmistakable,
arrow points to obvious scorch mark where rear
of USB port housing meets machine's keyboard.
Had it happened to the USB port on other side
of this machine, it would likely have meant
replacing entire logic board.
How old is it?
Mac Mini purchased
online by client was probably sold as
"refurbished" and came with a boatload of
pirate (stolen) software installed. Arrived
here a few weeks later with a dead
8-year-old OEM hard drive - and no wonder.
When bottom cover was removed, the cobweb
you see in photo floated down onto machine.
Fan was packed with dust, machine was
basically a high-tech dirt clod.
Disassembly, a thorough cleaning, new drive
and OS put it back in service. Now
Mah biscuits are burnin'
Your Mac has temp sensors and
cooling fans to protect it from overheating.
If sensors detect excessive heat over 150F or
so, machine will go to sleep until it cools
down, or - more likely - shut off if condition
persists. Its cooling system is remarkably
effective - unless it looks like this.
Lifting fan reveals a thick layer of lint
sealing off fan exhaust and causing this
MacBook to overheat and shutdown (as it
Another machine (below) also clogged with lint
and dust. Owner noticed it was getting very
hot and brought it in for a cleaning when it
began shutting itself off.
Both MacBooks were back in service following a
complete cleaning with no harm done, testimony to the durability and
design of Macintosh notebooks.
Below is a fairly typical (older) iMac after a
few years in a relatively clean environment.
iMacs have multiple fans to assist with
cooling by convection and seldom suffer
heat-related issues as notebooks might, but
they all collect dust just the same. (Machine
came in for unrelated services.)
Bang Ding Ow
This MacBook Pro took a hit on its
bottom side (3 arrows) hard enough to dislodge
its hard drive - which then dented bottom case
in outward direction (circle/arrow) and broke
display mount (T-shape bracket). Hard drive
ceased to function on impact with a shock
sufficient to destroy machine's optical drive
as well. Fortunately, the owner of this Mac
had a complete, proper back-up of all his
data. We replaced hard drive, restored data
from backup and replaced the optical drive.
Machine came back after being dropped again
two years later. And again, the hard drive was
kaput. ("Bang Ding Ow" is from newscast on
Swollen MacBook batteries
seen enough of distorted laptop batteries over
the years, and here are a few that were
ignored for too long.
was only three years old when battery cracked
its trackpad. Swollen
cell was directly beneath trackpad and nearly
twice as thick as it should be.
Caller said she had malware slowing machine's
operation, and this is the machine she brought
in. Battery broke trackpad, then split bottom
case off, revealing a solid-state drive
dangling from its ribbon cable (never
installed properly). We removed the bogus
utility apps, adware and garbage she had
downloaded - then replaced battery, trackpad,
drive mounts and missing screws. A week later
she was back after having downloaded more
Remarkably similar damage from a
different battery in another MacBook Pro.
Trackpad has cracked, bottom case was ready to
break free. Early symptom is inability to
click trackpad button.
Newer models have a battery (heavily) glued to
trackpad and keyboard, making it near
impossible to remove/replace any of these
components without replacing all three with a
new top case from Apple.
540GB of data on 500GB hard drive
I would've said that was impossible, but I'd
be wrong. After a very long and twisted data
recovery process using three backup drives
with two OS replacements - along with every
bug and glitch imaginable - we did indeed end
up with 540GB recovered from a 500GB drive.
And this on a machine that had been declared
DOA by Apple.
One of the strangest jobs to come along in
years, it quickly became such a challenge that
billing was soon suspended to allow for some
unconventional experimentation (on a cloned
copy, of course). First clue: User Home Folder
reported zeroK content + 885MB shared folder =
455GB total data.
Drive had every app known onboard, no less
than 15 of 'em launching on startup. Worst of
all, it was encrypted and compressed - which
is why content exceeded drive capacity.
Needless to say, client was happy to get all
that data back, plus a fully-functional
machine to boot (so to speak).
Canadian OS, eh?
you see below is a screen dump of the Finder,
showing one possible aftermath of running out
of space on a hard drive while doing some
A recording studio was in full
flight, mixing down tracks while
simultaneously copying audio files and
running other apps in the background, when
machine ran out of hard drive space and
hit the wall.
