The Quiet Mac

July 14th, 2006

This post is part of my 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!

It is with a great sigh of relief that I announce the likely end of my MacBook Pro saga.

As recently as a few weeks ago, I expected that the end of this saga would take the form of finding a buyer on Craigslist to take the thing off my hands, but events turned in a more positive direction as I patiently worked my way through the Apple support system.

Eventually I ended up in the hands of a thoughtful representative with a lot of discretion over how best to handle my situation. The amount of bad luck I had endured really accumulated over the past few months. The defects themselves. The repeated failures to fix them. The bad Apple store rep. The slightly mutilated MBP case. Oh, I might have forgotten to mention that. On my last repair shipment, the techies must have put it back together in a hurry, as they left a gap in the case where it meets the DVD-ROM area. I mentioned this in passing to one rep, where it was apparently added to my record.

Finally, after apparently reviewing the list of everything wrong with the Mac and my experiences so far with Apple, the representative offered to send me a replacement. I was wary, at first. Just go through this all again? I’d rather have somebody good at Apple take an honest look at it and replace the parts that are busted. But then I heard rumors of the new MacBook Pro logic board, and couldn’t help but hope that this meant a happy outcome was in sight. I asked my Apple representative if a replacement would be “fresh off the line.” I didn’t want some replacement from March or April, that happened to be sitting in some Cupertino stockpile (as if). He could only say that they tended to be shipped out as fast as they could be made. So I agreed – let’s spin the wheel.

The new MacBook Pro arrived this morning and what can I say? The thing is dead silent. You can trust me, I know what the freaking pain sounds like. Yes Virginia, there is a quiet MacBook Pro. Impressively, I could not even hear a noticeable sound difference with my ear pressed up to the machine while tweaking the slider on QuietMBP. Actually, after plugging the power in I can hear the slightest “sizzle” if I put my ear to the plug where it’s plugged in. And this might be only while it’s charging. Anyway I don’t think it’s loud enough for me to hear from any normal distance, and I bet this amount of sound is present in almost any laptop, ahem, notebook. So after months of negativity it feels good to return to my initial state of just being impressed with the MacBook Pro. Just about everything is “amazingly right.”

Even the surface temperature is slightly cooler than my old MBP. I’m transferring over from the old one right now, so both machines have been turned on the same length of time, and roughly (I assume) doing the same amount of activity. The old MBP’s “hottest spot” (above the function keys) is still so hot that I cannot leave my fingers there for more than a few seconds. The new one is still hot there, but I can leave my finger there indefinitely. Major improvement, even if ideally they could cool things down even more. To be honest, the heat is still frustrating, especially in the summer, but if it’s just the heat, then I’ll shut my whining mouth for a while.

I know at least some of you have been holding off on a new MacBook Pro because of things I’ve said about them here. I’m happy to have helped you avoid a costly and possibly frustrating mistake. But I don’t want Apple to lose customers, goodwill, or sales. I’m a stock holder, for crying out loud! Now that I can happily endorse this (please, nothing go wrong in the next few days), I say get out your credit card and join us!

Update: I’ve been using the new MBP for several hours and my inital impressions are holding up. It’s quiet as a mouse. I love it! But just to show that I’m not completely devoid of crankiness, I have two minor complaints. First, the space bar makes a slight squeaking noise every time I press it. This is definitely new, but it’s so much nicer than the whine. Maybe I can fix it with a little well-placed graphite or something. Second, the lid closes in a way such that unlatching it is slightly clunky. I have to sort of press the button in extra far to get it to pop open. Overall, very minor inconveniences. How minor? There’s no way in hell I’ll risk ruining the happy state of my MBP right now by bringing it in for these teeny issues.

83 Responses to “The Quiet Mac”

  1. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Hi Stone – I basically think they are “fixed,” but that cannot be said without some caveats. They’re still hot. They still make the tiniest bit of noise. I hope a more perfect laptop is on the way, but now, finally, I am willing to say this is pretty darned good. If you’re anxious for a great laptop you can do a lot worse than an MBP.

  2. chaichat Says:

    I got a replacement for my macbook pro. Apple picked me some other old macbook pro for a replacement, but this one didn’t have that much noise for a month or two. Then guess what happenned today? My macbook pro started hissing again!!! (which is why I’m checking this board out again.)

