sad mac

So, my iMac (20" G5) died for the second time last week.

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I bought it in June.

One day in November, it suddenly started getting slower and slower; I rebooted, and it got halfway through the boot (-v) and kept getting I/O errors. The next time, it got nowhere. The install DVD didn't even recognise that there was a drive in the machine.

So, that sounded like a dead drive. I decided that having a working computer today was worth the cost of a new drive, so I just bought one instead of getting Apple to replace it. But that didn't work: The installer DVD didn't recognise the new drive either. Great, now it sounds like a dead SATA controller. (That new disk is now in a different machine, so I know it was fine.)

I lugged the iMac down to the store, the guy took it in back and tried to boot it off a known-good drive; it didn't work. He wrote up a work order for "replace logic board".

Two days later, I got it back, and instead of replacing the logic board, they had just replaced the drive. Hmmmmmmm... I couldn't imagine why this worked, and waited for the other shoe to drop.

In February, it suddenly developed a habit of rebooting at random, about once a day. The log said only "SMU shutdown cause -122". As far as I can tell from googling, this maybe has something to do with the power supply overheating, but I'm not sure. The online support guy suggested I reset the SMU, but that did nothing. I resigned myself to having to take it in to the store again, but procrastinated (while starting a twice-daily backup regimen).

A week later, it got pokey, then wouldn't boot, exact same symptoms as in November. I took it in and said "so I get a new logic board for sure this time, right?" They told me 5 days, and 6 days later I spent an hour on the phone yelling at managers, and finally got it back on day 7. New logic board and new disk.

So, then when I got it back, all was well and good, except that it was as loud as a fucking jet engine! The fans seemed to be on high all the time. At first I thought, well maybe the reason it died the other two times was that the fans weren't on high enough before, and it melted. But then I reset the SMU again and now it's back to being gloriously quiet. Hmmmmmmm...

    Update: I spoke too soon. Ten minutes later, and the fans are loud again, even though I'm not doing anything but iTunes and typing. Shit.

So what's this SMU business all about, anyway?

In summary:

  • Apple's software: So awesome. The honeymoon is not yet over.
  • Apple's hardware: Pissing me off. (But not nearly as much as PC hardware pisses me off.)
  • Apple's support: Good for not trying to charge me for any of this. Pissing me off by being so slow, and for apparently not having fixed it right the first time.
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26 Responses:

  1. duskwuff says:

    From the linked "reset the SMU" page:

    Note: In some instances, following these steps to reset the SMC on an iMac (Early 2006) may cause the fans to run on high speed when the computer restarts. If this happens, follow these steps:

    Turn off the computer by choosing Shut Down from the Apple menu, or by holding the power button until the computer turns off.
    Unplug the power cord.
    Wait 10 seconds.
    Plug in the power cord.
    Press the power button to start up your iMac (Early 2006).
    Your iMac's fans should run normally now.

  2. ding_0_ says:

    Chances are they dropped in a logic board that didn't get the firmware update that fixes the fan.

  3. harveyswik says:

    I've seen that behavior when imaging a imac G5 from a generic install. If the "new disk" is a new HD and the logic board has the latest firmware then reinstalling the OS might do it.

    • jwz says:

      Yes, new HD. It seems likely that they did a fresh install on it, because they left a hand-labelled DVD of 10.4.4 in the DVD drive...

      • harveyswik says:

        Try updating/reinstalling from the DVD that came with the imac. If the DVD they used was generic 10.4.4 it may not have the imac-G5 kexts.

        • jwz says:

          Is there some way to tell whether these things are installed, besides wiping and restarting? And is there any way to do what you propose that does not result in losing the contents of /Users/jwz/ and /opt/local/? Because after a fresh install, it takes me nearly two days to get everything else copied over and re-installed. So I'd rather not go through that again on a hunch.

  4. sschmitt says:

    First the power supply unit died.
    Apple replaced it.

    Then my G5 started to sound like a jet engine.
    Apple replaced the fan unit.

