MBP: An Uneventful Return

April 26th, 2006

This post is part of the MacBook Pro Complaints series. Instead of (or in addition to) linking directly to this post, consider linking to the series link, which includes a summary of all findings to date and direct links to the pertinent downloads that users may find useful. Thanks for reading!

I got my MacBook Pro back from Apple repair, today. It was actually ready late last week, but I was out of town. I had called DHL to arrange for them to not attempt first delivery until today. When I got home from my trip I discovered two messages on my machine from DHL, each warning me that my machine was in imminent danger of being returned. Instead of following my request to deliver today, they just went ahead and tried on Friday and Monday. Today I drove out to the DHL shipping center 20 minute away so I could take care of it once and for all without waiting around all day for another delivery.

I opened the box with anticipation. Maybe all of my concerns would be addressed. Or at least the screen brightness noise! I opened it and started it up to discover that they had completely wiped the hard drive, and reinstalled the base system (10.4.5). Well, at least maybe this was a sign of a huge overhaul of the system. The service slip describes replacement of four distinct parts, including (I think) the main logic board. I still have the same serial number as before, however.

The worst news? The one thing I thought would absolutely fixed completely – the screen-brightness relating buzzing – is clearly not 100% resolved. I can’t tell if the new behavior is the same or better, because it seemed like the buzzing varied a lot throughout the day, but I know that if I put my ear up to the right side of the computer, there’s a buzzing when the brightness is less than full, and no buzzing at full. Something in there is still “more noisy when not full.” That sounds like “not fixed” to me, but maybe it’s much quieter and “within spec,” now.

The expected-but-sad news? The whine is present as ever. I was shocked to come home and discover that the 17″ MacBook Pro was announced at NAB of all places. If the 17″ edition of this computer exhibits anywhere near the same noise problems as the 15″, then I don’t see how any NAB professional could possibly use it for their work. My only A/V interests with the machine is for home recording, and even for that it seems to be dodgy at best. If I make a blank recording with GarageBand, with the audio input set to “built-in audio”, but nothing plugged in to the input plug, I can record the noise. That just doesn’t seem right. Plugging a mini-jack to RCA cable into the headphones line-out on the computer, I am able to amplify the CPU whine to whatever volume I care to, through my home stereo. The freaking noise is there, Apple! Is it acceptable? I have a hard time accepting it, and I don’t see how any professional would allow it on their A/V portable computer.

Among the components replaced by Apple are some heat regulator parts. Hopefully this will make the unit run cooler, but I have to suspect that if the main noise complaints were not addressed, this repair might have been a waste of effort, since I’ll be pursuing further repair as suggested in my original complaint.

If Apple or anybody else can convince me that it’s OK for my machine to make a headache-inducing, audio-track ruining noise during ordinary operations, then I’ll shut up and stop posting about this. Otherwise, I want a freaking Pro computer, Apple. And I’m exhausted already just thinking about dealing with another round of DHL shipments and ineffective Apple repairs.

I’m going to hold on to the unit at least for a few days, since I’m doing some traveling next week. Yes, it’s true. I rely on the computer. It is in fact useful, but it’s fatally flawed and does not meet my expectations for an Apple computer.

Update: Positive Notes

I’m cranky because the main problem of the CPU whine wasn’t fixed. But on a positive note, I should add that both the CPU whine and display noises seem much less noticeable than before. The CPU whine is now my main concern as it’s still loud enough to notice all the time in a quiet room, and it gives me a low-grade headache, but I think the display brightness noise is now “quiet enough to ignore.” That’s good!

Other bright points? It’s now been running for a couple hours and it’s still relatively cool. I think there was something wrong with the heat management and it’s now fixed. That’s nice! Thanks, Apple. Also, I have yet to hear the mooing noise since I got it back. We’ll see how it holds up when I head out of town again this weekend. It’s always easier to hear the noises on the road – in part because hotel rooms are quiet, and in part because I’m more likely to be running on battery power.

It’s possible. Just possible that I might be willing to cut my losses and keep this computer as-is. The whining CPU still drives me nuts, but as long as one of my workarounds continues to work, I might prefer to just live with it (albeit with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth about Apple quality), instead of pursuing further action. I’m afraid if I pursue the repair process any further, I might end up with another machine that is worse than this one. Crappy way to have to look at the world, huh? Is this how PC owners feel?

Update: should have known not to write anything about this until I had used the machine for a couple hours. The mooing is still there. Silver linings are falling like flies.

68 Responses to “MBP: An Uneventful Return”

  1. George Phillips Says:

    (APPARENTLY) PERMANENT SOLUTION TO THE WHINE

    Have you seen this? Supposedly a permanent solution to the whine (via digg):

    http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=461317&tstart=0

    BTW, I got a replacement for my first MBP (2.0ghz) from my Apple re-seller because of the whine, but they refused to replace the second one.

  2. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    George: My impression is that the apparently permanent solution is just one of many variants of “disable power management.” The problem with these solutions is that your battery life goes to hell. If anybody experiments with it and has an opinion to the contrary, please let me know. I wouldn’t endorse trying that method though – it seems really risky to mess with power management issues that are not well understood.

  3. Sam Says:

    http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=461317&tstart=0

    check it

  4. George Phillips Says:

    Joseph Williamson: Yes, I run WIndows XP on my MPB: there’s no whine.

  5. Justin Mazzi Says:

    Any updates on the heat issue?

