MacInTouch Reader Reports

MacBook: Problems

Jan. 15, 2009
Jan. 16, 2009
Jan. 17, 2009
Jan. 19, 2009
Jan. 21, 2009
Jan. 22, 2009
Jan. 23, 2009
Feb. 18, 2009
Feb. 20, 2009
Mar. 12, 2009
Mar. 13, 2009
Mar. 14, 2009
Mar. 16, 2009
Mar. 17, 2009
Apr. 22, 2009
Jun. 6, 2009
Jun. 8, 2009
Jun. 9, 2009
Jun. 10, 2009
Jun. 11, 2009

Newer entries...
Jan. 15, 2009

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Paul Huang

In recent weeks, I have handled about half dozen of self-destructive Macbooks. The disturbing trend is that the reps are starting to use the term 'natural wear and tear'.

It's a known fact that the 'top cover' of the computer's base had and has a faulty design (more on this later), the injection molding process is flawed, and the material is flawed. All these elements combined made the MacBooks disintegrate under normal use. Apple would like to call this 'cosmetic', but it is anything but cosmetic. I will explain this further

The 1.5" strips on the bezel that act as spacers which add just 1.5mm of additional clearance between the keyboard and the screen is the source of impact/breakage on the palm rest. The 'technical term' of such breakage is 'splinter'. Those who have splintered top cover know that the edges of the top cover are thinner than the area below the palm rest. The reduced thickness overlaps the bottom case. That design is structurally weak already.

From a section view, it's clear that the spacer on the bezel lands on the thinner part. Worse yet, the 'strike zone' has absolutely no support (hollow below). This design is destined to fail. Apple may replace the case, but it does not address the fundamental design problem. I would urge MacBook owners to insist that Apple address the design problem, not just replace the case repeatedly. What does this mean? Replace it with the 10/14/2008 version of MacBook.

The plastic MacBook design has not changed a bit. The poor material and manufacturing process persists, even though Apple claims that the problems were addressed. I have observed that MacBook (plastic) produced after November 2008 still has the same problem.

Now the bottom case. If you observe cracks near the base of the hinge, insist that they replace it free of charge. There are typically several microscopic seams or cracks. They develop over time. When one side is cracked, the torque is different. When that condition exists, the LCD panel is affected by excessive torsional flex and eventually could break.

Don't let Apple call this a 'natural wear and tear' or 'cosmetic damage'. The plastic MacBook is the worst Apple product I have encountered and it's a shame that Apple has not offered a free upgrade to the 10/14/2008 version MacBook, or even offer a $250 upgrade.

Jan. 16, 2009

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Robert Mohns

Paul Huang writes:

"In recent weeks, I have handled about half dozen of self-destructive Macbooks.... the 'top cover' of the computer's base had and has a faulty design (more on this later), the injection molding process is flawed, and the material is flawed. All these elements combined made the MacBooks disintegrate under normal use."

Two years ago, in Dec 2006, MacInTouch did a MacBook reliability survey. Out of 3705 total Intel Mac laptops reported in the survey, about 1000 were first generation MacBook Core Duos. (The new Core 2 Duo based models were relatively new at the time.)

I don't remember seeing this particular problem in any of the reports. (There was a spate of case replacements due to yellowing plastic of the palm rest.) Perhaps this is a new problem? Or it only shows up after significant aging? What is the youngest MacBook you've seen this problem on? And, so we can get an idea of when it started, how about the oldest?

Thanks for reporting this -- let's see if we can get some more data about it! I'd like to be able to establish which particular models are affected, and whether it's endemic or specific to certain manufacturing times.

(My wife's first-generation Core Duo white MacBook doesn't have the trouble you describe, nor do any of several others I have access to ... but of course, anecdotes are not data!)

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John Steggall

About a month ago, I took my son's Macbook to the local Apple store to diagnose a battery problem. The Genius tested the battery and found it faulty. They offered a free replacement battery. Before the Genius took the machine into the back room, he noticed a small crack (~1 x 10mm) on the front edge of the palm rest area of the case's top and offered to replace the top of the case, no charge. To be honest, I hadn't noticed the crack until he pointed it out.

After about 25 minutes, we walked out with a nicely refurbished machine. All this took place in a store which was completely *packed* with pre-Christmas shoppers.

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John Muccigrosso

Paul Huang writes:

"The 1.5" strips on the bezel that act as spacers which add just 1.5mm of additional clearance between the keyboard and the screen is the source of impact/breakage on the palm rest. The 'technical term' of such breakage is 'splinter'. Those who have splintered top cover know that the edges of the top cover are thinner than the area below the palm rest. The reduced thickness overlaps the bottom case. That design is structurally weak already."

Coincidentally this just happened to my 14-month-old white 2.2GHz MacBook. I made an appointment for the Genius bar because my fan just starting being audible under light load (before, it was whisper quiet). After I had the date, I saw that this splintering had occurred (must have just happened because I'd have noticed).

So now I have a new keyboard and housing (after what must have been only about three hours), but they claimed that the noise I'm hearing was a transformer (IIRC) and was fixed be a PRAM reset (nonsense, because I'd already tried that).

So I decided to wait on the noise and see what happens (there's never a good time to be without the laptop), and won't be surprised if my case splinters again. Paul is right that there's aflaw here. The top half clearly comes down too far even where those spacers aren't: my mouse button had (before they replaced it) a horizontal line across it where the screen-trim edge touches it. I use the trackpad as a button, so my fingers almost never touched the pad to clean it off.

FWIW, my last laptop, a 12" iBook, got a new keyboard and housing in the last week of its 3-year warranty. (Course the hard drive died a year later.)

