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My geek thread

Old 08-16-16, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Flatballer
So I have a laptop that needs to go back to get worked on (video card mechanical issue I think). It came with a magnetic disc only. I installed an SSD, moved Windows to it, and use the magnetic disk as my storage, with no OS on it.

I need to remove the SSD to send the laptop back. I've done a full system backup to an external drive, backed up my data drive to both my SSD and an external drive. What's the easiest way to get a clean Windows 10 install on my magnetic drive so they have a working laptop to fix? Obviously I need to format it. Should I just clone my C: Drive to my data drive and call it good?

Thanks.
That's what I would do.

I've used Clonezilla (it's free but awkward) and Acronis true image (not free but easier) several times on work computers and it's been fine.
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Old 08-16-16, 06:09 PM
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If you're running a pro version of Windows (7 or later,) what I would do is just make a system image of both drives if you haven't already; there are quite a few third-party disk cloning programs to choose from. Once you've secured your latest system image, all you need to do is format both disks and send it in. Let them worry about installing a system to work with; you're going to be reformatting the thing again to reinstall your system image anyway.
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Old 08-17-16, 04:04 AM
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Thanks guys. I did a little from column A, little from column B. I just took out the SSD and called it a day. They can deal with the computer not booting. Should be obvious what I did.
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Old 08-17-16, 04:07 AM
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Please tell me you didn't leave your other disk with all your private data in there!!
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Old 08-17-16, 06:14 AM
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There isn't really anything interesting on it. Mostly just game files and stuff. And I can basically guarantee as soon as they try to boot it and it doesn't boot, they'll just use a recovery usb, format it, and install Windows. I doubt they're in the business of poking around on people's drives, especially ones that don't boot.

Yes, I probably should've formatted it, but I couldn't get it to format (saying it was in use) and I didn't have a lot of patience or time to deal with it.
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Old 08-19-16, 10:20 AM
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Maybe some of you Mac nerds here will have some thoughts on this issue. Or maybe it'll just make for amusing story, I dunno.

Anyway, I have a mid-2009 13" MacBook Pro. I bought it at the beginning of January, 2010, so it's been serving me well for a pretty long while. About a week ago, it started running really slowly and spinning the fans all the time. After hunting around, I was able to use Activity Monitor that a system-owned process called kernel_task was sucking up about 180% of the CPU capacity. It wasn't really clear why. Long story short, I decided to do a clean install of OS X and see if that fixed the issue. I'd been upgrading in place over the same install since the computer was new, so it didn't seem like a crazy idea.

Unfortunately, though at first I thought the issue had been mitigated or fixed, it turned out my Activity Monitor viewing preferences had just changed, and kernel_task was still there, eating CPU cycles. So I started thinking about a new laptop. It's been over six years, after all. But I figured this morning I should take one more shot at fixing it and see if I could wait a little longer before purchasing a replacement. I can do it if necessary, but that's a really major expense for me and it would great to avoid it. That's why I haven't replaced it yet to begin with.

So I was messing around and planning to try another clean install when I did some more Googling and finally came up with some info on what the heck is going on with kernel_task. Turns out, it's sort of a generic name for all kinds of things the kernel might be doing, but the reason for it shooting to the top of the CPU activity list is because of a heat management behavior built into the OS. Basically, if the temperature is getting too high and normal processes like running the fan aren't doing a good enough job to cool it off, the kernel will start asking the CPU for time to do lots of really low-overhead tasks, like fetching the clock time, over and over again. Because the kernel gets priority over the user, this sucks all those CPU cycles away from user land, which throttles any heat-generating processes the user might be trying to run. Because things like fetching the clock data aren't power intensive, the heat load should decline. Under normal circumstances the temperature would stabilize and go down, and eventually the kernel would surrender those resources to the user again. But my computer isn't doing that. This also explains the only fix I've really seen for this problem, which involves removing a system profile buried deep in the system library. Turns out that profile is what the tells the system how to invoke this process. Which makes removing that profile a little crazy, because it's getting rid of a safety net.

Anyway I figured I should get an idea of exactly what my CPU temperature really was, so I quickly downloaded a utility that would tell me. And to my surprise, it said the temperature was -128 degrees. That didn't make sense, but I thought about it and I think that means the temperature sensor has died or is otherwise faulty. -128 is what you would expect to see in that case, right? Because I'd bet it's a 256 bit sensor centered at 0. So what I'm currently assuming is that the temperature sensor died, and the system behavior when it loses the signal or gets a bad signal is to assume the worst and go "all hands on deck" to prevent overheating.