  6. Barnier Says:

    Hi,

    Not sure if this was mentioned already but connected a Bluetooth apple wireless mouse to my 1.83 MBP (1,5 GB, 80GB hd) seems to completely take out the CPU whine…. not having to run any other software….

    Barnier

  7. moiety Says:

    Guys, Daniel’s MagicNoiseKiller can be made to work again!

    Simply re-install the original IOUSBFamily.kext (v2.4.0) kernel extension included with Mac OS X 10.4.5 (build 8G1454) from the package not ending with “log”, add MagicNoiseKiller to your login items, and everything is noise-less! Yay! You can download it from here:

    ftp://ftp.apple.com/developer/Development_Kits/Mac_OS_USB/IOUSBFamily-240.4.3-log.dmg

    *****

    To recap:

    1. Original IOUSBFamily.kext in 10.4.5: MagicNoiseKiller and the PhotoBooth/Mirror Widget hacks work.

    2. IOUSBFamily.kext included in 10.4.6: MagicNoiseKiller ceases to work reliably; PhotoBooth/Mirror Widget hacks still work.

    3. IOUSBFamily.kext included in Apple Keyboard Update 1.0 for Intel Macs: MagicNoiseKiller still doesn’t work; PhotoBooth/Mirror Widget hacks cease working (have to be run all the time now; simply opening and closing no longer works); in addition, the machine starts whining in closed-lid mode, which it did not do before.

    Solution? Return to IOUSBFamily.kext from 10.4.5, and MagicNoiseKiller works again!

  8. Ian Says:

    Check out the following if you’re afflicted by the whine / heat problems:

    http://www.osx86project.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=180&Itemid=2

  9. Michael Henry Says:

    I’m considering the purchase of a 15.4″ 2.0 GHz Macbook Pro. I’ve read quite a bit on the whining problem, and I’ve boiled it down in my own head to this:

    – The Macbook Pro could well have the whining problem, even for the week-16 (W8616xxxx) models at my local store

    – The store won’t let me listen for the whine before I purchase

    – Once I open the box, I’m told I may return it within 14 days, but only if I pay a 10% restocking fee

    – I am not willing to live with an _unstoppable_ whining noise; BUT…

    – I’m willing to accept reduced battery runtime as a tradeoff for removing the whine via one of the various software-based hacks that are floating around

    Which brings me to my question:

    Does anyone know of a Macbook Pro whose whining was not cured by a software hack?

    I’m willing to buy a Macbook Pro if my worst-case scenario is running a software hack, but I’d hate to lose $250 in restocking fees if the whining is unstoppable, and I dread the idea of fighting to get Apple to repair or replace it (not to mention the time that would take).

    Thanks for any information you can provide.

  10. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Mike: I believe the 10% restocking fee only applies *after* the 14 day period.

    Chances are good that the QuietMBP solution (utilizes CPU) will work even when the other workarounds don’t.

  11. Matthew Gilbert Says:

    Daniel, I’m pretty sure it’s 10% no matter what. At least that’s what I’ve been told every time I’ve purchased a machine at the Apple store.

  12. Tea Cozy N1 Says:

    Yup, it is pretty much 10% no matter what. I bought an ipod accessory by mistake and tried returning it the same day, package was not even opened and they wanted 10%. Pretty Nazi-ish. Ended up ebaying it off and made dinero on the shipping.

    So much for customer service from Apple. Plus, on a side note, the folks at the genius bar act like they are all going to be the next big star on American Idol and/or aspiring actors and actresses. They take their fine old time to deal with any questions you may have about MBP issues.

    The lack of customer service reminds me of standing in line at Kinko’s for 40 minutes to pay for a 10 cent copy back in the good old days in college. : P

  13. Tea Cozy N1 Says:

    In regards to Mike’s inquiry, why not buy from a retailer that has a full refund policy instead of an Apple Store? It’s not like Apple has better pricing unless you are a student, and even then not much, it offsets the sales tax.

  14. bigwasp Says:

    i just returned my 15 inch for the 17! Lets hope the whine issue is resolved

  15. mike Says:

    They only accept returns within 14 days, and 10% restocking fee in that period.

    BUT, they will waive the restocking fee if your machine has problems. If your machine has a loud whine, you just have to convince Apple that it has problems, and they should waive the fee. If your machine is truly defective, you can always return it and contest the fee with your credit card company.

    I’ve also heard of people being able to return for refund after the 14 days, but that’s more rare and seems like apple is being nice or just gives in after multiple failed attempts to solve the problem.

  16. Johan Says:

    The Apple bluetooth mouse had removed the noise for me completely. Last night I ran out of batteries and so I started to play around with the magicnoisekiller (it didn’t work for me) and the QuietMBP (which did work.) Today I got some new batteries and I tried to connect the mouse to my MBP and it didn’t work. Can anybody help me?

  17. OCDan7 Says:

    Add me to the list my brothers, as my newly swapped out logic board (15″MBP) has the same ol’ CPU whine. I’m afraid I’ll have to hibernate on this a while and use QuietMBP.app

    Just got it back today- the Apple Store personnel fall into either the sympathetic or antagonistic crowds- the manager unfortunately the latter.

    I was in the store, powered it on, and the noise was audible (even in their store (louder) environment, I could hear it)- and especially now that I’m back in my quiet office.

    VERY SAD. I wonder if the MacBooks announced today will suffer the same fate.

  18. Angie Says:

    Moiety, I started to get sick of leaving my Keyboard Update non-updated, so I found the same problem you did: isight tricks didn’t work. I used your IOUSBFamily trick and now I have the same conditions as before: a fixable whining MBP.
    Thanks!

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