Jan. 17, 2009

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Paul Huang

The plastic palm rest 'splintering' problem is by design and will occur to ALL of the MacBooks eventually. The black ones are also affected, but they are not as visible just because they are dark and difficult to detect the cracks.

I will make a blanket statement here: All of the white MacBooks are affected by this problem. It's just a matter of whether there notices it or not. By the time it starts to separate, the warranty is typically over.

There was a recall early on addressing the plastic yellowing, which is a separate problem altogether. The splinter is serious enough for Apple to discontinue this design after just a two-year run and replace it with a model that has rubber cushion all around.

Plenty of people have refuted my observation only to discover that they were affected after the warranty was over.

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Robert Mohns

Another note on the MacBook splintering thing: I spoke too soon, because today someone walked into a meeting with a white MacBook with a splintering front edge. 14 months old. So there's one data point. (I asked its owner to let me know what Apple says about it.)

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James French

I have seen two white MacBooks (that is about 2 out of 5) that have got cracks and holes in the top of the case. Both were in the right corner where you would rest your right wrist to type.
Both were between 11 and 18 months old.

One of them was mine so I took it back to the Apple Store in Solihull, UK when it was eleven months old. The geniuses looked at it and took five seconds to offer me a new top case, free-of-charge as it is a 'known issue'. They would have done it in under an hour, if I hadn't asked them how to remove the horizontal line that had gradually appeared on my display over several weeks and could not be cleaned off (it aligned with the bottom of the space bar). They said they would replace the screen without me even asking! It took 3 days and the computer is now as good as new. I had not taken out AppleCare.

Way to go, Apple! Fantastic customer service!

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Mike Casteel

I have been reading about the problem with the MacBook plastic case cracking at the front edge of the palmrest, where the screen spacers come down.

Just a couple months ago I had a small strip break off the front of the palm rest on my black MB purchased (with Applecare) in January 2007. I first contacted Apple support online about the problem. They got me an appointment right away at the local Apple Store, and in an hour I had a brand new trackpad and palmrest (and a significantly cleaned-up MacBook). This was just after Christmas 2008.

I felt I got great service in this case. People who don't live near an Apple store or service provider would probably find it less satisfying.

Jan. 19, 2009

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Colleen Thompson

I've seen quite a few MacBooks with the splintered palmrest edge. I wonder if some peoples' skin chemistry makes this more likely to happen. The affected owners didn't seem to care much about it.

Luckily, I use an external keyboard with my MB and seldom take it out of the house, thanks to the utility of my iPhone for email, passwords, etc.

[For what it's worth, this particular problem seems more like a mechanical issue than a chemical one, based on the previous notes posted, but people must differ greatly in how much pressure they put on the surface of the laptop when typing. -Ric Ford]

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Jack Sterk

The splintering on the plastic Macbooks is covered under original warranty or applecare. I have had all three of our upper and lower cases replaced.

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Edouard Kestemont

i have had two Macbooks repaired at no charge, one still under warranty, the other, more than two years old, well after garanty was expired. Good work of Apple.

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Evadne Wu

I have an MacBook 2,1 (early 2007) and it is really sick. I have cracking top cases and bottom cases which all have been replaced with equivalently inferior parts. It had cracked LCD bezel, bad fan, bad audio out, bad chassis, dying battery, and flickering backlight. Apple couldn't set it straight at the first time and the unit was sent to an service provider the 5th time this Friday.

This is definitely not a new problem. Once in January 2008 I have the top case replaced. The same problem showed again in November. I am p_ssed off and am going to demand a replacement. What does this say?

Pretty simple: a) MacBooks made in early 2007 have faulty top cases; and b) MacBooks made in early 2008 have faulty top cases; and c) All the plastic MacBooks that were ever made have, very probably, faulty top cases. It's not incidence. If we dig deeper, there is a Flickr group http://www.flickr.com/groups/borkedmacbooks/pool/ from where we can see tons of cases.

It is very obvious that Apple is not going to deliver excellent MacBooks, given that every MacBook have inferior LCDs than those of the MacBook Pros; and Apple is not going to deliver excellent MacBooks also, given the fact that every MacBook Pro, excluding the new 17" unibody one, have inferior LCDs that were simply worse than those on PowerBook G4s.

From a personal POV, Apple is screwing their customers. They are essentially a software company, and people who were serious enough about their software made their own hardware. They, however, are not doing this well.

[While this is a very real problem, and we have a blatant example here with a white MacBook, it's also worth noting that millions of Mac laptop users are happy with their computers, despite this particular problem and various other issues. -Ric Ford]

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David Jones

I sent my MacBook back for the plastic top replacement after 8 months. It's happened again. I thought it was just me - packing the laptop in an overloaded Targus bag.

Since my AppleCare is still in force, I'll call my local (Providence) Apple Store and see if they can do the fix for me.

Otherwise, I'm quite happy with the MacBook.

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Ian O

I cured the yellowing plastic (and other grime) on my 2.16GHz MacBook with those white microfibre foam blocks. Cut a piece off dampen with water with a little detergent added (2 drops per cup) squeeze most of the water out and rub. Genuinely magic!

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Gary Goodenough

I believe the plastic MacBook case has a design flaw. The flaw is likely with the two hard "bumpers" molded on the top corners of the lid. The hard plastic "bumpers" have a length of a little more than 1 1/8 inches each, for a combined length of about 2 5/16" on the upper lid that is about 12 3/4" total width. When the MacBook is closed, the full force of the two thin hard "bumpers" hit the top surface of the lower case. In addition, two strong magnets (which I just discovered as I measured the top with a steel tape) pull the case halves together. Unless there is reinforcement under the palm rest where the hard "bumpers" hit, it seems like cracking is at least a potential problem on a hard plastic case with hard plastic "bumpers."