    My G5 continued to sound like a jet engine, past the warranty date.

    I went into Apple, and bitched. They replaced my logic (?) board after they claimed that when they tested it previously, there was a kernal panic that no one followed up on. Despite the "Genius" telling me this is a random occuranced, research on the web has shown that this is a common prob with the G5s. **growl**

  5. pdx6 says:

    Did you get AppleCare on your unit? This sounds like the third time you've had a problem, so I would just demand a new (or refurb) unit. If you don't have AC, just say you'll buy it if they will replace the whole thing. I've seen them pull that trick on kids who bring their dead iPods to the Genius Bar. "$45 for AppleCare and we'll fix it, or $89 to have it repaired with a 30 day warranty."

    Sigh. Cutting edge hardware.

    • jwz says:

      I bought AC (since that was the only way they'd let me IM with a support drone, which turned out to be useless anyway), but it's also still within the warranty period for another few months even without the AC.

    • hermeticseal says:

      by the way, i think california has a "3 repairs" lemon law, though technically it probably means 3 repairs for the same problem.

      in my case, i had a 1st gen aluminum powerbook, no applecare. it developed the screen blotch problem, so i took it in to have the LCD replaced, and mentioned that one of my USB ports was bad.

      so they sat on it for weeks, because they couldnt find a new motherboard. then i called and yelled at them, and they miraculously found a motherboard and shipped it right back to me. but it must have been floor sweep, because it started doing some of the strangest things i've ever seen (2 half-width spinning pinwheels of death?!). i sent it back in and they sat on it again. called and yelled again. in the meantime i wrote a very polite letter to the then head of apple service, explaining that the machine was a lemon, and that it took a ridiculous amount of time to get it fixed, and that i wanted applecare comped to me since i didnt trust that it would keep working past its original warranty. someone from his office called me back and basically blew me off, but said that if it failed again then we could talk about replacements.

      about 3 weeks later the wireless stopped working. i didnt try very hard to debug the problem; instead i called the guy up and he agreed to replace the whole machine. i got an upgrade, too, cause by then the low end 15" powerbook had been speedbumped.

      so it might be worth writing one of those letters. supposedly the 2nd generation iMacs (the thinner ones) are much more stable. not sure if you already have one of those or not.

      • pdx6 says:

        I own 5 Apple products (between home and work), and I've had problems with two of them: the iPod Photo and the Mac Mini. that's 2 of 5, which is rather bad as far as industry standards. Both the iMacs I have function normally, along with the Powerbook. The rule here is to never buy Rev. A hardware, which I think is what <lj user=jwz> got; but on top of that it is also a lemon.

        • hermeticseal says:

          yeah, i know, i know... i am just a hopeless apple fanboy. or rather, i was. i seem to have resisted the urge to get any intel-powered macs, and iPod mini was the last iPod i've bought.

  6. vxo says:

    iMac G5's have been known to suffer from a plague of bad capacitors. (Thank the wonders of failed industrial espionage! Hooray for globalization and capitalism!)

    Apple has a repair program for these boards, if it should bodge up again. One can only hope their replacement power boards have better capacitors on them.

    • jwz says:

      Hmm, well my SN is QP523xxxxxx, which is not in the affected range they mention on that page...

    • foaf says:

      I had that problem and the fix was to replace the "logic board", so it would definitely seem to be a different problem.

      Also, I'm assuming the logic board is the motherboard. Is that right?

  7. hermeticseal says:

    my 1st gen 2xG5 box does really crazy stuff with the fans if i leave the performance set to "automatic" under "options" in the enery saver pref pane. setting it to "highest" causes it to behave, but the damn thing pulls something like 190W at idle when in that mode.

    you might try fiddling with this control to see if it makes a difference.

  8. I've got an iBook thats covered under a logicboard replacement extension. I've sent it in 3 times in a year and a half, and every time they repair it they pay for shipping, send me a box to ship it in, replace the keyboard (its always missing a key or two) and they replace the rubber feet on the bottom. This last time they replaced the hinge. All free of charge.