    I’m going to try and go to apple and get them to fix it soon.

  3. chaichat Says:

    hmm its gone again.. I don’t know what happenned! I went to take a shower and came back and the noise is gone…

  4. Sam Says:

    Is there any way to tell what version of the logic board you have? I bought my MBP 15″ a week ago and it has a whine (not terribly noticable — more noticable during charging). Could it be that since my MBP is so recent, that it has the new logic board but still makes the noise?

  5. davide Says:

    I felt like “Marshall Messengill” (cf. post above on July 28: “We won!”) when I read that Apple was asking customers with the high-pitch hissing sound to contact AppleCare.

    But now I called them and what I got was the usual blah-blah about “we think it’s within specs” and “you should rather go to an AppleStore so that they can really check whether it’s really so loud as you are saying.” Do you have any kind of advice of how to deal with these people? I have told them hundreds of times that, no, it’s not the buzzing sound due to the inverter; no, it’s not normal and neither acceptable; and: look around, there are hundreds of people with the same problem, they can’t all be idiots — but at some point my language capabilities abandon me (I’m not a native speaker), and I end up being lulled by their talk.

    What do you recommend as the best way to make clear that this is *that* kind of problem, and it’s not acceptable, and others have had it fixed?

  6. Omar Says:

    wow !! I just bought an MBP, and it DOES NOT make any noise, AT ALL. I even put my ear next to it, still nothing, I’m gald I followed through with this post and waited on my purchase. I just bought some OWC ram and am goign to put it in the computer as soon as I get it, thanks for making this, now I have a happy mac and it’s pretty damn good, now all they have to do is release a universal version of photoshop….

  7. James Chalmers Says:

    My 4th Brand-New MBP 15 inch replacement.

    Still no fix for buzz/whine.


    I seriously, seriously want some compensation now. And the product i paid for.

    Not funny Apple.

  8. Dustin Says:

    @James: Was this a replacement through, or another vendor? Can you tell us what the first 5 or 6 characters of your serial number are?

    I’ve been really wanting to order a MBP, but I’ve been waiting for a couple of reasons. First, because of the rumors of updates to the MBP models this week (possibly to Intel Core 2 Duos), and second because of all the problems people seem to be having with them. It seemed like those who got later models haven’t had the problems that have plagued the earlier buyers of the MBP. But maybe that’s not the case…

  9. Nestor Cardozo Says:

    I would like to comment on my experience because is similar to yours, but in another country.

    I bought my MacBook Pro in March, through a Mac Retailer in Norway. From the time I opened the machine I got the problems commented in several blogs: buzzing, cowing, difficulty to awake, eternal fan noise, etc.

    I did the hardware updates, part of the problem (cow noise) was solved. I sent the machine to first repair: 1 new logic board. Eternal fan noise started. Sent the machine again, second repair and this time Apple sends a defective logic board. Third repair: New logic board but no change. By this time the machine was been abused by at least two or three technicians, and started to bulge.

    After about four discussions with Apple support (yes I purchased Apple Care), I was able to get a replacement. I sent my machine back last Tuesday. I was told that it would take one and a half week to get the new machine. They did not even had the decency to let me use Migration Assistant to transfer the data from the old-defective to the new machine. Call today. Machine has not been picked up yet, from Apple Retailer. Prospect: another two weeks without a MacBookPro.

    I purchased the machine for 25,000 NOK, about 4,000 dollars. Consumer laws are pretty strict in Norway. And yet, I am not able to get a properly functioning machine on time, not the money back, because it can even take longer.

    I can’t express in words how much disatisfaction apple customer satisfaction gives me. From this side, at least I start looking for alternatives to MacOS X and Windows.

    Only positive thing to be in Norway: No Apple Stores, and therefore no Apple Geniuses

  10. ann Gross Says:

    Just bought a Mac Book Pro for my daughter for college and it gets very hot and shits off after 30 min when I called apple they denied the problem and would not give me a new one so now im sending it to them and my daughter has no computer until the return it.This was bought 8/3/06 and today is 9/27/06 DO NOT BUY FROM APPLE the do not give you any sort of back up and the lie!!!!

  11. Nahan Says:

    I just updated to 10.4.8 and magicnoisekiller stopped working. Is it okay to revert back to IOUSFamily update like I did when I got 10.4.7 update? What should I do?