My white MacBook is about 16 months old with no signs of cracking. However, I have been closing it carefully since I read about the cracking problem on a March 27th 2008 post on brianford.newsvine.com.
Link with photos -- http://tinyurl.com/2zseo9

Something I do not understand about the cracking in the photos posted on brianford.newsvine.com. The cracking in the posted photos is not in the "off white" plastic of the palm rest but in the white plastic of the case bottom. On my White MacBook the contact point and the "bumpers" on the lid has clearly left a mark, not a crack, on the "off white" plastic of the palm rest. So why is the crack occurring outside of the palm rest plastic?

Replacing the lower case with palm rest may only put off a reoccurring problem likely caused by an Apple design flaw. Has Apple come up with a long term solution? I have experienced excellent service from them under Apple Care for previously owned computers. However, replacing parts with the same design problem is not a solution.

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Becky Waring

Just to add another data point, both of my sisters' white MacBooks (an original model and a second-generation one) developed this splintering. But Apple has replaced the top case without question each time. One has been replaced twice. Both have AppleCare, however, which is a good thing since both machines have had to have hard drive, optical drive and logic board replacements as well.

That has been my experience with all MacBooks and MacBooks Pros purchased in the last 5 years or so. Every single one has had to have major repairs, most more than once. I'm not even counting numerous battery and power supply replacements here. And I get a new machine every 12-18 months, when you would not expect to have these types of problems.

I always buy AppleCare for laptops and it has paid off every time. It also makes it much easier and stress-free to sell on eBay when the time comes for a new machine.

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Gregory Weston

My MacBook is one of the first Core 2 Duo models - bought in November 2006 - and so lightly used that I'd be very suspicious of any claims of "normal" wear and tear. The machine rarely leaves my living room and really doesn't even have its lid closed routinely.

While I don't have any splintering problems on the horizontal surface of the palm rest, I do see several fine cracks around the top edge of the lower case. They're worst - in terms of number and length - on the left third of the front and the front third of the left side. There are two cracks on the left side, each over an inch long, above the two exposed screw heads. On the front edge there are 7 cracks of varying size in kind of an overlapped, feathered pattern. They range from about 1/4" to a tad over an inch. There's also a small run of 5 overlapping cracks above the rear edge of the optical drive slot. They span a total of about half an inch.

Jan. 21, 2009

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Rich Cruse

Can anyone tell me if the splintering problem affects only the white MacBooks or does it affect the black models as well.

I have the original Core Duo Black MacBook and I don't see any splintering (yet).

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MacInTouch Reader

Interesting reading about the problems with cracked Macbook cases. When I bought my late 2007 plastic Macbook, I promptly put it in a clear plastic hard case, which cost a fraction of what the Macbook had cost me. And added a handrest vinyl (the Marware protection pack) so I could feel where the edge of the trackpad was - which also cushions closing the case. Yes, the result is slightly bulkier and weighs slightly more, but, over a year on, there are no cracks in the case. Money well spent, and cheap compared to paying the extra for the black model just to avoid the white plastic showing grime and yellowing.

Apple has always been more concerned with design style (white! it gets dirty) and symmetry (as shown by the screws on the left side of the Macbook that don't provide structural support) than on practicality and robustness.

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Denise O'Brien

I just got my white 13" MacBook (late 07 model) repaired. The case on the right lower edge splintered in late October and the left side showed signs of cracking. I just dropped it off this morning at the Apple Store and I have it back in my hands "better" than new! We shall see. Interesting problem.....
I must admit the service was exemplary and I too believe in AppleCare for any portables.

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MacInTouch Reader

Regarding the cracked Top Cases on MacBooks:

... simply take your computer to an Authorized Apple Service Provider (http://www.apple.com/buy/locator/service/) or an Apple Retail store.

These case issues are routinely repaired under warranty.

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MacInTouch Reader

While I haven't had the bezel and LCD hinge problems that others have reported, I can concurr with Gary Goodenough's observations about the cracking on either side of the palm rest. It is indeed by those plastic ridges on the top case. Without any additional support on the lower case (essentially, there is empty space on the edge of either side of the plam rest), it's just going to happen again no matter how many times the lower case is replaced.

Still, I will probably do that some point. I'm not in any hurry with the Applecare, and I want to see if there is a repair that resolves the issue.

(I supposed this means I'll find my 3rd party hard drive and ram in a baggie with a nasty note saying those caused the case to crack/chip).

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Ron Belisle

My wife has had two MacBooks. The first had the cracking problem twice. The 2nd time it happened was 2 months beyond the 12 month warranty. Then we bought her another one about 7 months ago. It cracked in the exact same place. Apple just repaired it.

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Paul Huang

It's a sham that even though the fine cracks on the polycarbonate is clearly a result of defect in design and material, Apple chooses to call it 'physical damage'. Most of the cracks are already there right out of the box. They become visible over time as dirt and oil from the hands start to collect. Some of the cracks will lead to catastrophic structural failure, such as the ones near the hinges in the back.

I have not encountered enough 'head wind' for me to buy a brand-new MacBook and video tape the entire process of laser-cutting the MacBook into a perfect section, just to show people that the two spacers on the bezel lands on the index-card-thin plastic without any support below. This is a product that is designed to fail over time and the solution Apple is providing is not a solution at all: replacing a case with a faulty design with another case with the same faulty design.

