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Apple Desktops Discussion of Apple's desktop machines including Mac Pro, iMac, Power Mac, and mini

Possible IMAC HD/RAM/logic board failure-help please!


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rws762

 
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I have a mid-2007 iMac that had a hd replaced under warranty when it was about 2 1/2 yrs old. Now the same mac is crashing (meaning random terminal beach ball, which can only be fixed by powering off with the power switch) with increasing frequency, sometimes only running OK for a few min. tops. I re-formatted the HD, reinstalled Snow Leopard, and did a Time Machine restore (running Snow Leopard up to date). It ran fine for about 2 days then the problem popped up again. Apple Hardware test checks OK, and verify disk checks OK. Could this still be a failing HD, bad RAM, or what? Any suggestions on the guilty culprit? There are no sounds inside the unit except maybe normal HD sounds. I have ran the SMART utility and the HD checks OK, Rember tests the RAM OK, I have booted in safe mode to clear caches, I have reset PRAM several times, all with varying degrees of success, sometimes fixing it for a day then back to CRAP! I am ready to tear out what little hair I have left. Could this be a symptom of a bad logic board? Please don't let me down, I've been such an Apple fan since I switched in 2007. Thanks.
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pigoo3

 
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How much ram do you have?

It would also help if you broke up your post a bit...there are a lot of details there!

- Nick

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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rws762

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pigoo3 View Post
How much ram do you have?

It would also help if you broke up your post a bit...there are a lot of details there!

- Nick
4 gigs, never had a problem before, I haven't added any new programs, and when this happens I'm not doing much more than checking e-mail, when I do look at activity monitor it shows 3G or more free. Sorry I threw a lot into my initial post, just trying to mention all I have tried. Since Apple Hardware test checks OK, and Rember and the SMART HD utility both show OK, could this be a sign of a failing logic board, and is this the same as motherboard in PC talk?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rws762 View Post
4 gigs, never had a problem before, I haven't added any new programs, and when this happens I'm not doing much more than checking e-mail, when I do look at activity monitor it shows 3G or more free. Sorry I threw a lot into my initial post, just trying to mention all I have tried. Since Apple Hardware test checks OK, and Rember and the SMART HD utility both show OK, could this be a sign of a failing logic board, and is this the same as motherboard in PC talk?
What size HD do you have...and how much free space is there?

When was the last time you repaired Disk Permissions?

- Nick

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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rws762

 
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There is approx. 100G free on a 320G HD, and I just repaired permissions, this seems to fix things for a day or so, then hello beach ball! I'm at my wits end.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rws762 View Post
There is approx. 100G free on a 320G HD, and I just repaired permissions, this seems to fix things for a day or so, then hello beach ball! I'm at my wits end.
You need to keep an eye on the statistics in "Activity Monitor"...especially the "Page-Outs" and "Swap Used". When these get too big...you can start getting a lot of "Beach Balls".

Depending on how you use your computer...you may need to restart the computer more often...since restarting the computer will wipe these values to zero.

A ram upgrade can help. With a mid-2007 iMac...Apple says max ram is 4gig...but it can actually be upgraded to 6gig. But honestly...if you just spend the 5 minutes needed every couple days to restart the computer...you would probably be fine with the current 4gig of ram.

- Nick

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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rws762

 
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at this point I'm willing to try anything. Last week I did a complete erase and reinstall of Snow Leopard followed by a complete Time Machine restore; this seemed to get rid of problems for a day. Last night I simply reinstalled Snow Leopard over top of the existing install upon advice of someone else, this helped a few hours or maybe it was a coincidence. This problem has been developing over the last month and a half, it started out only freezing once a day, now it's intolerable. I do have a complete Time Machine backup as well as a Carbonite backup. Would it make any difference if I just reinstalled Snow Leopard after erasing the HD, then installing only the apps I want, then finally restoring only my user files/documents? All the hardware tests I have ran say my HW is OK, would taking it in to an authorized repair shop show anything different?
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Are you by any chance running MacKeeper or any AntiVirus Applications?
Both are known to cause problems.

For that matter, what APPs are you running?

