Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Macbook random shutdown problems

My son reported today that our Macbook shut down unexpectedly four different times, and this evening while working in several programs I had the laptop shut down on me too. My wife reported that the Macbook shut down a couple of times last week without warning, but until tonight I hadn’t researched the problem. I didn’t find anything about this on the Apple support website, but did find the following helpful article after a simple Google search. This person described the same problem we’re having:

MacBook suddenly shuts off to a completely powered down state seemingly at random. There are no kernel panic, mouse freezing, or other premonitory symptoms. The machine simply powers down suddenly. The screen goes black. The hard drive spins down and no sleep light illuminates. The machine simply turns itself off. (Macworld: Macbook quits unexpectedly)

We’ll be taking the computer in to our local Apple store to see if we can get it repaired soon– sounds like we may need a new logic board. This supports my contention that ANYONE buying a new computer (from any manufacturer) should purchase an extended service plan!

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20 responses to “Macbook random shutdown problems”

  1. Tim Avatar

    That’s exactly what happened to my MacBook Pro when the battery turned defective. Apple replaced it immediately (overnight shipping) and all is now right with the world. I’d bet a new battery will fix your problem as well.

    As much as I trust Apple to make reliable products, I still buy the extended warranty on laptops since they tend to work much harder than a desktop would. At least they do the way I abuse them. 🙂

  2. Matt Avatar

    Man – my wife’s new Macbook (about 2 mos old) started doing this too – what a pain – I started a new site to aggregate all the info I discover on the issue – please comment any tips you have for users of the Macbook here:

    Macbook Random Shutdown

  3. AK Avatar

    I’ve had my black Macbook since the end of June and about a month ago, it started to exihibit the random shutdown that many other Macbook owners are living through. Upon initial startup, mine will shutdown within 2 minutes, also without any warning signs – it’s gotten to the point that I just wait for and expect it to happen.

    I used to do the entire, disconnect the power, remove the battery, hold power button for 10 secs and then reinstall everything, until I realized that I could just hold the power button down for 10 seconds – the light at the front of the Macbook will illuminate, then flash quickly, followed by an annoying tone – once this is heard, I release the power button. That seems to make it that my Macbook is usable until I intentionally shut it down.

    I have discussed the issue with Apple and have been told to drop it off, but I just can’t seem to do without the thing. I’ll take it in soon, I suppose. Even with this problem, I love my Macbook and just chalk this up to initial run problems.

  4. Gustavo Avatar

    I have the same problem… you can actually pretty reliably reproduce it by typing this on the terminal:

    yes > /dev/null & yes > /dev/null

    which basically makes your CPUs work at a 100%. This is a problem that arises when the machine gets too hot.

    I’m not sure about your comment on the extended service plans. This is clearly a manufacturing problem and was bound to surface way within the 12 month initial warranty and it’s completly covered by it.

  5. Paul Avatar

    I am dissapointed by Apple’s failure to acknowledge this problem. Why is nothing mentioned of this on the Macbook support page? It really seems to me like Apple is doing everything it can to avoid having a full blown recall. Having to send a laptop I have had for 5 months into the shop for 7-10 days is devasting to a student like myself who depends on his laptop not only for school but for work as well.

  6. Maud Avatar

    Yes, one would think Apple might have learned by now that it’s always wiser to admit than to obfscate. My MacBook, only 2 months old, often shuts down repeatedly after first being started; the problem seems more or less to correct itself as the day wears on, and some days it doesn’t shut down at all. I’m afraid of losing data (all my research) but it’s hard to take it in. I’m on sabbatical in a small town in France and the nearest authorized Mac dealer is an hour’s drive away. Everything here moves slower than at home and I’m afraid it may take much more than 7-10 days to get it back if I do take it in, which would leave me cut off from both my research and the internet.

  7. dan Avatar

    I have had my BlackBook about 3 months. It had shut down unexpectedly once a few weeks ago & I thought nothing of it. Then, tonight at my buddies house, w/ an iPod Software CD installed it shut down. I was in Parallels & thought it was a wacky windows thing. I was also sharing his neighbors wireless connection to download the latest iPod updater, so i thought it just kicked my machine asleep. Then, I was ripping one of my dvds with handbrake for my iPod and it shut down again. Then, when I got home, i turned on the machine, and when it got to the login screen it shutdown again. I have removed the cd & the battery pack and all has been fine. to the best of my knowledge I did not have any non-intel software running at the time. I burned a bunch of dvds in toast & w/ apple’s Disk Utility earlier today & had the machine on for 8.5 hours at the office. not sure what the deal is.

