Apple Juice or Lemonade?
October 22, 2011 12:17 AM   Subscribe

My 5 month old (last gen with the Core2 processor) Mac Mini is being cranky. Did I just get a lemon?

This particular mini is running Snow Leopard Server (ain't gonna shell out for a server license just to get the client one to upgrade to Lion). It has 4 gigs of RAM and 2 500 GB hard drives, one completely empty.

Problem 1 - It randomly won't wake up from sleep and I have to hard restart to get it back.

Problem 2 (which may not be one, as this is my first Mac) - It takes forever to boot and shut down. I'm talking in the 1.5-2 minute range.

Problem 3 - It will beach ball when opening random programs. I'm old school. I quit (file - quit) every program when I'm done with it. With the amount of RAM I don't understand why opening anything will cause it to beach ball. It sometimes does the beach ball thing while I'm working on a document (less than 10 pages, usually tests with a few images LibreOffice, FWIW).

Problem 4 - This is the biggest one for me. My USB ports simply stop working. I have my printer directly in a USB port. I also have my speakers (for power) in another one. I then have a unpowered hub with my camera cord, ipod cord and cell phone charger. I have two external drives (that have their own power supply) in the hub. None of these power drawers have been in use when the USB ports go awol. I went to use my scanner today and Image Capture helpfully told me there was no printer attached. Power cycling the printer doesn't work. I have to reboot the computer to get my USB ports back.

So Hive Mind. Did I get a Lemon instead of an Apple? Should I demand my money back. Get a new Mini? Complication. I'm in S. Korea. I bought it here. There is an authorized Apple retailer here, but no Apple Store. And I don't think these folks deal with repairs. On reading previous questions I'm wondering if it isn't a logic board problem

Everything is backed up, so the loss of the computer isn't a big deal. I have a Linux box that I was using for day to day use, but it died (HD died). Since buying the Mac, I've resurrected the Linux box using the HDs from my media center (also running Linux).
posted by kathrynm to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
i have the same model you do, also running snow leopard, with a lot of things attached to the usb ports... and can say this: I am typically shocked by how quickly it boots...but sometimes it doesnt see my usb drives unless i turn them off, wait a while, then turn them on.
posted by davejay at 1:04 AM on October 22, 2011

Problems 1,2, & 3 sound HDD-related, or possibly RAM. I'd lean towards HDD, but I've seen some iffy DDR2 RAM (that stopped a Windows laptop from booting at all) cause a Macbook to just run very slowly. Did you buy and/or install either of those yourself?

Problem 4 I've seen caused by cheap unpowered hubs confusing the hell out of the root hub and causing it to go AWOL. Have you tried it without the hub plugged in at all?

FWIW, it's generally not a good idea to connect current-drawing devices like your iPod or phone charger via an unpowered hub anyway…
posted by Pinback at 2:25 AM on October 22, 2011

This is a stock machine. I will pull the hub out of the equation, but the problems happen whether or not the iPod or phone is connected.

FWIW, the reason they're in an upowered hub is because of the lack of outlets in my apartment. I kid you not, for an entire studio (shoebox that it is) there are 4 wall outlets. So you just get really get good at stringing cords all around.

Regardless, since part of the problem sounds hardware related, I'm going to try to muster up my less than stellar Korean and either get an exchange or a refund.
posted by kathrynm at 2:32 AM on October 22, 2011

I had a mac mini which ended up having a rotten logic board. Problem 4 was a big red flag, and happened even if I just had the mouse and keyboard plugged in.

Try putting iStat Nano in your dashboard. When problem 4 happens again, check the temperatures. If they're over 50 deg C, take it in and see if you can get it replaced. AFAIK, all the Macs have a one-year limited hardware warranty, so you should get some form of satisfaction.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 2:37 AM on October 22, 2011

Not to thread sit, but pulling out the hub (which was taking two ports) has caused the hard drive usage to go nearly crazy.

And it suddenly stopped.

Here's what iotop had to say. I've never used iotop before so maybe it give someone else a clue.

83 5277 1 clamd ?? 14 2 W 4096
501 4984 257 firefox ?? 14 2 W 315392
0 90 1 servermgrd ?? 14 2 W 999424
posted by kathrynm at 2:40 AM on October 22, 2011

At work we've ordered a lot of Macs over the years. Most of the time they work great until we run them into the ground or send them off to other departments.