"I could tell things weren't quite
right," the engineer told me, "but I just had
to get this one last job finished." With
processors going full-tilt and a massive
amount of data on the move (warnings ignored),
it was lights out, game over. After a forced
restart, he was horrified to see screens full
recovered all data, made repairs and (strongly)
recommended having backup.
Time stands still
was only about a week old when it arrived here
at the shop. Owners were trying to reinstall
its Operating System (for some reason) and
needed help. Photo shows System install screen
underway - but it quickly became apparent that
an OS install was only part of what this Mac
installation, progress bar and video froze.
Moving install window around would cause
screen to refresh momentarily, but video card
was defective and interfering with operation
(replaced by Apple under warranty). And, to
make matters worse, the OS install disk that
came with this early 27" iMac was also
defective (next entry).
Hello, Quality Control?
DVD frustrated owner's attempts to reinstall
OSX on a new Mac (back when the OS came on a
disc); disc is missing part of its reflective
metallic layer near edge, looks almost like a
finger print. We connected owners with Apple
Support and saw to it that they received a
replacement DVD thru the mail.
Assembled in Chian
say your notebook won't power up? Gee, wonder
why. This cheapo made
in "Chian" battery wound up costing its owner
We've seen damage done from cheap knock-off AC
adapters, too; they may overheat or short out,
they blacken MagSafe ports, destroy batteries
and DC-in boards, wreak havoc on power
management and they can be downright
You get what you pay for. Spare yourself the
grief and extra expense caused by counterfeit
goods and get the genuine article whenever
Parts is parts.
there aren't any
parts... This particular laptop model had a
display module that wasn't intended to be serviced, only replaced, and
replacements were not
available at the time. What you see is a
notebook starting up after being dropped. The first light
gray vertical lines are boot screen with logo
and spinning gear. Any animation onscreen
caused vertical lines to dance about like a deranged bar code. With no
it ended up connected to an external display
for the time being.
Broken Logic Pro
of copy protection, some apps require a USB
"key" to be in place before the application
will launch and function. We repaired this one
with a new plug, a little solder and some
plastic casting. Wasn't pretty, but it worked
and got our client off the hook.
on the web
a Mac with an honest-to-goodness bug. Appears
to have been in there for awhile, but we were
too late to save his fuzzy little
Internal short on
to know the Mac has built-in protections for
various faults, including this one. Port was
damaged and shorting to ground.
Non-standard discs = bad news in
CD wedgie courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.
Funky lil' mini-discs are shoved to
the back of optical drives (CD/DVD drive),
where they get lodged and cannot eject.
Removal and disassembly of drive is the only
solution, and just getting there can be an
adventure on some machines. Good news is, no
harm done and this machine was ready to fly in
Another drive we encountered proved
to be rather curious: We found (a record!) three
full-size CDs stuffed inside a single
slot-loading SuperDrive. Dunno how that was
accomplished (nor why anyone would do such a
thing), but after removal and reassembly the
drive was again fully functional.
Got change for a quarter?
lots of things from optical drives, including
SD cards, credit cards, tiny glass beads, rice
- and this quarter stuck under capstan. All
survived the operation. Owner got a 25-cent
of this display from an iMac clearly shows heat damage near machine's fan and even some rust
above it, suggesting steam from having been in
a fire at some time in its life. Macs are well
protected from overheating by sensors designed
to detect an overtemp condition. They may spin
down drives and go to sleep or turn themselves
condition persists. There's simply no
way a computer can generate the kind of heat
required to do this sort of damage, but we
never got the whole story...
Might wanna take a break
the fifth time this poor guy entered a page
full of registration info on some web site
only to see it all disappear with an error -
again - he delivered a right cross to the
screen of his girlfriend's notebook.
Pretty expensive repair, but
machine left here in great shape and client
wasn't forced to crash on the shop sofa.
Probably had to grovel some, tho ;-).
use tiny CCFL tubes to light up the screen - these measure .095" diameter, less than a
tenth of an inch. This pair came from an iMac
screen that had two at the top and two at
bottom (some displays have 'em on sides).