  12. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Nahan: I can’t recommend back-dating the IOUSBFamily extension. That seems risky to me. I would probably have to recommend running the QuietMBP application instead of MagicNoiseKiller.

  13. Nahan Says:

    Thanks, I got QuietMBP, I am weird about my computer, I don’t like seeing the icon all day showing that QuietMBP is open, but rather that than the freaking noise I guess. I liked Magic Noise Killer better because it disappeared. Thanks for the advice…… the way, I am going to Italy in a week, do I need a power converter or just a plug adapter, can my MBP handle 220V?

  14. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Nahan: If at all possible you should really take the plunge and talk to Apple about getting this fixed once and for all. A new logic board could really improve the sound problem a lot.

    Your MBP should be fine in Italy, thanks to the power supply brick, which is capable of converting from a range of power inputs to the much lower voltage required by the MBP. In general you can assume that these, days, but you can verify it for yourself whenever you’re concerned by looking at the power supply for the small print that shows the expected “input” and “output”.

    You’ll just need to buy one of those adapters to make the plugs go into the wall right.

  15. Nahan Says:

    I live in Mexico and will not be in Southern California again until next summer. I bought a 3 year Apple Protection Plan, they will still service it anytime in the future right? What is the quickest and longest time it could take to get the computer back as I am there for a short time?


  16. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Nahan: no idea. You should get in touch with Apple if you have specific questions like that.

  17. davide Says:

    As I was writing above (Sep 5th) I’m one of those people stuck with the first-weeks MBP with that horrible high-pitch noise. I wasn’t able to communicate Apple in a manner eloquent enough that my my MBP was worthy of being repaired by them, and so I’m stuck with that one.

    Anyway: I’ve just run automatic update and now I have 10.4.8 as OS. Did anyone of those using QuietMBP notice that you have to crank down the slider after that? As long as I had 10.4.6, setting the slider on 120 was fine for me. When I updated to 10.4.7, I had to reduce that to 90. Now, with 10.4.8 I need to set it to 60… and I very much doubt that my hearing threshold is getting better…

  18. Scott Stevenson Says:

    I wasn’t able to communicate Apple in a manner eloquent enough that my my MBP was worthy of being repaired by them, and so I’m stuck with that one

    Try again. I have one from the same era, and they fixed it. In fact, this kbase article tells you to do so:

    “If your 15-inch MacBook Pro emits a high-pitched buzzing sound, please contact AppleCare for service.”

  19. davide Says:

    Thanks, Scott. I had called them a couple of times in the spring, but each time I got something like “…it’s within specs… blah.. blah”.

    So I had almost given up when I finally saw the kbase article you’re mentioning. Full of hopes, I called AppleCare sometime in August, made reference to that article, but some slimy guy there told me that he didn’t want me to do without my computer for a couple of days while it was in repair, and that most likely they would not find anything etc etc., and if I was really convinced of it I should go to an AppleStore and they would be able to check it.

    Since I very much doubt that people at an AppleStore, with such a background noise, would be able to hear that, and getting to an AppleStore is a long journey for me (without a car) I gave up once again. I shouldn’t, I know. But I really can never find 5 days in which I could do without my computer, and I’m really sick and tired of calling Apple and fighting. I’m really tired of that.

  20. Scott Stevenson Says:

    Since I very much doubt that people at an AppleStore, with such a background noise, would be able to hear that, and getting to an AppleStore is a long journey for me (without a car) I gave up once again

    I understand, but if you take it in they really should fix it. The guy I talked to just put his ear to the keyboard to hear it.

    If you’re hesitant, print out the kbase page and bring it in. If they don’t agree with that for some reason, ask to speak the store manager. It’s highly unlikely it would come to any of that, just peace of mind so that you know your journey is worthwhile.

  21. brad Says:

    hey has anybody used the new MBP with the 2.16 intel core 2 duo processor? any comments, i looking to buy one? thanks kindly.

  22. aston Says:

    I just got a brand-spankin’ new MacBook (non-pro) and it exhibits the whine. I’m in a pretty quiet room and have good hearing, so I’m not sure how bad it is, but I can hear it from a few feet away.

    QuietMBP fixes the problem, but I’m wondering if I should take it back to Apple…. Anyone know what’s the story with the whine problem on non-pro MB’s?

