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Crowd-sourced debugging

If anyone would like to help me figure out why my MacBook crashes seemingly randomly, here are some crash reports: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.

My MacBook is 9 months old. Apps were crashing under Panther. I did a total clean reinstall of Leopard. It seemed to be ok for a couple of weeks, and then the apps began crashing again. I took it in to a highly recommended local Apple shop. They kept it for a week, ran thorough diagnostics, replicated some of the crashes, and replaced the motherboard. Again, for a couple of weeks it seemed to work. Now things crash intermittently but fairly frequently. Usually, the crashes only crash the app, but Keynote has crashed all the way back to a cold boot a couple of times; I don’t have crash reports for the cold boots.

Help? Any ideas?[Tags: ]

12 Responses to “Crowd-sourced debugging”

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  2. Sigh… lemons are such a PITA…

    When a machine starts crashing like that I always suspect one of 3 things… motherboard, RAM or the hard drive.

    Let’s assume the motherboard is good since they replaced it.

    You can run Disk Utility (inside /Applications/Utilities) and pick the Verify Disk option. If it finds things that need repair you’ll have to boot off the install DVD and run the repair from there so have that handy.

    For the RAM, I’d have your shop swap the RAM out…

    It *could* be some connection between components that is susceptible to heat etc, but that’s sheer speculation.

    One more thing – I remember you having issues with your computers and spiky power a year or so ago…. if the power lines in your house throw off very spiky power I imagine it could damage the board/ram in a machine or just cause oddities. If this only happens when the machine is plugged in, look at that. You might want a power conditioner/UPS on the power outlet that serves your computer equipment.

  3. These crashes are all in writing to the disk; I’d check your disk drive.

  4. Anything truly weird I encounter on the PC like that is generally the power supply. Any difference between the system’s behavior plugged in or on battery?

    Heat and RAM are two other common culprits but they’re easy to test.

    If it were me I’d try running from a LiveCD for a while and see if I can reproduce crashes — this way you know for sure it’s not your OS. Though ultimately the best solution is just to take it in and cry in front of a sympathetic support person. See if they’ll give you brand new guts.

  5. Follow-ups and clarifications: I’ve run the Disk Utility daignositics, and Disk Warrior. Both I and the geek shop ran RAM tests. I have not noticed differences between plugged in and not, although I almost always have it plugged in. We had our wiring checked and repaired, and have a house-wide surge protector in place, so I’m hoping that that’s not the problem at this point. Also, keep in mind that the geek shop put in a new motherboard.

    Thank you’s: Thank you! Excellent!

    PS: Amusingly, Firefox crashed when I first tried to post this response.

  6. Do you have the same problems when running with a fresh user on the same machine? It would be helpful to isolate that this isn’t being caused by something you installed, or corruption of some of your user files.

  7. I did the fresh user thing a few months ago and had the same problems. I’ll try it again. Especially since the problem seems to be getting worse…I’ve added 2 more crash reports this morning. One was (#8) for the Dock crashing :(

  8. David,

    At this point I’d start insisting that Apple give you a new machine. No modern machine should have that level of crashes (I’ve had one kernel panic in 18 months on this Macbook) and after everything you’ve been through it’s time they just made things right with a brand new machine.

    In the meantime… try running without the machine plugged in as much as possible which will eliminate the house power as an issue. If you can get them to do it, have the shop swap out RAM (yes, I know… ). If they’ll do it, swap hard drives too. I know… both of those things have been tested. But if they’re replaced then either something else is wrong (power supply, some other connection between components) or you’ve gotten very unlucky and gotten 2 bad motherboards.

    If the issues go away when unplugged it could be power issues, but that’s a stretch at this point. Unless you’ve installed something very low level I doubt this is a software issue – if it was one app crashing, sure, but random crashes in various apps is almost always hardware. If it was a damaged system file I’d have expected the clean install of Leopard to fix that.

  9. Sorry to do this, but….

    ….why don’t you get a PC? A nice ThinkPad running XP? Mine is solid as a rock. Does everything I want, lots of open source software for it. Never been happier.


  10. Mark,

    this has nothing to do with software, nor is it an Apple issue. I loved my Thinkpad… until the ATI graphics card separated from the heatsink and overheats in 15 minutes….

  11. Mark, My previous machine was a Thinkpad. Over the course of two years, they replaced the mobo twice and the hard drive once. (The last time the mobo went, it was because of bad solder job on one of the usb ports). I’ve had Windows machines and laptops for decades, and they are as error prone as anything else we fat-fingered humans make for ourselves.

    So, get a PC? Been there. Repaired that.


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