Help debug a totla meltdown.

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by petestein1, Feb 23, 2010.

  1. petestein1 macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2008
    (Posted this 3 weeks ago over in the OSX forum but go no real replies over there. Reposting here in the hopes that the problem in unique to Airs and tht someone here will have dealt with it.)

    Hoping someone here has some insight.

    Macbook Air, Rev A.

    Worked like a charm for 1.5 years.

    Upgraded to a Rev C SSD and gave the Rev A to the wife.

    She installed NOTHING.

    Within a few weeks it started running VERY slow. I'm talking 10 minutes of beach ball per click.

    I use Disk Utility to check the drive. No problems of any kind.

    Rebooting would take -- and I'm not exaggerating -- over an hour. First it would sit with a grey screen for 5 minutes. Then with an apple logo for 10 more. Then with the little spinning circle for 30. Then the desktop background would show up and sit for 20 minutes, etc.

    Was gonna upgrade to Snow Leopard so what the heck, backed it all up and installed Snow Leopard. To my surprise, it installed Snow Leopard on top of the old OS -- it kept all the files around so no need to restore from backup.

    Speed problem SOLVED!

    Then a few weeks later the same problems.

    This time I check the drive AND run the hardware test. No problems.

    I ERASED the entire drive.

    I installed Snow Leopard.

    All is good for a few weeks.

    Then the problem came back a 3rd time.

    I go to reinstall a 3rd time and Snow Leopard doesn't even acknowledge that there's a hard drive in the machine! And when I look in system profiler it says there's no drive of any sort. Yet it will reboot and run... just VERRRRRYYYY slowly. Eventually the drive is recognized and I reinstall yet again. All is fine for 2 weeks and then... bam! Slowness again.

    I'm ready to replace the drive with a Runcore SSD or a new HDD but I want to be sure the problem is the drive and not some other aspect of the hardware (motherboard, RAM, etc.)

    Anyone ever seen this? Anyone have any ideas as to how to investigate, solve, conquer, save myself from madness??

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    While your wife changes or adds no applications, what are the usage pattern differences? I believe usage patterns can clearly define that while a computer may work for one person it doesn't for the next.

    See what sorts of applications she uses and when she uses them... and how many she uses at a time. Flash alone can fry an original MBA. I used to watch standard videos within a browser and had all sorts of overheating, core shutdown, and frozen computer situations just as you are seeing.

    Activity Monitor will show exactly what's happening. I would suggest she show you what it does and when.

    I would also consider taking it apart and reapplying thermal paste and definitely installing Cool Book software. I never had the opportunity to install Cool Book on my original MBA, therefore my original MBA was useless to me. I believe if I had Cool Book my experience would have been much more positive.

    The problem with an MBA needing to reapply thermal paste or being required to install Cool Book is Apple Mac computers are supposed to just work. The original MBA doesn't just work. I would bet the usage differences are why all of the sudden she has problems. Also, a lot of people aren't used to the fans being on the underside of the MBA. Ensure it has plenty of cooling space by placing a flat hard object underneath it so it doesn't contact soft materials that will block the air circulation.

    Activity Monitor and usage pattern observation will tell you much more about the problem. If you can report those issues, it's much more likely someone will reply here with a possible solution.

    Best wishes with it.
  3. macboy4 macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2009
    Scottsdale, the problem with your assessment is that, multiple times, the machine was working just fine for a couple of weeks and all of the sudden started acting up. That makes me leery of usage habits being the culprit as it's unlikely that those usage habits dramatically changed during that time, reverted to prior habits after a fresh OS install, and then changed again... multiple times. Besides, of all the problems I've heard with the Rev A, taking over an hour to restart is not one of them.
  4. Shrek-Moscow macrumors member

    Apr 11, 2008
    I guess it can be the HDD that is already close to die.
    Clone it on an external USB HDD and check if it is slow the same, in my experience booting and working from an external USB drive it is slower but still not so bad as in your case (may be 2 min for rebooting).

    On my work PC (win XP) a 2 year old HDD was creating a lot of problems, like slodown and freezing, checkdisk result was still fine but when I cloned the disk (norton ghost) to a brand new one all problems disappeared. However before doing this I spent a lot of time checking everything else without results.

    In your case the simple fact that sometimes the installation of SL does not detect any HDD let me thinking about some HDD problem..
  5. stoconnell macrumors 6502

    Mar 22, 2009
    Rockville (Despite REM's plea.)
  6. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    It's a rev A and an HDD? Why did it take until now for complaining? User expectation differences... seems logical. A lot of people use their original MBA for email and writing Word/Pages documents... I know one who was extremely happy with his original MBA and I quickly learned his usage pattern was very different from the "average" Mac user. For him the original MBA was acceptable. In addition, he never used it away from a desk. Throw that same MBA on a comforter and watch the house burn down!

    Seriously, I still believe the original user didn't expect or do much in terms of video, graphics, or intensive CPU requirements. Add into that factors such as the way the MBA is held on the lap, left on a comforter, with the fans blocked. Also add the original MBA's overheated 20W Merom CPU, Intel Crapgraphics, PATA drive controller & PATA drive and make it an HDD spinning at 4200rpm? I know from experience, I got exactly that from day one.

    Sure it could be a 4200rpm HDD that's the culprit, but it would also probably all be figured out while running Activity Monitor to diagnose the problems. I thought that I gave a fair assessment of potential problems, to check for usage pattern differences and use Activity Monitor to discover what's happening. If the CPU usage is at 90%+, it's probably not the HDD. A person can figure out whether the computer is overworked or not by a few minutes with Activity Monitor.

