Random shutdowns and restarts on a MacBook Core 2 Duo

I have had a MacBook Core 2 Duo (Late 2006) since early January 2007. On February 18, I came back into my office to find it off, which was odd, because I never turn it off (I usually put it to sleep).

Later that day, while I was working on it, it shut itself down without warning (it literally clicked off instantly — no apps were shutdown and the OS did not restart properly) and then went into a fit of restarts similar to the once shown in the video below. The problem got progressively worse over the next day, until the machine was unusable.

This (or something very like it) was an acknowledged problem with the original MacBook, and has become known as "Random Shutdown Syndrome". Apple released a Firmware Update which purported to fix the problem. This update is not recommended for new (Late 2006, Core 2 Duo) MacBooks. According to the Macintouch Reliability Survey the C2D MacBooks do not exhibit this problem, but this MacBook would seem to disprove that theory.

To Apple's credit, they admitted a fault, took the unit in for repair, and replaced the logic board. I was without the machine for two weeks. (See below for the full story.)

Video

This video begins a few seconds after a random shutdown, and shows the fit of unsuccessful reboots the MacBook goes through. If it's not obvious what's going on, turn your sound up. The click is the power cutting, the whirr is the optical drive resetting (this happens before the each boot), and the chime is the Mac startup sound (there are about a dozen of these in the two minutes shown). Eventually I gave up and closed the lid, waited a few minutes, then restarted successfully.

Questions

Does the MacBook have any extras?
Yes. It has 2GB of Apple-installed RAM and a 200GB Apple-installed HDD.
Are the shutdowns connected with any particular use of the MacBook?
Probably not. It's difficult to say definitively because statistics are small, but it seems that they happen at random and are not connected with any particular activity or to high CPU usage or temperature. Having said that, it does seem to happen more when the machine is in use (for web, iTunes, etc.) than when I leave it alone. Note I said "happen more", not "only happen"!
Have you checked the RAM?
Yes. I've taken it out and reseated it to check it is secure (no change), and run a hardware check on it using Techtool Pro (passed).
You have backed up, haven't you?
Yes!
What now?

2007.02.19: I contacted Applecare UK to establish a case ID.

They asked if I had applied all the Software Updates (I have, and the SMC Firmware Update which purports to solve this issue on the original MacBook will not apply on this machine), and had me reset the PRAM and the SMC. I agreed to see how I get on for a day or two having done this.

2007.02.20: Resetting the SMC and PRAM didn't help (random restarts 2007.12.19) so called Apple again to request repair/replacement/refund.

They confirmed it needed to come in for repair/replacement. However, they would not collect the MacBook and insisted I bring it in to an Apple Authorised Service Provider. I am in Oxford. The nearest are in Swindon and High Wycombe, which would require at least half a day off work. I therefore requested a refund under the Sales of Goods Act, which states that a customer is entitled to a refund or replacement (at their discretion) if the goods are "not fit for purpose". I was transferred from Applecare to Customer Relations, who promised to call later that day after researching the "background".

They called back and offered to pay to have the MacBook collected from my home, shipped to an AASP, and shipped back to me. I accepted. It is regrettable that Apple UK require their customers to display knowledge of UK consumer law before they spend a rounding error in their hourly turnover on collecting a notebook. (I was told that they are happy to collect desktop machines.)

2007.02.22: Collected by courier for delivery to Amsys (an Apple Authorised Service Provider).

2007.02.28: Amsys were able to recreate the fault (2007.02.23) and replaced the logic board (which was the standard fix for this problem on the original MacBook). They're currently doing final stress testing, and the MacBook will be shipped back to me before the end of the week. Replacing the logic board has a whiff of "we don't really know what the problem is, so let's replace everything", but I live in hope.

2007.03.06: The MacBook was returned by courier. I haven't had time to use it much since then, but it seems to be OK. It's certainly not in the lamentable state it was when it left me. Full report to follow.

2007.03.18: After nearly two weeks of near constant use, the problem has yet to recur. I can only assume the logic board was indeed the faulty part. A nice man from Apple called me the day after it was returned to ask me to call him directly if I had further trouble. Score.

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Info

Contact mike@pentangle.net or find out more about me.

Last updated 2007.03.18 (case closed?).