MacBook Repair: My Personal unit

There is a belief that Computer Techs never have issues with computers. That computers always seem to work around us. However, this is a myth. I have problems with my computers all the time. The difference is that I know how to fix the issue or know where to find the answers I need to do so. So this week when my personal MacBook started issues I needed to dive in and repair it myself. So I’m going to walk you through the steps that I took Repairing my own Macbook

My Old 2011 15″ MacBook Pro is 10 years old. I have done as much as I can to upgrade it.

  • 1TB SSD
  • 12 Gigs of RAM
  • 2TB Standard HD (Replaced the optical drive)
  • OSX 10.13 (Duel booted with Ubunutu, Parrot Linux)
Macbook Repair of my personal device and my troubleshooting  process
Kevin C Mason Tinkering in his shop

The fault with my MacBook

Signs it was about to die

So here is where the problem comes in… Over the past few months, I have noted that when running intense graphics the system would Kernel panic! (Kinda like the Blue screen of death for windows). I have also noted that the Wifi card was having issues maintaining a good connection. (Not a software issue as it also had issues while I was running Ubuntu). This did happen just enough times for me to consider getting a new MacBook Pro. (That idea was shot down due to budget restraints)

Then last night it booted to a “White screen”.

I panicked at first even though in the last 15 years I have never lost someone’s data. (Computers and hard drives that were DOA is a different story but never anything that had to do with me) I was a little worried as I had just deleted my Time Machine backup the other day and did not have time to start a New Time Machine Backup. YIKES!

White Screens normally suggest some sort of HD issue. So first things first I tried to see if my data was still intact. Data is always the most important thing when trying to repair a MacBook

Booting to Single User Mode AKA “Command Line”

Command-line is scary for a lot of people! Not me. I do a lot of work using the command line. I actually enjoy using it. Many people do not know this but if you boot your Mac while holding down the Command + S key it will go into the command line.

I basically used the “cd /Users/Kevin/ command to see what was going on.

The system booted straight into the CLI and was working correctly. I was able to see all my files by checking the user folders. This told me that I did not need to repair my SSD! At this point, my heart rate was starting to lower knowing that all my work was safe.

Troubleshooting the MacBook Repair.

The foundation of any good computer tech is not the number of facts they can regurgitate about a computer but their strong foundation of critical thinking. Troubleshooting theory! The reason why you hate calling tech support for any of the major tech companies (Apple is an exception) is that they are reading off a script! There is no troubleshooting Theory! So if something is not in their script the agent gets lost.

Troubleshooting Theory is using the process of elimination to find the source of the problem! It first starts off with gathering facts about the problem. This first part is also known as probing. ( A step that many computer repair folks skip then waste a lot of time because their guess was wrong) I also write everything down in my case notes. This will give me a chance to review the case after the repair to see if I missed anything. This will also allow me to look back a few years from now to see if a new issue could have been caused by the current repair ( I do this with every client)

  • White Screen normally is a hardware issue
  • The system shows the Apple Logo while booting
  • MacBook data can be seen while in CLI
  • SafeBoot, Recovery Mode, and Network boot all boot to the white screen
  • MacBook can be seen on the network while on the White screen.
  • Resetting the PRAM does not fix the issue.
  • Unable to reset the SMC via hotkeys.
  • More than one Operating system affected (OSX and Linux)

(If I was in my shop I would have also removed the battery. Tested with Target Disk Mode & Booted from an external drive)

The above information tells me that this is an Apple hardware issue! The reason why I say this is because the device can be seen on the network, and two different operating systems will not work. If the issue was a software issue Linux would have worked correctly as well as the network boot. (You can boot to network install even if you do not have an OS installed)

With this information I can tell that the issue is with the graphics card.

Good news Bad news and some good news!

The good news is that the data is intact! All my data seems to be ok and responding correctly in the SSD.

The bad news that this hardware issue is most likely the Logic Board. (This is the main board on the system and the most expensive). This MacBook Repair would not be worth the cost! My only hope is that by detaching the battery I could properly reset the SMC. Then again how long would it be before I have this issue again? After all the Macbook Pro is 10 years old.

Fixing the old logic board (other than the SMC reset that I will attempt tomorrow) is not feasible.

And now some more good news!

I have some good friends who live just outside of Lithgow who needed me to repair the data on an old MacBook Pro! The cool thing is that their 2012 Macbook Pro 13″ is not something they need anymore because they just got a new Macbook! In fact, that is what I’m writing this blog post on! So even if I’m not able to repair my old Macbook I will not be out of a computer.

The New Macbook pro 13″ is only a year newer than the old MacBook however Moore’s Law was still in effect back them and there is a big difference in processing power between the two. I have given the name of the new Macbook pro “Sticker Boy”

Tomorrows plan to fix the old Macbook

So tomorrow I’m going to try a few last-ditch efforts to get the 2011 Macbook Pro “15 to work again. Starting with resetting the SMC! IF that does not work I will remove the SSD and the expansion drive and move it over to “Sticker Boy”. Cross fingers either way. (Special thanks to Bess and Karl for the Macbook)

So what can we learn from this MacBook Repair?

  • Data is more important than hardware!
  • Good case notes are important for every repair (IF the SMC reset works I will have two MacBooks)
  • Good Troubleshooting will save you time.
  • NEVER too busy to have a Backup (This could have been bad)
  • Even a 10-year-old Macbook is worth a repair.

I will do another blog post about what I find out about the SMC reset.

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