Bad RAM slot - help needed

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by heythad, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. heythad macrumors newbie

    Dec 22, 2009
    About six weeks ago when I tried to wake my sleeping Mac, all hell broke loose. I went through a series of problems, most of which resulted in the SOS beeps of death and a computer that wouldn't boot properly.

    To summarize a lot of trial and error, I've narrowed the problem to one particular RAM slot. When I use that slot at all (with any RAM stick, alone or paired with another RAM stick), chaos ensues. When I clear that slot and use only the other slot, everything is fine (aside from operating with half the RAM). I've tested both of my RAM sticks in every combination, and I'm convinced it's the slot and not bad RAM.

    My questions:

    + Are my suspicions about the cause of the problem likely correct?

    + Is there a repair for this short of replacing the mother board? I somehow failed to buy Applecare on this machine, so I'm completely out of warranty. I'm deciding whether to bother spending money for diagnosis and repair. I suspect it may just be in my best interest to operate with one slot for the duration of this machine's life.

    + If I do just live with the problem, is it likely isolated or symptomatic of what may be progressive issues with the board?

    I know that absolute answers would have to come from an authorized tech. I'm simply asking for folks with experience in these areas to share any input and insight you might have. Thanks for your help.

    Specs: Macbook - black (MB063LL/B) // Late 2007 Santa Rosa chipset // OSX 10.5.8
  2. fluffyx macrumors 6502

    Oct 25, 2007
    Sounds like you've done a good job of isolating the problem. Sounds like a bad RAM slot.

    To clarify, it sounds like the beep pattern you were hearing was "beep, beep, beep... pause... beep, beep, beep... pause... etc." If you were hearing beeps in a different pattern (three short beeps, three very long beeps, three short beeps, then a pause), this would not point to defective RAM/RAM slot.

    The way Apple would fix this is by replacing the main logic board. On a MacBook without accidental damage, parts and labor cost $280.

    There are a few firms who can perform "sub-component" repairs on the main logic board. We can perform sub-component repairs and this can be very cost effective—especially in cases of catastrophic liquid damage. In your case, however, our price wouldn't be much less than Apple's.

    In almost all cases of bad RAM slots, this is the only symptom with the board. I wouldn't expect the board to fail prematurely.

    It sounds like, for your issue, the most cost effective workaround would be to purchase the largest single stick of RAM your computer will accept.

    Best of luck!
  3. heythad thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 22, 2009
    Thanks, fluffy. I believe I've heard a couple of different beeping patterns. However, one was definitely what I've been told is the SOS pattern - three long, three short, three long. You said this would not indicate a bad RAM slot. What would it indicate? And are you certain it couldn't be caused, at its root, by the bad slot. I'm just wondering since everything else seems to point in that direction. I have absolutely no problems when I leave that slot empty, but as soon as I place any RAM stick in that slot, the same problem ensues, including the SOS pattern.
  4. fluffyx macrumors 6502

    Oct 25, 2007
    The SOS pattern is supposed to mean that you have a firmware issue. But it's certainly possible that a bad RAM slot was causing this symptom, too.

    If you were hearing it, I'd certainly try to restore your MacBook's firmware before electing for a hardware repair. You must find the appropriate firmware restore CD for your computer. shows you how to find your Model Identifier.

    Then, select the appropriate download link for your Model Identifier, download the disk image, and burn it to a CD. Follow Apple's instructions to restore the firmware.

    MacBook 1,1:
    MacBook 2,1:
    MacBook 3,1:

    If you still get the SOS pattern after restoring your firmware, bad RAM slot!
  5. heythad thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 22, 2009
    Thanks for the direction. I really appreciate it. Do I need to do a thorough backup of my machine before doing the firmware update?
  6. heythad thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 22, 2009
    Another snag...

    The Mac directions are as follows:

    7. Turn on the computer and continue holding the Power button. The sleep LED will blink rapidly, then slowly, then rapidly (3 quick blinks, 3 slow blinks, 3 quick blinks).

    On Macs that don't have a sleep LED, tones are used instead. Hold down the power button until you hear 3 long tones, then 3 short tones, then 3 long tones.

    On Macs that use a tray-load optical drive, the tray will open to allow the Restoration CD to be inserted.

    8. Insert the Firmware Restoration CD while the lights are blinking or tones sounding, then release the Power button. A long tone is played once the recovery process has started.​

    I do have a sleep LED, but I don't get the pattern they describe when powering on and holding down the power button. I get a series of quick blinks, one long blink, then a loud tone, then it just powers up. I'm inserting the firmware disc as it blinks, but nothing happens. The computer just boots normally. Any ideas?
  7. fluffyx macrumors 6502

    Oct 25, 2007
    Try placing RAM in the slot that causes the computer to make that SOS beep pattern. Then the instructions on Apple's site should make more sense.

    The firmware restore process will not harm your data, but you should always have a backup.
  8. fluffyx macrumors 6502

    Oct 25, 2007
    Additionally, I wouldn't be totally surprised if you still can't follow those instructions once you start getting that "3 short, 3 long, 3 short" pattern. If you can't, it just confirms it's a bad RAM slot.

    You've already done a great job of isolating the problem. The SOS pattern isn't supposed to happen except in the case of a failed firmware update. It sounds like the bad RAM slot, when in use, could be preventing the computer from loading some basic firmware.

    Your MacBook can use a 2GB stick in one slot. That won't be a half-bad workaround.

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