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Calder Benson

Thanks for the heads up. I picked up a pair of those little black nosepads for eyeglasses and stuck them just under the the two hard "bumpers" molded on the top corners of the lid of my 2007 Black Macbook. Hopefully that'll keep the case from cracking anytime soon.

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Alan Charlesworth

My MacBook Core 2 Duo had inch long splinter come loose from the top edge by the right palmrest. I used a small drop of glue to make a repair.

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Josh K

I just today noticed splintering, of the type widely reported, on my 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Macbook purchased new in July 2008.

The tabs on the screen have left tab-length discolorations on the near edge of the palmrest; the splintering is just below the discoloration on the right-hand side, extending in a straight line from a little to the left of the right edge of the discoloration, to a couple centimeters past the left edge of the discoloration. The pieces of the splinter haven't broken off yet but it is already split in two, and the pieces are loose.

I usually only close my computer (certainly without slamming it - the magnets do all the work) when transporting it, and carry it in a large shoulder bag which does a good job of not bouncing things around.

Jan. 22, 2009

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Michael Crutcher

My wife's early MacBook Core Duo -- with AppleCare -- lost a 1-2 inch x 1/8" piece of the top plate on the right side at the front. I took it to the Genuis Bar at the Apple Park City Mall (Lancaster PA) store for another issue, and the technician told me that they could fix it in about 15-20 minutes, which they did ... in about 15-20 minutes. Highly satisfactory outcome.

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Steven MacDonald

Re:

"Can anyone tell me if the splintering problem affects only the white MacBooks or does it affect the black models as well."

Black ones too. My 1st gen. BlackBook had it's palm rest replaced (AppleCare) after about 24 months of use.

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Sterett Prevost

Re: top case splintering

As Calder Benson suggested, getting a pair of "Peel N Stick" silicone eyeglass nose pads and sticking them near, but not on, the inch long ribs at the top of the display will spread the closing pressure over a wider, flat area and probably will eliminate the splintering altogether. I did something of the same thing with pieces of the thin rubber sticky sheet that comes with a set of rubber self-stick bumpers obtainable at any Ace Hardware. So far, no splinters, even under magnification. Saves a trip to Apple.

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Theresa L

This happens to black cases also. Mine has been doing this for awhile. I will go ahead and get it fixed. I didn't realize others were having this problem also.

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Randall Voth

For preventing the cracking problem, Calder Benson suggests adding bumpers under the palmrest. If it's so easily accessible, why not cut a white eraser to size and stuff it in there for support?

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Evadne Wu

Good news. Apple had noticed that my unit, having multiple cracks, is in very poor shape, and is going to restore it to its pristine condition. However, they deny the possibility that there is a manufacturing fault. They have also affirmed that they have switched the maker of the casing in the middle of the course. Now I will strictly adhere to the desk-CODEX-hugged-walk-desk practice, but am somehow sure that under this careful handling, the new top case and bottom case will crack in 2 months if the structure of the MacBook hadn't been revised.

When a fire is starting to burn in a crowded room, some people will be able to slowly, elegantly, and silently escape. They are typically viewed as party breakers.

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Evadne Wu

Paul once wrote:

I have not encountered enough 'head wind' for me to buy a brand-new MacBook and video tape the entire process of laser-cutting the MacBook into a perfect section, just to show people that the two spacers on the bezel lands on the index-card-thin plastic without any support below. ...

Everyone going to ifixit.com can support your claim by illustrating the whole machine mentally inside-out. :) However, yours is the ultimate answer to the problem. Maybe either the customer or Apple needs to sort this out. Bad products, unlike bad reputation, are fixable. We are a forgiving bunch.

Jan. 23, 2009

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Andy Dannelley

On the topic of case splintering, Sterett and Randall suggest preventative measures. I just ordered a new (the one updated yesterday) MacBook and want to take any preventative measures necessary to keep the case from splintering. Is there a photo somewhere to show where to put the pads to protect the case.

BTW: I have 5 year old iBook G4 that has not had any problems so I was surprised to read about the problems with the new poly MacBooks.

Thanks

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Evadne Wu

Calder Benson suggested getting a pair of "Peel N Stick" silicone eyeglass nose pads and sticking them near the inch long ribs at the top of the display.

This will make the crack happen slower and surely will save you a trip to the Apple store. However, Apple needs to be aware of this issue, and not having them know this issue means they will not be aware of this issue. And what's the point of the MacBook design, and the premium over other computers we have paid, if it just can't hold itself in place, under everyday usage?

If you have AppleCare or is under warranty, I suggest you not to worry about the cracking, since the top cases are routinely replaced. The more records in Apple's database, the more serious the issue is. It's just like their oblivious of MacBooks' dying hard drives: people will swap the died drive out and put in a new one on their own, saving a trip to Apple, and saving Apple from making records. This led to an illusion of low failure rate. Similarly, please just make Apple aware if your MacBook is cracking. It is either cracked, cracking, will crack, or haven't cracked.

In the meantime, enjoy your Macs. :)

Feb. 18, 2009

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Derek C.

I had the splintering keyboard problem. I replaced mine 7 times and was approaching the 8th as the problem began to develop. I normally just go to the authorized repair center and get it replaced, but this time I decided to call Apple. They are now sending me a brand new model Macbook. Might be worth a try for others facing continual problems.

Feb. 20, 2009

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Emily Glen

I've been having the cracked upper case problem that pretty much everyone seems to be talking about. Although because crack number 1 (on the right of the palmrest above the on/sleep light) appeared after the warranty had expired.

As I still use the thing, crack number 2 has appeared at almost the same place on the left hand of the trackpad, and now the whole trackpad is so weak that further up the left case by the keyboard is now also splintering.

