MBP driven to tears?
August 31, 2009 7:59 PM   Subscribe

I bought a MacBook Pro in June 2007. Since then, its needed a new hard disk drive, right cooling fan, and DVD read/write drive. Is this normal wear and tear?

I've had different Mac desktops before for work, but this is my first personal Mac laptop. This is a family PC and it roams around our house. My wife and my son (just educational games, 4yo) also use it and it stays on 24/7. The battery needs replacing as well; we usually just have it plugged in.

Does this usage pattern just destine me to go through components quickly or is this just chance?
posted by uaudio to Computers & Internet (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: For what its worth: 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM.
posted by uaudio at 8:04 PM on August 31, 2009

FWIW, the only laptop I've ever had (the university's laptop, strictly speaking) that went through this kind of angst was a lower-end Dell. However, keeping a laptop on 24/7 is really not such a great idea, and probably explains the toasted fan.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:10 PM on August 31, 2009

My macbook (that I also bought in june 2007) has had a hard drive crash, fan, & DC in. I'm not convinced that it's normal wear & tear, although I do leave mine on more than it should be (not 24/7, some hibernation. Few full power-downs). For what it's worth.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:12 PM on August 31, 2009

I also bought my macbook in June 2007. The hard drive crashed after just over a year, and while I have not replaced the DVD drive, it will read a disc only about 15% of the time (sometimes it will finally read it on the 5th or 6th try). I do power down almost every night. I too, am not convinced this is normal wear and tear.
posted by raztaj at 8:15 PM on August 31, 2009

No, it's not normal. My computer is the same age, and I've had (knock wood) no repairs at all. I use my computer quite a bit.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:17 PM on August 31, 2009

Not normal. In the more than five years I've owned my powerbook g4 (bought refurbed), the only things it needed were a new drive when the old one keeled over, and a new battery. It still runs fine.
posted by rtha at 8:24 PM on August 31, 2009

In case you have another failure (or two), Apple apparently has a Semi-Official Laptop Replacement Policy for lemon laptops.
posted by lesli212 at 8:27 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd say definitely not normal. I've had my 17" MacBook Pro pretty much since they were first introduced, and have not had anything go wrong with it yet, despite constant use and occasionally forgetting to turn it off for weeks at a time...
posted by Aversion Therapy at 8:29 PM on August 31, 2009

Best answer: My MacBook is roughly the same age. FWIW, I've replaced the HDD twice - the first time to up the size; the second time because it failed after falling ~2' onto a concrete floor. Far enough to cause the heads to crash, not quite far enough for the accelerometer to auto-park the heads before it hit the floor...

Being on 24/7 won't help either the fan or the battery. My fan is a touch noisy, presumably because of all the lint and dust and crap it's sucked in from being used on my bed, on the chair, in the dust under the house, etc. Likewise the battery; mine gets thrown on and off charge all day every day, between home / uni / gf's place, and has just recently started to show signs of being knackered - I only get ~3hrs out of it now; when it was new I regularly got >4hrs.

Which leaves the DVD drive. Depends on how you use it. Mine barely gets used, apart from the odd CD burn or DVD ripping, maybe two dozen times since new. It's fine...

Given your usage pattern (on 24/7, moved around a lot, in the potentially-damaging hands of a 4yo, the occasional accidental short drop or bit of rough handling, $DEITY-knows how many DVDs through the optical drive, etc), it doesn't sound too unusual.

When I was working, our PC laptops - Panasonic ToughBooks or IBM T-series laptops - were on a 3-year replacement cycle. Everybody else treated theirs normally, and usually required 1 or 2 replacements in that time. I looked after mine, and they generally required either a new HDD or battery just before the 3 years were up - usually just after they placed an embargo on repairs before the new supply contract...
posted by Pinback at 8:30 PM on August 31, 2009

No, it isn't normal, but my boyfriend has a similar issue. He bought a Macbook Pro in August 2007 and had 75% of the same issues and more besides. The computer, the actual physical computer, has been REPLACED TWICE. No kidding. I had the same computer and had a number of issues with it but none as severe.

We both think Apple rolled out that Macbook Pro way too early. It was my fourth Mac laptop and the only that I have really hated. I usually keep my laptops for about 2.75 years (so I can sell them with applecare) but sold that Macbook Pro within a year. Man, I hated that computer. Very happy with my new Apple laptop.
posted by arnicae at 8:36 PM on August 31, 2009

My September 2007 MacBook had its hard disk fail within the first year, its SuperDrive fail, and the casing, where I rest my right hand, near the LED sensor, is cracked with little bits of plastic occasionally coming off.

