Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2011 MacBook Pro Fiasco

My first modern-era Mac was a 2007 17" MacBook Pro.  (In the 1990's I owned a Mac something-or-other which I inherited at the demise of Exponential Technology).  It ran Leopard, and came with the safety net of bootcamp.  As an engineer I was a big UNIX guy (real UNIX. Not this new-fangled Linux stuff), and I had been very interested in acquiring a Mac because I understood that it's NeXT roots would give me reasonable comfort via the Terminal and related utilities.  And I had reached the point where I was tired of my family's plasticky Windows notebooks needing to be constantly regedit'd, OS reinstalled, rolled back, or replaced for broken bits and doodads.

I loved my 2007 MBP, right up until the screen started acting all crazy and I couldn't get it to boot anymore.  I fell victim to the great 2007/2008 MBP GPU screw-up.  Apple fixed it under AppleCare and/or their special repair program addressed to this situation (either would have worked), and I kept using the machine up until 2011 when bulging batteries and slow performance convinced me it was time to move on.

In 2011 I purchased an "early-2011" MBP 17".

At least as far as choosing which MBP's to purchase, I apparently have the worst luck.

About a year and a half into my ownership, the machine died with the same symptoms as my 2007 MBP.  Apple replaced the motherboard under AppleCare (twice - the first time they gave me a slower CPU than the one I gave them, and luckily I noticed).   At the time they told me it otherwise would have cost me $800 to repair.   Then, again, 37 months into ownership, it died again.  Apple again replaced the motherboard for free, because my AppleCare had ended only a month earlier.  This time a paid repair would have cost $310.

Now it's five months later, and it's dying again.

It always starts the same way - some graphics glitches, sometimes rendering the machine unusable and forcing a restart.  Over time, the frequency of these problems increases - happened twice to me yesterday.   It gets exponentially worse, until the machine simply can't be started.

Although I have my 2013 MacBook Air as backup, I decided to just go ahead and order a new 2014 retina MacBook Pro as a replacement.  I can use my wife's education discount and if I order my today I get a $100 Apple gift card.  I'm hoping it arrives while the old machine still works, to simplify transfer of the system (via Migration Assistant) to the new machine.

In the mean time, I'm using gfxcardstatus to lock the machine into "integrated graphics mode" in the hopes that this will prolong it's life a bit.  

When the new machine arrives, I'll have to install Yosemite and then use migration assistant to copy everything over.  I'll also de-authorize the old machine as an iTunes machine (I always forget to do that).  I'll review the new machine and compare performance and usability to the old - is the 15" rMBP with scaling set to maximum a decent alternative to the old 17" for those of us who need lots of screen real estate?

Then I'll go fight with Apple about getting the old machine fixed (again) or replaced (unlikely).  I suspect they'll fix it for free if I'm polite, point out this is the third failure, and am persistent.  But it's about time for Apple to acknowledge that this is a design flaw and do the right thing.  These machines are still very fast and should have a lifespan longer than three years, especially given the premium price Apple charges.  

If I get the machine fixed, it will likely sit in a closet - can't rely on it to replace the 2009 MBP 15" I use as an iTunes/Apple TV server.  If they replace it, I'll probably use the replacement to replace the server.

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