I have an appointment with my local Genius Bar tonight, will be sure to report back on how I get on. I'm hoping they'll replace it without charge given that this appears to be a very common problem.

Mar. 12, 2009

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Anthony Green

Paul Huang wrote:

In recent weeks, I have handled about half dozen of self-destructive Macbooks. The disturbing trend is that the reps are starting to use the term 'natural wear and tear'.

My MacBook has had to have the bottom shell replaced 4 times, and my experience like Paul is that the reps have now stopped acknowledging theres a design flaw and putting it down to 'natural' use. The new 'stronger' body appears to be nothing of the sort. That's had to be replaced 3 times. Fortunately I was forward thinking enough to get extended Apple Care, but its obvious that the heart of the probelm is a design flaw and thus will persist for the lifetime of the machines.

I think its time Apple offered an extended repair service on these models for this issue.

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Paul Huang

While I have encountered all sorts of 'payout avoidance' maneuvers by AppleCare since mid-2006 regarding the MacBook's defects, I must say that in recent days, the attitude is a bit different. I can't speak for others, because there is a long string of successful MacBook case replacements and even 'MacBook Plastic Junk model turned into aluminum' cases tied to my name, so they may behave a bit differently.

Mar. 13, 2009

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Colleen Thompson

On the subject of the MacBook lower case that gets cracked where the ridges on the upper case impact it...

I had a client recently who showed up with a MacBook with some stick-on semi-spherical rubber feet attached around his screen. His reason for doing that was to prevent the keycap marks from getting on the screen. His bumpers were too thick to let the computer go to sleep when closed (he always turns it off, he said), but it gave me an idea.

What if people got some stick-on felt doodahs (the kind you put on the underside of vases or whatever) and stuck some on either side of the ridge on the upper case? I don't think they would interfere with the magnetic latch, and they might absorb enough of the impact to prevent the cracking. You'd have to find some that were exactly the right thickness, of course. You wouldn't put them on the lower case because your wrists would probably peel them up.

Most of the MacBooks I've seen have those cracks. My own does not because, thanks to my iPhone, it lives mostly on my desk; and when I do close it, I don't slap it shut like you see a lot of people do (which could arguably fall under "normal use".) I hae not yet seen any discussion of whether one's lid-closing technique affects the likelihood of damage.

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Collin Ong

I have one of the original white MacBook and have the commonly reported sliver crack on the front right palmrest where the screen comes in contact. The left palmrest has a serious indentation in the same spot but has not cracked yet. Given the age of the notebook, I just put clear packing tape to hold the crack in place on the right palmrest, but I recently I noticed a crack on the left side of the bottom case, starting at the top between the front-most USB and the microphone port, down to the bottom corner of the USB port, and continuing down to the bottom of the case.

This one concerns me more because I see it as more structural and will likely continue to spread across the bottom of the case.

The unit is well out of warranty. Does anybody else have any experience with Apple replacing bottom/top cases on out of warranty units?

Mar. 14, 2009

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Todd Turner

Re:

The unit is well out of warranty. Does anybody else have any experience with Apple replacing bottom/top cases on out of warranty units?

Recently I was selling a MacBook I purchased the first week they appeared in 2006. The palmest area and facing around the keyboard suffered from the discoloration problem, and I also had a few cracks and a broken area just above where the power light blinks.

I took it in to the Apple Store and they fixed it free without flinching. It appeared they replaced the entire keyboard area and it looked as good as new. They gave me a receipt showing that the charges would've been about $170 if I would've been charged.

From information I've seen elsewhere on Mac forums, it's a common free repair no matter the status of the warranty. And one-day service! The buyer of my MacBook got a bonus of a virtually unused keyboard!

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Stephen Hart

What if every MacBook owner with even tiny cracks got them repaired in warranty? If out of warranty, what if every owner spent some time trying to get Apple to do the repair free anyway.

If Apple is deluged with these repairs, they'll probably set up an extended repair program.

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MacInTouch Reader

I guess I am lucky. I have an older MacBook, old enough to have the GMA 950 graphics chipset. And while there is a barely visible shiny spot on the palm rest where the ridge on the cover touches, there are no cracks. This laptop is transported to and from work daily in my bicycle panniers so it has seen some pretty handling and the cover shows it with all of the scratches. But there are no cracks that I can see anywhere on the case. Are the problems people reporting all with a the newer generation MacBook than mine?

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John Frankovich

Re
On the subject of the MacBook lower case that gets cracked where the ridges on the upper case impact it...

To forestall this problem, I put a small piece of double (adhesive) sided foam tape, the kind used to mount pictures, about 3/4" x 3/8" and ~1/16" thick, on the two corners of the upper frame adjacent to the offending ridges. Covered this with some thin white plastic tape, trimmed the edges to match the curved corners, and voila - a cushioned shock absorber that collapses almost to the height of the ridges when the cover is closed. The machine sleeps nicely when it is closed, the pads are not visually obtrusive, and are out of the way when the cover is open. Almost any hardware store has the tapes.

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Edouard Kestemont

I had a MacBook long out of warranty repared by Apple at no cost. They first replaced the upper part where cracks were visible but did not see that there was also a problem at the bottom. When I returned the MacBook a second time, they replaced also the case. BTW for some reason they also replaced keyboard and trackpad all for free.
Well done, Apple!

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Steven Wicinski

Colleen Thompson wrote

"I don't slap it shut like you see a lot of people do (which could arguably fall under "normal use".)"

I would say that is unarguably 'normal use'. But if this is what causes many of the cracks, I would argue that it should not fall under "normal wear and tear".

