Do I fix my sister's iMac?
June 30, 2008 9:02 PM   Subscribe

I can fix my sister's iMac, but she doesn't want me to. Do I go behind her back and get it running again?

My sister moved back for the summer and brought along her school computer, an Intel iMac running OSX 10.4. About a week ago it did not boot. The computer will hang on the gray progress screen, but it won't get to the operating system.

She did her best to troubleshoot the issue. She reset the PRAM and the PMU to no success, and has concluded the issue must be "hardware related" and wants to ship it to Apple and get it repaired.

However, I took it upon myself to troubleshoot the computer. I got Knoppix (Version of Linux) up and running on it, and the hardware seems to be working. (Unless knoppix has some mystical voodoo shit going on and can bring stuff back from the dead). My mac friends recommend using the gray disk to use the "Disk First Aid" utility, which I could do in five minutes. There are other options I can work on if that doesn't work. (Unless one of you mac geniuses have better ideas)

She works full time, and I have plenty of time off to do this. The thing is that when I offered to help she refused, even though I troubleshoot computers on a regular basis. Hell, when I broght it up she all but snapped at me as if to say "How dare you dirty my computer with your filthy hands, you don't know what you're doing."

Her solution is to ship it off to Apple and wait 4 weeks for some tech to do it. It's covered under Apple-Care, so I think she only pays to ship it.

Do I fix it myself under her nose and "surprise" her with a functioning computer? Or was I out of bounds for troubleshooting it in the first place?
posted by hellojed to Grab Bag (24 answers total)
Best answer: It's her computer, and she already told you she doesn't want you to try to fix it. Leave her alone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:08 PM on June 30, 2008 [8 favorites]

no. god no. don't do it.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 9:10 PM on June 30, 2008

No touchie, not yours. Can't have. Ask again if you want but it ain't yours to fiddle with.
posted by iamabot at 9:11 PM on June 30, 2008

posted by you're a kitty! at 9:13 PM on June 30, 2008

If you do, make sure you've got a backup of the entire disk, including the hidden partitions. There's a hardware test partition you can use by pressing D while booting.

Applecare would most probably just guide her through re-installing Mac OS X over the phone.
posted by stereo at 9:13 PM on June 30, 2008

Do I fix it myself under her nose and "surprise" her with a functioning computer?

Yeah, go ahead, you have the best intentions, right? Just don't be surprised if she isn't happy that you went against her clearly expressed wishes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:19 PM on June 30, 2008

Bad brother! Down!
posted by rokusan at 9:19 PM on June 30, 2008

Fix it! She's already snippy towards you, at least you can respond in kind by being smug about the fact that you know what you're doing.

I love being a younger brother.
posted by anildash at 9:27 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your her brother -- its your job to be a pain in the "I told you so" ass. Reinstall OSX on that bugger, and claim you didn't go anywhere NEAR it.
posted by SirStan at 9:33 PM on June 30, 2008

In other words, you dont know what's wrong with it, you just want to fiddle and poke around and reinstall Linux until you get an idea.

As others have said - leave it alone. With AppleCare, she doesn't even pay for shipping. Apple will send her a prepaid box or shipping label.
posted by mrbill at 9:34 PM on June 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you want to be blamed every time something goes wrong with her computer in the future, by all means fix it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:38 PM on June 30, 2008 [8 favorites]

I have a sister like this, my older sister (and yes I'm the youngest.) I learned to sit on my hands when she doesn't want me to fix things, even if fixing them is something as straightforward as turning the floppy disk right-side-up in the drive (yeah, we've been brother and sister a long time.)

Let it go.
posted by davejay at 9:48 PM on June 30, 2008

No, don't mess with it. Computers are very personal, people really don't like other people messing with them, and there is a significant risk that you could screw something up and erase her data.

One thing you could consider brining up though is booting the machine into Target Disk Mode and copying the files off. She might want to do that before shipping it to Apple even.

