9 beeps on start up

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by djon41, Jul 6, 2009.

  1. djon41 macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2007
    Ive got a fairly vexing problem here...I'm on a 15" 2.53Ghz MBP (late 2008 unibody).

    i recently had my computer out, started it up, and instead of the startup dong I received 9 very harsh sounding beeps in series, 3 short 3 long 3 short (much like SOS in morse code). Following the beeps, the computer will boot normally after several seconds. In reading here and in the Apple discussion forms, there seem to be a few conflicting ideas as to what it is, although I believe the most accepted is it being some sort of firmware update issue. As far as I or Software Update can tell, all firmware is up to date. Also, if I look for the firmware restoration CD as suggested in more than one thread at Apple.com, there is no such download for the macbook5,1. Another interesting detail is that this seems to only occur when the computer is booting under battery power, which makes it seem like a battery firmware issue, specifically.

    Any ideas, or similar situations?
    Im thinking of doing an archive install, as that was another suggestion to make sure firmware is all up to date and being used correctly.
  2. realiti2000 macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2009

    I have just found this Thread - I have a very similar Mac and the exact same issue. Here are my thoughts on this issue so far:

    MacBook Pro 15inch late 2008 - 2.53Ghz MBP (320GB 5400 hdd). System Software was always kept up to date - EFI Firmware update 1.6 was applied when it came out ~ 4month ago. Mac OS X 10.5.7 is installed.

    Just now after owning/using the device for 8 month the 9 beeps issue appeared: Occasionally the MBP will not start up (no fanfare Mac Startup sound). The Power LED will flash and the system sounds 9 beeps (3short, 3long, 3short). Then nothing happens. After some wait time and after some hard reboots the system powers up normally.

    Apple Support Discussions:
    seem to suggest that it is an issue with an incorrectly applied firmware update. To me that can not be the case. First of all I did not apply a firmware update since a long time. The last EFI firmware update (EFI 1.6) was successful.
    As a side note: I believe for modern Macs there are no Firmware Restoration CDs because a backup solution for the firmware is left right on the hard drive.. So the system will attemt to recover the firmware by itself - no CD needed.

    To me the Apple KB entry:
    seems more conclusive. Unfortunately it addresses only the MacBook Air but I believe a similar issue may apply to the MacBook Pro. So I think there is something wrong with the system - and one should take it to Apple's support or an Authorized Apple Service provider. In Germany the support is generally a bit bad and I have a bad feeling about the issue being not easy to reproduce. I will anyhow try to bring my device to an Apple ASP and get it fixed.

    With regards to reproducing the issue:
    For me the problem seems to occur quite randomly. However I found out: When you leave the device in Sleep mode for a long time (4-6hrs +) then wake it, then shut it down. Then Press the power button - the problem shows up in approx. 3 out of 5 tries.

    I have also tried fixing the problem but all these things did not work:
    * Taking out the battery
    * Using a different battery
    * Performing an SMC/CMOS reset
    * I have ran Apple Hardware test and also it did not find anything (however a day later the issue occurred again)

    Any further experiences or ideas would be highly appreciated.
  3. djon41 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2007
    well i see im not the only one here with this issue...I still have not determined the cause of my issue, but have determined that it occurs exclusively when running on battery power or on AC when charging the battery. If the battery is fully charged, and on AC power, the beeps do not occur. Also, this is happening every time when not connected to AC with a charged battery.

    I called applecare, and ran through a series of different things, including SMC/ PRAM reset, Disk first aid from the OSX DVD, and reseating the RAM (one at a time). Running disk first aid from the DVD was the last thing I did, after which i rebooted, and did not hear the beeps. Unfortunately the next reboot did produce the beeps, and all subsequent boots have as well. And again, my machine has never beeped and not booted normally within several seconds, so there is something definitely different in your situation...

    I think i may to an archive install tonight, and if that doesnt fix it i will be taking it to the nearest apple service provider.
  4. realiti2000 macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2009
    Thanks for the update!

    Very good point you're making. I also believe it is a rather strange issue. My assumption is that the nine beeps / sos thing is just a symptom. A very harsh symptom. Maybe something like a BIOS / EFI panic or so. The root cause may be totally different. So maybe in some cases it has to do with firmware / installation aspects and in others it may be hardware or heat or whatsoever.

    I have also shot a little video documenting my problem. Again I left my MBP on the wire and in sleep mode... When I came home I woke it then shut down. Removed the power cord and then powered it up.. The nine beeps occurred. In the video you can see that I am waiting a bit but nothing happens (I have also waited much longer in previous occurrances). Then I power off. Press the power button again the issue occurs again. Then after the video ended I tried it again and then the system just booted up normally.

  5. djon41 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2007
    I ended up taking mine to my Apple service provider and showed it to him. He said that in my case it is most likely one of two things: either an issue with the RAM itself, or an issue with where the RAM is seated on the logic board. I dont know how much to believe that, since i checked it with both RAM sticks alone, along with carefully reseating the RAM and it seemed to do nothing...

