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Random Acts of Shut Down

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It’s been two months since I proudly carried my new MacBook home. I love this machine. It’s crazy fast, it’s light-weight, the keyboard rocks, and the glossy screen is much better than I could ever have hoped. I’m rocking it with 2gbs of RAM (is there any other way?) and a 100gb 7200rpm disk. Boot-up takes just around a half minute with ALL the background apps running – compared to my old G4 PowerBook, that’s really fast! Everytime it boots up I’m tickled by how quick it is.

What I’m not thrilled about is that I get to appreciate this boot-up speed ALL THE TIME. The Mac savvy reading this probably know already, that you don’t boot a Mac all that often. Generally a software update is the main reason, so uptime on these lovely machines is /weeks/months at a time. It just so happens that the “Random Shut Down” problem is one that now plagues my dear MacBook.

If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, here’s sort of how it goes:
While typing away on my MacBook, downloading photos from my camera, surfing the internet, or any other number of things, the Macbook just shuts down. Like, it’s on it’s on it’s on, and BOOM! Off. Look away a moment and you’re staring back at a black screen.

There seems to be no correllation between random shut down events. Plugged-in. Running on AC power. Minutes after boot-up, while still cool as a cucumber. After hours of hot and heavy use. Like I said, random.

In reading the discussion boards, and talking to a couple local friends with MacBooks, the symptoms all seem very similar.
– It happened once or twice a week or two ago, but seemed more like a strange one time deal.
– Then in the past few days to a week, it’s happened more and more frequently.
The fact that everywhere I’ve read, and those I’ve talked to, put these events in the same timeframe leads me to believe it’s from some software push – how do several different hardware units all go bad around the same point in time??

Yet when I dropped it off at the local Apple Store to be shipped out to AppleCare (Saves you a couple days waiting for packaging to be shipped out) today, it’s predictably going for a new Main Logic Board. I sincerely hope this takes care of my MacBook’s problem. However, I am doubtful. I can only wait and see for now.

What other problems have I had? Well, I had an Invisible Shield for my MacBook before I even owned it. Before starting it up, I applied the Invisible Shield in hopes of avoiding any yellowing of the palm rests. Yet the right side and the trackpad button show faint yellowish areas. It wasn’t enough on its own that I was going to send it off for repair, but it’ll get a new shell on this trip too.

It runs hot. Pretty darn hot. I use Photoshop a lot, and it seems when Rosetta kicks in, so do the afterburners, but this is to be expected with emulation processes. Plus, you cram that kind of speedy processor into a small package, and what do you expect? I keep the MacBook away from my precious bits and I’m a happy guy.

I suppose it all comes down to, “Don’t ever buy Revision A products.” Words of wisdom. And if you’re the type who makes snap judgements, probably words to live by. Yes, I’m dismayed at having to send my notebook in. The problem was jarring, and quite frankly a huge hassle. But at the end of the day, I’m not about to make a rash decision and work off of my Dell fulltime – the idea makes me queasy. Live without my OS X, Quicksilver, or the portable speed that I’m now accustomed to? Not on your life.

67 Responses to “Random Acts of Shut Down”

  1. Has anyone asked if it’s the intel chip? Maybe it’s not software at all? Maybe microsoft sucks not just because of the software, but because of the intel chip. My macbook is my third mac and I haven’t had any of these probelms on my powerpc. Maybe intel is the problem and not Mac?

  2. Ok, following up on my comment near the top…

    I got my macbook back today after having the MLB swapped out at a local authorized service provider. They told me that they also found that the thermal compound on the cpu was dry, and not thick enough.

    So far so good, although it’s only been a couple hours, and it’s running at about 24 C on battery (it was idling at about 54 C before the swap out, so my nuts are much more comfortable now).

    The only irritant is that now the system profiler reports my system serial number as “SystemSerialNumb” instead of what it should be, which invalidated my hardware-locked VPN client license… so i’ve gotta get that reset.

    Anyone have any ideas on how to go about modifying the system serial number to be what I expect?


  3. misterbond

    I was have the random shut downs as well. I, however, found that when i take out the battery and reset the p-ram, the macbook works just fine. The only problem is that it now becomes more of a desktop then a laptop and I’m almost too embarassed to try to take it out in public and let everyone watch it shut down on me. Thanx apple. ;)

  4. I am using a revision A mac mini since february 2005…
    no problem at all and I am a power user in all senses…
    lots of hardcore apps running at the same time while tweeking the macos x to death.