I had to go to work, so I haven't tested that idea more fully but I think that's what's happening. I'll grab a more detailed temperature monitor utility and see if I can figure out how to do a hardware test on my laptop this evening (anyone know how to do this?). The bummer is, even if I'm right, I think I'm basically screwed. It's not like I can just get a new temperature sensor. Seems like I probably have three options:

1. New computer. I was thinking about this anyway, and I kind of want a new laptop, but I don't really want to spend the money on one. It's not a good time to be looking because the only Apple laptop it makes any sense to buy right now is the retina MacBook. Which I think is what I want, but I wouldn't mind having some alternatives to consider.
2. Get Apple to replace the motherboard. I'm way out of warranty and way out of Applecare. I've heard there's a flat rate of $300 to send the computer out to have this done. Which is a hell of a lot better than $1300-$1600 for a replacement computer, but this is a really old computer. Throwing $300 at it seems kind of absurd at this point.
3. Go ahead and delete that system profile that causes this behavior, and use a manual fan speed utility to keep the cooling fans blowing at all times and hope for the best. I'm not in love with this idea, but it would probably let me keep the computer alive for a few months while I wait for Apple to update their other laptop lines and have some more pennies saved once I have some more options to consider.

So that's a long story. Any thoughts?
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Old 08-19-16, 12:15 PM
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Refurb motherboard with a guarantee. Worth a shot.
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Old 08-19-16, 12:26 PM
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You mean if I send it off to get a refurb motherboard they'll guarantee it? Or is there some kind of secret code I need to know?
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Old 08-19-16, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Anyway I figured I should get an idea of exactly what my CPU temperature really was, so I quickly downloaded a utility that would tell me. And to my surprise, it said the temperature was -128 degrees. That didn't make sense, but I thought about it and I think that means the temperature sensor has died or is otherwise faulty. -128 is what you would expect to see in that case, right? Because I'd bet it's a 256 bit sensor centered at 0. So what I'm currently assuming is that the temperature sensor died, and the system behavior when it loses the signal or gets a bad signal is to assume the worst and go "all hands on deck" to prevent overheating.
If you're comfortabe with opening up your macbook pro, then I'd try:

- Removing the heatsink.
- Clean off the thermal paste and surfaces of the top of the CPU and the heatsink.
- If any surface is rough, optionally smooth them out with very fine grit sandpaper.
- Apply some good thermal paste.
- Put the thing back together.

This guy talks about doing the same thing with a Core 2 Duo proc which is what your macbook pro has:

CPU Temperature sensor wrong? - Super User

If its a bad temp sensor on the CPU, then do what @shovelhd says and replace the entire mainbord. Just read that the CPU is soldered directly to the board, so replacing it would be a soldering challenge. I hope you can find it for cheap. Last I shopped for a 2006 macbook pro mainboard, its was too expensive for what the laptop was worth. So I never got it for my wife's old laptop. I just ended up buying a used one to replace it.

Last edited by ptempel; 08-19-16 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 08-19-16, 01:01 PM
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I'm comfortable opening up a computer to swap RAM or a hard drive, but there's no effing way I would mess with anything on the logic board.
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Old 08-19-16, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
I'm comfortable opening up a computer to swap RAM or a hard drive, but there's no effing way I would mess with anything on the logic board.
Start planning to replace it, then. It shouldn't be too hard to open up the case and pull it apart if it hasn't changed to much since the 2006 model. I cracked it open fairly easily. And there are sites like ifixit that should have good instructions. Think of it as a "geek adventure" maybe? The problem with my wife's laptop was that the LCD screen went blank after a while. Its a known issue with the nvidia graphics chip on the mainboard. The DVI port still works. So might put it back into use by connecting it to the TV and try an older wireless mouse and keyboard on it.

Last edited by ptempel; 08-19-16 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 08-19-16, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
You mean if I send it off to get a refurb motherboard they'll guarantee it? Or is there some kind of secret code I need to know?
No, buy one with a guarantee and swap it yourself.
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Old 08-19-16, 01:45 PM
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It's easy to be blase about how it's not that hard, but there's a pretty high penalty for failure and I'm just not a computer hobbyist. I'm not going to buy thermal paste or other specialized tools (spudgers and the like) to do this myself. It's something like $325-$350 for the logic board alone, tools would cost more. And then there's the cost of my time.

