Tales of Woe – Macbook Edition

In January 2008, I stumbled across my first Macbook quite by accident. A friend of mine who lived on the same dormitory hall as me had two Macbooks: one completely shot and the other working fine. Why? Well that’s the beginning of my tale of woe. Since I wasn’t there for this entire story, I’ll give a brief summary of what I was only told then begin telling my part of the tale.

My friend had purchased an early 2006 Macbook for college. Towards the end of his freshman year, it was stolen and then dumped in some bushes. Before it could be recovered, it rained and the computer was heavily damaged. The thief was then required to pay my friend so that he could buy a new Macbook. He finally received the money and purchased a new Macbook before the beginning of my freshman year. Unfortunately, the original one was still out of service. When I transferred into Covenant College in the spring of 2008, he asked me if I could take a look at it.

When I first got my hands on it, it was quite filthy. The biggest evidence of damage was the huge swelled up battery. Logically, I removed it and powered it up via the AC adapter. To my surprise, it actually turned on. However, it quickly gave me the “No OS found” symbol. I concluded that the hard drive was shot since I couldn’t hear it powering on. I tried to check it with the install discs, but then I found out that the DVD drive was also shot. I gave it back to my friend since there really wasn’t anything I could do for it. After a month or two of it sitting around, my HP dv6000z notebook decided to take itself out of service. I asked him if I was able to fix the Macbook, could I have it? to which he complied. Even though I had little experience with Macs, I had (correctly) concluded that the only issues with the Macbook were the battery and hard drive. While the DVD drive was broken, it wasn’t vital and I figured that I could survive without it. A quick eBay search yielded a 100GB HDD and a brand new battery, each only $60. The hard drive showed up first, so I put it in the working Macbook and installed OS X 10.4. Installing it into the damaged Macbook and crossed my fingers… Success! It booted up on the first try. With the exception of the DVD drive and the battery, everything worked perfectly. A few days later, the battery showed up and I now had a working Macbook for only $120.

The little trooper worked perfectly fine for the rest of the semester and into the beginning of summer, but then I started to experience some issues with the RAM in June of 2008. I was working as a counselor at Ridge Haven in Brevard, NC, so I didn’t have much time during the week to deal with it. During the weekend though, I was able to at least get it running by removing the right-most module – my conclusion was that the RAM socket was bad. Shortly after, I was completely unable to boot it up. It sat around for a few more weeks until I finally discovered that in the process of diagnosing the RAM issue, I had removed the hard drive and accidentally wedged one of the rubber slides between the hard drive and the SATA connector. Once I managed to get it out, she worked fine. About a week after that, I stepped on it in the middle of the night and cracked the lower half of the LCD. It was a small crack, so the screen was still usable. But then a week or so after that, it got shot by an Airsoft pellet, placing a nice crack all the way across the middle of the screen. Still, I was able to use it and once I got my paycheck from the camp, bought a new LCD screen and DVD drive, finally bringing it up to standards. This time, it managed to last me for almost an entire year.

In April of 2009, I noticed that when I would open the screen, it would flicker a little bit. After a few weeks of this, the entire screen went out. After several days of exhausting diagnosis, I concluded that the backlight inverter was shot. I tried replacing it with one from a borrowed Macbook, but it still wouldn’t work. My final conclusion was that the connection on the logic board was shot. Thankfully, I was still able to use it with an external monitor. I dug my old HP notebook out and managed to get it up and working, so I used this as my temporary computer. During my diagnosis of it, I accidentally tore the ribbon cable connecting the top case and the logic board. I still thought I would be able to fix the computer, so I bought a new trackpad/keyboard and installed it. Unfortunately, I slowly came to the conclusion that I would be unable to bring it back to life.

In August, I received a $1000 scholarship from ChickFilA due to my three years of hard work and used it to buy a new Macbook. They had just released the unibody Macbooks, but I was such a fan of the original white model (and its price) that I opted for it instead. I also knew that Macs were slowly becoming a status symbol and the unibody ones would become commonplace, so I wanted to set myself apart by sticking with the older white model. It arrived about three weeks before school started and I was able to enjoy it for a few weeks and set it all up before school picked back up.

MediaCenterMacInternals The new one is what I’m typing on right now and it’s still ticking, nearly a year after its purchase. In May of 2010, I decided to make use of the broken Macbook that I just had sitting around. I hooked it all back up and found that it was actually still working, with the exception of the screen. I had sold both the hard drive and DVD drive as spare parts to a friend, but I had a 120GB HDD left over from my HP notebook so I used my current Macbook to install OS X 10.6 on it and managed to get it up and running. I ran into lots of problems, but I’ll reserve those for another future article. In short, the bottom half of the computer now functions as a media center. I have it hooked up to an external 1TB Western Digital MyBook and to my Ethernet network, making it quite versatile at streaming Netflix and Hulu videos to my 27″ Sanyo HDTV. So technically, I was able to bring that old Macbook back to life. To the right is an image of the barebones setup I have running.

That’s the end of my tale of woe concerning Macbooks, although my new one has functioned perfectly… so I guess it’s just a tale of woe about one Macbook. Regardless, I hope this story goes to show that Macbooks are tough and can last through just about anything. With any luck, my current Macbook will last me until the hardware becomes outdated and I’ll have to upgrade to stay abreast of the technology world.


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