I Feel like I’m Sitting on a Time Bomb

Apple’s 15″ Early 2011 MacBook Pros have some serious problems…

macbook pro 15 inch (2011)

I’ve been writing since 1997, but for the longest time I wrote on whatever laptop the office gave me.  After things started to get serious, I bought my own laptop – a Dell Latitude C610 – and was very happy for a very long time.  I purchased my first 15″ MacBook Pro in early 2006 (one of the first Intel-based MacBooks) and as Windows was my platform of choice at the time, used it as a Windows machine via Boot Camp. I finally made the full switch over to OS X in mid-2010, just before I bought a new, Early 2011 15″ MacBook Pro to replace the 13″ Late early 2009 Aluminum Unibody MacBook I had purchased.  The only way I run Windows on a Mac now is with Parallels Desktop for Mac.

I really like my Early 2011 MacBook Pro.  It’s sturdy.  It’s solid. It’s (generally) well built. It’s also end user upgradable… one of the last models of Apple’s professional laptop line to really be end user upgradable, too.

When I ordered it, I got it with the high-end processor, but minimal RAM and the smallest, slowest hard drive they had. The idea was that I could upgrade those components over the course of a few years, and bring extended value and life to what was then – and now – a very large purchase.  I also did NOT purchase Apple Care.  While it does provide you with a few key service upgrades – as well as the extended warranty period – the equipment is so well built, that I didn’t use it on either of the previous TWO MacBooks I had purchased; and thought, after buying the high end model, that I’d save myself $350 bucks.

Unfortunately, I feel like I’m sitting on a time bomb.

The notebook should last at LEAST another 5 or so years without breaking, provided I continue to baby it as I do. It’s in near mint condition, with only very minor wear, despite being upgraded from 4GB to 8GB, then 12GB and then finally 16GB of RAM.  I’ve also left the very slow, 5400RPM 500GB HDD behind for a couple different, faster (though smaller) SSD’s.

The big problem with the Early 2011 MacBook Pro, however is its built-in discrete AMD video card.  They’re failing.  In fact, there are stories all over the place about how the cards are taking notebooks out, out of nowhere.  The graphics boards are failing, making the computers unbootable. Those WITH Apple Care have been able to get the effected logic boards replaced and in most cases that’s fixed the issue; but with Apple’s 3yr Apple Care extended warranty deadline fast approaching, that may be an issue going forward, as it doesn’t always provide a permanent fix.

Some people have been able to “fix” the issue with
·    Restarting in Safe Mode
·    Resetting NVRAM/PRAM
·    Rebooting to single user mode and performing an fsck to check and repair corrupted files
·    Forcing the computer to use the Intel integrated graphics
·    Complete clean installs of OS X

Unfortunately, none of these have had any lasting success, either. Some work for a while.  Other methods initially resolve the problem, but it very quickly returns. Once you “wear out” your options, most systems become inoperable and unusable. I haven’t bumped into this yet; but it’s just a matter of time from what I’ve read in the HUGELY documented forums.

The fix is hit or miss; and there’s no standing order with Apple to replace the part.  Apple has yet to officially respond. As such, a petition has been started at Change.org. The document calls the graphics issue a “manufacturing defect;” and is addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Software Engineering SVP Craig Federighi. It requires 5000 signatures; and as of this writing, it still needed over 1500 signatures before it can be presented to Apple for some kind of response.

Again, while I don’t have the problem at this point, I feel like it’s just a matter of time before I will.  There’s too much documentation out there about this issue; and your MacBook can begin exhibiting symptoms regardless of how well you treat the device. It’s obvious that there is ample evidence that the issue is legitimate and needs to be addressed by Apple either via logic board replacement or complete device replacement. I spent almost $3000 on the PC not three years ago, and at that price point, with the computer’s high build quality reputation, it should last at least another 3-5 years without exhibiting any issues. It’s not unusual for Macs to last 8-10 years before NEEDING to be replaced.

When the average Windows PC costs about 1/6th of what this PC cost placing that level of expectation on the device isn’t unreasonable. I’m not rich or affluent. This was a business expense for me; and is the key to keeping my business going. I can’t drop $3 grand on a new computer on a whim, especially when the one I have should have at least 3-5 more years of value left in it.

I’d like to respectfully ask Mr. Cook and Mr. Federighi to do the right thing here and issue a recall on these, regardless of whether or not the original purchaser bought Apple Care with their Early 2011 MacBook Pro. This is a high-end piece of equipment; and I really do feel like I’m sitting on a time bomb that could go off at any moment, without warning.  At 6x the price of the average competing device, it’s not unreasonable to expect the product to last 6 to 8 years or more.

Are you a Mac?  Did you buy an Early 2011 MacBook Pro like I did?  Is yours giving you problems? Did you have the logic board in it replaced?  Did the problems return after you had it fixed? I’d love to hear from you. Please join me in the comment section below, and tell me about your experience.

Regardless of whether you participate in the discussion, below, please also remember to visit Change.org and sign the petition.