From doing some research, it seems as though Apple offers a "flat-rate depot repair" if you know what to ask for, but from what I can tell this service is only available for computers built in the last 5 years. I'll have to contact them directly to find out what it would actually cost to fix this thing, but it's not looking super encouraging.

Edit:
Originally Posted by shovelhd
No, buy one with a guarantee and swap it yourself.
Oh, I see. Eh. See above. Not crazy about doing that.
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Old 08-19-16, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
You mean if I send it off to get a refurb motherboard they'll guarantee it? Or is there some kind of secret code I need to know?
If Apple works on your machine they replace everything that isn't 100%, and when I say 100%, I mean 100%. When I had my video card replaced (under warranty, there were some bad cards out there) they also:

replaced the keyboard (sticking keys)
replaced the aluminum around the keyboard (cosmetic)
replaced the back/bottom of the laptop (cosmetic)
replaced the ports on the left side which is a card of some kind (cosmetic)
replaced the touch pad (cracked)

The only thing they didn't replace on the surface was the screen.

It would have been $400 (2011 15") but due to warranty work required all work done on it was free. They also checked RAM, harddrive, etc. This was January or February of this year, when I picked up the laptop I had my dad and there was a lot of snow.

I don't know what the warranty is but jeepers. I felt like they gave me a new machine.
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Old 08-19-16, 04:11 PM
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Yeah, once I get as detailed an error code as possible I'm going to get on the phone and see what they'll quote me (I have confirmed the CPU temp sensor error with the fast hardware test, running a detailed test now). It sounds like you got something like the flat-rate depot repair they'll sometimes offer. Which sounds amazing, and under $400. BUT this computer is very old (model released 7 years ago, purchased over 6.5 years ago), and I've seen some posts on the web suggesting they might not offer this for computers over about five years old. So we'll see. It's so old, I kind of want a new computer anyway, it's just the price tag I find a little hard to swallow.
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Old 08-19-16, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Yeah, once I get as detailed an error code as possible I'm going to get on the phone and see what they'll quote me (I have confirmed the CPU temp sensor error with the fast hardware test, running a detailed test now). It sounds like you got something like the flat-rate depot repair they'll sometimes offer. Which sounds amazing, and under $400. BUT this computer is very old (model released 7 years ago, purchased over 6.5 years ago), and I've seen some posts on the web suggesting they might not offer this for computers over about five years old. So we'll see. It's so old, I kind of want a new computer anyway, it's just the price tag I find a little hard to swallow.
they'll replace the mobo for $300, flat rate? apple, directly?

honestly, i wouldn't pump the $$ in that computer without a significant guarantee. and if it is not apple, directly, then i'd beware of the 30-day type of guarantee that you see on non-apple batteries and stuff.

some software that exists for reporting temperatures of various sensors is worthless as it can depend on the model of computer you have. IOW, your finding of -128 may or may not indicate anything meaningful.
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Old 08-20-16, 06:40 AM
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it's kind of silly, but i'm thinking of replacing the video card on my PC. I've had it since 2008 (it's a core2duo with 4gb ram and a gt210 video card) and, considering how much zwifting I do, thought maybe a slightly better video card would help a little (under $100 of course), although I'm so out of the loop with PC stuff that I don't know if it really matters upgrading the gpu if the cpu would be a limiter. Objectively, my PC probably isn't worth upgrading or changing, but it just works
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Old 08-20-16, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by tetonrider
they'll replace the mobo for $300, flat rate? apple, directly?

honestly, i wouldn't pump the $$ in that computer without a significant guarantee. and if it is not apple, directly, then i'd beware of the 30-day type of guarantee that you see on non-apple batteries and stuff.

some software that exists for reporting temperatures of various sensors is worthless as it can depend on the model of computer you have. IOW, your finding of -128 may or may not indicate anything meaningful.
Maybe they will; I'm going to see if I can get them on the phone today. And I agree, I'm not sure putting any money in this computer makes sense. But as I said this computer might be too old to qualify for the depot rate.

