Mac Daniel's Advice

Early iMac Video Failure

Manuel Mejia Jr with Dan Knight and others - 2002.01.02

Although originally written by Manuel Mejia Jr, this article has become something of a team project as we have obtained feedback from the LEM staff, the iMac email list, and some technicians who repair Macs. Dan Knight, publisher

Over the last few months, I have been collecting anecdotes about the early demise of tray-loading iMacs.

Individuals like LEM's Alan Robert Guha reported the demise of his family's iMac when something in the display section arced and apparently burned out after three years of use. Other stories come from Mac service people who sometimes remove the logic board, CD-ROM, and other accessories from a "dead" iMac and put the parts into a generic PC case so they can reincarnate the computer.

Like Guha's iMac, these machines were about three years old when they stopped working. (The iMac first shipped in August 1998, so the oldest iMacs are just a bit over three years old.)

Mac users usually get many years of use out of their computers. There are owners of Mac Pluses, SEs, and Mac II series systems that have been running without fail for more than ten years. Breakdowns are not a common occurrence with Macs.

Given this track record, the notion of an iMac expiring after a mere three years is unusual. Only PCs supposedly suffer from this problem. Frankly, a Mac that breaks down after three years should be classified as a lemon!

Based on information we gathered, the analog and video boards in the Rev. A-D iMac's are the main source of failure, and it's generally the analog board (the circuitry that provides power to the CRT) which goes. According to one technician, it's usually the flyback transformer that fails, and he hasn't seen this problem with the slot-loading iMac. (Apple has revised this circuitry for the slot-loading iMacs, so models shipped since October 1999 should have more reliable analog and video boards.)

Such failure is a result of component quality, age, and heat, so it's important to make sure your iMac has good air circulation around the computer, particularly around the vents. This allows the heat to dissipate and should help you avoid premature iMac failure.

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