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Take command of your hard drives with GParted

gpartedI’ve been working with computers since 1982-1983.  I’ve been through floppy discs (8″, 5.25″ and 3.5″) and the early, EARLY hard discs that were absolutely immense at 5MB (yes, MEGAbytes) and totally ginormous at 10MB.  We never thought we’d ever, EVER use all that space. Today, any internal hard drive under 1TB (terabyte) is considered small. I was looking at 3TB and 4TB drives the other day while shopping. We’ve come a long way…

If you aren’t looking at SSD’s (solid state drives) on your computer, then you’re likely looking at your current hard drive and either wondering how you can squeeze more performance out of it, or you’re looking at upgrading a hard drive and wondering how to get the most performance out it. This is where utilities like GParted come in. This Windows-based, hard drive utility can help you figure out the best way to construct your drive’s partitions so you get the best performance from it.

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Hard drives today contain more sectors (places to store data) at the outer edge of their physical platters than at the inner edge. All disc based hard drives spin at a constant rate of either 5400 RPM, 7200 RPM, or 10,000 RPM (rotations per minute). Obviously, the higher the rating, the faster the drive can access data. This physical configuration means that more data can be accessed at the outer edge where the drive “starts” in a single spin than at the inner edge where the drive “ends.”

To take advantage of these physical hard disk drive characteristics, you should place frequently accessed files near the beginning of the disc. For example to shorten your PC’s boot time, you should place the OS in a partition at the physical “start” of the drive. Less frequently accessed information, such as your data files, should be placed in a partition after the OS.

GParted is a hard drive partitioning tool that helps you do just that on your Windows-based PC.  With GParted, you can resize, copy, and move partitions without data loss, enabling you to change the size of your C: drive, create multiple, logical drives on a single, physical disc drive, enable and disable partition flags, (for example, mark a partition as either your boot partition or to mark it hidden).  You can also use it to try to recover data from lost partitions.

The app works with the SATA, IDE, and SCSI hard disk drives , flash memory drives, such as USB memory sticks and SSD’s, RAID Devices (hardware RAID, motherboard BIOS RAID, and Linux software RAID), and supports all sector sizes including drives with 512, 1024, 2048, 4096 byte sectors.

GParted and apps like it are very powerful programs.  Working with drive partitions used to be very difficult and time consuming. Now, with GParted, you get the data that you need, placed on the drive where it will be the most useful, and that configuration can be changed on the fly.  Everything is displayed graphically, so you know exactly where and what you are doing, taking the guess work out of a lot of the process.

However, please note that GParted is a serious system tool.  You need to understand what it does and how it does what it does before you start changing the configuration of your physical hard drive into a lot of smaller, logical drives.  You could lose data if you’re not careful.  Make certain you have a backup of your data before you make physical changes to the configuration of your drive.

download GParted

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Check out the health status and temperature of your HDD/SSD

CrystalDiskInfo-enStorage. Your computer lives off of it. Room for your operating system. Room for your data. Room for temporary and work files. Without enough storage, you won’t be able to run your computer the way you want. In order to keep your hard drive in working order, you need the right monitoring utilities. CrystalDiskInfo is a hard drive monitoring utility for Windows that gives you this awesome capability.

CrystalDiskInfo displays basic HDD information, monitors S.M.A.R.T. values, and disk temperature. When monitored drives start to fall out of acceptable ranges or values, the app can send you alerts via email. You can then come back to the monitored computer and check its status.

In order to help you monitor its stats, the app offers a variety of tools and monitors including rotation speeds, temperature settings and S.M.A.R.T information. You can also monitor and control AAM/APM settings.

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Conclusion: CrystalDiskInfo is a decent application…if you’re hardware savvy. If you don’t know a lot about hardware or if you don’t know what you should do with drives that are developing issues, having the app on your home PC isn’t going to do you a lot of good. The app is really meant for computers and drives that are on more than they’re off. In other words, if you have computers in a data center or other always on situation, CrystalDiskInfo is the kind of application you’re going to need in order to make sure mission critical applications stay up and running.

Having an app like this in a consumer setting or on your home network isn’t going to help you too much if you’re PC isn’t on more than off. Most consumers won’t know what do to with the issues and values they encounter, so the information is really just a lot of noise for someone who doesn’t understand hardware.

Download CrystalDiskInfo

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The Storage Problem with Surface Pro

When 53% to 64% of your device’s storage is consumed before you turn the device on, something is wrong…

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Over the past few years, we’ve got from gigabytes of desktop and notebook storage to terabytes. Shortly after the 2TB and 3TB hard drive hit, SSD’s started to become popular and come down in price. We still don’t have a 1TB SSD available yet; and even if it were available, it likely wouldn’t be available at an affordable price.

With the growing popularity of Cloud Storage – things like Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive – the growing thought is that the need for a great deal of off line storage is declining.  This is a very progressive point of view, and one that is still gaining acceptance.  One of the prerequisites for moving the masses to the Cloud is readily accessible, solid and reliable internet access. Without it, the Cloud Storage Model doesn’t work…but that’s another topic for another day.

It is related, however, because there are a number of newer PC’s or computing devices that are being introduced that seem to either fully embrace or lean towards embracing the Cloud Storage Model. Microsoft’s Surface Pro is one such device, and it’s a bit problematic if you ask me, especially when 53% to 64% of Surface Pro’s storage is given over to system related, preinstalled software.

