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flash74686's avatar

4-yr-old Macbook on the fritz. . . Is there anything I can do?

Asked by flash74686 (428 points ) January 9th, 2012

I got a Mac laptop either the summer before or after eighth grade, and I am now a senior in high school. Since I’m probably going to be getting a new computer for college in the fall, I don’t want to do anything too expensive, but little things have been going wrong for a while until yesterday when it basically gave up on life.

So little things that haven’t been working – the LED on the charger. When the laptop is plugged in, it will work and not die, but it only charges about half the time. – the disc drive. A lot of the time, when I put in a blank CD to burn, the computer will make funny noises and then spit it out again. I’ve realized that if I tilt the computer, it always accepts the disc, so that’s okay.

Yesterday, I was trying to do a project on iMovie when it started freezing. . . and all I was trying to do was play a clip so I could find the part I wanted to add to the project. Just moving the cursor across the timeline made it freeze and quit. Now it happens every time.

Now when I try to open iTunes, it freezes and quits also. To try to remedy this, I moved all my music onto a hard drive (where most of my music was already) and cleaned out basically everything I could from my laptop. I got it to where there were 70 GB available before there was nothing else I could do. I thought this would make everything move faster, but nothing’s changed.

Also, when I start my computer up, it gets stuck on a blank blue screen for literally five minutes before it gets to the log in screen. And now, sometimes, it will freeze, and I’ll try to force quit and log-out and do stuff like that, but the menu bar at the top of the screen will disappear and the pop-up windows won’t show up (even though I get the voice narrating them).

A week ago, my computer was working perfectly (more or less) and there was nothing wrong. . . All of this stuff has started happening totally out of the blue and I have no clue what to do about it! Safari is basically the only application I can use on a semi-regular basis, so I’m getting really frustrated and a little desperate. I don’t know too much about the inner-workings of computers, so if someone could shed some light on this, maybe offer some inexpensive solutions or troubleshooting, I’d really appreciate it!

And sorry about the length. I figured with a problem like this, the more detail the better, right?

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7 Answers

auhsojsa's avatar

It doesn’t really matter about total GB available. It’s more or less about your processing speed and the amount of RAM you are running. Think of the RAM as short term memory and it serves as the function of your actions in correlation to your applications being used and processed. The more RAM the more you can function. I would recommend upgrading your laptop equipment every 3 years. In your case I think a simple RAM upgrade will do. It sounds like your CD/DVD is squished meaning too much pressure has been applied on both sides of the laptop and damaged the spinner inside or the actual CD/DVD reader. Furthermore it sounds like you need a new battery charger. I believe the charger is around 80 bucks, and I got 8GB worth of RAM from Frys Electronics for 60 bucks. I don’t know if your particular MacBookPro can even run 8GB of RAM. Check the “tech specs” of your MacBookPro to determine this. Take into account the year your model was produced as it will determine how much RAM you can do. Seeing that it is 4 years old and your DVD drive is bad, and perhaps your overall processor might not even be a Duo Core Processor you might want to consider just buying a new MacBookPro. That’s what I did, and I juiced it up with the upgrades. Good luck!

mazingerz88's avatar

What I’d do is get a spot to have an Apple genius take a look at it at an Apple Store. That is if you have access to one. My former Apple laptop lasted six whole years before dying on me but I understand four years is a normal time for a laptop to give up, especially if well used.

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SmashTheState's avatar

Nine times out of ten, lockups and freezes are caused by heat. Are you running a temperature monitor? Do these lockups occur with equal frequency the whole time your system is running, or does it get worse the longer it’s on? If so, it’s probably a heat issue. You may be slowly frying components. Laptops are notorious for heat problems, since they have tiny vents for cooling and you can’t run with the case off, the way you can for a desktop.

If it’s not heat, then the most likely culprit is bad RAM. I don’t know what’s available on the Mac in terms of RAM testers, but the first thing I would do if I was in your position would be to scan my RAM and make sure it’s not going bad on you. All RAM degrades over time, and if enough of it has failed, it can cause slowdowns and lockups like you’re describing.

A last possibility is a virus, trojan, or malware which is causing system lockups and instability. Macs are a bit less vulnerable than PCs, but it’s still a possibility. It could even be caused by something like bad DRM. Some DRM from games and such silently installs rootkits which do all kinds of rotten things in the background without your knowledge, like watching the CD-ROMs and quietly inducing errors if it thinks you’re using illicit software.

Note that it could be a combination of these things, too. For example, you could have a DRM rootkit which is running your GPU at 100% and creating heat problems which is making your RAM go bad.

It could also be that Macs are junk and you’re paying ridiculous amounts of money for a light-up apple symbol. Buy a PC next time at half the cost.

jerv's avatar

Nothing that is really cost-effective. The average lifespan of a laptop is 3–4 years, and if it doesn’t break by then, then it has made itself obsolete to the point where it may as well be broken. While Macs are a little less susceptible to this, advances in GPU technology alone have made any Mac more than a couple of years old rather dated.

Odds are that you have shaken enough stuff up over the years to the point where the cost of repairs may not be worthwhile. You can take it to the Genius bar and try to prove me wrong (I actually hope I am!) but without actually seeing it, there is not much we can do for troubleshooting.

flash74686's avatar

@jerv after I posted this question, I turned off my laptop to have it not even start up at all anymore. It was at that point that I finally took it to the genius bar. I got a brand-new hard drive for $130, but my warranty somehow covered it, so it was free. Thanks to almost everyone else for their suggestions, too!

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