Best option for emergency mac replacement
November 30, 2011 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Need specific mac buying advice: I marinated my 2008 MacBook in coffee this morning and will likely need to replace it after work today or tomorrow.

I am assuming the MacBook is dead, it sat in a pool of coffee for about 5-10 minutes before I saw what happened, I was running late to a meeting and didn't fully wipe it down and take out the battery till an hour later. I'm also at work and can't take it apart and do all the air dry stuff the net recommends (which I assume it might be too late for anyways). Unfortunately its the only computer I have, and I am depedent on computers to study and take care of business, and also for a couple hobbies.

So I have to buy a replacement computer with these limitations:
- Mac OSX Lion (yup, guess who just spent $200 on Mac only software over the past 6 months... this guy did).

- Portable (I had dreamed of converting to an iMac for power desktop computing and iPad for portability but don't have the money for two devices right now)

- Obtainable this week (I work best at home, I'm not looking forward to turning the local library into my office for the duration)

- Cheap (I had saved up USD $1200 for a dSLR camera, a new MBP I guess is within my budget but that means my discetionary budget is wiped out for the next year)

- Not a piece of junk (I saw I could buy old laptops from third parties, is it worth it for the sacrifice in performance? Will they run photoshop (assumuing I eventually get that dSLR), will they last for 3-4 years? Will third parties supply new batteries? Will it arrive within a week?)

So Option 1 is going to the Apple Store or Campus Apple retailer or best buy or wherever and just buying something after work. I'd have it now and it'd be new, and last a long time (or until I spilled coffee on it again). Option 2 is Apple refurbished products but I hear their stock changes often, right now I only saw an old MB Air for 999 (not much of a discount), will they likely have something awesome within the next couple days? Options 3 is third party refurbished products. A previous thread mentioned or something like that. How do I judge the deals? Is USD $700 for a 2008 MB worth it? Is there an Option 4?
posted by midmarch snowman to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Thanks in advance for any answers, this is normally something I would research on my own but as I am kinda desperate for a replacement given stuff going on this month, and pressed for time, and advice from the hive will be huge.
posted by midmarch snowman at 7:27 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: Option 4 is Craigslist.
posted by eschatfische at 7:28 AM on November 30, 2011

I just replaced a 2008 Macbook with a new Macbook pro, and god DAMN am I happy with the improvement; I think it came in just under $1200. So if you go that route, I think you'll be happy.
posted by COBRA! at 7:33 AM on November 30, 2011

I would only buy the refurbs from apple and not a third party. You'll have a warranty with apple and they're meticulous with their refurb testing.

Apple might even give you a trade in for your current laptop and transfer what is on your laptop to the new one.

I think the first thing is to take it to apple and see what they can do for you first.
posted by Yellow at 7:36 AM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: I'd wait it out a few days (at least) for the refurbished Apple products. I purchased my MacBook in 2010 refurbished and absolutely love it. It cost in total about $850. It's the white one (sorry I don't know which generation or make). Seems like that might be within your budget though and worth the wait. The refurb ones comes with warranty as well so if something does happen you're covered for one year.

Try giving them a call, if I remember correctly I ordered mine on the phone after looking online and they had different options available such as colors, hardware sizes, etc.
posted by melizabeth at 7:38 AM on November 30, 2011

3rding a refurb. I've found them to be a better value for the money. I've bought one from and had no problems whatsoever (although the case was pretty dinged up - just cosmetic stuff though). They also provide a year warranty.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 7:55 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go here
on the left column you will see a blue and white pic that says "sale". Click that.
The refurbs from Apple never have dings etc. they would swap the case out if it did.
I buy ONLY refurbs from Apple and never new if I can help it.
They have always been flawless for me.
posted by Studiogeek at 8:15 AM on November 30, 2011

Yeah, are you looking in the right place on the Apple site? This page shows a MacBook Air for as low as $799
posted by FreezBoy at 8:17 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would refrain from buying those refurbished Airs. Any previous model will have the Core 2 Duo processors, which is a pretty significant step down from the new version. If at all financially feasible, I'd rather spend the extra $200 or whatever it ends up being.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:37 AM on November 30, 2011

If you were happy with your present MacBook, you might also consider taking it in to your local Apple Store and having them quote you on a repair/replacement. It won't be under warranty, of course, but they may be able to repair it or replace the damaged parts for less than a new computer would cost.

I fix Macs professionally, and the Apple Store's repair prices are pretty variable, so that's not a guarantee- just something to look into.
posted by aaronbeekay at 9:05 AM on November 30, 2011

On the repair route, we had a Macbook Pro that met with a beverage (Coke, I believe?). The authorized Apple repair place locally was fairly confident that they would be able to send it into Apple for out-of-warranty repair, but once it was checked out we were told no, it was not repairable for less than the cost of a new machine. Painful but true.

I would also go with one of the new Airs unless you have a specific need for the Pro features (larger screen, additional ports, etc). Highly portable, very speedy with the new processors (not Core 2 Duo). If you do go Pro, I'd hit up the refurbs as well, they have some i5 and i7s that are close to your budget.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:16 AM on November 30, 2011

Response by poster: So some follow up: A quick cruise on-line during lunch showed the entry level MBP at $999 at B&H and someone said on a forum Microcenter might have one for around $999 as well, both would be $200 under MSRP. I'm a also, student I should mention, so I'll check out the current discounts and whether they apply to refurbished Macs. Worth it?

