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Apple Notebooks Apple's notebook computers including MacBook Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air, PowerBook, and iBook.

MacBook - Laptop acting a little funny ever since arriving in Europe from US..


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amandagr

 
Member Since: Oct 06, 2009
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I have a 13" white Macbook, I bought it in late 2006. I made the mistake of leaving it plugged in almost always for the first 2 years, and I think I've permanently damaged the battery from that. The battery will usually last about 2 hours once disconnected from the power source. I did take it to the Apple store, and they did a diagnostic test and the battery appeared to be functioning normally.

About a month ago, I relocated to France and I'll be here for a year. I've heard horror stories of other people having difficulties with their laptops once abroad, specifically having their "hard drive fried" from the difference in voltage (obviously they used the necessary converters but still, their laptops stopped working after a couple of months).

I'm desperate to avoid this from happening, because there's no way I can afford to replace my Macbook right now. Lately, my computer will run perfectly fine until the red battery indicator turns on. Then, I will receive a warning to plug my computer in. Shortly thereafter, sometimes literally seconds later, the computer shuts itself off. Sometimes I don't even get a warning - it will just shut itself off when the battery begins to run low. I know this is really bad for the hard drive, so I'm curious if anyone knows why this is happening? What can I do to prevent this from happening? Aside from the obvious, which is plugging it in once the battery looks low.

Furthermore, one night the battery was about 3/4 charged and I left the computer "awake" figuring that it would go to sleep in 5 minutes and then in the morning I could just press any key and it would "wake up". The next morning, the computer was off. At some point then, it must have run out of battery power and turned itself off?? This doesn't make sense though, because if it was hibernating then it should have had enough power to last through 7 hours.

Has anyone had similar experiences with their Macbooks abroad? Any advice?

Thanks so much!
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technologist

 
Member Since: Mar 30, 2004
Location: USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amandagr View Post
I have a 13" white Macbook, I bought it in late 2006. I made the mistake of leaving it plugged in almost always for the first 2 years, and I think I've permanently damaged the battery from that. The battery will usually last about 2 hours once disconnected from the power source. I did take it to the Apple store, and they did a diagnostic test and the battery appeared to be functioning normally.
Your battery is three years old, and it still holds a little bit of a charge. That's fantastic. Apple even agreed that it works pretty well. No issues there.

Quote:
About a month ago, I relocated to France and I'll be here for a year. I've heard horror stories of other people having difficulties with their laptops once abroad, specifically having their "hard drive fried" from the difference in voltage (obviously they used the necessary converters but still, their laptops stopped working after a couple of months).
That's not the way it works. Hard disks work on low-voltage DC. Whether you're in the USA, Europe, or Asia, your computer has to step the wall current down.

People use the same HDs in Europe that they do here. There's no such thing as an "American voltage" HD or a "European voltage" HD. Your HD is getting fed low-voltage, stepped-down current no matter what.

If your friends' hard disks died, then they just died. The voltage has nothing to do with it; all HDs die eventually.

Quote:
Lately, my computer will run perfectly fine until the red battery indicator turns on. Then, I will receive a warning to plug my computer in. Shortly thereafter, sometimes literally seconds later, the computer shuts itself off. Sometimes I don't even get a warning - it will just shut itself off when the battery begins to run low. I know this is really bad for the hard drive, so I'm curious if anyone knows why this is happening? What can I do to prevent this from happening? Aside from the obvious, which is plugging it in once the battery looks low.
Your battery is three years old. It's probably losing capacity faster than it can be calibrated to adjust for the lost capacity. In simple terms, it doesn't know how much charge it has left anymore. It's not long for this world, and will soon be headed to Battery Heaven after a long and productive life.

Quote:
Furthermore, one night the battery was about 3/4 charged and I left the computer "awake" figuring that it would go to sleep in 5 minutes and then in the morning I could just press any key and it would "wake up". The next morning, the computer was off. At some point then, it must have run out of battery power and turned itself off?? This doesn't make sense though, because if it was hibernating then it should have had enough power to last through 7 hours.
That's a little odd, but it's probably losing capacity faster than it can adjust for. Yesterday's "3/4" might be today's "1/2" or even "1/3." When your battery is this old, the fuel gauge becomes less meaningful.

All in all, I'd say that your battery has earned a good long rest, and that you'll soon be out $130 or so.
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cwa107

 
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Great post, technologist.

I'd just like to add that batteries are consumables - much like the oil in your engine, it will eventually be spent, regardless of how you use your vehicle. Leaving the machine plugged in all the time has little net effect on the overall life of your battery in my experience.

Not sure if this is your first portable computer, but if it is, know this - if you intend to use a portable on battery power on a regular basis, you might as well get used to having to replace the battery on occasion. Typically after about 18-24 months of regular use, the battery will be at about 50% of its original capacity.

It's a little different with Apple's current crop of notebooks, which use a different chemical technology to extend the overall lifespan of the battery. But with a typical Lithium Ion battery like yours, 3 years is a very good service life. I'd suggest picking up a new battery and keeping this one as a spare.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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amandagr

 
Member Since: Oct 06, 2009
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Thank you both so much for the information, I'm relieved to hear that it's not the "beginning of the end" for my hard drive, just my battery. Also relieved to hear that the stories of overseas voltage ruining laptops is over exaggerated and/or untrue.

Two follow-up questions:

-If I cannot replace the battery as soon as I'd like to, would it be possible to just power my laptop by keeping it charging at all times? That is to say, should the battery cease to effectively hold a charge, it would still serve to power the laptop when plugged in?

-With regard to:
Quote:
If your friends' hard disks died, then they just died. The voltage has nothing to do with it; all HDs die eventually
Is there a general lifespan of hard drives? What would cause one to fail? Is there anything I can do to prolong the functioning of my drive?

Thanks again, I really appreciate your help.
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cwa107

 
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Member Since: Dec 20, 2006
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Mac Specs: 15" MBP, Core i7/2GHz, 8GB RAM, 480GB Crucial M500 SSD

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Quote:
Originally Posted by amandagr View Post
Thank you both so much for the information, I'm relieved to hear that it's not the "beginning of the end" for my hard drive, just my battery. Also relieved to hear that the stories of overseas voltage ruining laptops is over exaggerated and/or untrue.

Two follow-up questions:

-If I cannot replace the battery as soon as I'd like to, would it be possible to just power my laptop by keeping it charging at all times? That is to say, should the battery cease to effectively hold a charge, it would still serve to power the laptop when plugged in?
Absolutely. Your machine will work solely on mains power, even if the battery is completely bad.


Quote:
-With regard to:

Is there a general lifespan of hard drives? What would cause one to fail? Is there anything I can do to prolong the functioning of my drive?

Thanks again, I really appreciate your help.
That's a tough question to answer.

Hard drives are mechanical devices, so they ultimately will fail. Asking this question is akin to asking someone when a car will fail. There are too many factors that come into play.

Generally speaking, a hard drive that is not subjected to temperature extremes, shock or excessive vibration and made by a reputable manufacturer, will last 3+ years.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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