  5. I’ve had the same problem on my iBook purchased a year ago. But I wonder with the heat issues mentioned here if it was sensors shutting down the system because the battery was getting too warm.

  6. I too has the RSD and returned my MacBook for a refund since it was within the two week window that you can return. I then got another one that had a faulty optical drive. I am typing on my third Macbook in one month(exchanged the second for this one) and I think I am a fool for allowing myself to get another. I will return this one for a final refund at the first hint of a problem in the “first” two weeks of this latest MacBook. Good luck to all!

  7. Ed, I’m jealous, but glad your macbook is working for you :)

    I do have to say that AppleCare is the most mis-named service based on my own experience. The quality of this machine is terrible, and the service has been an awful expereince as well. If they would replace it, I’d have some of my faith restored, but for now I won’t be advocating for Apple anymore.

  8. There´s an artikle on

    A Guy said, that he found the reason for the RSS Syndrome.
    The cable of the heat-sensor seems to be to short.
    If it gets hot in the mac-book the heatpipe expands and contacts with the
    cable. After a few times the cable-Isolation is melt away and every contact
    leeds to a short-circuit.

    That´s what he said.

    If it´s like that, i think its fixable.


  9. Well for what it’s worth, my Macbook (which I’ve had since June) has never once shut down randomly, hasn’t doscoloured, and has been an absolute joy to own.

  10. I just purchased my MacBook yesterday and I am already experiencing random shutdowns. What a drag. Tomorrow morning I’m headed to the Mac store to return my MacBook. There is no way I will be told that I need it sent back for a logic board. Everywhere I have read this diagnosis does NOT fix the problem. I think my best bet is to return the bunk laptop and then wait a couple months until Apple straightens out the problem to purchase a new one. As much as I love Mac this random shut down, lemon extravaganza is unacceptable.

  11. new heat sink fixed my macbook. seems to be the key from what i read on apple discussion boards. they also change the inside frame of the screen and around the keyboard (which was not yellow at all). not sure why. good luck! [a]

  12. ursula2k

    Although I am talking about the Powerbook G4, and not the MacBook, maybe the issue I had has some corelation.
    I had not random shutdown but random sleep problems. Every 3 seconds to every few hours, the computer would go to sleep and awaking it would be quite difficult. I narrowed it down to a faulty trackpad sensor that was sending overheat data to the system. Since my powerbook was out of warranty, I did not want to spend $1200 to replace the motherboard and the top case… so i did some experimenting taking out kernel extensions ect. nothing worked until i reset the p-ram (option, command p and r at boot until you head the chime) twice and exhanged the battery from another machine. All the problems stopped, and that was 2 months ago. It lead me to think that perhaps a power surge might have caused the problem, and somehow i cleared. Anyway, hope this helps anyone.

  13. Hello,

    I had RSD with my MBP. My reseller replaced the battery. No shutdows since then.
    I really haven’t figured out why and how the battery had anything to do with it, but it solved the problem…

  14. itsanaddams

    Believe it or not, I had this problem early on with my 17″ Powerbook (circa 2002). Since it was my main computer, there was NO WAY, I was giving it up for repairs without a fight. To make along story short, it was NOT logic board or software related at all… it was due to faulty memory…

    The fact that so many people are having this issue, makes me suspect that the root cause is the same one I struggled with years ago. For my new MacBookPro, (Mar 2006), I went through a couple of different brands, but all seems stable now.


  15. My RSD-afflicted MacBook came back from repair after a four-day turnaround time and has been problem-free for about ten days now, so my fingers are crossed that they took care of the problem. When I called in and mentioned having read about resetting the PRAM and such, the tech chuckled and said, “Well that won’t work.” (Service replaced the heatsink and a couple of other components.) There certainly is an issue, but from my perspective Apple are doing what they can.

    As far as I was able to tell, it was *not* a software problem: At the height of the problem, my machine was shutting down repeatedly immediately after my press of the power buttom. And it happened both warm and cold, in my case.

  16. Well, this alone certainly makes me not want to get a MacBook before 2007. =/
    The commercials ARE very misleading. :(
    I guess I’ll just buy the iMac 20″ desktop and an HP laptop instead.

  17. I have a refurbed black MacBook (week 21). Had it for just over a month without problems but on Saturday it started doing the shutdowns. Sunday I didn’t use the machine much, Monday it shutdown about 4 times . It shutdown 17 times yesterday.