Software-wise, I did run the Apple hardware test and there is indeed a heat sensor problem. So that's not imaginary. But I'm leaning toward just getting a new computer anyway... It's just convincing myself that I can afford the expense.
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Old 08-20-16, 12:12 PM
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Update: I called tech support today, and holy moly, they're making a special exception for me to fix the computer for free! Turns out, years of being a loyal customer does have SOME rewards . This is nice, cause even though I wouldn't have been too heartbroken to end up with a new computer, now I can save my pennies and wait another 6-12 months first, hopefully. I was pretty stressed-out about the money aspect of this.
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Old 08-20-16, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by hubcyclist
it's kind of silly, but i'm thinking of replacing the video card on my PC. I've had it since 2008 (it's a core2duo with 4gb ram and a gt210 video card) and, considering how much zwifting I do, thought maybe a slightly better video card would help a little (under $100 of course), although I'm so out of the loop with PC stuff that I don't know if it really matters upgrading the gpu if the cpu would be a limiter. Objectively, my PC probably isn't worth upgrading or changing, but it just works
This is the site I use to see where my CPU and GPU are at; its not perfect but gives and indication of how much an upgrade will do for you.

https://www.cpubenchmark.net/

When I first got into IT, I used to be completely up on this stuff, not so much these days.
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Old 08-20-16, 03:57 PM
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Grolby, nice. My limited experience with Apple is that they will give you a break one time as long as there is no sign of abuse.
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Old 08-22-16, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Update: I called tech support today, and holy moly, they're making a special exception for me to fix the computer for free! Turns out, years of being a loyal customer does have SOME rewards . This is nice, cause even though I wouldn't have been too heartbroken to end up with a new computer, now I can save my pennies and wait another 6-12 months first, hopefully. I was pretty stressed-out about the money aspect of this.
Good for you. Its good to see Apple stand behind their product once in a while. And your laptop is really not that old and is good enough for most things that you would want to do I bet.
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Old 08-22-16, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Update: I called tech support today, and holy moly, they're making a special exception for me to fix the computer for free! Turns out, years of being a loyal customer does have SOME rewards . This is nice, cause even though I wouldn't have been too heartbroken to end up with a new computer, now I can save my pennies and wait another 6-12 months first, hopefully. I was pretty stressed-out about the money aspect of this.
That's awesome.

I'm no idiot, I understand that this kind of thing can happen only if Apple is making crazy money on their products, but the fact that these kinds of things happen help justify the higher initial entry.

A guy I worked with is a teacher at a high school, one of the things he teaches is graphic design, on Macs. He is absolutely a 100% Apple fan and really the reason why I gave it a shot. His big thing is that they have incredible customer service. Again, it has to be built into the cost of doing business somehow, I understand that.
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Old 08-22-16, 09:16 AM
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Are you paying shipping? Or can you just drop it off? My Acer seems to have an issue with the video card (discrete laptop) and it cost me $55 or something for the shipping, just UPS ground. A somewhat large box plus $1100 in insurance adds up.

That's a hefty price for a warranty repair.
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Old 08-22-16, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by ptempel
Good for you. Its good to see Apple stand behind their product once in a while. And your laptop is really not that old and is good enough for most things that you would want to do I bet.
Honestly I haven't really had to deal with customer support from Apple before, apart from getting the lint cleaned out of a Lightning port, but I've never heard from anyone that their service was anything less than excellent. I have to respectfully disagree on the age of my computer, though - it is old, and it feels old. I'm not a big gamer, but I do like to play some Civ V every once in a while, and it runs pretty close to the limit of what this machine can do. And that's before I lost a bunch of CPU cycles to the system trying to protect itself. Right now my needs are pretty lightweight, but I've needed horsepower before. You never know! Age aside, the quality of this laptop has been pretty amazing. No problems with the screen or hinge, and until the thermal sensor went bad, not a single hardware issue. This is versus the Dells I had before, which were pretty awful. It helps that I'm reasonably kind to my stuff, especially in its old age.

Originally Posted by carpediemracing
That's awesome.

I'm no idiot, I understand that this kind of thing can happen only if Apple is making crazy money on their products, but the fact that these kinds of things happen help justify the higher initial entry.

A guy I worked with is a teacher at a high school, one of the things he teaches is graphic design, on Macs. He is absolutely a 100% Apple fan and really the reason why I gave it a shot. His big thing is that they have incredible customer service. Again, it has to be built into the cost of doing business somehow, I understand that.
I think even after the customer service they still have a hefty margin on the computers! Which some people think is unjust, but whatever. I was actually a Mac user for most of my childhood, but when it was time for the kids to get computers of their own, my parents got most of us PCs because the cost difference (especially back then, early 2000's) was pretty significant. But I switched back in 2009 when it was my own money, and I've had no regrets. I suppose it's true that there's no $300 laptop option from Apple, but I don't want a $300 laptop. I've gotten well over six years out of my ~$1300 computer so far, so I don't mind the cost. It amortizes pretty well when you can get that kind of lifespan out of them.
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