    Ill be hearing from him tomorrow or saturday, and will update with any more information...
  6. realiti2000 macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2009
    Thanks a lot. Sounds interesting. I took mine to an Apple ASP yesterday. They have never seen the issue and I don't feel like they had a lot of experience with MacBook Pro issues.

    Also they mentioned it is most likely RAM. I find that a little odd given the machine does boot up normally most of the times. The took it for further analysis and I will here something from them between now and +2weeks.

    I'll keep you updated.

    By the way: I found one more MBP from a user in Manchester where the issue occurred: http://twitter.com/KILLABIT/status/2519472448
    He took it to an Apple store.. They also diagnosed an 'Unknown Memory Error'. Fortunately his MBP was just a couple of days old. So a replacement was ordered for him.

    I am also concerned that they will just exchange RAM with mine but I dont think that will fix the issue.
  7. djon41 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2007
    Update: I got my mbp back from the Apple SP, who ended up replacing the logic board. Thankfully, the problem has not cropped up again, but ill be watching it closely now for a while.

    Unfortunately, while this apparently solves the issue, it does not necessarily determine what the issue was exactly, which means there could be an easier fix for those without the option for logic board replacements...
  8. realiti2000 macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2009
    Thank you very much for the update. My MBP is still with the ASP here in Germany. I really do not understand why Germany only has about 10 Apple Geniuses in the 1 Apple retail store in Munich. And I absolutely do not understand why the service with German ASP's is really really bad. They seem really good at selling stuff but when it comes to service they are slow and try to convince you that it is all your fault.

    Anyway: back to the facts: For me and my scenario (more random occurrance of the issue) it seems plausible that an exchange of logic board may be helpful. I will keep this in mind when I need to discuss with the service guys again.

    So I keep my fingers crossed that your MBP's issue is completely gone now! Thanks again and have a good day.
  9. bguthrie macrumors newbie

    Feb 17, 2010
    iMac with 9 beeps

    I have a friend with an iMac 20" Intel and two megs of RAM running Snow Leopard. His computer randomly seems to issue the 9 beeps (3 short, 3 long, 3 short) that seems to be SOS in Morse code. No geniuses or Apple tech support person has evaluated it. It seems no one knows what this series means.

    My friend's iMac was purchased about 6 months ago and did not issue the beeps until about a month or so ago. He has Apple Care, and today he took it into the Apple Store in Omaha, NE. The Genius there guessed at three things: RAM, power supply and logic board. They are keeping the computer (my friend has an old iMac from 6 years ago that works like a charm and has no Intel chips). He is very unhappy with Apple and regrets buying the new iMac, thinking he should have gotten a PC that is so much cheaper and "works fine."

    The only thing keeping him in the Mac fold is iMovie. He edits lots of home movies as well as doing a monthly newsletter for the family.

    I hope they replace the logic board and permanently fix his machine, but I am a bit fearful that they won't do so. Light a candle for him.
  10. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    It means a hardware failure.
  11. bguthrie macrumors newbie

    Feb 17, 2010
    Beeping iMac

    I can certainly believe that, but WHAT hardware failure. You would think such a specific Morse code would direct a repairer to a specific issue: bad RAM, logic board, etc.

    Why go to all the trouble to include such an "elaborate" code unless it would mean something more? Why not just say Error -64238 or something more useful?

    Funny thing is that his computer will run the entire day if he gets past the beeps. The Apple Store claims it has special software that can pinpoint the problem even when the computer is NOT exhibiting the failure mode.:confused:
  12. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    When I miss installed my 4GB of ram(one stick wasn't pushed in all the way, maybe 99% of the way) I'd get the SOS code for a hardware failure intermittently, as the comp thought a ram stick had failed. I pushed them both back firmly in, and the issue never occurred again.
  13. bguthrie macrumors newbie

    Feb 17, 2010
    SOS Fixed

    I finally wrote a note to S. Jobs saying I did not think the service my friend was receiving was at all Apple-like.

    The next day he got a call from Lincoln, NE, from a tech who had been authorized to do whatever it takes to fix his computer. He arrived and determined that a RAM chip was bad, replaced it no charge and left. The iMac has been working ever since.

    It should not have been handled the way it was by the Apple Store in Omaha, NE. And why does the tech come from a smaller city (Lincoln) to the larger city (Omaha)? Why was the Apple Store in Lincoln opened first, then the Omaha store?

    Obviously because there are no tech-minded people in Omaha! @#$%%^#@$
  14. johnsawyercjs macrumors member


    Feb 27, 2007
    I know this is an old thread, but it still comes up in Google searches for the beep sequence of three short, three long, and three short (Morse code for SOS), which is what's happening with the iMac (Mid 2007, 20") I'm working with.

    Note that Macs that start up after playing these beeps, and seem to work normally, can still have hardware problems that may corrupt files, including plists that are part of OS X, damage the hard drive's directory, etc., leading to further problems, so you don't want to keep using a Mac that seems to work after playing the beeps--investigate the problem and get it fixed.