I also don't think it's normal. I think it's a shoddy machine but, on the other hand, it's almost as good as a brand new one spec-wise, and apart from having to get an external drive for it, I'm happy enough.
posted by galaksit at 9:04 PM on August 31, 2009

That doesn't sound like normal wear-and-tear to me. To chime in, my July 2007 MacBook hasn't experienced any major problems of that sort. (It is banged up from the times I've dropped it.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:10 PM on August 31, 2009

me: white plastic intel macbook, circa fall 2007. HDD died/replaced this past spring, otherwise no issues. I leave it on almost all the time (put it to sleep some nights, or if I'm traveling) and have treated it pretty roughly (dropped once and cracked the case, but no damage to the system), plus I live in sunny arizona so it tends to get pretty hot. Fans have never died, DVD drive has never had problems. The battery life is pretty lame now, but that's to be expected with my usage patterns.

I'm generally happy with any lifespan over two years for a laptop, so it's frosting on the cake that I can still use this macbook for my primary computer; in your situation I would be shopping for a new one, but without any feelings that my macbook had been a lemon.
posted by Chris4d at 9:20 PM on August 31, 2009

The three things you mentioned are things with moving parts and I (personally) view them as wear parts, like the brakes on a car. It does seem like a faster than usual failure rate but not crazy fast.

My MBP is of similar vintage (2.3 C2D) and has had no such failures but I almost never use the optical drive and I replaced the hard drive for upgrade reasons earlier this year.
posted by chairface at 9:24 PM on August 31, 2009

I haven't had either of the drives fail in my Spring '07 Macbook Pro (yet) but considering how everything else in it has held up so far, it's only a matter of time. Some of the keys on the keyboard need replacing, the LCD screen or some hardware related to it makes an odd screeching noise more often than not when I awake it from sleep, the paint is coming off in more places than one, the screen's hinge is really loose, and my battery also needs to be replaced. It holds about a 20 minute charge, if I'm lucky.
posted by Venadium at 9:26 PM on August 31, 2009

I have a Spring '07 Macbook Pro. The optical drive failed under warranty, but I didn't make time to get it taken in before the warranty expired and now I'm screwed. I also had an optical drive fail in a 12" powerbook, but that was the fault of the original owner's dropping it 3' on to asphalt, which is also how I acquired it. I've replaced the batteries in both laptops, but that's because I, like chris4d and pinback, don't run on batteries nearly often enough for their health. The rest of the hardare seems sturdy, though.

If anything else fails, yeah, talk to Apple about the lemon options.
posted by Alterscape at 9:41 PM on August 31, 2009

I bought an MPB in July of 2007, and purchased AppleCare. Thank goodness, because in September 2008, the week before midterms, the hard drive died. They replaced it under warranty. Then, in January (again, the week before midterms), the hard drive crapped out again. And then, AGAIN, in April, the hard drive on that computer died.

I complained just hard enough (and noted to them that I was a student who bought a Mac in part due to their supposed reliability) that after the third time, they sent me a new MBP. A lot of my classmates have had similar problems with Macbooks and Macbook Pros purchased during that particular time frame. I'm inclined to think that the problems here are not just normal wear and tear.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:44 PM on August 31, 2009

Best answer: I bought a refurbished MBP in January 2007, and like a dope I decided I was invincible and didn't need Apple Care. Just this year, I've had to replace the Super Drive (a few months ago) and the logic board (last week.) Luckily, even though my Mac is now out of warranty, I happened to find out that there's sort of a recall going on for Macbook Pros built around when I got mine, and Apple is replacing the logic boards for free. Had I not been eligible for that warranty-but-really-out-of-warranty repair, I would have been on the hook for almost $1400. That's several hundred dollars more than I paid for my refurbished Mac.

Here's where I found out about Apple's replacement of NVIDIA's logic boards.
posted by emelenjr at 10:42 PM on August 31, 2009

Apple has a pretty significant reliability advantage among desktops, but the reliability of their laptops is on the low side, according to Consumer Reports. Interestingly, they still recommend Apple laptops over any other brand.

My 2008 macbook pro had the videocard die about a year in, but to Apple's credit, I took it in to an Apple store, left it for 2 days, and got it back fixed, no charge. Painless.
posted by Huck500 at 11:00 PM on August 31, 2009

I've got a PowerBook that's 6 years old, and I've only had to replace the battery. For the first few years it did only get light use though until it became my girlfriend's main machine.

