Reader Feeback Request: Help! I think my Mac is dying!

So, I’m having some trouble – and I’m hoping you guys, who are infinitely smarter than me – can give me an idea of just what the heck is going on.

My Mac has been giving me trouble for a while now. First the problem was with recording audio through a USB Mic. My first thought was that there was a problem with mic that I had – but I have since begun testing out a new usb mic from a different company (and a significantly better product) and it is having the same random audio problems. Sometimes in the middle of a recording the audio will suddenly sound like someone is crumpling aluminum foil as I speak, causing a very static filled sound.

The system also seems to run pretty slow. Sometimes lagging when only Safari and Mail are open – other times running smoothly with Photoshop and Illustrator running at the same time. I bought this unit last Feb. It’s a 2.16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 Gbs of 667 Mhz DDR2 SDRAM.

Now, this weekend I made the mistake of trying to import some video onto the hard drive, and it ended up getting a lot fuller than I expected – leaving me only 2 gbs of free space. I moved that over to an external drive, and now the system has roughly 35 gbs free. Yesterday afternoon the system gave me the “black curtain of death” so I ran the Disk Utility and Verified the Disk, Repaired the Disk, and the Permissions. About 6 hours later that night the system completely froze up as I was writing a post for the blog, and stayed frozen until I rebooted it.

I am concerned about these ongoing problems – and I am beginning to think my hard drive may be screwed. I would really like your feedback on this situation. Is there anything else I can try to fix it? Could it be a problem other than the hard drive, and if so – what?

Comments

  1. make a bootable backup to a firewire external drive and try to boot
    then u know if it is the harddrive

  2. Could be the IDE cable, which is easy to damage if your computer is dropped or bumped quite hard.

  3. New Macbooks come out and now you computer suddenly is not working properly. Hum, coincidence or special sauce? ;-) Think of it as karma and use this as an excuse to get a new one.

  4. Consider 2 things:

    Memory could be getting flakey.
    HD could be going bad.

    They look much the same. To eliminate the HD issue, get a new firewire box drive and install a clean OS on that, add your apps, and see how it works for a few days. If the problem(s) go away, it is your internal disk and replacement will solve your problems long term.

    If they don’t go away, get new memory (just one stick), remove your existing memory, put in the new stick and run for a few days. If the problem goes away then you have a memory issue, and you can test the other 2 sticks (one at a time) with the new one. When the problems re-appear, you have found the back stick.

    If this doesn’t solve your problems, then as Cameron has mentioned the new MacBook(Pro) may be your solution.

  5. Is there a way to test the HD without buying a new hard drive? I just bought a USB external HD and I don’t want to have to buy another one if I can help it.

  6. @Cameron

    One can not just simply “go out and get a new one” when you’re talking about a $2000+ computer.

    @Michael

    You “just” upgraded to Leopard, so it’s not a case of needing a clean install. Unless you did an upgrade. You could try a clean install, but I doubt that is it. Unless, like I said, you did an upgrade from Tiger.

    Have you tried the diagnostic utlity on the Leopard DVD?

    If you think your hard drive is faulty, or dying a slow death, then maybe this is a good oppurtunity to upgade to a larger hard drive. OWC (macsales.com) has good prices.

    Since you’re out of warranty, did you buy Apple care? If so, you could do another 4 hours in the car and take it to the Apple Store and see if a Apple is willing or able to do some kind of motherboard diagnostic. If you explain all the problems you’ve been having then maybe they will replace the machine. (If you have Apple Care, that is.)

  7. Back up data
    Reformat
    Reinstall

  8. Aren’t there known issues with some Macbook hard drives? Search through Apple’s support forums, and while you’re there, look for a utility app like Checkup or SMART Utility in the Downloads section of Apple’s site. I have a heard time believing that a Mac as “young” as yours is dying already especially since I have a G4 mac that’s still running strong. But not every component is perfect, so… take each of the previous suggestions into consideration and go from there.

  9. Here’s a thread on the Macbook hard drive failure epidemic:

    http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=960977&start=0&tstart=0

  10. My MBP hard drive failed last week- sounds like simolar symptoms. Make sure your backups are up to date and give applcare a ring.

  11. @Bryan

    That’s exactly what’s going on. I am screwed.

    :P

    I cheaped out and didn’t get AppleCare.

  12. Its still in the frist year isnt it?

  13. @Ben

    The support ran out 3 weeks ago.

    @Everyone

    Apple wants to charge me over $900 to replace my hard drive.

    Tech Restore, on the other hand, will not only replace, but upgrade the hard drive for $199 for a 160 Gb hard drive, $279 for a 250 Gb hard drive, and $329 for a 350 Gb hard drive.

    I literally couldn’t help but laugh at the Apple support guy when he said $900. That’s insane.

  14. Special Sauce says:

    The first thing to try is a second user. It’s less invasive than the suggestions above. If the problem persists, try an Archive and Install and preserve user/network settings (assuming the user-level doesn’t have an issue). Kernal panics (the black screen) are more likely software related than hardware.

    The next step would be #1 Johns idea of a bootable volume. You can then repair the disk if you had errors.

    Personally I would never look at the forums. They always tend to be wrong, and a handful of people blow things way out of proportion from what a few million people experience.

  15. Get the Hitachi 200GB 7200 rpm Travelstar Drive – i have it in my 2 Ghz CD MacBook Pro. that hard disk rocks with up to 56-60 MB reads and writes.
    Apple should build in these drives.
    It makes a whole different machine!

    I bought AppleCare if it was to make sure i never have trouble with my MBP. ;-)

  16. Michael,

    If you’re only three weeks out of warranty and this is a known issue with the hard drives (it would seem so), start working your way up the food chain with Apple Customer Care/Support or whatever they call it.

    They should still take care of this for you because of the nature of the problem and the fact that you had symptoms before your warranty expired. It’s too bad you didn’t actually call in or have it checked before it ran out, but if you stand strong and insist that they do something they likely will.

    Just remember to be polite and courteous. When and if you don’t hear what you need to hear, simply ask to speak with that individual’s manager and keep moving up the chain of command as necessary.

    Good luck!

  17. David B Haun says:

    Michael,
    I remember you saying you had two Mac’s the other a Mac mini.

  18. Remember, the squeeky wheel gets the oil!

  19. did you try reseating the ram?

    remove the 2 sticks of ram and swap their slots

  20. seems to be a common problem with current harddrives. the warranty runs out and kaboom it dies :(

    Anyway, here is something you may want to check when buying a new drive:
    I remember Seagate, Hitachi and a few others had quite long warranties on their drives (at no extra cost if it wasn’t bought as OEM) – up to 3 years. You look up the drive’s serial number online, file a RMA request, send them the defective drive and they mail you a new drive and all you pay is postage. I did that a few times with desktop drives when they died on me and I remember a few manufacturers also offer this sort of warranty for their mobile HDDs.

    Good Luck

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