The Divine Conspiracy

This will likely be the last update for today since I spend last night (I usually write my blog posts the night before and schedule them to automatically post the next day) fighting with my laptop again (which is the system I keep material I’m planning to post). As far as I can tell I managed to anger some deity somewhere because the headaches I’ve been experiencing with my laptop can only be describe as a divine conspiracy.

A few weeks ago I started experiencing problems waking my laptop from sleep. Due to the amount of time it takes me to get my system booted and setup the way I want it I usually put the laptop to sleep instead of shutting it down. This hasn’t been a problem until recently. Instead of waking from sleep my laptop has begun to randomly go into a state that I can only call undead. While the fans come on, indicating the system has powered up, the screen says off and the keyboard and mouse appear to be unresponsive. The only way to bring my laptop out of this state is to hold the power button for a few seconds to turn it completely off. Upon restarting the keyboard and mouse will usually remain unresponsive until I power cycle the laptop again. If I manage to power cycle the laptop before the decryption prompt appears I can restore the system from the sleepimage file (it’s the file that stores the contents of random access memory (RAM) when OS X goes into sleep mode).

During these last few weeks my procedure for bringing my laptop out of sleep has been to cross my fingers open the lid, and breathe a sigh of relief if it comes on or curse all that is holy if the laptop enters the state I mentioned above. If the laptop awakens to it’s undead state I power it off and hit the power button a few times before letting the decryption prompt appear.

After numerous hours of debugging I eventually determined that the problem is most likely hardware related. Due to the rather odd nature of the problem I believed the issue had to do with either the RAM, logic board (the term Apple uses for the motherboard), or the hard drive. I ruled the hard drive out because the Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) stated that the drive was fine. That lead me to test the RAM.

The reason I believed the RAM could be the culprit is due to one of the times I booted the system up only to have it report 4GB instead of the usual 8GB available. Doing some searching online I found a couple other people who experienced the same issue and ended up having to either replace a RAM module or the logic board (which is how the logic board became a potential culprit). I ran memory tests on my RAM overnight only to have the testing software report no issues. Thinking the problem may be missed by the testing software I removed my 8GB or RAM and replaced it with the 4GB that the system originally came with. I ran the system is this almost crippled state for six days without any issue. Believing the RAM to be bad I ordered new modules. The day the new modules arrived my laptop experienced it’s undead state again (obviously some deity was having a spot of fun at my expense). At this point I lost all hope as it appeared my logic board was going out.

It appears that the logic board may not be the issue since the hard drive appears to have died last night. Out of the blue the system almost entirely froze up for several minutes whenever the disk was being accessed. After I powered the laptop off I was unable to power it on again (granted the hard drive continued to run and wasn’t giving me the click of death, it just wasn’t accessing data). Fortunately I keep a spare drive around and have relatively effective backups so this problem is more of an annoyance that a major problem. Unfortunately swapping drives and restoring the new drive from my backups is time consuming and ensures my laptop remains in an unusable state for many hours.

One thought on “The Divine Conspiracy”

  1. “I ruled the hard drive out because the Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) stated that the drive was fine.”

    That can be dangerous – there are a lot of possible issues that SMART doesn’t detect. I usually verify this by swapping the drive into another system and seeing if it has the same issue. I realize that is difficult with a laptop, though.

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