    It shutdown running the Hardware Diagnostics, it shutdown trying to boot into a fresh OS install, it shutdown doing backups. Definitely a hardware problem.

    It’s a thermal issue of some kind, possibly caused by both high temp when the machine is busy and also when there’s a rapid change (from cool to hot). It can be reproduced using “yes > /dev/null &” twice in Terminal which forced both cores to 100% busy.

    I’ve called Apple who after the usual suggestions (reset PRAM, PMU, re-seat RAM, run Diagnostics) agreed that the machine needs a repair, but their returns system was down when I called so I have to call back.

    Seems to be a VERY common problem given the number of people reporting it. New MLBs sometimes fix it, but new heatsinks and “lollipops” (whatever they are) seem to work better from the reports I’ve read.

  18. Ugh, and this a few months after the crashing windows ad.
    Better to have some bad hardware, than having some bad hardware and “lie” about it. Few people will ever trust their ads again.

  19. Codie Westphall

    Heres my 2 cents worth of knowledge

    If you NEEEEEED and i emphisize the need in need, a laptop get one but if u dont i really do sufgest going with a desktop, i havnt heard of anyproblems about the new imacs (shoot me down if im wrong), i am currently new to the mac world so im not really up to date with how the 1st models are crap etc etc, im more of a guy who updates just at the very end of a line (gotta imac g5 like a week b4 the core duo came out, but i wanted the G5)

  20. I had a RSD roughly about a month ago. I was in the middle of presenting a slide show to about 60 people. Not the best time for something like that to happen. I recovered quickly and was showing the slide show again about 30 seconds later.

    So far, this has not reoccurred. I’m hoping it stays that way because my MacBook is perfect. No discoloration, and it doesn’t run too hot. I’ve tested for the RSD by running the Terminal command thing which heats up the MacBook and so far it’s passed without any problems.

    However, reading that you get one RSD and then it starts up a few weeks later is worrying me. School starts later this week and I can’t afford to be without a computer for even one day. I’m just crossing my fingers that, that one RSD was a fluke.

  21. It’s not software – it’s hardware. My Macbook started doing this as well, and after several days of testing scenarios with applecare, it was put in for a logic board repair. I had to pay a $60 express fee to have the repair facility look at it within a week, or they would sit on it until then.

    After the logic board was replaced, things seemed fine, and then last night, two weeks later, it started to happen again. 8 shut downs in under 12 hours, 8 or which I was sleeping. Apple refuses to replace the unit, and instead wants to now change the logic board and the power supply. From what they told me they will keep replacing every single part and never replace it. Thanks a lot.

    I lose about $1000 a week that I don’t have this computer to do work, but that’s what I get for trusting Apple to have a good 1.0 release.

  22. My brother just called me this afternoon complaining about the very same thing. I didn’t know this was a problem the MacBooks were having. I wonder if Kevin Rose was experiencing the same thing, as shown on some recent diggnation episodes.

  23. My week21 black macbook has had this problem, and it’s been waiting for a new logic board for over two weeks, because the things are out of stock. Having read discussion forums on, I’m doubtful this will fix it, it appears to be a heat sink problem.

  24. While I’m certainly not happy that this is happening to ANYONE, I suppose I have to admit I’m a bit relieved it’s not just me. I too was trying to figure out some kind of pattern, and the one that I *thought* might be the culprit was that it only happens (to me) when it’s running on battery. So much for that theory.

    My “new” theory is to agree w/ your assessment – its got to be software related, somehow. The ‘random’ power-offs started sometime around a week ago, and have become a bit more frequent.

    Please do let us (your readers) know the results of having the main logic board replaced. My Macbook Pro is my (so far) only OS X machine, and it’ll be an annoying few days/weeks while it’s off for repairs :)


  25. Gareth Potter

    Sounds like a software issue to me, but then one wonders why Apple would go to the expense of replacing the motherboards if that were the case.

    Hmmm, not good.

    *sighs deeply and wonders how much worse Apple build quality is going to get*

    (I have two old clamshell iBooks and iMac DV still running fine, a 2G iPod likewise; yet my iBook G3 died of logic board failure 3 times, my PBG4’s hard disk died within two weeks of me getting it (though all has been well since)…)

    Perhaps better to wait for Revision C? :P

    Hope it gets well soon, so to speak.