  8. Nick Avatar

    I took mine to the Apple Store today and they said they knew what it was. They said it was a post between the top case and the logic board that heats up and suddenly breaks a connection. They would replace it when they get the parts in.

    I pointed out that it only happens in OS X and not when I load the machine in Windows. The “Mac Genius” looked sheepish and said “yes, we know why that is but I can’t tell you”. He said “I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement this thick” and held up his finger and thumb separated by about an inch.

  9. xc Avatar

    i guess my complaints about the shutown problem is covered by pretty much all the comments here. however, my greatest peeve right now is that while apple is willing to service the mac to see whats wrong with it, they have no guarantees that the files in my hard drive will remain intact. they are willing to back it up for me but in the event I need to use that backup they charge 50 bucks.

    Now, why should I be paying for something that is caused by a manufacturing defect? I was made to rely on the mac and save everything I need on it. now, i have to pay them to protect the very same files they threaten by not fixing the or admitting the defect.

    has anyone else had this problem with the apple customer service? is this now an apple money making scheme to take advantage of its own mistakes?

  10. Marc Rosenberg Avatar

    My wife’s MacBook was spontaneoulsly shutting down. After taking out RAM upgrade i installed and putting orig RAM back in, reseating RAM, reseating HD, manually updating OS to 10.4.7 w/combo update (per Applecare technician’s request), we sent it in for Applecare service. Got it back in 6 days and it’s fine now. The paperwork said “Heat Sink….yada yada”, not much info there, but seems like it was a thermal issue. Hope it never happens again. Incidentally, when we got the MacBook back from Apple, it had all of our data still intact on the the HD.

  11. joopp Avatar

    My story:
    – Bought Macbook
    – Works fine for 2 months
    – Starts shutting down
    – Increases..
    – Installed Firmware update + sent it in..
    – Repair dudes could not find / reproduce problem
    – Got it back after a week
    – After 1 day problem appears again..(but less frequent..maybe because of firmware update??)

    Called Apple.. they let me do this:
    – Remove all extra shit from Macbook + powercord + battery..
    – Press the on button for 5-10 seconds (does nothing)
    – Connect powercord
    – Press APPLEKEY-ALT-’P’-’R’ when turning the Macbook ON..
    – Hear the startupsound once.. release and directly press the combination again..
    – Hear the startupsound 3 times.. release keys..
    – The PROM is resetted (or something..) your Macbook boots normally..

    The second line support let me run some kind of Log/data capture program (from Apple) of which I had to email the output (a diskimage file).. so more news tomorrow..

  12. Stephane Elkouri Avatar
    Stephane Elkouri

    I bought two macbook recently and both of them have been randomly shutting down. I am very disappointed. Apple won’t replace or reimbourse me. I understand from this thread that I am not the only one dealing with this problem.
    How many are we ?
    If you have this problem with your macbook, can you please send me an email at with the complete serial number of your computer, model , date of purchase and outcome.
    I plan on publishing weekly stats about number of computer affected and contact apple with the information.

    any suggestions welcome.

    This is the first stats report:


    serial numbers / model / purchase date

    4H619 / ? / ?
    4h6199n2u / ? / ?
    4H620 / white, 2GHz, 1GB / ?
    4H6201 / white, 2GB / ?
    4H6208TGVMM / 2 GHz / ?
    4H621 / ? / ?
    4H621 / black / case number 65194196
    4H6211 / ? / europe
    4H62128KVMN / black, 2 GHz, 1GB ram / 26-5-2006 in Canada
    4H6213M / white / end of May
    4H6228STU9C / white, 2 GHz, 2GB ram / 13-06-2006 in Belgium
    4H623 / ? / ?
    4H6242DPU9D / white, 1.83 GHz / 14-06-2006 in France
    4H625 / 2 GHz, 2GB ram / USA
    4H625 / white, 2 GHz, 2GB ram / USA
    4H631KXTU9B / 1.83Ghz / 19-8-2006

    some example of the problem:…book%20problem

    Time for a recall ?

