I still really like my compact, power-stingy, WiFi-sensitive black MacBook but you know, it’s crashing a couple of times a week. Symptom: frozen screen, no response to keyboard or mouse. This is not what I pay the Mac premium for, and I’m grouchy. In particular since it sometimes crashes hard enough to destroy things; Apple’s lackadaisical attitude towards file preservation (see here and here) has cost me my Library/Preferences folder once (ouch!) and little bits and pieces on other occasions. I wonder if it’s the hardware or this particular version of Tiger?



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ted Wood (May 07 2007, at 11:37)

Hi Tim,

A crashing Mac is not normal. Your post doesn't go into detail about anything you might have done to cause the crashing.

- how many accounts do you have set up?

- what software have you installed?

- have you installed 3rd-party RAM or other hardware?

- have you installed any system hacks (APE)?

- what are you doing when the system crashes? Running a particular program?

Providing more detailed information will let the Mac community help you out and save you from being grouchy. :)

~Ted

(email: com.mac-at-coolfactor)

[link]

From: Woody (May 07 2007, at 11:41)

I have not had the same issue I can go a month easy with using my Tiger machine 12-14hrs a day! I think you must have some HW issues....talk to Apple!!

[link]

From: Thijs van der Vossen (May 07 2007, at 12:11)

Hardware. Get it replaced.

[link]

From: Tony (May 07 2007, at 12:19)

Sounds like a RAM problem. Or a faulty motherboard. I went a year or so with intermittent lockups on my Powerbook G4, and Apple eventually replaced it straight up with a brand new MacBookPro, because they were tired of replacing old hardware.

Applecare has definitely paid for itself

[link]

From: ghort (May 07 2007, at 12:23)

That sounds like bad memory.

http://www.kelleycomputing.net:16080/rember/

[link]

From: Daniel Morrison (May 07 2007, at 12:40)

Your two "here" links are for "ongoing2.local"

[link]

From: ziad (May 07 2007, at 12:41)

Hi,

something seems to be wrong with your 2 links (points to ongoing2-local)

hope this helps

[link]

From: Jason McIntosh (May 07 2007, at 12:51)

I assume you've checked the SMART status of your drive? Have you tried repairing disk permissions? Is there a process or something installed that's locking up the machine? (I usually end up doing most of this kind of debugging through the shell, as I can find a lot more information). It SOUNDS like a hardware issue, or some driver that's killing the machine. Last, I'm assuming you've got SSHD started? When things lock up, have you tried SSH'ing into the machine from a remote host to see whether CPU utilization is at 100% and what is using the usage?

Just to give you an idea, I've hit some things like this in the past where I tried to replace a trackpad driver with an open source driver or similar, and it's locked up my machine hard.

[link]

From: rick gregory (May 07 2007, at 12:56)

This happened to me and the apple store replaced my ram. That solved it for me. YMMV and all, but it certainly should not crash several times a week. I'm running 10.4.9 on a black Core Duo (not Core 2 Duo)... which reminds me I need to add more RAM... sigh

[link]

From: Steve (May 07 2007, at 13:17)

I assume you are saying that you have not installed any other software than what is on the system disks etc?

Have you checked the console viewer / sys logs?

[link]

From: Rafe (May 07 2007, at 13:27)

Is it worth checking to make sure there's not a problem with your RAM? Such regular crashing would seem to indicate that things are amiss.

[link]

From: Jason Clark (May 07 2007, at 13:34)

> I wonder if it’s the hardware or this particular version of Tiger?

If your symptoms were caused by a particular version of Tiger, I would expect such symptoms to be more widespread. Have you run the Hardware diagnostics CD that shipped with the Mac?

A clean bill of health from the CD is not a slam dunk, however. When my (pre-builtin-iSight) 1.83GHz iMac began black-screen crashing about a year ago, I took it to my local Genius bar. They easily reproduced the lockup within 5 minutes of power-on, but an hour of running diagnostics couldn't reproduce it. In the end, the Genius handling my case suspected a bad power supply, but couldn't be sure. He kept the iMac overnight, and ran an extended diagnostic which produced nothing. At that point he replaced the power supply, and I've had no issues since.

[link]

From: Erich Finchley (May 07 2007, at 20:25)

I thought the whole point with buying into the Apple hype was that "SSH'ing into the machine from a remote host to see whether CPU utilization is at 100%" wasn't supposed to be necessary.

If you like that sort of problem-solving, you can do that kinda thing much cheaper with Ubuntu or OpenSolaris.

[link]

From: Mark (May 08 2007, at 01:42)

Freezes (and sleeps that won't wake) started for me after the system update before last. I was kind of bummed that the last system update didn't fix it.

No lost data that I know of, though. I would recommend SuperDuper and two or three external backup drives for backups. It's like the best web protocols: doesn't try to do everything and cover every conceivable contingency like Retrospect ("I just discovered I deleted a file six months ago I need to recover!"), but it covers the 99% of cases in an absolutely idiotproof manner.