These tiny glass tubes can be quite long,
making them extremely delicate and hard to
handle. They seldom go bad, but when they do
they can act just like any other fluorescent
tube. (Apple began the industry transition
away from CCFLs to LED backlights in 2007.)
said he heard a pop and machine suddenly went
dead. After trying all
the usual suspects (power supply, button,
ports and controls, cables and connections,
etc.), only thing left was to continue
disassembly of this machine until something
and close examination, everything looked
perfectly normal - until we removed logic
board. An ever-so-tiny scorch mark was found
on bottom case, corresponding to the blown
capacitor pictured above (next to a dime).
Continuity check verified failure. Given age
and street value of this particular Mac, owner
opted to replace machine rather than make
absolutely pristine 17" MacBook Pro without so
much as a fingerprint on it. Was wearing a
clear plastic outer cover, kept in a case,
obviously very well cared for and lovingly
handled during its 6 or 7-year lifespan.
5 minutes, all too familiar this one. 2.4GHz
Core 2 Duo with the notorious self-destructing
NVIDIA 8600M graphics processor (also used in
2.2, 2.5 and 2.6GHz C2D models). Apple
replaced logic boards in these machines due to video failure in a free program that ended on
Pearl Harbor Day of 2012 - long ago. Nothing
more to do with this but transfer its hard
drive to an enclosure and scrap the machine.
Sad to see.
Minor design flaws (yes, even Apple)
criteria and goals have always been
cutting-edge, many of which earned entry
into museums of modern art and design. Apple
now enjoys widespread recognition as the
industry leader and continues to set the bar
for manufacturing and product design. Over
the years some Apple designs have been so
exotic and unconventional as to create
special circumstances that might be viewed
as, well, flawed.
example of an over-the-top Apple design that
merits special consideration is the G4 Cube
released in 2000. This Mac had a
7-inch cube-shaped core (descended from the
1988 NeXT Cube), released and extracted from
under its case by a spring-loaded handle.
The G4 Cube, first of the G4 PowerMacs, was
unveiled at the San Francisco MacWorld Expo,
displayed inside a tall
glass tube with its core
suspended over inverted case.
design was as spectacular as it is unique,
it had a few characteristics that proved to
be something of a drawback, such as having
all ports on the bottom of the machine where
they were hard to access, and a disc drive
that popped CDs out the top like a toaster
but would weaken over time and refuse to
eject. Minor flaws, really, and easily
overlooked by those who appreciated stunning
design concept and execution back in the
considered significant are those which go
beyond minor irritations and lead straight
to costly service. Here's one "flaw" so
blatant as to have been completely
all computers, this iMac had a PRAM battery
on its logic board with a life span of five
years or so. When time for replacement came,
owners were in for a nasty shock: Replacing
this battery required removal of outer case,
shields, sub assemblies, cables, display,
speakers, fans, drives, and logic board.
Just to access a $5 battery. This iMac's
predecessor was extremely easy to service - and the
following model was completely redesigned
and quite elegant, too - but this particular
transition machine got caught in the middle
with internals designed to be serviced from
the rear inside a case that opened in front.
Notorious design issues:
shows broken hinges from
a Titanium-case PowerBook (aka TiBook). This
problem was all too common on this 2002
model. Damage was compounded by the fact
that replacing a hinge required replacing
the entire $700 display - at least as far as
Apple was concerned - and that's exactly
what Apple did for all warranty repairs. A
cottage industry sprang up for
those who weren't covered,
offering stainless steel replacement hinges
to existing display, but it was still an
Common design issues:
optical drive slots (shown here
from inside machine, drive removed) consist
of a 5-inch-wide opening that is difficult
to reinforce. This one had its aluminum
support frame bent, effectively closing slot
and rendering the optical drive useless. Not
exactly a "design flaw" per-se, but a
weakness common to all notebooks equipped
with CD/DVD drives. Can't say I'm sorry to
see optical drives going away...
notebook, this one with a broken frame
making machine's display a little wobbly.