When one purchases a laptop, one assumes it should be able to deal with normal use. I expect that I should be able to open and close the lid from one or both corners, open/close the lid quickly, roughly shove it into a bag, whip it out of said bag, and generally move it around.

To me, if a laptop cannot stand up to such normal use, then it is defective.

Unless this is Apple's round-about way of trying to push the "Well, if you want us to produce 'cheap' Macs, this is the kind of quality which you can expect" excuse for not offering something low-cost.

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James Greenidge

This worked for a colleague with an iBook: forcibly push SuperGlue into the whole length of the crack then squeeze the two sides/edges together tight with strong packing tape overnight. Bonds the crack and stops it in its tracks.

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Anthony Green

Colin Omg said

I recently I noticed a crack on the left side of the bottom case, starting at the top between the front-most USB and the microphone port, down to the bottom corner of the USB port, and continuing down to the bottom of the case. This one concerns me more because I see it as more structural and will likely continue to spread across the bottom of the case. The unit is well out of warranty. Does anybody else have any experience with Apple replacing bottom/top cases on out of warranty units?

This is the issue I've had repeatedly even with the newer 'stronger' cases. The case will continue to crack along the ports. I would ask for a free repair citing this thread.

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MacInTouch Reader

To the poster above me whom has crack in the bottom case near the USB port, Why don't you stop by at the nearest Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider and show it to them and tell them the problem.

The tech should be able to cover the splinter plastic in the top case and the replacement bottom case for you free of charge even tho the unit is out of warranty.

There is internal apple article for them for reference so you should be covered.

Hope this help

Mar. 16, 2009

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Rich Cruse

I have a two and a half year old MacBook Black with no signs of any cracking on the palm rest. I think this cracking is a result of the same kind of thinking/design that got Apple into trouble with the MagSafe plugs fraying.

Most people do not yank plugs out by the cable and most people do not snap their notebook computers shut. However, while all notebooks should be able to withstand this kind of behavior occasionally, the damage resulting from this will be cumulative. The issue with the cracking appears to be from Apple's decision to create a bumper made of plastic embedded into the actual case. The result is plastic on plastic. They could have simply used rubber bumpers as they have on previous iBooks, but they were most likely concerned about reducing the cost and number of parts. Many of us know that those rubber bumpers can fall off, so I can see why they might have thought this was a better solution. The problem is that they did not reinforce the bottom of the case where the plastic bumpers impact the palm rest. The result, over time is these cracks and ultimate failures.

If you tend to "snap" your MacBook closed and do not want to have to go through the hassle of replacing your palm rest, consider placing small rubber bumpers or pads of some sort on your MacBook.

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Rich Cruse

My brother just brought over his daughter's white MacBook to upgrade the hard drive and I see she has the cracking case everyone is speaking about. A two inch strip of the plastic has fallen off along right outside edge of the palm rest. It is no wider than a 1/16th of an inch. She did not mention it, so apparently it hasn't bothered her much or affected her use of the computer. Granted- she IS a teenager and I know it fell off her bed onto the hardwood floor at least once. Considering all that, I would say it looks pretty good. Luckily, her Dad bought AppleCare for it so I suspect the broken plastic will be covered under warranty.

This computer was purchased in September 2006 and it has performed flawlessly other than the case cracking.

Mar. 17, 2009

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Jonathan Giuffra

I have 13" late 2007 macbook that had the same cracking that everyone is describing. Let me start by saying that no water -- or any other liquid -- has been in contact with it while it has been in my care. Last week I took it in to the Apple store because the machine would shut down about 10 minutes after booting up for no apparent reason. When the computer was on, everything worked so I figured it probably is the battery problem that has been so widely reported. I contacted them about 4 days after dropping the machine off only to be told that internal power connection had rusted away. As the machine had never had liquid on it, I was very surprised by the diagnosis. I was even more surprised that they said it would cost 570 British pounds to fix it.

Has anyone heard of this before? As I live in a damp city could this have been caused by condensation getting in from the crack?

Sorry about the long post but I am at my wits end.
Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated.

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Fred Stratton

Nowhere in the UK is [it] that humid. Would not local humidity have to be maintained around 80 per cent for prolonged periods to have an effect on the connector?

Looking at the internals, the only 2 possible connectors appear to be plated.

They appear to be charging you for a new mainboard.

This is typical unhelpful behaviour by a UK Apple Store.

Electronic devices sold within the EU have a mandatory 2 year warranty period, whatever Apple's terms and conditions say.

You might want to return and have a further discussion with them. Be aware that Apple Store 'Managers' are not readily identifiable individuals in the UK.

Apr. 22, 2009

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Marc Davidson

Just sent 2 year old black Macbook in with another dead harddrive. We have Applecare but still a pain. Replaced hardrive last fall.

Jun. 6, 2009

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Daniel Jenkins

Okay, here's the deal, I'm really hoping I didn't screw mom's computer up for good. I was borrowing it for a few weeks, and yeah... Basically what happened... It's a first generation Macbook, running Leopard, latest updates, all but the update released today... I was running Firefox, and was also running a couple chat programs on another 'space'. Firefox started to lock up, which isn't too unusual, since I run the computer for all it's worth... Firefox locking up, after a bit locked the whole computer up as I tried to forcequit firefox... I force shutdown the computer (holding power button down) and tried to restart, when that failed... I tried zapping the P-Ram... I've been working on Mac computers basically for 14 or 15 of my 18 years of life, lol... Dad started me off right :D... After that didn't work, and it started to bring up the blinking 'file' looking icon with the '?' in it... I then thought I'd bring in the 'big guns'... So I brought it in, and hooked it up with Firewire to dad's iMac... Tried starting in target disk mode, no go... I then hooked up an external DVD drive, and put in TechTool Pro 4 DVD, that didn't work, and didn't show a hard drive image... I then put in the Mac OS X Leopard DVD, and that also didn't show a hard drive image... I'm at me wits end... Is there anyway to save the hard drive? Or have I just lost ALL of mom's many files and gotten myself in trouble? I'll answer any questions that I can if I didn't explain well enough... I tried to put all the info in I could think of that would help, and yeah, sry for my bad punctuation stuff... I'm a little freaked that I lost all of mom's data right now... Thanks to all responses...

