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ATPM 15.10
October 2009




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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Frank H. Wu,

Of Loud Fans and Broken Drives

I thought I would share two reports of repairs to computers. I do so because both are generally positive and they serve to balance the stories generally found on the Internet, which are rather negative. That comment isn’t to doubt the accuracy of the accounts or to impugn the motives of those who are angry, often rightly so, but it’s to note the selective nature of our collective memory, which emphasizes what is abnormal. If all proceeds just fine, as it does most of the time, there is no particular need to document that fact.

Both my unibody MacBook Pro and my Modbook developed problems simultaneously.

The MacBook Pro had horrible sounds emanating from the fans. Initially, I thought it was the SuperDrive dying prematurely, but I soon realized it had to be one or both of the fans. They started running loudly when I put the unit to sleep, and they started spontaneously even with the lid down. A day later, they started running loudly and constantly, as soon as I booted up, with a rasping noise that suggested some sort of mechanical obstruction. After about three hours, when I had to finish some work and could not turn off everything, the fans became quieter—still much louder than normal, but not absurdly loud. They were so loud that on the call with Apple Care, the technician could hear them clearly, even with the phone at least a foot away. (I tried all the usual resets to firmware before I called. None worked.)

The Modbook had a SuperDrive that went kaput. It did it in stages: at first, it would read a CD if I tried it three times or more. Then it took even more attempts, and finally, when I went to install Snow Leopard, it wouldn’t read anything even though I tested various media I knew to be good.

In each case, there was no fuss about the return. The technicians were professional, courteous, and apologetic. The units came back in under a week, door-to-door, including the shipping both ways. Everything was clean. The software and data were unaffected. I had to make do with an older MacBook, which I borrowed back from my parents, having given it to them as a hand-me-down when I upgraded.

I have a quibble about each experience, though. As to the MacBook Pro, I was astonished that three separate people at AppleCare and one at the Apple Store with whom I spoke had no idea what ProCare was. I have bought a ProCare Card each of the past three years, because it just isn’t fun to hang out in line at the Genius Bar waiting behind a dozen people, some of whose concerns are clearly user error, and some of whom are distraught because they failed to back up anything. It is apparent to me, however, that the corporation does not value ProCare, and it isn’t training its employees about it.

As to the Modbook, perhaps I am too cautious, but I was surprised at how little padding Other World Computing put around it when they returned it to me. It was just a layer of bubble wrap with bubbles that were medium sized (about that of a quarter), and they left out a piece of foam I had used that ensured a snug fit. In the same box I had sent it in in, this $3,000-when-new product was loose.

All in all, I remain satisfied and loyal. I have had Macs and Windows PCs, including several IBM ThinkPads, which are about the top-of-the line if you are running a Wintel box. I know it isn’t just the aura of Apple: my machines have been up for much longer with fewer problems, and the hardware issues have been resolved with greater attentiveness and more efficiency.

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Reader Comments (5)

robinson · October 4, 2009 - 09:32 EST #1
Good commentary! It's nice to read about successful repairs. I've had nothing but good treatment from Apple over the years, including several things out of warranty that were taken care of for free.
chuck · October 4, 2009 - 10:22 EST #2
What is a Modbook?
Apple support gave no results on a search.
Frank H. Wu · October 4, 2009 - 11:21 EST #3
The Modbook is an Apple authorized but not Apple manufactured tablet, made by Axiotron from a Macbook. See
Rich · October 22, 2009 - 23:03 EST #4
I have taken my MacBook Pro to the Apple Store two times, plus my iPod Nano (4th gen), also having Apple Care. Always timely, courteous service; excellent support. Best of any company I have encountered (and I am into my seventh decade).
Sylvester Roque (ATPM Staff) · November 1, 2009 - 23:17 EST #5
I too have had positive encounters every time I have had to call Apple about a product repair/replacement. I think I have called three or four times since we purchased an LC II years ago. I have also made one trip to an Apple store when I had difficulty installing OS X on a Blue and White G3.

Most the people I encountered knew the correct solution to the problem. In the case of the OS X install the person I talked to admitted that he was stumped by my problem. At least he didn't try to "wing it". The one negative experience I had was with a local "Apple authorized' shop where I dealt with a tech that was less than stellar to say the least.

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