Added stress on hinges typically cause
eventual damage to cables and display
notebooks have tiny video cards onboard,
usually soldered to the logic board by way
of a Ball Grid Array (pads, left). These
provide good heat transfer and a more
compact assembly, but if BGA fails the
logic board goes with it. Early machines
used a detachable Pin Grid Array with
plug/socket arrangement for
daughtercards (right) that seldom caused
problems and also allowed for upgrades. The
third method, Land Grid Array, consists of
leads fanning out from a chip's perimeter
that are soldered to circuit board, a very
common and robust type of surface-mount
A compromised BGA is difficult to repair,
but is possible using an expensive process
called "reballing" (which isn't nearly as
much fun as it may sound ;-). Failed video
may mean replacement of entire logic board,
replacement and reballing a new graphics
processor (GPU), or reballing existing GPU
if a new one is not available.
BGAs are the most complex of miniaturized
connections commonly used in notebooks, and
a good example of what makes notebooks more
fragile than desktop machines and towers.
It's also one reason we recommend
consideration of an extended factory
warranty from _any_ manufacturer when buying
an expensive notebook computer.
"Pry it open, let's see what's in there..."
This next machine was still (somewhat)
functional when it arrived, although its
fans went on full-tilt moments after
startup, and screen would blackout
periodically. Kids took a screwdriver to
mom's $2K notebook.
Many screws were stripped, missing and
broken, including a critical heat sink mount
alongside processor, lifting
heatsink and caused a noticeable bulge in
top case and keyboard (red
had apparently been pried out, too (mounts
and bezel broken), then reinstalled using
duct tape. We were able to repair
everything, including machine's SuperDrive,
but - unfortunately - damage to the optical
drive ATA bus prevented drive from
functioning. Machine was reassembled sans
optical drive, and repaired SuperDrive
placed into an external enclosure.
was to upgrade his laptop's hard drive, but
it never happened. After obtaining a drive
that might have fit, he carefully
disassembled his notebook
until he got to the logic board. Attempting
to disconnect a tiny plug, he pulled entire
connector off the logic board - traces,
solder and all. We reconstructed the board's
tiny copper traces and successfully repaired
connector and tested logic board, but
alas... When he took the board home and tried
to reassemble his notebook, the display went
black when he destroyed machine's video.
Same story, different connector
time a ZIF connector was ripped from logic
board by someone bent
on saving money. Aren't
many shops around that would've taken the time
required to fix this notebook (under the
circumstances). ZIF stands for Zero Insertion
Force, by the way, and these connectors
require no force to disconnect as well. Just
havta know how they work.
Amateur hard drive replacement
brand-spanking-new $3K notebook underwent a
hard drive upgrade at the hands of its
owner, a man who was so focused on trying to
pry the machine's cases apart that he
neglected to remove a few central screws.
Resulting damage was about $500 with a bent
V-shaped aluminum top case, broken keyboard
and voided warranty. (Angry that Apple
refused to fix it for free under warranty,
he brought it in still fuming.)
Slot-loading disk drives present a
hazard or two that might be unexpected,
including the fate of nonstandard CDs and
DVDs that enter - and do not exit - these
drives. Other foreign matter may find its
way into that slot, too, and many a damaged
drive has passed thru the shop.
Once a mini-disc or foreign object has
become stuck in the drive, trying to fish it
out thru that tiny slot is all but
impossible, as this client found out. He got
hold of the drives thin, stainless steel
innards by mistake, bent the daylights out
of it and destroyed the drive.
All-time worst advice for
curing an optical drive malfunction:A
client called to say he'd found a "tip" on the
internet for fixing his MacBook Pro's
SuperDrive. He'd followed the instructions but
it caused the drive to make horrible loud
noises even tho there was nothing in it. So,
he took his machine apart trying to disconnect
the OD and said he'd lost Bluetooth function,
video cam and one speaker in the process. What
was the "tip?" Cut a CD in half(!), then
insert it into the drive. Whatta stupid thing
to do. Needless to say, it gutted the
mechanism. We replaced the demolished drive
and managed to restore all other functions.
Gotta love that online advice.
Thrashed, trashed and crashed
she called she said it needed a trackpad
and wanted to know what a replacement
would cost. Said a rock fell on it.
nothing salvageable in the wreckage.
Nothing. Even the
battery was swollen (tho taking a charge),
keyboard was kaput, no video out and only
what you see here on startup. Somehow the
hard drive survived (once it was removed
to an enclosure and various directory
errors were repaired), but that was it.
Has to be a story behind this, but we
never got to hear it.