Thursday, March 14, 2013

Singing the MacBook Pro Blues...


Fixed (at least with initial tests).  Apple has released an update that appears to fix the problem.  It was a firmware issue in the System Management Controller (SMC).

Original Post:

Late last year, I purchased a shiny new 15" Retina MacBook Pro for my own personal use.  I love this machine!  It's very small and light, but has plenty of RAM, storage, CPU power, and battery life.  It also connects (with just two cables, including power, thanks to Thunderbolt) to a suite of peripherals that would be part of a programmer's high-end desktop machine.  It's a thing of geekly beauty.

But it has a flaw.

The MacBook Pros are usually completely silent, but it has somewhat noisy fans that will kick on when things get too warm internally.  I've been using MacBook Pros for almost six years, and I'm very familiar with this phenomenon.  In all my prior experience, the fans kicking in – especially if they kick in at high speed – has always meant the same thing: the CPU is working really hard, so the CPU chip got hot.

Not this time.

Debbie (who works in the same small office that I do) have often noticed the fans kicking up at very surprising times.  Every single time that I've checked the CPU is almost unloaded, and the CPU temperature is near room temperature.  I had no idea why the fans were kicking on.

Yesterday, out of idle curiosity, I googled the issue and immediately found this very active thread.

Oh, my.

I am not alone – lots of people are having this exact issue.  Furthermore, one enterprising fellow found a completely repeatable diagnostic: if you play a particular song on iTunes, at about 2 minutes into the song the fans will kick up high, then drop slightly, then kick up high again and stay there.

So of course I ran this diagnostic on my machine.  It matched the above observations precisely.  How weird!

But it gets even better.  With enough people reporting, a pattern becomes clear: only MacBook Pros made after late 2012 and equipped with a SanDisk SSD are having this problem.  Those with a Samsung SSD do not.

As usual with any open forum on the Internet, the posters are a mixture of certifiably insane, over-the-top inflammatory, sensible, despondent, smart, idiotic, and amusing.  Apple's response so far is distinctly unimpressive and very disappointing.

Here's hoping Apple gets their act together and fixes the problem, or otherwise makes it right...

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