    My recommended troubleshooting summary/sequence, if you want to diagnose these problems yourself:

    • Test the RAM. This procedure works with just about any Mac with removable RAM boards; there's some flexibility here in how you proceed, depending on how many RAM boards you have, known-good RAM boards, etc:
    - First dissipate any static charge on your body so it doesn't fry your RAM and/or your Mac, by either using a grounded wrist strap, or touching something nearby that's grounded, such as a water faucet (don't assume the ground screw in the middle of an electrical outlet's faceplate is actually grounded), or lacking that, touch a large metal object nearby (file cabinet, etc.). If you need to walk away from the Mac for some reason, when you return, ground yourself again to dissipate any new static charge you've built up.
    - Sometimes one or more RAM boards aren't seated firmly, so remove all of them, and then push them back in firmly.
    - If that doesn't help, remove all RAM boards, and clean their contacts. I gently use a white eraser, and often also isopropyl alcohol applied with a cloth or paper towel, and then I carefully wipe away any cloth or paper strands, usually with a small, non-static brush. Then, reinstall only one RAM board (or if you're dealing with a really old Mac that requires a minimum of more, install that number).
    - If the Mac still beeps, install the same board into another RAM socket.
    - If the Mac works (without startup beeps or other problems) when the RAM board is installed in one socket but not another, the logic board may have a bad RAM socket. You can either live with it, and maximize the capacity of the RAM in the good socket(s), or get the logic board replaced.
    - If your Mac's existing RAM doesn't work in any socket, try the same tests with known-good RAM.
    - If you find any of these RAM-related steps fixes the problem, it's best to doublecheck the repair, by downloading and running a memory testing utility. My favorite is Memtest (from www.kelleycomputing.net), since it's very thorough, but it runs in single user mode, which some people may not wish to deal with, but the author of Memtest also publishes a testing utility named Rember, which you can run from the normal Mac GUI (it's also available from MacUpdate, VersionTracker, etc.).
    - If the RAM doesn't seem to be the problem, proceed with the steps below.

    • CPU chip: problems with the CPU chip can cause errors that seem to be memory-related. If your RAM investigation doesn't implicate the RAM, then if your Mac is out of warranty, before you try the expensive route of replacing the logic board, replace the CPU chip first (if your Mac model has a replaceable CPU chip), ideally with a known-good spare (which unfortunately few people have sitting around). If you don't have a known-good spare, you may have to buy a new one (eBay sellers have some good prices), but you need to know exactly which processor your Mac contains (Merom, Penryn, etc. are some variables, but it can be more complicated than that), and get the exact replacement, or at most the next speed up, which usually won't hurt, as long as the two are of the same type--for instance, you can replace a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 processor, with a 2.4 GHz T7700 processor, since they're both T-type Meroms.

    • Try a known-good logic board. One problem with replacing the logic board, if you're not doing it through Apple, is that some sources of logic board exchanges will ask you to remove the CPU chip and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) chip, as well as anything else removable, before you send them the bad board, and you reinstall those parts onto the replacement logic board. If the problem is with the CPU, you'll get the same errors once you install the replacement logic board along with the old CPU, which is why I recommend that, if you're thinking of replacing the logic board through a company that doesn't send a replacement CPU, etc. along with the replacement logic board, that you first investigate the CPU if possible, by trying a known-good CPU on your existing logic board.

    • Restoring the firmware could be risky if the problems you're seeing are caused by hardware other than scrambled code in the firmware chip, since the bad hardware might cause the firmware restoration process to hang in mid-restore, corrupting the firmware to the point where the Mac is completely unusable, even for a subsequent attempt at firmware restoration. So, you probably should leave firmware restoration as a last resort:

    Firmware Restoration CD:
  15. frankieboy macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2009
    Thanks to all who contributed to this thread. Your contributions make this thread a valuable troubleshooting resource.
  16. djon41 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2007
    Funny, a friend of mine is having this issue as well today following a bit of rain that got into her computer. Googled it and my thread comes up as the number one hit.

    Thanks all who contributed.

    I'll be looking through her computer to try and diagnose, and will report back with my/the genius' findings.
  17. HotRod66 macrumors newbie

    Sep 8, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    Mac Book late 2008 beeps 9 times at start up.

    Hi all,

    I have read and tried every possible ways to fix my Mac book late 2008 and I honestly believe it's a defective logic board. I'm also ruling out the processor and I wanted to blame the automatic updates which could somehow altered the bios but my mac book runs normal after the beeps. I have own Mac computers since the 90's and this is the first time I ran into a logic board problem. I hope Apple consider this malfunction as a defective material and have a heart to replace the $500 logic board free for those without an apple care.

  18. dwfaust macrumors 601


    Jul 3, 2011
    I am experiencing the same symptoms with my grandson's mid-2010 white unibody MacBook. He started seeing kernel panics, and now it won't boot - just the SOS beep pattern. I have swapped memory and re-seated memory to no avail. I cannot get it stay running more than 2-3 minutes if I can even get it past the POST... I am not going to put any serious money in a 5+ year old machine, but I cannot find any other solution than a bad logic board at this point.

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