Kitchens Sync

Apple Store Headaches over Fixing an Overheating iMac under Warranty

- 2009.04.08 - Tip Jar

One of the worst experiences one can have when dealing with computers is the failure of one's main machine, the workhouse one uses on a regular basis. This is especially bad when the next best backup is not only several years older, but also uses a completely different processor architecture (more on that at the end of this column).

Unfortunately, I recently went through this when my iMac failed. However, this gave me a chance to evaluate Apple's repair quality for myself.

This Baby's Hot!

My computer, as one can see in my biography, is an 8-month-old Penryn iMac. Over the time that I have owned it, I was puzzled by the utter lack of fan noise: Other people's Macs would kick their fans in when they were put under load. Even when both processor cores were under load, my computer was whisper quiet. Additionally, I began to notice strange graphical glitching and flaky behavior, with the occasional complete lock up, when the computer was under load.

A few weeks ago, I happened to brush my hand across the top of the case while ripping some videos. I felt like I had put my hand on the hood of a black vehicle parked directly in Texas summer sun. I immediately downloaded Temperature Monitor from Bresink.

When I saw the readouts, I am sure the iSight detected the blood draining from my face. The processor cores were rising to a heat level well in excess of 160° Fahrenheit. Other components were heating to similar levels.

I immediately knew what had caused the odd flakiness. After updating my backups, I made an appointment at the local Genius Bar for repair.

In for 'Repairs'

After checking my computer into the Apple Store, I waited for the results of my diagnostics. When they came back showing no problems, I was somewhat puzzled. They suggested reinstalling the OS, which I readily agreed to. While I was concerned that they had found no issues, I assumed they knew best.

When I called two days later, I was informed that a fault had been found on the logic board, which was going to be replaced. Somewhat relieved, I sat back and played the waiting game.

When my repair was ready, I went to pick it up. That was when the "fun" began.

The Merry-Go-Round

When the I was asked to sign the pickup receipt, I noticed that my job was labelled NTF, or No Trouble Found. Having arranged to pick up my iMac before the store opened, there were no Geniuses on duty to explain the anomaly. Unable to wait another hour, I went home, intending to call after the store opened.

Upon doing so, my ride on the merry-go-round began. After waiting on hold for several minutes, I was connected to a Genius who assured me that my iMac was fully functional. Not only that, but he was completely unable to find any record of my conversation with the other employee.

After spending 15 minutes assuring the Genius that the other employee was not the result of my active imagination, I gave up, completely unable to convince him. But it wasn't over just yet.

Next time, I'll share the conclusion to this repair tale.

Don't worry. It has a happy ending!

I would like to take a minute here and mention how much easier it was to move to my backup computer than one might think.

Going Back to a PowerPC Mac

My old 700 MHz eMac works fine as a replacement machine. I am able to get around with speed while running the latest release of OS X 10.4. Other than its inability to work with Adobe CS4, which requires a G5 or Intel CPU, I have not found any significant issues with moving my day-to-day workflow to this machine.

One positive aspect of this experience is that it has allowed me to reconnect with my PowerPC roots, and it turns out they match my fond, fast memories. I must admit that I do miss having dual cores and 3 more inches of screen, especially when encoding video in HandBrake, but I wouldn't be unable to function if my iMac were broken beyond repair.

Try having this experience in the PC world. Lauren and Giampaolo, I hope you're happy with your new PC notebooks, because I can guarantee you won't be feeling so happy about them 7 years from now (the age of my eMac).*

For those who would call me a mindless Apple fanboy, you might want to know that I not only ran PCs exclusively for years before moving to Mac (of my own free will), but I also have a much newer Dell PC that gets beaten every time by my "ancient" eMac. LEM

  • For the resolution of this, see Apple Comes Through, Resolving Overheating iMac Problem.
  • * Editor's note: This is also the age of the dual 1 GHz Mirror Drive Door Power Mac G4 I use every day at Low End Mac headquarters. There's still a lot of useful life in those old G4s! dk

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