Monday, February 16, 2009

MacBook Pro and the slow-motion beachball of death crash


I've been using 15" Mac laptops since about 2002 and I love them dearly. As general purpose computing platforms for all of the various things I have to do (coding, presentations, communications, etc) they are by far the best blend of power and functionality I've ever had. Having said that, I've been pulling my hair out lately because my latest machine, a ~1 year old 2.4GHz machine with 4GB of RAM and a hand upgraded hard drive, has been crashing.

Generally what's happening is the machine will operate fine for some period of time, several hours to several days. At some point I'll have 2-7 apps open and one of them, usually Firefox, will beachball. When this happens I can switch away to another app but then within 30 seconds or so that app will go down, then the menu bar becomes unresponsive, I can't launch any new apps and that's all she wrote. It's reboot time.

This has been going on for about a month now and I've tried a variety of solutions in terms of running repairs and all that jazz with no luck. At this point I'm ready to throw in the towel. In addition to being a machine that I write code on this is also a machine that I use to do presentations in front of rooms full of people. A lockup during a presentation would be an unacceptable embarrassment so tomorrow I'll be taking this machine back to Sourcefire IT and getting a new MBP. Hopefully they can figure out what the problem is or send it to Apple and let them fix it.

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14 Comments:

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Joel Esler said...

I know you tried to repair permissions on it right?

 
At 10:38 PM, Blogger Martin Roesch said...

Yeah, several times. Permission errors shouldn't result in loss of system anyway. I have several other machines in very similar configs that don't do this "trick"...

 
At 11:52 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

One trick that helped me with a similar problem was using MenuMeters so I can at-a-glance tell if a delay is caused by CPU, drive reads, drive writes, etc. Comes in handy.

 
At 5:21 AM, Blogger Donal said...

Onyx your machine every so often.
My FF get's grumpy too.
You don't happen to still be on Tiger too are you? :)

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Martin Roesch said...

Nope, everything up to date, 10.5.6, big machine with lots of RAM and 50GB free on the disk.

 
At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you tried swapping out the RAM? If the problem is that repetitive and systemic in that it crashes everything, it could be faulty RAM.

I don't know if you use plug-ins for Firefox, but that could be aggravating the issue? Maybe the plug-ins conflict or one has a memory leak in it and then causes Firefox to completely crash.

I would start up Firefox in some sort of safe mode without any plugins and see where that takes you.

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger perandre said...

Same thing here! My system was behaving for a long time, but for the past few months, I've gotten the beach ball almost everyday. I have to force quit, and it feels baaad...

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger Martin Roesch said...

I ended up punting and got a new one from IT, they'll take the semifunctional machine back and figure it out. I'll update if I find out what the problem was.

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger twi said...

I had a friend with almost identical symptoms. He took it to Apple, and they came back with it was a heat issue.

When the processor reached certain temps the (seemingly) random lockups started.

Not saying this is your problem, but maybe keep an eye on the CPU core temp and see if there is any relation.

I'd be interested to know if it's a common theme on MBPs, since i have one on order :)

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Jon said...

I got a new Macbook Pro with 4GB ram and upgraded HD too, similar problem. Firefox will be loading a page, and then all programs will freeze for a few seconds (10-30) and the start up again like nothing happened.

There's no good solution online to this problem. It's incredibly frustrating.

 
At 1:48 AM, Blogger phantacc said...

You are not alone. There are multiple threads about this topic effecting all MacBook Pro users with the EFI 1.7 firmware. 13" and 15" users can take their machines in to have the fireware downgraded. 17" are basically toast because their machines shipped with 1.7. Apple is completely silent on the issue to date.

Navigate to: Apple.com > Support > Discussions > MacBook Pro (Late 2008 and 2009) > Using your MacBook Pro (Late 2008 and 2009) to see multiple 1,000 post long threads on the issue.

 
At 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had this exact same problem with my MBP 15. Aple told me it could be a heat issue as well. Luckily it was still under its 3 year warranty and they replaced the hard drive with a new one within 24
hours. The only downfall about this is that now I have to restore all my settings, docs and apps as my MBP has gone back to all its factory settings. Very frustrating this "beachball of death"

 
At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jumped in a bit late... but I see a pattern here: Firefox running in MBP. Well, my own MBP, loaded with all junkie stuff you can imagine, used to run for almost one year without a glitch. I'm mostly using SeaMonkey, and occasionally Safari: my first trials on Firefox were unsatisfactory. Recently I installed the last Firefox, and, guess it, for the first time I've got the "beachball of death crash". Coincidence? I'll try to stay away from Firefox for a while! - fab

 
At 3:00 AM, Blogger DeriK said...

I want to thank you for this post. This information was very helpful.Please keep up the good work and I look forward to more of your great posts!tekken

 

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