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MBP, R.I.P. (maybe)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 22, 2010 in Technology

One would think somebody who graduated with a degree in, say, Computer Science wouldn’t be so surprised by the fallibility of modern electronics.

But there I was this afternoon, trying to open up an Excel spreadsheet with my final exam schedule, sitting there perplexed by the lack of noticeable activity. Little did I know the truth: my 4-year-old MacBook Pro was sitting there dying in front of me :(

I eventually shut it down, thinking this was just another Microsoft Office bug and that would be fixed by a quick restart. I power it on, hear the familiar chime, see the Apple logo come up, and…

…nothing.

Restart and try it again, thinking it’s a fluke. Same result.
Restart again and try to boot into the Windows Vista partition I use for ExamSoft. This time it freezes at the initial Windows progress bar.

Fear starts to creep into the back of my mind. “Just relax,” my mind reassures itself, “It’s probably just a corrupted hard drive we can fix in about 20 minutes.”

Grab my Snow Leopard install DVD and try to boot from the disc. Nothing.
Reset the SMC and PRAM then restart again.  Nada.
Restart in the Unix equivalent of “safe mode.” Nil.

I notice the complete and total lack of noise from the hard drive, meaning it’s something other than a failed drive (usually a corrupted disk makes a clicking sound). Fear turns into dread.

Restart in verbose mode to to see how far along the boot process gets, and notice it hangs at:

ACPI: System state [S0 S3 S4 S5] (S3)

My heart sinks; dread turns into panic. The inner-geek in me notices that particular line was a stumbling point for the Hackintosh1 folks when there was an incompatibility with the motherboard and the OS.

Translation for MBP users like me: the motherboard is dead :cry2:

I run to my old desktop in the other room (used for doc archives) to see if I can load the laptop’s hard drive in FireWire Target Disk Mode. It works, so I’m thankfully able to at least pull off the docs I’ve modified since my last backup.

I promptly schedule an appointment with the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. Pack everything up. Jump in the car. Speed to the Apple Store. Plaintively explain everything to the guy at the Genius Bar.

All to no avail.

20 minutes later, after trying a few other tests I didn’t have the resources to try myself, my fears are confirmed — the logic board has failed and my laptop won’t be booting any time soon. I reluctantly agree to have the laptop shipped to a repair depot, where hopefully a logic board transplant will get it in good working order again.2 It gave me a better understanding of what this feels like.

That’s pretty much how my afternoon/evening was spent today. I’ve lost hard drives before (always backup your data!!) but never a logic board. It put me in a sufficiently frosty mood when I got home that I neglected to follow one of the cardinal rules of cooking as I made dinner, ending up with grease burning the heck out of a couple of the fingers on my right hand :beatup:

BUT, on the bright side, this means I’ll have to pay attention in class for the next few days since I won’t have the news or Facebook to distract me :D  I’m determined to find a silver lining to this whole scenario…

  1. A hacked installation of MacOS X on non-Apple hardware. []
  2. The downside is that I’ll be out a few hundred $$ and have to give up my laptop for 5-7 days… 1 day before meeting with my partner on our Legal Research project, 4 days before the monthly UNCASG meeting, and 9 days before midterm exams. :beatup: []

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