  23. Scott Stevenson Says:

    I just got a brand-spankin’ new MacBook (non-pro) and it exhibits the whine

    I’d say take it to a genius bar and see what they say.

  24. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Aston: if it’s really brand-spankin’-new, then act quickly before your 14 days or whatever are up. after that, it’s much harder to to get a replacement. I would take it to a genius bar as Scott suggests and demand an exchange. They probably won’t acknowledge the sound as unacceptable, but since it’s so new you might be able to convince them to exchange it so you’ll stop whining :)

    If it’s not quite that new anymore, I think you might have better luck through AppleCare (telephone) support. It might take you a little while to convince them of the severity of the problem, but they won’t outright deny a problem like the Apple Genius is liable to do.

    This is all just my own experience. The Apple Store is no place to evaluate subtle noise problems, and they take them in a “back room” to evaluate, where you have no ability to interact with the computer to demonstrate the problem.

  25. Scott Stevenson Says:

    The Apple Store is no place to evaluate subtle noise problems, and they take them in a “back room” to evaluate, where you have no ability to interact with the computer to demonstrate the problem

    For what it’s worth, the guy I talked to at the Genius Bar in Santa Clara just put his ear right up to the thing and accepted it right there.

  26. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Scott: glad to know that there is at least one hearing-enabled Genius :)

  27. Cliff Says:

    I have read your whole ordeal with a fair amount of trepidation…
    I foresee having to undergo the same thing very soon. I’m a first-time mac user and am pretty ticked off at the company. I was driven to them, and now they are apparently trying to drive me away…
    I bought a 15 MBP at a discount when the C2D’s came out from an Apple Store. I live quite a distance away from the store (2+ hours drive). I got it home, unpacked it, and have since had the following problems:
    1) It was instantly apparent that my right speaker was blown (how this could happen in building or shipping I have no idea)
    2) The computer whines like crazy when on battery power. I use the QuietMBP program you linked to in an earlier post, but am very dissatisfied with having to use that as a fix!
    3) The LCD brightness is inconsistent across the screen, has one dead pixel, and the viewability from different angles is terrible (it is a matte display). You can’t even look at the display straight on without portions of the LCD fading out. Even the parts that are clearly visible are plagued by a grainy pixilation (most accurately described as “if you added 1% noise to a screenshot”)
    4) The screen intermittently makes the hiss on the right side when brightness is increased from nothing (while on battery power).
    5) The display is warped (when closed, I can rock the screen back and forth on the CPU)
    6) Temperature, obviously.
    7) A fan on the right side of the computer is ALWAYS running.
    8) If I shake the CPU around slightly, I can hear something loose inside the computer rolling around!
    In your great experience, what is the best way to resolve this? What are the channels to get to an Apple sales rep on the phone? (As opposed to an Applecare person with no authority)
    I would really prefer not to have to take it to the Apple Store (because of the distance and because of the way a number of these problems are problematically subjective and intermittent)
    I’ve spoken to several dismissive Applecare employees, and they are telling me to take it into the local service provider (where some guy named Evan will “get around to it eventually”).
    How can I have it shipped off? How do I get the personal associate who actually tries to help?!

  28. Joe Turner Says:

    I’ve found all of your articles very helpful, but I think that I need some advice.
    Currently, I have been through a power cord after the last one melted at the cord-little white box connector, and the Apple store replaced it, because they had others with the same problem.
    Right now, i’m hearing the buzzing, and the quietMBP seems to dim it a bit, but it really dosent completley take away the noise. Along with that, the fan in the back-left corner of the computer is reacting horribly.
    Whenever I keep the laptop above 75% brightness, or at full,after a few minutes the fan seems to kick into action and give me a grinding noise, as it goes on, off, on, off, on, off, on, off ect, and it seems that this faulty fan is making my MBP run hotter than usual, and yesterday it just quit out on me, completley shut off the system while I was in the middle of working on a big Photoshop project, that I pretty much had to re-do.
    Should I phone Apple, and if so, who should I talk to?
    The Apple relations or somthing like that?
    Or should I just take it to the store, although with the power cord I had to visit 3 times before they replaced it.
    I am thouroughly dissapointed with Apple at this point.
    What should I do?

