January 2010


Please excuse my absence.

My apologies for not posting this week. I have plenty of material in my head but my MacBook is sick.

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that it’s fan was loud. Initially I thought I’d wait until I was some place with an Apple Store to get it checked out. I’d even made tentative plans to do so in a few weeks but then it got a lot louder and I could feel it vibrate.

This was, I concluded, not good.

I checked out the three most recommend fixes for the problem:

1) I checked my printer queue. Except if I have one I cannot access it because I don’t have a printer. Nor do I have any printer drivers installed. If I “print” I print to PDF and I couldn’t see how to access a queue. (I’m running Snow Leopard.)

2) I made sure all key pieces of software were updated: the OS has all available updates applied; Firefox is current; Microsoft Office is current; as are all other software that are “mission critical”- except for Lyx, but I rarely use it and I’m barely out of step.

3) I reset the MacBook by taking out the battery then pressing the power button for five seconds before putting the battery back in and booting it. This did not stop the problem.

Basically I was pretty sure that the problem was a hardware issue and not software. I “confirmed” this when I realized that if I held it vertically the fan was quiet. Of course I couldn’t easily see the screen, a minor detail.

Lest I leave out Adobe Flash: yes, I’m aware that Flash causes fan issues but I was having constant loud fan issues even during boot-up or while running only the OS and no other programs of note.

With all of this in mind, I took my MacBook to the nearest authorized service center where, as expected, it was fairly well behaved. Fortunately the fan was still running rough, even if it was relatively quiet. That is to say, it had a slight rumble to it, instead of a smooth purr that you normally hear.

The technician agreed that it was a hardware issue and took it in. Although it should be ready by late tomorrow, I have plans so it will be Friday before I pick up my baby.

Happily it’s still within the initial one year service guarentee, so it’s free, but this made me decide that US$250 for AppleCare to extend the guarentee to three years is probably a good value.

13 comments to Please excuse my absence.

  • Have you ever had the fan/heat sink/other passageways cleared out of all accumulated dust/lint/filth?

    That worked wonders for me. Solved all kinds of symptoms which made it unclear whether the root was hardware- or software-related.

    • cliff- Actually I wonder about things like dust/lint/filth in the computer, but I haven’t actually noticed any slowing or speed issues with the MacBook, only a crazy loud vibrating fan. The MacBook is a unibody aluminum case from last year.

      That said, those are good tips and I will remember it for when the computer gets a bit older–I wonder if Apple offers a physical cleaning service… it might be worth doing once a year or so…

    • koko

      funny you say that…i’ve seen filth do some pretty nasty things to a computer. the best was when i was working on someone’s computer who kept the desktop inside a room worthy of a closet…and smoked.a.lot. trust me when i say there is a difference between dust/lint/animal hair…and tar. just cleaning the heat sink and getting some of the other gunk out made the computer not only quieter but about 3x as fast. icky.

  • Prashanth

    its funny that its called a macbook “air!”…and it has fan problems 😛

    • Alas, I have the MacBook, not the MacBook Air — The “Air” version cost a whole lot more, although it does weight a whole lot less…

  • Prashanth

    ah so!…I guess then the added advantage of the “air” would be also a better fan that fits together with a laptop in a manila envelope 😛

  • I *STRONGLY* encourage you to get AppleCare. It’s definitely worth it — there have been occasional issues with James’ and my Macbooks. He needed to replace his hard-drive TWICE during the warranty period, the second of which occurred only two days before AppleCare expired!

    Now our Macbooks are dinosaurs and we’re outta luck if something else goes wrong. Other than that, we’re actually very happy with them! LOL

    • I have ordered AppleCare–but in the USA, which I will actually get when I’m back in the States in a few weeks. The cost difference, even with sales tax, is astronomical. The base price in the US is $250, here in Germany the base price is 249€, and at the Apple Reseller that did my service, in excess of 300€!

  • Reko

    Adam, Adam! Hi! Long time no hear from you. Is this because of your ailing MacBook? Remember: Apple products are EVIL. Join the PC-revolution!
    Also: you da MAN!!!
    Love, Reko

  • The good thing about Mac/Apple is that it generally works, and has fewer overall issues.

    The bad thing is that when they do, you better have a warranty or a few gold bricks laying around.