Work computer has internet explorer 6 or some firewall restrictions or something which borks the Apple Store website... soo... I will wait till 5:00 to really explore that.

MacBook Air advice: I use CDs maybe once or twice a year (i.e. when using a freind's copy of Office 2007) would it be cavalier to go the Air option, since I will then be completely without optical drive? Is it pretty easy to get programs on thumb drives? Or do I need to accept that I will likely need to buy one of the external DVD drives? Will the MB Air handle a little recreational photoshop 2-3 years from now? Would a refurbished 2010 MB Air handle it?
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:42 AM on November 30, 2011

I have bought a refurb iBook, MBP and Mini from Apple a few years back, all for school or business. I had zero problems with them and was also able to purchase AppleCare for them.

Look for faster processor and video card (and possibly slow/small HD), then upgrade them through third party vendors like The faster processor Macs can get pretty long in tooth before they need replacing. I'm still using a late-2008 MBP (dual core @ 2.8 ghz) at home and mid-2007 20-inch iMac (dual core @ 2.4ghz) at the office with no problems. Both have been loaded with RAM and run Photoshop fine, for now.
posted by Hylas at 10:19 AM on November 30, 2011

The Air also lacks a physical Ethernet port (though it has an AirPort), if that is an issue. It was a deal-breaker for me.
posted by xedrik at 11:55 AM on November 30, 2011

MacBook Air advice: I use CDs maybe once or twice a year (i.e. when using a freind's copy of Office 2007) would it be cavalier to go the Air option, since I will then be completely without optical drive? Is it pretty easy to get programs on thumb drives? Or do I need to accept that I will likely need to buy one of the external DVD drives?

I replaced my macbook with a macbook air a few months ago, and I love it like it's my child.

I haven't used a CD drive for anything, on any computer, for a year or so now, and I work in IT.

Will the MB Air handle a little recreational photoshop 2-3 years from now? Would a refurbished 2010 MB Air handle it

I'm using an Air right now to do some fairly complex music production and 15 or so softsynths plus various plugins, barely puts the cpu over 20%. It also runs minecraft and Amnesia at decent quality. I'm sure photoshop would be a breeze.

Streaming flash video pegs it at 100% cpu, though. (only a problem when i'm trying to watch SC matches...)
posted by empath at 5:36 PM on November 30, 2011

Best answer: n'thing "take the current machine to Apple and see what they say."

n'thing the refurbs at the Apple Store. Selection varies daily. You can also check out Low End Mac, which has links to various companies selling refurbished Macs of various kinds at various prices.

The latest MacBook Air is significantly better than the previous generations. The latest MacBook Pro models are pretty much better than the previous generation, but not so outstandingly so when compared to the MacBook Air models.

All the models will run Photoshop, but you'll want to maximize memory, as Photoshop will cheerfully take all the memory you give it. Most refurbished machines not from Apple provide the battery which came with the machine (i.e. it's a crap shoot as to whether you get a great battery or not.) Anything you order should arrive within a week.

I would avoid any MacBook or MacBook Pro that won't let you put 8GB of memory into it sometime in the future (the earliest models only allowed 2GB of RAM, later ones allowed 4GB, recent models allow 8GB). Avoid the original Core Duo processor, as it won't run Lion. You need Core 2 Duo or later for Lion.

Craiglist is a wretched hive of scum and villainy when it comes to laptops. If you don't know what you're doing you can wind up with a broken turkey. If you do know what you're doing you can get a bargain.
posted by blob at 5:58 PM on November 30, 2011

I've spent over 15 years repairing Macs for a living and have seen a fair share of coffee spills. Sometimes they survive, and I find out that the big factor is whether there was sugar in the coffee. If not, they usually dry out in a few days and work fine once the liquid dries and stops shorting connections. It may not be as reliable going forward, but you may be able to use it for years.

As a tech guy, sometimes I like it when an older piece of hardware dies because it gives me justification to stop being so cheap and treat myself to new equipment ;-)
posted by PSB at 5:26 AM on December 1, 2011

As far as adding memory goes, definitely go third party, like from Newegg, rather than from Apple. Just dropped 8GB into my Core2 Duo Macbook Pro for $42.
posted by xedrik at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2011

Response by poster: Update: I went third party refurbished. I suppose this was against some good recommendations, however Microcenter has $500 2008 Macbooks, and I *really* wasn't looking forward to being w/out a computer for the 10 days it would take to shipped Apple Refurbished to arrive. Good news I could reinstall Lion easily without having to pay 60 dollars again to upgrade from Leopard. Hooray.

After a 24 hour dry out, the computer astoundingly started but could not read the hard drive (which is far from surprising considering I removed it from a literal puddle of coffee inside its bay when I took apart the machine. It's still likely not worth replacing as the LCD now looks like it melted a little on the inside, but is there anyone who would be interested in spare parts from the ol' guy? Any good ideas for craft projects?
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:56 PM on December 1, 2011

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