    My logic is that an original MBA was always meant to fail it just depends on the user as to when it will fail. That is why I suspect usage differences while it might be correct or incorrect, it's one possibility. We don't know what happens right before it does this, as that was not explained. It could be a user, the computer, or any number of apps or components within. Activity Monitor will get answers the fastest, will it not?
  7. Shrek-Moscow macrumors member

    Apr 11, 2008
    I usually can say to agree with your posts but not this time.

    We are talking about a laptop that take over an hour to reboot and that can come back to normal performance just after an OS reinstallation (it is not enough to live it off to cool down). A computer on which, sometimes, disk utility cannot find any installed disk on which to install the OS...

    What the hell have in common "usage profiles" with this stuff? Seriously..
  8. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    You could be 100% correct, but what is leading up to this? Is it a usage difference? I had an original MBA and it failed me just like this from DAY ONE. As soon as I ran a video or even it was hit hard by Flash, it would freeze up. I had to force shut it down, and nothing else worked once it had froze. I imagine an hour waiting for it would have been normal for my original MBA.

    The bottom line is this is what I expect from an original MBA... EXACTLY! So to me it doesn't seem abnormal. Wouldn't looking at Activity Monitor tell the OP what to look at and report back with some solid advice? I think that's a fair assessment.
  9. agaskew macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2009
  10. Shrek-Moscow macrumors member

    Apr 11, 2008
    One hour for reboot it is far too much to be a problem of overheating/core shutdown... not to talk about disk utility not detecting HDD during OS installation.

    By the way, I'm using a rev A MBA (1.8 GHz / 80 GB HDD) since it was released and I've updated it with a 128 GB SSD only recently (end of december), I have watched youtube since the beginning without any issues except some fan noise and heating.. after some time I started to use CoolBook and things become even better. During SSD installation I've also reapplied thermal paste and installed new beta flash release; now my MBA is really fine, I can watch at full screen the hi-res videos of Ken Block doing his gimkanas with no problem (again except some fan noise and heat but no hanging, no core shutdown, not even big slowdowns).

    You are absolutely too harsh in evaluating rev A performances, may be you had a bad unit.

    I'm always working on 12MP raw image files, watching downloaded movies, youtube, using office 2007, iweb, iphoto (with a big library) and -honestly- I'm happy. It sometimes does slow down a bit, expecially with graphic demanding applications, but nothing special. Of course we are not speaking about gaming even if once I tryied an old HALO (don't remember wich version) and it was working just fine.

    I found some problem mainly with iPhoto '09 when in full screen, if picture is fully zoomed, i can't scroll picture around using the two-finger gesture but I can do it normally by clicking and dragging the navigation windows. But it is a program's problem since the same images in full screen and fully zoomed can be normally scrolled with two finger in other programs..

    listening to you it seem that rev A is a huge pile of s*** but in reality is not so terrible.
  11. petestein1 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 8, 2008
    Wow, lots to reply to here.

    1. Sorry about the typo in the title of the post. Sloppy.

    2. Scottsdale, I don't think the problem is her usage pattern. I used that machine 10 hours a day 5 days a week for 18 months. Word, Excel, Mail, Firefox, Safari, iTunes, iPhoto, Preview, Address Book, Calendar, Skype, Text Wrangler... no problems aside from some heat and stuttering during Youtube videos or Skype video chart.

    (So yes, I know the slowdowns that can occur from Flash/Youtube/Skype Video and I know how to handle them. Quit the app, let the machine cool down, all is good).

    She would use it for an hour or three at a time, with nothing more than Firefox and iTunes. I thought maybe it was the website she was using -- it was a hospital website that lets her log into her desktop computer remotely but as numerous others pointed out, once the problem occurred, it was permanent. Rebooting, restarting, cooling down, waiting... nothing would help.

    3. Activity Monitor shows no problem of any kind. It's running horrifically slowly and the monitor shows it cool a a cucumber.

    4. Yes, I'll likely reapply the thermal paste while I have the machine open for the drive -- I have a nice little tube of Arctic Silver right here.

    5. Shreck -- the idea of cloning a drive and seeing how it runs from that drive is a great one. I'll actually clone the drive of my Rev C and boot it off that to see how it goes.

    6. Stoconnell, yep. I've zapped the PRAM, reset the SMC, etc.

    7. Back to Scottsdale, you say "It's a rev A and an HDD? Why did it take until now for complaining?" I didn't complain because it was a great machine. Yes. It had a flaw -- it was no good at flash-driven video. Does that make it a bad machine? Not for me. I *loved* it and I can honestly say that it transformed my work habits drammatically. I *loved* my Macbook Air Rev A. Yes, I love my Rev C SSD more -- but hey, just because you marry a Victoria's Secret model doesn't mean that you had a crappy time dating the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before. ;-)

    8. Scottasdale, then you say "I had an original MBA and it failed me just like this from DAY ONE." ... I'm gonna guess that while you were frustrated with video causing it to overheat and slow down, you never had problems like this. 1 hour to boot up? 10 minutes between clicks? Unable to recognize that the hard drive existed?? I think it's safe to say that my experience is unique. :)

    Finally, to make this all the more fun, I just turned the thing on and it's working... fine. AGGGGGGGHHHHHH!

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