    Stephane Elkouri, Montreal, Canada

  13. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I’ll post to my blog after I hear back from Applecare. I expect Apple will fix the problem, I am not doubting that. I’ve owned Mac hardware for years (since ’96) and never had a problem like this, but this stuff does happen. They key for me is if it’s fixed. I have Applecare, so I’m sure it will be. I just have to buy a new external HD to backup my stuff before I send them my Macbook!

  14. Andrew Duryea Avatar
    Andrew Duryea

    I would not rely on any fix Apple does to your old unit, even logic board replacements seem miss this issue. So far the only “fix” that is supposedly working is a new Macbook. Otherwise customers are reporting that multiple trips to the genius bar and even some send/returns from Apple are not affecting the problem. has some very strong and informative threads going on this issue right now. I would perform a “yes” script test described above on any “fixed” Macbook returned to you. GL to you.

  15. Mandal-DK Avatar

    I’ll join the flock!

    I had my MacBook for around three months now. It worked just fine until around two weeks ago. Suddenly it shut down down. This happende four times in two days.

    After that it worked just fine for around two weeks. I thought that everything was allright. But then, a couple of days ago, it all started again. And its not seeming like its going to go away… 🙁

    So far I’ve haven’t contacted Apple, but I will tomorrow. (Just need to back-up all my files on my nice-and-stable Windows-PC 😉

  16. Dennis Avatar

    I had the same issue from 3rd day on. After 4 weeks, the integrated video chip died and the logic board was replaced. It then worked fine for 2 weeks until I stressed the CPU by ripping a DVD to mp4 (the fan runs full throttle). It now has the random crash issue. The firmware upgrade fixed it temporarily, but since the weather got hot here in Seattle, the issue has re-emerged. I just ran a test and think I know what the firmware fix did (cripple the CPU) but it was too late to stop the damage already done to my logic board (likely northbridge).

    Here is what I have determined. When the system can’t cool enough, the CPU is clocked down to about 65% of max (even when your on AC). I can see this by watching my encoding frame rate drop from about 16 frames/sec to 9 frames/sec using an H.264 codec. This is kinda bad that the design of the system fan cannot cool the unit, so instead they cripple the CPU. Fine in a pinch to save the system, but it should be able to run at full throttle in normal ambient air conditions.

    We should all be screaming about them crippling the CPU. I bought the basic model and with this firmware patch, the 2.06 GHz model is now as slow as my 1.86 GHz mode (which is slow when it’s governed down by this patch). The stress test in previous posts is good, but with it, you don’t see that your system CPU is governed down when the fan is not sufficient to cool the system at full load.

    About extended warantee. Apple has no warantee!!! My system died in Europe and the turn-around was a minimum 2weeks. I even offered to by a new MacBook (U.S. keyboard required) and they refused because they cannot ship overseas even with a warantee issue.

  17. seaqueen Avatar

    I began to experience the annoying log off situation on my macbook tiger about 3 weeks ago. I have not even had it 3 months. I called Applecare twice. The first time the customer service person walked me through some sort of first aid…hey this is my first mac …and I found that extremely stressed as I did not fully understand the terminology.
    The second time I called within about 1 week- I was told to take it to the authorized store, and so I did- TWICE.
    And each time the computer did not log off but my top case was replaced because 2 weeks after receiving the computer it became horridly discolored.
    The logging off/sudden shutting down is happening again.
    I am disappointed…I switched computers and now I just don’t trust it-
    I am relieved though, that there are many others out there experiencing what I am-because I started to blame myself and lack of knowledge.

  18. dmfische Avatar

    I purchased my first MacBook late June. Just one week after purchasing it, I started experiencing the random shutdowns. They seemed to occur when the computer was cold and go away when it warmed up. I took it in fairly quickly to the apple store and it happened in front of them, so they replaced it on the spot.

    The second MacBook lasted about 5 weeks with no problems. And then BAM! Same thing. When cold, it would start shutting down automatically again. Don’t let them tell you it is infrequent. I call BS. I’ve had 2 brand new MacBooks, both of which did it. Now I will have to ship it in to get a new logic board, or battery, or whatever. I don’t know and I’m guessing neither do they.

    My guess, this last time started happening after I encoded some video and it got really hot. After it was shutdown, the next morning it when it started happening. I wouldn’t be suprised if it was some defective glue on the heat sensor for the CPU.

  19. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Apple replaced my MacBook logic board and heat sink– things appear to be working great now. Read my post “Back on the MacBook” for more on this!