Moving parts will wear out, and to some extent it's related to patterns and quantity of use, but I think you've been rather unlucky. Maybe you knock it around a lot while it's on, sit it on the carpet vacuuming up fluff, and play DVDs constantly, but generally those components should last longer than 2 years even with a bit of abuse.
posted by malevolent at 11:10 PM on August 31, 2009

Mine's a 2007 MBP, 2.2/2GB (upped to 4), and the only problems I've had so far were: 1) a giant flaming suck-hole of OS wrongness involving wireless networking (went away when I upgraded to Snow Leopard last week-- if you *also* have 3-second-plus pings to your router, fellow MeFites, Snow Leopard may help you), and 2) its original battery abruptly going south (replaced under AppleCare). It was in the shop twice for the OS problem and got a new AirPort subsystem as part of the diagnostics, but that wasn't actually its issue.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:32 PM on August 31, 2009

No: not normal. My mom's Macbook Pro hasn't been turned off for the past two+ years and it's never needed any repairs at all.
posted by halogen at 11:59 PM on August 31, 2009

Best answer: I will echo what others have said about wear, but also keep in mind that the parts you are describing are almost all susceptible to environmental issues. A dusty environment will accelerate the death rate of moving parts in a computer pretty easily. If you take canned air to the vents and optical drive on your system every few months, you are taking great strides towards increasing reliability.

Dust for sure will kill the optical drive and cooling fan. It can, with enough build-up, also choke the hard drive by either depriving it of fresh air or insulating it from the normal cooling provided by the metal frame of the laptop.

So keep your stuff clean!

(Mine is so dented and scratched, it hardly resembles an apple product anymore. No failures yet, but I keep it dusted out pretty regularly.)
posted by tmt at 12:12 AM on September 1, 2009

August 2007 Macbook here. I've had no problems with mine, but I don't keep it on if I'm not using it.
posted by greenland at 3:28 AM on September 1, 2009

I have one from January or Feb of 07 and have never had any problems. I close it when I am not using it but generally don't turn it off. The only thing I've had to do was replace the battery, which I think it pretty normal after a couple of years.
posted by miss tea at 3:43 AM on September 1, 2009

I have a black MacBook made July 2007. My CD drive failed last month and it was replaced under Applecare with no diagnostics and zero questions asked. Online searching suggests that particular generation of Superdrives really sucked and regularly simply die. Even if you don't have Applecare, I think you can still get it replaced for free, which is also true for the top case on the plastic MacBooks which splinters where your right hand sits, and for the generation of MacBooks before mine with the failing HD.

In other words, when Apple makes mistakes, they take responsibility for them, although you have to take initiative to contact them or go to an AppleStore to find this out.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:02 AM on September 1, 2009

Same vintage MPB. Have had a replacement keyboard (one bum key) and recently an LCD replacement (crud stuck between backlight and screen caused dark spots on display). Aside from that, the only issues I have had have been with the power cord, which has been replaced twice now due to bare metal exposed where the cord meets the brick thanks to (in my opinion) poor design for the insulation covering the cord. If it's pulling out of the little cone-shaped sleeve attached to the power brick, then the insulation needs to not be cut so dang short...
posted by caution live frogs at 5:27 AM on September 1, 2009

My August 07 MacBook had a hard drive failure within the first year. It was also a roam around the house laptop, never dropped. No problems since then, though.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:52 AM on September 1, 2009

nthing not normal. Bought my PowerBook G4 in May 2005, only repair it needed was about a year ago when the backlight on the display suddenly stopped functioning.
posted by King Bee at 6:29 AM on September 1, 2009

Wow. I have an old iBook G3 that's at least 7 years old. It's used as a server now so it runs constantly. I swapped the harddrive for a bigger one 3 years ago. That's the only change. I say not normal.
posted by ddaavviidd at 7:14 AM on September 1, 2009

I got mine in the fall of 2007, brought it to Africa, where I left it running constantly in high humidity and heat, connected to a seriously dubious electrical supply. The battery lasted about 7 months then died. But it turned out it was a recalled battery, so I got a new one for free. My power adapter blew (quite literally, loudly and with a flash of sparks) a few days before I came home, but I blame that entirely on the house wiring and the surges in the electrical grid.

The laptop has been on more than 9 flights, innumerable bus rides (including along unpaved roads at break-neck speeds) and has not had any other problems.

My previous laptop (a 2001 Macbook) needed a new hard drive and battery after 3 years, and otherwise is still plugging along as a household network point.

So my guess is, no, not normal wear and tear.
posted by carmen at 7:24 AM on September 1, 2009

Lesli212's link above is to what was happening when my MPB was malfunctioning. I've since talked with several Geniuses and tech support people and they've all unofficially confirmed that after four major failures, you get a new computer if you ask. Hope you have Applecare.

