New MacBook Pro - Help me extend its life as long as possible
January 18, 2009 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Just got a new MacBook Pro - What do I need to do to make sure this pricey investment lasts me a long time?

Got laid off this week, and talked them into applying my severance paycheques towards a new MacBook Pro. It is very sweet and taking the edge off, plus finally provides me with a machine I can do freelance work on.

I work in video editing, and I've already loaded it up with all the programs I need. Most of the work I'll be doing is HDV video in Final Cut and After Effects.

I want to be sure I don't do anything that will fuck up this lovely machine. Is there anything specific I should avoid? It's the new 2.53 Ghz 15 inch with 4 gigs RAM.

I like games, but I'll go without them if it will wear the machine out. I want this to last a number of years before needing an upgrade/replacement. I mention games because I've done a bit of editing already and everything went smoothly, but an hour of Sim City 4 resulted in a very hot computer and some ingame slowdown (was fine a few minutes after quitting).

Thanks in advance!
posted by yellowbinder to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Just get Applecare to bring it up to a 3 year warranty. Then in 2.5 years sell it with a 6 month warranty on craigslist/ebay. It should maintain quite a bit of value plus you're covered.

You should be able to do whatever you want with your own system . . .
posted by jeremias at 2:04 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's some tips on how not to wear out your battery prematurely. Other than that, I wouldn't worry about normal usage wearing out the machine. Yes, they get hot sometimes; they're supposed to.

Don't drop it too much.
posted by chrismear at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2009

Some tips on being prepared for a theft. (Which I still need to follow through on.)
posted by autojack at 2:16 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding chrismear on not dropping it. I'd like to add to get it a protective sleeve. This will help take the edge off if you do happen to be clumsy with it. And I do mean take the edge off.

I have a Speck plastic covering as well as carrying it in a fairly padded Booq case. That didn't stop it from acquiring a protrusive dent when I lost my grip on the case one day. This generation of machine is fairly delicate, so a little extra care is warranted.
posted by arishaun at 2:17 PM on January 18, 2009

I've got a new MBP now and am in the same boat.

I tend to prefer using an external DVD-R drive connected via a firewire housing, to save wear & tear on the internal drive.

The PBG4 I got in 2002 finally failed in 2005 due to a busted display hinge, but I think that was faulty design and they've fixed that up by now.

Also, my PBG4's power cord connector *twice* frayed off where it meets the plug. This also happened with an earlier Macbook with the magnetic plug. Take care that you don't torque this weak point on the power cord -- when I disconnect I tap downwards on the plug and never pull it out by "tail".

Don't take your laptop to a outdoor jacuzzi. I thought I could do that with my Macbook but I think the very high humidity wasn't too good for it.

The #1 cause of earlier demise of laptops has to be dropping the thing. Be careful where you place it.

If you've got cats maintain a fur-free area around your machine since cat fur can gum up the internal fans.
posted by troy at 2:22 PM on January 18, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so far. I am paranoid because I've had terrible luck with PCs.

No cats, but I can guarantee the thing will be around cigarette smoke.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2009

Resist the urge to toss it around everywhere you go. Nearly everyone in my program has a Mac and while the MBPs are certainly holding up a lot longer than the old plastic ones, we've all managed to beat the shit out of our laptops. Put it in an actual laptop bag, don't let it slide around in your car, all of your basic common sense stuff that flies out the window when you're in a rush.
posted by riane at 2:43 PM on January 18, 2009

Best answer: I could write a book on things not to do with MacBook Pros.

1. Don't drop it. I dropped mine on to a tiled floor, leading to a deformation of the plastic on one side, followed a few days later by buckling of the metal on the other. The metal of the older MacBook Pros seems to have been very prone to buckling so if you have one of the new ones it shouldn't be a problem. My DVD drive also stopped working shortly thereafter.

2. Despite what the Apple page says, I used my MacBook Pro about how the Apple page suggests (keeping it charged most of the day, but discharging it about once a day) but the battery still doesn't hold a charge as well as it used to, giving me only about 2 hours compared to the 4 hours I got at first. It's become pretty useless without a power supply nearby.

3. Don't throw small items to people holding MacBook Pros. I threw a small piece of wrapped chocolate candy to my boyfriend while he had his MacBook Pro in his lap and it managed to hit the keyboard in such a way as to dislodge his x key. The new MacBook Pros seem to have a different sort of keyboard but on the old ones it's extraordinarily difficult to put keyboard keys back. If you're used to PC laptops this may come as a shock so treat your keyboard well.

4. Clean, clean, clean. Keep cleaning your laptop screen as and when you feel it's getting a little dirty. It might be worth investing in one of those clear plastic protective thingies.

5. Remember to register your AppleCare plan as soon as you get it. You only get a year to register the plan.
posted by peacheater at 2:46 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

6. Yes, do get a laptop bag immediately. The difference between my MBP and my boyfriend's is striking (I bought a laptop bag immediately and he didn't), even though we got them at the same time.
posted by peacheater at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2009

The power cord is fragile! Coddle and protect it.
posted by cowbellemoo at 3:06 PM on January 18, 2009

My renter's insurance (State Farm, FWIW) allows riders for electronics, so I have full coverage with $0 deductible on my MBP. I could dump coffee into it, chuck it out the window, have an elephant trample it in Rajasthan, whatever; it's covered for the full insured purchase value and I don't have to pay a cent. It's something like $5 or $8 per month, but it's worthwhile for my most valuable (and expensive) appliance. I don't plan on ever needing it, but it's there if I do. I highly recommend looking into something similar with your homeowners'/renters' insurance for peace of mind.