[I've got a dead, first-gen MacBook here with virtually the same symptoms. My next steps (after many hours of troubleshooting to date) will be removing the hard drive physically from the laptop, putting it into a SATA dock for connection to my desktop machine for last-ditch recovery efforts, and probably purchase and installation of a new hard drive into the MacBook. -Ric Ford]

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MacInTouch Reader

Daniel,

As to your "hosed" hard drive.

I suggest you take the unit to an Apple Authorized Service Provider (not Apple retail store) and let the pros work on this issue (and do any data recovery if possible).

Anything you do further can only make the matter worse.

Leave this one to the professionals...

item.93418

Rich Cruse

It sounds like it is a hard drive issue. The question is whether or not the drive spins up. If it spins up, it may be repairable with Disk Warrior or Tech Tools. It could be a corrupt start-up block or directory. If you use Disk Warrior and it "sees" the disk, you have some hope it can repair it. Hopefully, you have some sort of back-up of important files.

Regardless, you will want to replace the internal hard drive. I have suggested purchasing an external from places like Costco. I just bought a 250 gig for $80. Pull it out of the case and replace it inside your Mac. It is very easy to do. Place the old one in the case and you can continue to do so recovery on it if possible. If not, you are back up and running once you install the Mac OS. The downside (as has been pointed out here) is that the drive you pull from the external may not be covered under warranty after you remove it from the case. I have found most of these warranties are worthless anyway. If that concerns you, "try" to find a place that sells bare drives. For me, it is about convenience and there is nothing like going to Costco or Staples and being able to get started right away on getting up and running.

Best of luck!
Rich

Check to see if your Mom has AppleCare! My original MacBook has until September for it's AppleCare.

Jun. 8, 2009

item.93439

MacInTouch Reader

I swear I was reading the same report I typed to my Apple Service reps a few months ago for my 1st Gen black MacBook. Everything was as you said -- one app (I think it was even Firefox) locked up and then everything else locked up. I restarted and it was if the hard drive didn't exist at all.

So I slid out the hard drive, popped it in an external SATA case and still nothing. I put my ear to the drive and could hear it spinning with a very faint click/beep repeating every few seconds.

The bad news: the hard drive was dead and nothing I had could recover the data.

The not-so-bad news: I had a 1-month-old backup of the drive so I didn't lose everything.

The good news: my Apple Service Tech came onsite and replaced the drive within a couple days.

A word of advice -- if you remove the drive yourself, make sure you put it back in properly. It's not too difficult to slide the drive back in upside down...

...and tear both the power light and IR cables :-(

item.93451

Rick Owen

Daniel Jenkins noted his apparent loss of an internal hard drive, "it's a first generation Macbook, running Leopard, latest updates"

Since you were running Leopard, if you had Time Machine activated and makiing automatic backups to either a Time Capsule or external hard drive you could recover all easily. Just takes a new internal drive installation, formatted and then using your Leopard install disk to have all recoved via the Disk Utility on the Install disk. If you didn't use Time Machine, I hope you had a 'clone' of the hard drive. If none of the above, you have learned the lesson I and thousands of others have learned the hard way... always have a back up. Good Luck!

item.93457

Chuck B

Disk Warrior is your only hope. I had a Macbook disc die in a similar way and DW scavenged all the files. But, if there are damaged sectors, you may have to let it run overnight as the process can take many hours.

[DiskWarrior is a great product and an essential part of my toolkit, too, but I was able to get data off a failing MacBook drive with the help of Data Rescue II, which had to run overnight (after many failed attempts to get the disk to show up in Disk Utility, Finder, etc. via Target Disk Mode, installer-disc boot, etc.). -Ric Ford]

item.93465

Mark Miller

Daniel Jenkins reports the blinking folder/question mark.

My daughter's one year old white MacBook experienced the same thing while I was backing it up. It has AppleCare, so I called up and it's now on it's way back to Apple for a new hard drive. Since we live at least 90 minutes away from the nearest Apple Store, Apple FedEx'd a shipping box to me. Fortunately, I have a previous backup of the hard drive so if she lost anything, it will be minor.

However, I'm starting to wonder if this is some kind of flaw. Admittedly, these reports are anecdotal, but, my other daughter had the same thing happen to her black MacBook after about a year and at least it also was under AppleCare. The black MacBook was a year older than the white MacBook when the problem occurred. I don't have the serial number for the black MacBook and I don't know what generation. The white MacBook was a refurb direct from the Apple Store.

item.93476

Derick Thomas

I'm now having serious thoughts about recommending MacBooks. Last summer 2 of my clients had the catastrophic HD failures - one sent his drive to a recovery specialist who returned it saying that there was nothing that could be done. This year I've had 2 more failures (but thankfully they were time-machined).

About 3 weeks back a new client called with a black Macbook that had inexplicably frozen and wouldn't restart.
72 hours later Data-Rescue II managed to retrieve a mere 250MB of 250GB in 12 to 20KB chunks. None of it being useful stuff.