As far as whether this is normal, I have been a Mac user since 2002 and have gone through three iBooks and am on my second MBP. All have been replaced by Apple due to hardware failures. The iBooks were mostly a known issue (EIGHT logic board failures) but there was a display failure once, and my MBPs have have two logic boards, one display, one optical drive, iSight, and the power in fail, and my power cable melted. So your troubles sound very normal to me.

On the other hand, my fiancee has had her MBP since it came out in early 2006 and has never had anything besides one fan failure. I hate to think that a standardized production process could still give me so many shoddy computers, but I also don't think I'm a particularly abusive user (I bought a case before I got the computer and I still use the foam sheet in between keyboard and display to protect the display from oil and dirt on the keyboard).
posted by jalexc at 7:26 AM on September 1, 2009

Totally normal. The last place I worked (an all apple shop), we had 22 macbooks of various vintages as well as ~40 desktop macs (pro, imac, etc). I was the IT manager, so any broken machine was handled by me.

On any given week, one or more of the laptops would be in the shop for some failure or other. The desktops were only slightly more reliable. Still, we spent thousands on replacement parts and the time to diagnose and install them, instead of buying some other brand with better support. Apple's failure rate was just abysmal.

I have a shiny new 17" MBP, and already have the hard disk and one fan replaced. It's less than a month old! I have two Gateways, a Dell and a Sony at home that I have never had a problem with.

In my experience, Apple products are far less reliable than other brands. I say this with a decade and half of experience doing IT stuff. I could rant for hours on the various flaws in Apple's designs, from HFS+ to Finder and onward. As it is, I'll probably get my account banned for having dared point out what every IT admin worth his salt knows - You buy apple hardware at your peril. But this is why every time someone recommends a mac product, they also recommend you buy the expensive add on warranty. Because you need it. Because Apple hardware is notoriously unreliable.

WWDC is a pretty good time though. I love San Fran in the spring.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:34 AM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've had the logic board on my MBP (2.2ghz, 17") replaced twice. Both of them were members of the Bad Nvidia Club, which meant that I made a joke the second time about "please don't replace this with another about-to-fail Nvidia chip". (The Genius sighed and said, "If I ever meet an Nvidia rep, I'm going to pretend I've met the Buddha in the middle of the road." Which allowed me to say, "what calibur?" which got her to laugh and admit I was the first person to ever get the reference.)

I also think I need my drive looked at, as it refuses to burn at full speed, so I throttle it down a touch and it works fine.

I love my machine, but sometimes I think that yeah, they rolled them out a little early. I recommend, if you don't have one yet, getting a cooler for it - the Antec one is pretty good.
posted by mephron at 7:43 AM on September 1, 2009

I wouldn't consider it "normal wear and tear" under normal usage conditions, but under your conditions (being ON 24/7)... it might be. As others have mentioned, the parts you've replaced are all moving-parts, so if anything is going to wear out over time, the mechanically moving parts will be the first to fail.

I have a '07 Macbook Pro ... its been rock solid (only thing I've replaced is the battery) .. however it gets light usage (I probably only turn it ON every 2 to 4 days, and probably only use it for an hour or two at a time). YMMV
posted by jmnugent at 9:15 AM on September 1, 2009

I have the same model.

Video card failure a month after I got it.

Battery would only hold a half hour charge after only about 60 cycles, Apple replaced out of warrantee after I told them I'd just get Am Ex to handle it.

Optical drive, motherboard and RAM modules replaced last month.

I'm in the "released MBP too soon" camp I suppose. I do take it with me everywhere. Laptops are just subjected to much more wear and tear.

My next rig will likely be some combination of tower machine (I do motion graphics), with an Apple tablet/netbook thing to walk around with.
posted by Scoo at 10:13 AM on September 1, 2009

Oh, and buying anything with an American Express card extends the warranty by a year.
posted by Scoo at 10:19 AM on September 1, 2009

For a laptop that gets a lot of use, I have this rule of thumb:
- The battery will not hold a charge after about a year and a half of my typical use.
- Pre-motion sensors in laptops, I would kill a hard drive in about two years. I haven't had my current one long enough to make a solid judgement, but I passed the two year mark a couple months ago.

I've never used a DVD/CD drive extensively in my laptops, so I haven't really had a problem. I've also never had a logic board issue. This is for three Apple laptops (15" pro series) over the course of seven years. Fans are a moving part that are going to start to die depending on hours of use, cleanliness of surroundings, and heat of surroundings. There's probably a random luck factor in there, too.

Your mileage has varied from mine, but your laptop sounds like bad luck in part replacement, not an inherently defective unit.
posted by mikeh at 2:54 PM on September 1, 2009

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