My MacBook Pro, and the Case of the Failing Logic Board

Greetings reader! This is the first time I’ve went ahead and fully blogged to my site from my cell phone. I suppose then that, if the formatting looks whack, it’s because of that.

As you may note from the photo above, my MacBook had to take a little journey to the Apple Store to get an ongoing issue diagnosed. About a month ago, my computer began shutting its display off at random moments, despite not being told to do so. It was a problem that would often result in myself getting frustrated at it, saying things like “what the hell did I pay $2,000 for you for, you piece of shit!”

Yes… Graceful, I know.

However, I would then remember that this computer has lasted me quite a long time. Longer than most PCs last anyways. Being nearly three years old, I’ve never encountered even a hiccup in my workflow or performance since I purchased it in May 2010. It’s been the best machine I’ve ever had, bar none. Not that three years is unheard of for a computer to last, but I work mine very hard. A typical day for my machine is running 5-6 hours at peak resources. I can feel safe in assuming that most of your computers don’t have to do that. It likely doesn’t get that kind of ware on the system like mine does. I bought mine to be a powerhouse creative machine. It’s better equipped than 85% of the computers that GVSU has their students using. I needed that, and actually, I feel like I need even more today.

This problem wasn’t just a performance issue, and up until I decided to wipe my whole hard drive clean and start everything over from scratch, I had figured it was a software problem caused by some of the “unsupported” software that I had gotten to work in the past.

But even after a total erase and reinstall, it took less than 24 hours for it to happen to me again. It was at this time that I knew: this was a hardware problem. One type of problem that I just couldn’t fix on my own. It was time to call Apple.

A system lasting three years without a flaw is a very cool thing, so I quickly got over my frustration, moving more into a strange entangled feeling of understanding and acceptance instead. I was very patient, troubleshooted everything I could think of, and made sure to save the “error logs” that Apple’s OS gives after every unannounced shut down or unexpected issue.

Saving these error logs turned out to be a great idea. I advise you all to do the same as well.

After running the initial MRI test on the logic board (Apple’s initial hardware diagnostics testing program is called MRI), only a few questionable errors were found. Some had to do with bluetooth, while another was a warning about RAM.

Ah yes… The RAM. What I feared would come up. I had upgraded the RAM myself more than two years ago, from the initial 4GB, to the maximum my older system can handle, 8GB. Third-party components are notorious for having the blame thrown at them whenever there is an issue with a computer, although because of the inherited third-party nature of PC computers, it’s more common that Apple has a problem with it more than others. They are a very controlling company. It’s part of the reason they are criticized, and most of the reason they are so successful. If they were to think that it was the RAM’s fault, they may not help me under warranty. After all, if it isn’t their component that is causing an issue, than it isn’t their fault.

Luckily, the Apple “Genius” at the other side of the counter never really thought it was the RAM’s fault. The patterns in the behavior of the computer just didn’t add up. We currently were still left without much knowledge of the problem.

That’s when I decided to bring up the fact that I had saved the error logs from all of the shut downs. They looked quite surprised by this information, and decided to give it a quick look.

Sure enough… The problem took all of five seconds for him to spot in the code. It was referencing NVIDIA. My graphics card.

Another test was needed to confirm the issue. A simple video test to determine how the graphics card in the logic board was operating.

The rest, as you can tell from the photo, is pretty obvious. It failed the test. A work order was set up, and under the extended warranty I had purchased almost two years ago, my computer was boxed up and sent away to a service center free of charges. They’ll even mail it directly too me.

I had just 40 days left in that warranty. Needless to say, my purchase was a solid investment, having lasted almost three years of continuous use, using most of the resources available much of the time. I work my system hard with my video and graphics work, and the last two years for my computer likely equals closer to four or five years of usage for most of yours.

In summary… Buy the warranty. Just do it. It’s worth it. I’m basically getting the core components of my computer completely replaced free of charge… Which will likely extend its life for years to come.

Until I get it back though, I’m on an iPhone as my primary device. I honestly can’t believe I typed all this on it. A job well done, I’d say.

Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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