Also, plan for buying a new battery after 2 years or so of regular use. It'll decrease in life, and there's little to do about it without being neurotic about its use. It will be $110 well spent.
posted by The Michael The at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You know how in some threads everyone piles on and says "See a doctor"? In threads about powerbooks, the first real answer that you should listen to is "Get Applecare"

The second is to get an external drive and start using "Time Machine" (or equivalent) for doing backups. If/when your laptop dies, you'll be so happy you did.

I wouldn't worry too much about software breaking your machine, worse comes to worse, you reinstall the operating system things work a lot nicer.

Do you know if the person who purchased the machine used a credit card with "purchase protection"? This sometimes doubles warranty periods and sometimes covers dropping and theft.

Get a good sleeve case for carrying it around. The saddest point of my laptop career was having the zipper on my bookbag rip and 2 work laptops drop to the concrete floor and EXPLODE much to the shock and horror of everyone in the coffee shop.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:15 PM on January 18, 2009

Do not drink or bring any fluids near your laptop. Even if you have a minor spill on it with no noticeable damage, modern Apple laptops have moisture sensors and a little spill might be grounds for future repairs to be denied even if they're not logically related.
posted by Science! at 3:17 PM on January 18, 2009

I tend to buy one power adapter to travel with and one (or more) to use at home in the place(s) I use the laptop most - those stay there and tend not to break. If the "travel" one breaks from wear, I still have a backup.

Also, most laptops I've killed have been from picking them up and setting them down by one corner. Don't do that if you can help it.

Don't use it in bed or anywhere it's not sitting on a hard, cool surface that breathes. You'll cause heat death otherwise, since the MBP already runs hot. Get a cooling / airflow pad if you want to do that kind of thing.
posted by kcm at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2009

Oh yeah, seconded on buying a cheap USB external drive and using Time Machine. It's brainless and cheap insurance.
posted by kcm at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2009

Nth-ing don't drop it.
posted by NikitaNikita at 4:02 PM on January 18, 2009

Thirding Time Machine. My personal setup (which is what I've established after having hard drives crash about 10 times in the past) is Time Machine on one external drive, and Super Duper on a second. Gives you a bit of a backup to your backup, and Super Duper is almost as fast as Time Machine and really reliable. I highly recommend the approach.
posted by tmcw at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Call your insurance agent and ask about an individual policy which only covers the laptop. I pay about $20 annually for $2000 coverage. I can drop it into the ocean or hit it with a baseball bat and it is covered fully (along with more likely scenarios of having it stolen or me spilling a beer on it).

About the only things that the policy doesn't cover are acts of warfare or nuclear accidents.
posted by adamk at 5:35 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

The power cord is fragile! Coddle and protect it.

Yeah, and replacement ones are ~$80 US. Not cheap. It's the proprietary Mag-Safe connector that Apple uses. They haven't licensed the design to third-parties (yet?), so Apple is the only place to get replacement units.
posted by Wild_Eep at 5:37 PM on January 18, 2009

AppleCare can be purchased on eBay for about half the price of retail.
posted by furtive at 6:19 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

AppleCare. Don't drop it. Treat it like it was made of thin crystal. Keep liquids away from it. Don't leave it in an environment that you wouldn't be happy staying in - if it's cold or wet or very hot somewhere, don't leave it there, bring it with you.

A padded case for it is a good idea.

Did anyone mention AppleCare yet?
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:32 PM on January 18, 2009

I mention games because I've done a bit of editing already and everything went smoothly, but an hour of Sim City 4 resulted in a very hot computer and some ingame slowdown

The Mac port of SC4 was fairly crap and never properly updated to run on Intel hardware. Boot into Windows for games.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:11 PM on January 18, 2009

Got my new MBP about a week ago, so I'm in the same boat as you. Don't get the components too hot. iStat keeps track of temperatures for each detectable component in the notebook, as well as keeping track of your RAM and HD usage. Highly recommended.

Give the laptop a good wipedown every week or so, as well as blasts of compressed air for the keyboard.

Yes, a laptop sleeve, case or bag. PLEASE. If you're concerned about bulk added by cases, you could look at invisibleShield for the bare minimum protection, though it only prevents scratches from everyday use (not to mention that it's expensive as hell). However, it does improve grip, reducing your chances of a butterfinger moment.
posted by curagea at 7:21 PM on January 18, 2009

Use a proper surge protector when you use it.
posted by GleepGlop at 9:36 PM on January 18, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all. Looks like Applecare is a necessity. I can't afford it at the moment, but will definitely get it as soon as I can. How do you get it on eBay, furtive? Seems strange to me, isn't it a service purchased directly from Apple?

Thank God I was able to talk work into getting this for me as a severance deal. It has already proved invaluable in securing future work, and I'm not sure I would have taken the plunge directly out of my savings.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:44 AM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: yellowbinder: Apple sells AppleCare to retailers when they then markup about 50%, so some online retails sell it marked up only 10%. If you purchase it on eBay just make sure you're getting the right kind for your notebook, and that the dealer is reputable (high satisfaction, lots of sales). They'll send you a registration code and link within 24 hrs or so and then you punch it in on the Apple site with the serial for your macbook pro and that's it, you'll get a confirmation in the mail/email from Apple shortly after that. memorymate is the eBay user I got mine for, and he has AppleCare for a MBP going for $190 US.
posted by furtive at 7:27 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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