The general rule is to not update for a couple days after a system update is released, and keep an eye on sites like MacinTouch that report quickly and in detail about any update glitches encountered by users.

[link]

From: MikeP (May 08 2007, at 05:23)

Yep, almost certainly RAM; if it's not that, it's logic board or hard disk, most likely in that order.

I don't trust SMART statuses; if they say the disk is failing, it probably is, but if they say it's fine, that may be - I had a drive fail catastrophically with a good SMART status. Fortunately it was not without warning: the Powerbook was sluggish and making weird noises, so we had a backup. (Incidentally, tearing apart a 12" Powerbook on a Friday afternoon? Not Fun.)

[link]

From: Drew (May 08 2007, at 08:22)

I'll jump on the RAM bandwagon, but it could also be a misbehaving kernel extension or daemon. One of the parallels betas sent my MBPro into a nightmarish run of seemingly random lockups and uninstalling it and waiting for a finished release from the good folks at Parllels--which now works like a champ once again btw--was the solution.

Another possibility is there were some power-mgmt problems with the MacBooks have you run all the firmware patches?

One way to eliminate 3rd party software is to install OS X on an external firewire drive and update it to the latest version and see if you can get it to crash. If it still locks up you can rule out 3rd party software and your internal hard-drive in one stroke. If it doesn't crash you're down to two potential culprits.

The rest of my post is a bit off-topic feel free to edit it out...

To the fellow who wonders why anyone ever has to troubleshoot a Mac and if you do doesn't that mean there's no reason to own one: Macs are hardly perfect machines. In my experience I prefer the user experience and I generally have less trouble with them than Windows based PC's but that doesn't mean they don't have problems. I think most Mac users who don't feel backed into a corner will admit that. The problem is that most of the time we feel like any admission of weakness means total loss of access to our preferred computer. For people who somehow made it through the 90's as Mac users there's a very "us vs. them" mentality. The switch to Intel hardware seems to finally be mitigating that a bit, but some people are still a little punch drunk and make wild claims about--and in defense of--their choice of computer. Their are plenty of reasons to use any computing platform that works for you. Perfection is not one of them. Conversely a few flaws is no reason not to use the platform you prefer.

[link]

From: Alexander Staubo (May 08 2007, at 15:01)

When your Mac freezes, does the screen contents remain fixed while your mouse is moveable, caps lock led responds, iTunes keeps playing? Does it occur when you are switching between apps using command+tab? Can you ping and SSH into the box?

There's a glitch somewhere in the graphics subsystem that exhibits this behaviours, and is (consistently?) triggered by the cmd+tab application switcher; the GUI simply stops working, while the apps continue to run. The bug also seems to be, at least in part, influenced by the plugging/unplugging of an external screen, which you seem to be doing.

There's no known cure, but there's an effective workaround: Install LiteSwitch (http://www.proteron.com/liteswitchx/), a $15 shareware replacement for the OS X app switcher. It looks pretty much like the built-in switcher, is a bit faster, and has a bunch of nice features to boot.

It's a shame that you have to buy a shareware app to fix an Apple problem, but I was rebooting almost every day until I bought it, so it was worth every penny.

[link]

From: sjs (May 09 2007, at 14:29)

In recent months I too have had problems with my MacBook (Core Duo) freezing, also about once or twice a week. The comment about Cmd-Tab is interesting because I just re-installed LiteSwitch a few days ago because the built-in app switcher doesn't remember which appp I used last. I use an external display daily as well.

[link]

From: James Shepherd (May 10 2007, at 12:27)

Me too.

I'm very tempted to install linux to either prove it's hardware or software, but don't have the time. Would be interested if anyone has tried this.

I have upgraded the RAM, and HD. I'm gonna try a week with the stock RAM. (Must remember to change Eclipse startup opts to use less heap...)

[link]

From: Ryan (May 11 2007, at 17:37)

Congratulations to Mac fan Ted Wood for speculating that everything is Tim's fault -- in record time!

Remember: Macs are easy to use as long as you don't do something as audacious as adding memory, software or data.

PS I'm planning to buy a Mac, despite these attitudes.

[link]

From: James Shepherd (May 14 2007, at 14:43)

HD failed tonight! After a SuperDuper! quick change to my backup image I'm up and running again - without an iTunes folder and gentoo linux parallels image :-(

So, now I have my MacBook as stock - oh - except for the new battery and DVD drive that Apple have already had to replace...

[link]

From: James Shepherd (May 18 2007, at 13:00)

Well, since replacing the HD I have noticed a more stable environment, and not one problem with sleep.

Got over 1 millon page ins one day, till I remembered to change the tomcat heap settings :-)

I've put the 2G of Mushkin back in. Sending the Seagate back to NCIX on Broadway. Hopefully the memory upgrade will not bring back the instability.

[link]

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
May 07, 2007
· Technology (85 fragments)
· · Mac OS X (115 fragments)
· · · Gripes (22 more)

By

I am an employee of Amazon.com, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my professional interests is on the author page.