But yeah, don't mess with it without her permission. I mean, how would you feel if someone came into your house and installed Vista or something on your PCs, wiping out the current OS in the process?
posted by delmoi at 10:29 PM on June 30, 2008

I get the sense your sister doesn't trust your computer skills and may be balking, in part, because of that. While its admirable that you want to help her, you may want to chill out for a bit. I'd welcome a bro who wants to take a crack at my system but only if I felt he could really fix it.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:39 PM on June 30, 2008

You don't know how to fix her computer. You want to play, and you want to be right. The number one rule of being a grownup is "don't touch other people or their stuff without their permission." Don't break the rule.
posted by decathecting at 10:41 PM on June 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

You should leave it.
If you were a Mac guy you'd know the tricks like starting up in single-user or verbose mode, holding the option key at boot to get the boot select screen (often what you need after zapping the PRAM and making it forget what to boot off), you'd have a copy of DiskWarrior handy for the cases Disk Utility can't fix, and you'd know that "Disk First Aid" doesn't exist any more (it got rolled into "Disk Utility" a while ago).
Plus there is no guarantee that this is even fixable in software - the drive may have had a hardware failure, and if you mess with it without permission your sister will blame you.
I know it's frustrating. I love fixing things and impressing family members too, and you're a good person for wanting to help out.
posted by w0mbat at 11:08 PM on June 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sis, I know you don't want me to go near your computer, but I got some of these tips (the ones up through this thread, and the first-aid disk) online and thought you might like to check them before you send off your machine.
posted by Iteki at 11:36 PM on June 30, 2008

There are two questions related to this that show up on askMe.

1- "I tried to fix my girlfriend's computer, as a surprise, and now it won't boot anymore, and I think all her data is lost. Help me fix it before she comes back. I have an hour."

2- "I broke my girlfriends computer trying to repair it, lost all her data, and now she wants to break up with me. Tell me how to fix my relationship."

Fixing other people's computer require that you to know what you are doing (which you don't), and to have accumulated enough credibility so that people trust you with their possession (which you dont have either).
posted by gmarceau at 12:23 AM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know how she went about resetting the "PMU", but in her computer it's called the "SMC" (System Management Controller). Here is the appropriate Apple article describing the reset procedure, which is really quite simple. If she hasn't already done it this way, why don't you have her read the article when she gets home and give it a try. That way you haven't touched her machine, but you get credit for taking the time and effort to do the detective work.

Iteki's approach nails it: you help out in a non-threatening, respectful way. (If you can talk her into it, have her try the Disk Utility approach also…it's harmless, and will at least give her an idea about whether or not it's a software or hardware issue.)
posted by dinger at 5:29 AM on July 1, 2008

This article describes booting from the system disk, troubleshooting, and performing and Archive and Install procedure to save her data and get a fresh system installed.
posted by dinger at 5:37 AM on July 1, 2008

You put Linux on her Mac? Man, forget a Christmas present this year. She's politer than I would have been. Stop blundering the fuck around where you don't belong.
posted by bonaldi at 6:41 AM on July 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

[Knoppix is Linux on a CD; the poster didn't install anything, just booted from a CD with Linux on it.]

But anyway, yeah, her choice.
posted by phoenixy at 6:49 AM on July 1, 2008

You wanna really be a good bro? Buy her a copy of DiskWarrior for her birthday or Christmas, whichever comes around first, and show her how to boot from the CD and warry* her disk.

* What verb would you use for what a program named "DiskWarrior" does?
posted by kindall at 10:38 AM on July 1, 2008

There is no mail in repair that I've ever heard for desktop machines. Repair options are on-site or carry-in, depending on the specific machine. Only Apple laptops have mail in repair service.

If she calls AppleCare they will do software troubleshooting over the phone with her, and if they determine it is a hardware issue they will give her options for nearby Apple Authorized Service centers to bring the machine to, or if it's eligible for onsite service, offer to dispatch a technician.

I've never heard of an independent Apple service provider or Apple Store to have a four week turnaround, unless parts are backordered. I manage an Apple Authorized Service center, and our turnaround is currently 1-3 business days.

All that aside, she doesn't want you to fix it. Why get involved?
posted by BryanPayne at 2:30 PM on July 2, 2008

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