Posts Tagged ‘Mac Pro’

Apple lets you down when you least expect it

January 29, 2013

So, big meeting tomorrow. Writing up the final meeting notes on my Mac Pro (only five years old and branded an ‘antique’ by Apple… OK… enough now… let it go….) and there’s a screen flicker. A weird one. And then… nothing. Screens go off but computer still runs.

So a quick restart – and… nothing.

A little background: A few months ago my (antique) extremely expensive Mac Pro started powering off immediately and with no notice. Long story short, after much scrabbling around I discovered that it was overheating. A free life-saviing utility called Fan Control saved the day(s). But it was clear than something was wrong – why overheat in the first place?

I further discovered that the thermal paste literally baked off the main ‘Northbridge Chip’ – a fairly essential piece of hardware, apparently, resulting in big trouble. So basically, my graphics card was being slow-baked. Today, just when I least needed it, the final oven timer went off, the graphics card was finally cooked – and we were done.

Dead card.

Oh, and Apple doesn’t supply compatible graphics cards to legacy, antique-buying, penny-pinching, I-don’t-buy-new-hardware-every-year suckers like me. I’d have to get a new computer… that they’ll stop supporting in another four years time.

So new £300 graphics card in – but the overheating was still shutting the machine down, so it’s either £655 plus VAT for a new logic board, or trust it to my very helpful computer guy to ‘gut’ (his words) the Mac, re-heat-sync and re-thermal-paste the chips. Which might not work. Then it’s £655 plus VAT for a new logic board and probably (when that fails) another few grand for a new Mac in a few months time.

Who says Apple are in trouble?

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Mac Pro overheats just at the wrong time…

September 10, 2012

August. Always the hottest and busiest month of the year. For us, all the boat shows are approaching, so many of our marine clients come up trumps with lots of lovely design work for us.

Just the moment when you don’t want your primary workhorse computer to start displaying death throes.

I wrote this post as a reply to a similarly distressed designer on the Apple forums, but I though that others might have had the same experience – so I’ve put it here as well in the hope it might help. My machine is behaving itself now, by the way…

Original query:

Unexplained (Mac Pro) Powering Down

Symptoms: I have been experiencing random shutdowns / power-downs where the machine will simply turn off instantly and then restart 10 seconds later. this has happened about 15 times over the last month.

I had this exact problem which I managed to resolve the problem using two software utilities.

I’d be working away and (usually around mid-afternoon) my Mac Pro would unexpectedly just turn itself off as if there was a power-cut. Then it would restart itself and be OK for a while.

My first thought was that it might be related to the graphics card; it has eaten one before and the problem seemed to be worse when more than one monitor was attached. I called a local computer guy who has helped me with the Mac Pro before – and he suggested that it might be the power supply at fault. The problem here is that you could start throwing money at replacing parts, whilst not really knowing whether or not it’s going to fix the issue.

The other thing it was suggested that it might be was that it was overheating. This seemed to be a reasonable theory, as the studio is warm and the power-downs seem to occur late in the day.

So the first thing I did was a search on Google for Mac Pro temperatures. The first utility I found was Hardware Monitor (shareware).

This shows the current temperature of every component that has a sensor in the computer. The hottest thing in my list was the Northbridge Heat Sink which was getting up to 88°C (190°F). A small amount of research made it clear that this was a bad thing… if the heat sink was this hot, how hot must the chip have been? The Northbridge Chip ships with a thermal paste applied. Over time, this can literally ‘bake’ off, resulting in hotter operating temperatures. If it gets too hot, the computer powers off.

This also explains why the internal fans weren’t kicking in sooner – they’re set at a lower idling RPM which eventually just isn’t enough to prevent the overheating.

Enter utilty 2 – Fan Control (freeware).

Once installed, this utility is accessed via the System Preference pane.

I downloaded and installed this (while the Northbridge Heat Sink temperature was topping 88°C again) and the fans instantly kicked in – in a big way. They brought the sink temperature down to about 45 / 50°C. I set the minimum fan RPM to 1000 and the upper and lower thresholds to between 40°C and 70°C.

By this time I was down to one small monitor, and after a couple of days of no problems, I put my 30″ cinema display and additional 19″ monitor back on – and waited. That was 10 days ago and the problem has vanished – and as far as I’m concerned, solved.