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This is the crux of the issue – nearly all the storage on Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets is consumed before the user takes the device out of the box. ZDNet’s Ed Bott argues that this isn’t an issue, as some of the space is reclaimable by the end user and there’s always the Cloud.

ZDNet’s Robin Harris comes closer to hitting the issue on the head but still misses the mark.  His point is that Surface Pro doesn’t know what it wants to be – an ultrabook or a tablet. While he’s right about that, I disagree that the storage requirements on a Windows machine – tablet or ultrabook classifications are irrelevant – differ. Any computing device that runs legacy (read traditional) Windows software is going to need storage space for it to live in. It doesn’t matter if Microsoft created a new classification of computing device or if it will be successful or not.  The fact that users have to go through some kind of storage cleansing activity in order to get some decent, available, non-SD card type storage is silly.

The fact that you can double your storage space for $100 bucks is also a bit whacked. I mean, who isn’t going to spend $999 for the 128GB version? When you’ve already committed to buy Surface Pro, spending $899 for 1/2 the storage is ludicrous.

If Microsoft lowers the price of the 64GB versions – which is unlikely, by the way – then I might pick one up, but at this point, I likely won’t bother, which is a shame.  The tablets could have been so much more at a more reasonable price point.

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Manage and maintain your drive’s partitions with Aomei Partition Assistant

The price of SSD’s is coming down. At about $1.00 per gigabyte, putting an SSD in your notebook PC is becoming more and more realistic. Upgrading from smaller SSD’s to larger, faster SSD’s isn’t as financially painful as it used to be. The problem, though is finding a decent drive migration and management tool. This is one of the biggest reasons why I like Aomei Partition Assistant Home Edition. It’s a partition and drive management tool for Windows.

AOMEI Partition Assistant Home Edition is a completely free partition manager. It carries out hard disk and partition management, advanced system optimization and easy copy and partition recovery to keep your computer running. The app works in both 32bit & 64bit versions of Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 Professional. It has the ability to resize and move partitions, migrate an OS to either an SSD or hard drive, to merge or split partitions, to allocate free space, to copy partitions, to copy a disk and to recover a partition on MBR and GPT formatted disks. The app also includes the ability to create a bootable CD to ensure data and system safety. As an added bonus, it includes a free, portable partition manager portable. With it, you can copy the installation directory of AOMEI Partition Assistant Home Edition to any device, including a USB flash drive, a portable hard drive, etc.

Read full review | Download Aomei Partition Assistant

 

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Keep your hard disk in tip-top shape with O&O Defrag

Keeping your spinning media running at peak performance isn’t always as easy as it might sound. Yes, Microsoft has included Defrag in Windows since Windows 95; but the application is basic, and does only the bare minimum in keeping your hard drive running well. This is why I like O&O Defrag. It’s one of the best Windows hard drive defrag utilities on the market today.

O&O Defrag helps you maximum the performance on your PC. If you work on your computer a lot, then after a while, you’re going to notice slow system and program starts, endless rendering and memory processes, or even system crashes. The first thing most people will recommend you do is to try optimizing or defragging your hard drive.

The benefits are well documented. Defragmenting your PC can accelerate the speed your runs and responds to disk activity requests. In the latest version of O&O Defrag, you can now see what the program does for your system thanks to its graphics and statistics displays. They give you a before-and-after Defrag contrast on your hard drives usage as well as file fragmentation status.

Aside from the basic PC performance features you get, O&O Defrag offers some really nice advanced features. The application adapts itself to your PC usage patterns and system loads with Activity Guard. It’s only going to run when you need it to, based on historic use; and won’t get in the way of your computing activities. Best of all, it works on both conventional, spinning media hard drives as well new SSD, without damaging these new solid state storage devices.

Download O&O Defrag

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Gather information and tune your hard drive to function at peak performance with HD Tune

Your hard drive is the life blood of your computer. When it goes bad, the whole thing goes down. Keeping it healthy can be an involved and painful process without the right tools. HD Tune is the right tool for that job.

HD Tune works with all kinds of drives, internal or external, spinning media or SSD, USB sticks, etc. With it, you get a complete picture of how your PC’s hard drive is performing, and can even check its S.M.A.R.T. status as well as perform various maintenance activities on it.

Read the full review | Download HD Tune

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Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 Suite

Prepare to test the latest version of Paragon’s Hard Disk Manager. One of the most comprehensive hard drive tool has reached version 11 and Paragon brings new additions and improvements to the suite.

With Hard Disk Manager 2011 Suite you can move any Windows OS since XP from a regular hard disk to a fast SSD (Solid State Drive) even of a smaller capacity, thanks to advanced data exclusion capabilities. You can also convert basic MBR to basic GPT disks which means that you can use now the full capacity of a new 3TB drive into Windows XP.

Hard Disk Manager 2011 Suite can also backup and restore any of your drives through differential, incremental, or complementary methods. It comes also with a data consistency checkup and a file system optimization including support for Microsoft’s exFAT file system.

download Paragon Hard Disk Manager 2011 Demo

 

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