  29. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Hi Joe – not sure I can say what the “right” thing to do is, but what I’d do in your situation is call AppleCare and insist that you have an unusually large number of problems. Tell them you want to have all of them addressed at once. They’ll have you ship the computer to them, which means you’ll have to be without it for a week or more.

    If that’s unacceptable, what I’d do is find a local authorized repair shop to do it for you. They are a lot more flexible it seems as far as timing of repairs and only keeping your computer for as long as they need it to do the repair.

    Good luck :(

  30. Nathan Says:

    I have had the whine problem, after six months I could take it no longer. I sent it in to Apple and they sent it back completely fixed in three days. I am now a happy mac customer once again. The phone techs were helpful and the whole process was quick and painless. Send back your MBP today!

  31. mike Says:

    someone asked about the new C2D MBPs, i am not sure if some of the others referred to are CD or C2D. I am from Canada and actually tried out about five different machines between October and December of 2006, and all had the same problem of noise and heat. I don’t suspect it is the CPU whine others noted, it seemed more a general whine of the fans which run constantly. Nothing seems to make any difference to lower the fans nor the heat. Typically it is running both fans around 6000rmps with a temp of 80c. it is horribly annoying, and, now being in israel i feel unable to pursue anything with apple. you wouldn’t believe (well i suppose Daniel might) the stupidity i dealt with on the phone first phoning Apple US, then being bounced back and forth between them and Apple Canada, neither wanting or saying they are responsible, the number i am eventually told to call for Canada won’t accept my int’l calls, and when explained to applecare US they said too bad. i tried following up with an israeli apple brach but they only speak hebrew which i don’t.

    a friend recently had a mbp c2d shipped here from canada and hers has no fan/heat problems whatsoever, so i imagine between the time i tried out the 4 or 5 units i did (including the portable heater i am stuck with) and now, apple must have resolved the problem.

    If i run smcfancontrol i can lower the temp by a measley 1 or 2 degrees, but no change to the never-ending fans…

  32. duncan Says:

    I have a week 11 MBP15 which seems to be behaving pretty well compared with the machines I’ve been reading about. the case has buckled over the unused slot next to the audio jacks- this happened right after a flight where I had to let the mac go in the hold; I guess that’s the coldest it’s ever been!
    I can just about hear a whine from the top-right area if I run it on battery power; it’s just loud enough to let me know that the magsafe has come out, otherwise it doesn’t bother me. can’t really hear it over the normal background noise in london, anyway. what I can hear is somewhat intermittent anyway.
    the fans are not noticeable on this machine, unless it’s writing a dvd. I use the core-duo-temp app to keep an eye on the temperature & proc useage, & this is the only time the proc gets really busy. the temp’s never gone above 65, as far as I remember.
    this happened once while final-cut was rendering something.

    other stuff I’ve observed:
    the speakers are rubbish.
    it took me about six goes to get the apple-supplied 2Gb ram to go in & work properly.
    I too have the problem with the lid-catch needing a good hard push to let go of the lid sometimes.
    the audio-out jack doesn’t like some 3.5mm stereo jacks, but is fine with optical connectors.
    the display is…. shaded- I have to keep moving around to be sure I’m judging contrast & colour correctly when using p/shop or corel.
    it gets very hot- of course. but it’s tolerable on my lap, especially now I’ve got the speck polycarbonate shells fitted. it gets a lot of looks from people too- a shiny red macbook.
    I run w2k under parallels, allowing the PC about 900Mb of the ram & about 8-9Gb of the hard drive. one thing I’ve noticed is that some windows apps don’t know what to do with the “2nd proc” (the same apps don’t use both procs on my dell dual proc PC either, or rather they use a maximum of half of each), & so there’s some processing power lying idle. the situation improves in parallels’ coherence mode, when the mac resumes control of the graphics driver.

    I cloned my MBP’s entire hard drive over firewire onto the blank HD in a mac-mini with the 1.6Ghz version of the same proc., it worked perfectly except that the mac-mini has to be reminded how to talk to the keyboard every time I restart it. all the apps work fine, even the ones that needed registration & serial numbers originally. the op took about 90 minutes though….


  33. James Says:

    Just want to say thanks for vocally complaining and bringing up these issues, its folks who don’t quietly accept what they’ve been given, and document the issues in detail who lead to these improvements.

    Now enjoying my quiet 17″ MBP as well – My single complaint is also the latch, funnily enough :)

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