REBOL Technologies

Serious MacBook Shutdown Power Problem

Carl Sassenrath, CTO
REBOL Technologies
3-Aug-2006 21:29 GMT

Article #0283
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Update Notice, 18-Aug-2006:

Here is a new article worth reading: Apple MacBook Shutdown Power / Battery Problem.

Update Notice, 24-Aug-2006:

You should know that Apple laptop batteries have just been recalled. Be sure to check into that for your laptop.

I'm not sure I mentioned it, but for my recent trip to France I picked the new Apple MacBook (Intel dual-core CPU) as my laptop computer of choice.

The MacBook selection came about because I was looking for a good quality, medium-price, high-performance, lightweight laptop that had built-in wifi, bluetooth, etc. I didn't want to lug a heavy laptop around France. When shopping around, comparable PC laptops were surprisingly expensive, so the Mac won out.

It's been a good little system. Now, I'm not just saying that because I once designed operating systems for Apple Computer, nor because I was a serious Macintosh user for over a decade, nor because I want to promote REBOL awareness in the land of OSX. The MacBook stood out on its own merits. I especially appreciate the number of good quality applications that come bundled with it. (And, they're real apps, not demos or promos.)

However, the MacBook has a very serious power problem: It doesn't always shutdown when it should. As a result, the system can overheat to the extreme. This problem is not only an annoyance, but it can be downright dangerous.

Here's an example...

A few weeks ago, before flying from Toulouse to Paris, I powered down my MacBook and put it back in my carrying case. I even watched the screen go dark before I closed the top because I had been seeing some odd shutdown behavior. (Minor things... really, just strangeness that a computer geek like me would notice.)

Unknown to me was the fact that the MacBook had not actually shut down. I boarded the flight to Paris, all the time thinking that my "electronic device" had properly powered down for takeoff as required by international flight rules.

Then in Paris, while going through security, I noticed that my case was quite warm. Pulling out the MacBook to pass through the x-ray scanner, the laptop was hotter than blazes (overheating from being in the closed carrying case). It was so hot, I could hardly hold it. When I powered it up, I noticed that the battery had gone from 99% to 5%. The MacBook had been running the entire time of the flight to Paris - even after doing a shutdown and closing the lid.

It was quite disappointing. Not only because of the stress it puts on a laptop to get that hot (increasing chances of future failures, reducing lifetime), but there was not enough time to recharge the battery. I lost many useful work hours during the long trip back to California.

Yes, serious, but I still like the MacBook

Of course, I feel fortunate that the system did not incinerate itself while flying over France. But, as a computer system designer, I'd have to rank this as a serious problem that Apple needs to address. However, I should also mention that it's been a great little computer, and I continue to use it on a daily basis.

Googling the topic, I see that other users have had shutdown problems, although most seem to be related to the opposite problem: suddenly shutting down while in use. I also see hits related to MacBook overheating due to a blocked rear vent - a piece of plastic that needs to be removed, but that's not the case here either.

PS: This problem happened again today, although fortunately the Mac was not in the carrying case. This event prompted me to write this article. Let's see if other MacBook users are experiencing the same problem. If so, post your comments here.

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