MacBook Optical Drive problems outted by Snow Leopard


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In general, MacBooks are engineering marvels. They can be praised for solid construction, excellent industrial design, ease of use, and (now), the retention of a decent array of connections. However, they fall prey to several engineering failures. One is air circulation; MacBooks are prone to run hot. But, whereas a LITTLE extra heat won’t kill a laptop nor a company’s image, the mass breakdown of optical drives certainly will. Sadly, Apple have so far ignored the widespread breakdown of its laptop optical drives – a problem which afflicts both new and old MacBooks.

Apple’s Discussion’s forums has a 14-page long thread which is dedicated to the problem. While my laptop was fixed under warranty, I was without a computer for a week, an option which many cannot afford.

As hinted at above, my two year old MacBook Pro suffered in inexplicable and sudden optical drive break down. Blank media of any sort could not be read, nor could it be written, and sometimes, regular optical media wouldn’t even mount. My wife’s 2006 original white MacBook won’t mount, read or write any optical media, and the other MacBook in our home is even worse – it simply spits disks out.

Optical media is being superseded on a daily basis, of course – giving way to digital downloads, flash media, and wireless transfer. However, the vast majority of non-pirated software is still installed from optical disks.

While our house sits at a 100% optical drive failure, real-world results are more favourable. But, with the debut of Snow Leopard, many Apple laptop users are finding a problem they didn’t even know existed: dud optical drives. At 29$, Snow Leopard is a great upgrade for any Intel-based Mac and for those who haven’t used their optical drives in a long time, an fulcrum which will expose another of Apple’s negligent engineering decisions.

The issue isn’t Snow Leopard; the new OS merely gives people a reason to use their dusty drives again. Unfortunately, the new OS is given a run through the mud as users who haven’t used their optical drives in ages, find that their laptops have a problem.

Apple, who shove slim optical drives into slim, poorly shielded enclosures have yet to respond to the thousands of users who face fixing their laptop under warranty, or in the worst cases, have to replace the drive with their own money.

When viruses which infected Windows computers were found on a few iPods, Apple blamed Microsoft. When the logic board on my laptop failed, they blamed nVidia; and this time, though Apple’s optical drives come from a variety of manufacturers, there is bound to be a scapegoat. Problems with

MacBook optical drives have persisted since the first model in 2006, however, the current thread which was started on 24 February, has yet no answer. Perhaps Apple are waiting for all problematic laptops to simply run out their manufacturer’s guarantee and quietly dispose of the matter from customer’s pocketbooks.

  • Ugh. My wife’s white MacBook has been spared so far, but it’s always run CDs REALLY loud. You have to crank the volume just to hear the music over the whirring drive.

    I’d be refreshing for Apple to own up to this. Take a page from Microsoft’s book on 360 RRoD.

  • Jonathan! Well, yeah, I think this problem is huge actually and if your problems plus the three in my house are any statistic of recent Apple laptops, Apple have to own up to this. But, I am still waiting for them to blame someone. However, I hope not.

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  • Michael Prescott

    I had optical drive problems from day 1, but because they were intermittent and I rarely used the drive I thought it was just very sensitive or disc had smudges that weren’t visible to me. A few days ago and just days before the end of my hardware warranty I discovered that most video DVDs failed to play. Apple serviced the system for free, replaced the drive and for some reason the logic board, returned it, and I immediately found that it intermittently failed to mount application DVDs and made strange click-hum sounds, much worse than the first defective drive. I’ve asked for a replacement system. I simply cannot afford to be without a production tool again. I’ve done a little research because of this experience. Obviously, this is a massive problem and Apple has a legal obligation to address it.

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