I've always wanted to be smart, handsome and modest. But, I guess I'll have to be satisfied with two out of three . . .
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rws762 View Post
at this point I'm willing to try anything. Last week I did a complete erase and reinstall of Snow Leopard followed by a complete Time Machine restore; this seemed to get rid of problems for a day. Last night I simply reinstalled Snow Leopard over top of the existing install upon advice of someone else, this helped a few hours or maybe it was a coincidence. This problem has been developing over the last month and a half, it started out only freezing once a day, now it's intolerable. I do have a complete Time Machine backup as well as a Carbonite backup. Would it make any difference if I just reinstalled Snow Leopard after erasing the HD, then installing only the apps I want, then finally restoring only my user files/documents? All the hardware tests I have ran say my HW is OK, would taking it in to an authorized repair shop show anything different?
See post #6 in this thread.

- Nick

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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BSD Meister

 
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I would do as the previous poster suggested as well, but considering how little you seem to be running the system, I doubt that would be a problem.

Typically problems of this nature are often caused by a hard drive in the process of developing problems, a fault in the cabling to the hard drive, or an intermittent cracked trace (bad logic board).

There are only two tools that I know of that can address this properly. One is Apple's Hardware Test for system diagnositics run in a continuous mode to check the RAM and CPU, and the other is to use Scannerz to analyze the hard drive for developing problems with the drive and detect intermittent faults in the path between the drive and the logic board. Apple's Hardware Test should be on one of your OS disks and is available on the web, and you can obtain Scannerz from:

Home

With luck, you won't need Scannerz, and it will turn out to be something like a bad RAM chip or something trivial and easily fixable. With bad luck you'll get erratic readings during prolonged read/writes of the CPU/memory test which typically implies that a crack has developed on the logic board and it's making intermittent contact.

If it passes Apple's Hardware tests for memory and CPU, I'd move on to Scannerz. I would avoid generic tools like TechTools Pro or Drive Genius because they run generic tests on a hard drive, whereas Scannerz monitors hard drive timing and data rates and indicates oddities in time as irregularities. Unless a drive has blatant errors, TechTools Pro, Drive Genius, and even Apple's Hardware Test will miss these.

The good things about Scannerz are as follows:

a) If your in the US they offer tech support for their product and can assist you.
b) It can detect faults in the path from the logic board to the drive.
c) It includes FSE-Lite which can identify a process that's a disk hog (another source of spinning beach balls)
d) They have a free demo download of it available, but it's pretty thoroughly castrated unless your primary HD is 10G or less in size (unlikely for anyone these days) Maybe you'll luck out and find a problem within the 1st 10G though?
e) It supposedly (note that word: SUPPOSEDLY) has some support for SSDs. This is unconfirmed by me.

The bad things about Scannerz are as follows:

a) It costs money (but it's still a lot cheaper than Apple if you need them to troubleshoot something)
b) To get detailed tech support (advanced support?) you have to set up an appointment.
c) Unless you're fairly well hardware versed, some of the things they describe in their manual are likely over the head of non-technical people.
d) Probing a unit for cracked traces, bad cables, etc. usually requires opening the unit up.
e) It's manual is huge and the interface isn't terribly good looking (no razzle-dazzle, if that's REALLY important to you)

If you're lucky it will be something stupid like a bad RAM chip, an improperly seated RAM chip (worth checking), a failing hard drive (they're cheap these days), or a poorly seated cable to the HD (you did have it replaced once, right?) If you're unlucky it will be a failing logic board chip, a cracked trace somewhere in the logic board, or a system where some of Apple's overseas assemblers decided to save money by "improvising" their own cost saving measures by using inferior quality parts - Don't even get me started on that one!

Good Luck!
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rws762

 
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I thought I had my problem fixed yesterday; I installed Snow Leopard totally clean, then iLife 09, Office 08, Photoshop Elements & Firefox. All appeared to be fine, then I did a Time Machine restore of my prev. system to a separate user folder. After this I started getting the old familiar beach balls. I'm presently running the Apple hardware test in extended mode to check out the RAM/CPU, after that if all checks OK it's off to Micro Center, they charge $69 to diagnose problems, if it turns out to be a bad HD I'll replace it myself, I've put together enough PCs and all I'll need will be an extra pair of hands around the house & those are free. This problem has been developing over the last month or so, at first going a day between a major freeze, now you rarely get 15 min. Does this sound like a bad HD?? Just like to know if I'm headed in the right direction, thanks.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rws762 View Post
I'm presently running the Apple hardware test in extended mode to check out the RAM/CPU, after that if all checks OK it's off to Micro Center, they charge $69 to diagnose problems, if it turns out to be a bad HD I'll replace it myself, I've put together enough PCs and all I'll need will be an extra pair of hands around the house & those are free.
Personally I wouldn't waste my money having Micro Center doing any diagnosis. They probably know next to nothing about Macintosh computers...so you'll just be wasting $69 bucks.