But when you get a lemon, they tend to be very bad. I had one of the intel 1U Xserves that would reboot under any high load. Our qualified apple repair department replaced every single piece of hardware inside that thing and it still wouldn't work. Finally we got Apple to send us a new one.

Your seller might be a qualified apple repair store; it's worth asking. My employer is large enough where we run our own internal one, so it's not unheard of. Would help greatly if you could focus on one issue that is easily repeatable. Problems waking from sleep and beachballs sounds like an iMac I had where the graphics card was slowly dying. Try playing some high resolution mp4 and see if it craps out.

Just saw your update: unpowered hubs can cause all sorts of USB flakiness. I'd try some way to avoid them. But also, in general, with so few outlets and many appliances you could be having electric power issues in your room. Any electric heaters, microwaves, mini fridges, or stoves on the same circuit? Large (greater than 40") TV's? Ever turn on a hair dryer and notice the lights dim? If you suffer from a lot of brown outs that can kill computer/electronic equipment.
posted by sbutler at 2:41 AM on October 22, 2011

No brownouts. Though I have noticed keyboard flakiness too and that's USB into the machine.

Thanks for everyone's insight. I just installed istat nano (awesomeness) and with just firefox and adium open, cpu temps are at 45C (each). Does that seem high to anyone but me?
posted by kathrynm at 2:50 AM on October 22, 2011

FWIW - I've had a Mac Mini running my entertainment center for years (since summer 2008). I have several USB devices running off an unpowered hub. I have never had any start-up delay issues or USB non-performance issues. I can't remember what speed the processor is, but it never stuggles to play video content or play video content while downloading video from the web. We often forget to turn it off at night and during the first year we just left it run all the time. I'm surprised its still going.

Its currently running Snow Leopard.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 4:02 AM on October 22, 2011

Take it to the store.

An authorized Apple retailer should have the Apple diagnostic tools available, and should be able to do things like RAM-checking and other basic diagnostics pretty quickly.
posted by mhoye at 6:44 AM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

clamd is ClamD's antivirus software. It spends quite a bit of time scanning. Think about turning that off for awhile and see if it improves performance.
posted by filmgeek at 2:15 PM on October 22, 2011

Good advice for anyone buying a mac:

Get Applecare. It's worth it - period.
posted by victory_laser at 3:30 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do macs come with clamd? I know I never installed it.

I'm trying a `locate` now, but it needs to build the database first.

(who ever thought my Linux knowledge would come in handy)
posted by kathrynm at 6:24 PM on October 22, 2011

Look in the Console app (or in /var/log/system.log and /var/log/kernel.log for messages indicating problems with USB, or with your hard drive. Anything that says "i/o error" is bad. Anything indicating "having trouble enumerating your device" is bad.

Nthing "take it to an Apple repair facility."

clamd does not come preinstalled on any Mac, as far as I know.
posted by blob at 6:28 PM on October 22, 2011

I can't find anything in the logs because it's all clogged up with this clamd crap.

I think I got it when I installed MacPorts. All I wanted was digicam because, frankly all the photo apps suck (have not tried iphoto as none of the ilife stuff came with sl server).

Trip to apple place in my future. I'd do a clean install but there is no optical drive on this thing (really, apple, what were you thinking).
posted by kathrynm at 6:54 PM on October 22, 2011


22. How do I uninstall ClamXav completely?

First thing to do is quit ClamXav Sentry (if you use it) and make sure it's not set to launch at log in. You will then need to find the ClamXav disk image which you downloaded when you installed ClamXav (or download the current one again) as you will find an uninstaller application on that disk.

The uninstaller will remove the engine and any schedules you've got set up. All that's left is to drag to the trash.
posted by blob at 7:24 PM on October 22, 2011

Now this is werid, locate (with a just built database) can not find or clamxav (doing a case insensitive search).

The folks at the apple place did acknowledge it boot and shut down quite slowly (I guess they mounted it on one of their iMacs). Alas, all they can do is send me to the repair place. So I came home and hooked everything up because I need a (even semi) functioning computer this weekend.

Thanks for the hive mind's help. Best five bucks I've ever spent.
posted by kathrynm at 9:47 PM on October 22, 2011

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