Yesterday that same client phoned to say that her friend (with a similar Macbook) had suffered a failed upgrade (from 4.11 to 5.6) and now her Macbook wouldn't start.

Also in the last month I've had two 24" iMacs with failed drives, both less that 4 months old.

The first also had its screen replaced because of a large yellow patch in the bottom right corner.

The second is due back from Apple any day now.

Jun. 9, 2009

item.93490

Dave Bayer

Can MacBooks be blamed for internal hard disk crashes? On the face of it, this is as absurd as blaming a brand of luggage for plane crashes. Hard disks fail, and 2.5" mechanical drives fail more frequently than 3.5" drives.

Laptops do vary in how effectively they keep an internal drive cool, or protected from bumps. Operating systems do vary in how frequently they access hard drives, e.g. Spotlight or Time Machine using a drive when a user isn't explicitly accessing a file. However, these are secondary effects. One needs to explicitly plan on drives failing, with multiple current backups.

I lost a 2.5" drive every nine months or so, until I started booting externally when not traveling. I also took steps to create an airspace under my laptop, for better cooling. A laptop stand is overkill; felt disks from a hardware store work great.

Meanwhile, I hardened my backup routines. One needs to imagine an adversarial game: Can any single factor derail your ability to restore from backup? Time Machine is great for old copies of files, but should be a last resort for restoring an entire volume, if e.g. there is no recent SuperDuper! backup available. Meanwhile, can a lightning strike take out every backup at once? A SATA "toaster" like the NewerTech Voyager Q makes it easy to swap bare disks, so at least one recent backup is not attached to the power grid. Can a house fire destroy your life's digital work? A plastic case like the WiebeTech DriveBox makes it easy to tranport backups off-site.

I then switched to an Intel X25-M solid state drive for my MacBook internal drive. (There are critical differences between brands; read AnandTech's Storage articles carefully before buying.) I still managed to hose this drive recently, by swapping batteries before my MacBook was fully asleep. This corrupted some internal tables not repaired by an OS X reformat, making the drive unstable even after a complete restore. Intel claimed not to have a tool to fix this, and gave me an Advance Exchange under warranty. Meanwhile, I found that by booting a generic (homebuilt EFi-X, Linux) box from a DOS repair CD, I could perform a secure erase (HDDerase) which did fix the corruption. (Many people wouldn't have this option.) Nevertheless, I went ahead with the exchange. So even solid state drives are not immune from failure, although after experiencing their responsiveness, one can never go back.

It takes an engineer's perspective to appreciate building a reliable system from unreliable parts. However, laptop hard disk failures are absolutely inevitable. Rather than blaming manufacturers, one needs to plan for these failures as infrequent but routine, predictable events. What's your plan?

item.93496

Dennis Chang

To Derick Thomas:

It's not so much the Macbook at fault as it is the hard drive itself. I had the exact same failure and nearly the exact same symptoms as most of these other posters. BUT, my drive was a non-Apple Seagate upgrade drive that I had installed myself. The clients of mine who have also had "Macbook failures" saw the hard drive fail also.

Personally, I think it has to do with the relatively low price point of the Macbook resulting in more active use; it's so cheap that people tend to be rougher on them, bringing them along when an otherwise larger or more expensive Macbook Pro/Aluminum Macbook might have been babied or left at home. God knows I toss my white Macbook around a lot more than my Aluminum one, and it's got the scratches to prove it. College students around here carry them in both models, and they're constantly toting them around too.

Anyway, I switched to a Patriot Warp SSD drive and have had no trouble since, even when the Macbook fell 4ft from a counter top.

Jun. 10, 2009

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Rich Cruse

In my opinion, the 1 GB of ram in MacBooks is too low, requiring excessive use of the hard drive for virtual memory. Ask anyone who has gone from 512megs or 1 gig to 2 gigs and they will tell you the machine is *much* faster and runs quieter and cooler.

Keep your machine cool and avoid Rosetta apps with less than 2 gigs installed. Keep regular back-ups of important files. Remember, ALL hard drives fail and most have 1 to 3 year guarantees tops.

item.93741

Derick Thomas

in Response to Dave Bayer and Dennis Chang.

Please note that I didn't blame the MacBooks for the failures. I know it's the hard drive that is failing and not the macbook (I've been in this game long enough).

However, when you buy the MacBook you buy the HD that Apple supplies. Of the dozen or so clients I have who own MacBooks, 5 have had HD failures. That to me is too many.

Of the scores of iBook and PowerBook owners I have as clients I've had only 2 HD failures - and many of those owners are still using their computers after several years.

That now is enough reason NOT to recommend a MacBook.

I for one don't class MacBooks as cheap computers. They are an Apple product and should be built to the same standard as a Mac Pro. Therefore the question should be "Why are drives failing so frequently in macBooks but not in older portables (and I include Windows machines in that category too)?

Having a back-up strategy is a sensible thing to do but its raison-d'etre shouldn't be "I'm expecting my HD to fail before my computer is 1 year old."

As for the life of 2.5 inch drives? I have some here that are way outside the manufacturers' warranty periods and are still going strong (and they are not treated kindly either)

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MacInTouch Reader

In my opinion, any Intel Mac should have a minimum of 2GB RAM.

Jun. 11, 2009

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John Fallon

After my wife's gateway PC died, she's using her MacBook till the iMac I bought her arrives. Used as a replacement desktop, the MacBook (one of the black ones - 2.4 ghz cpu) runs really hot; the fan seems to run all the time. The outside of the case is always hot. This machine has 2 gigs of RAM and doesn't seem to do that much swapping.

It's easy to see how the hard drive would fail prematurely.

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