Look at it this way. The HD is pretty much the only thing you can replace. If you replace the HD:

- and everything works...then you're good.
- if not...then it wasn't the HD (and return the HD)

The only other thing you can test/replace is the ram. If you have more than 1 stick of ram in the computer...then you can pull 1 stick (leave the other one in)...and test the computer with 1 stick of ram. Then do the opposite with the other stick (I'm betting it's the HD though).

Quote:
Originally Posted by rws762 View Post
Does this sound like a bad HD?? Just like to know if I'm headed in the right direction, thanks.
If you tried some of the things I posted earlier (and that didn't help)...then yes...it sounds like a bad HD to me.

- Nick

p.s. If it's neither the HD or the ram...then you have MUCH bigger problem...and if so...then it's time for a new computer!

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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rws762

 
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I just finished the extended apple HW test, it took > 1 hr, and it said all was OK. I guess I'm off to the store to get a new HD, the HD inside is a hitachi 320G 7200rpm SATA, any brands better? It is a mid-2007 Intel iMac The only reason I was going to micro center is that they replaced my 1st bad hd under warranty about 3 yrs ago (couldn't even see the apple on the machine then). I guess with macs you boot from the OS X disc and format the drive from there, right? Thank you for all your help, if this doesn't work it's new mac time again.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rws762 View Post
I guess I'm off to the store to get a new HD, the HD inside is a hitachi 320G 7200rpm SATA, any brands better?
I would just go with what's the least expensive...you could go with a 5400 or 7200rpm drive (of course 7200 would be faster). Any of the major brands (Hitachi, Western Digital, Seagate, etc.).

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It is a mid-2007 Intel iMac The only reason I was going to micro center is that they replaced my 1st bad hd under warranty about 3 yrs ago (couldn't even see the apple on the machine then).
Hey...if we're talking warranty coverage...and there was no nearby Apple Store...I would go to Micro Center as well. But if we're talking no warranty (which we are) I don't want to "train" non-Mac familiar Micro Center employees on my Mac's!

Quote:
Originally Posted by rws762 View Post
I guess with macs you boot from the OS X disc and format the drive from there, right?
You got it!

- install the drive
- boot from the OS disk
- format the drive (Mac OS extended-journaled)
- install the OS

Good luck...hopefully the new HD does the job!

- Nick

- Computer slow, too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
- Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some speedup tips: Speedup
- Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
- Apple Battery Info. Battery
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BSD Meister

 
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I don't know if I'd toss the iMac out just because you have a problem. There are other options:

1. Try to troubleshoot the SATA cable and make sure it doesn't have an intermittent connection or a break in it.

2. If there's a cracked trace on the logic board somewhere between the I/O controller and the SATA interface connector cable, the unit could still likely be used with the drive in an external housing (FireWire).

You would need to confirm either of those (if they happen at all after you install the new drive).

One thing that caught my eye was that you did a Time Machine backup and after restoring it you started getting the spinning beach balls. This makes me wonder if the file systems indexing isn't corrupted. The first few Megabytes of the HD store what amounts to a little "database" (B-Tree) that tells the system where to go to find files on the drive. For example, if you want to open a file, the files contents may be spread over several logical blocks on the hard drive. It's sort of like the CPU is going and asking this "database" where all the blocks that make up the file are, and in what order they are to be read. If the indices are screwed up, what would happen would be that the initial files would open and then start pointing at data that likely wouldn't make sense to the system when an application is run.

If you still have problems after installing the new HD, then you might want to run verify, repair disk permissions, and repair disk on your Time Machine drive. That can usually solve indexing problems, but if it doesn't then you'll need a tool called "Disk Warrior" available at the following site:

DiskWarrior 4 - The Disk Utility for Mac Disk Repair, Mac Directory Repair, Mac Disk Recovery, Mac Data Recovery

This, of course, is a lot of "what if's?" Your problem may already be fixed for all I know.

By the way, I am NOT the regional sales rep for DiskWarrior and Scannerz.
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