General Question

kara_t's avatar

My new macbook air has a maximum operating altitude of 3000 meters / 10000 feet. Does this mean that people in La Paz, Bolivia cannot use macbook air computers?

Asked by kara_t (139points) April 3rd, 2012

Just got a macbook air and noticed this. Is it correct to assume that most other computers would have similar operating altitudes? If yes, then how can people living in high altitude cities such as La Paz, Bolivia use computers?

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5 Answers

thorninmud's avatar

The problem with altitude, as far as the Macbook Air is concerned, is one of cooling. As air density decreases with altitude, the air becomes less effective at drawing heat away from the heat sink, and the processor can overheat. This is less of a problem at lower temperatures.

Some computers have more robust cooling systems than the Air, and so can handle higher altitudes. There is apparently also a problem, though, with mechanical hard drives; at low air pressure, the head can’t properly float above the rapidly spinning disc, and it can crash. Solid-state drives, like in your Air, don’t have this problem.

RocketGuy's avatar

I has got to be cooling, since the Air does not have fans. Convection is less with lower air density.

Western Digital hard drives, many years ago, had problems with the air cushion under their read/write heads. Would be too thin at 5000 ft (e.g. Denver) and scrape the disk surface [bad]. Drive heads are now designed for higher altitudes.

DeanV's avatar

I don’t know if they can afford them.

Charles's avatar

Nobody has answered your original post question.

It depends on what you mean by “cannot”. What Apple probably means is the computer isn’t covered by warranty above those altitudes. Most likely the computer will indeed perform (“can”) though, as mentioned, it may be more susceptible to heat stress or failure.

So how can people use those computers? They either have to use them and lose the benefits of a warranty OR, perhaps buy an additional warranty. Kind of like assigned risk automobile insurance.

wilhel1812's avatar

This is a good question. I can not give you the answer to what might happen to your computer, but i have used a MacBook Air (and other MacBooks) in altitudes over 3000 m and i haven’t noticed anything yet.

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