Print 16 comment(s) - last by plimogs.. on Oct 29 at 5:10 PM

Addresses an overheating issue in a MacBook

Apple this week posted an updated firmware for MacBook owners that appear to address an issue regarding random shutdowns. The firmware said Apple, updates a critical SMC monitoring component to improve system stability as well as solve the intermittent shutdown issues. Apple is usually thin on details when it releases new firmware upgrades for its line of notebook computers but this time did indicate that users with OS X version 10.4.6 or earlier will have to perform a system update to 10.4.8 in order to install the new firmware.

DailyTech previously reported that many MacBook owners were complaining about random shutdowns. One well known report suggested that the problem was related to a short wire that linked a system temperature sensor to the MacBook's main logic board. Because the update was just released this week, it's unknown how well it has resolved the above issue.

The MacBook as well as its bigger brother the MacBook Pro has been covered here at DailyTech since their respective launches. Just this week I had my personal MacBook Pro (2.16GHz Core Duo) repaired under warranty. My MacBook Pro was already running quite hot (just like every other unit out there), and the situation did not better itself when the right fan in my MacBook Pro failed.

Using a tiny application called smcFanControl, I was able to increase the minimum RPM of my left fan as well as prove to the Apple reps at the Genius Bar that my right fan had died. smcFanControl allows users to adjust the minimum RPM speeds of both fans inside their MacBook or MacBook Pro units. The two fans can be adjusted in sync or independently. Under heavy load, the fans will still increase in speed automatically from the minimum custom setting -- unless you set your fans to a maximum 6000 RPM.

After Apple replaced the "inverter", the main logic board as well as the right fan assembly in my MacBook Pro, everything checked out well. However, MacBook Pro users should keep in mind that using smcFanControl is what will help reduce the heat in their notebooks. Previously, having my MacBook Pro plugged in on AC power it was nearly impossible to use the notebook on my lap. Apple sets the minimum fan speeds at 1000 RPM, and they do not increase in speed much until the system is under heavy load. Using smcFanControl to set the fans at a minimum of 3500 RPM, I am now able to use my MacBook Pro on my lap without a single issue -- it's that cool.

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Mmm ...
By Rayz on 10/27/2006 11:24:39 AM , Rating: 2
I haven't bought a laptop in a while.

Is this the usual practice now; having some sort of app to control the fan?

I don't remember having to do this for my old Gateway.

RE: Mmm ...
By plinden on 10/27/2006 11:42:12 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure if you're referring to the firmware update or third party app mentioned in the article, but the fans of all computers are controlled by software. I guess it's a matter of flexibility - you can control a Mac laptop fans with a third party app, so people will. But there's nothing like this (that I know about) for Windows machine.

I compare my wife's MacBook (bought in May for $1200 including tax) to my Dell D810 (which cost $2500 last November) - we haven't installed the latest firmware update to the MacBook, but it still runs much cooler than the Dell, despite the Dell's fans being on about half the time. It can be used on a lap whereas I can't touch the bottom of the Dell for more than a few seconds - no scorched flesh but it's very uncomfortable. Coupled with other fairly minor irritations on the Dell (an audible whine, backlight bleeding, rebooting required every time I remove the external keyboard, weight, general fugliness) I look on my wife's MacBook with envy.

A couple of people at work have MBPs, and while they are hotter than my wife's MacBook, they are cooler to touch than the Dells in use at the office. I haven't directly compared other manufacturers' PCs.

RE: Mmm ...
By Behlal on 10/27/2006 12:51:57 PM , Rating: 2
But there's nothing like this (that I know about) for Windows machine.

I've used software tools to control fan speed on windows previously (a few years ago, since I haven't needed to recently). A quick google finds and a lot of motherboard manufacturers provide tools to do this.

RE: Mmm ...
By glennpratt on 10/27/2006 1:03:10 PM , Rating: 2
Couple of points. Comparing price points on your Dell and your wifes Apple means nothing. Comparing a Core Solo Macbook to a Pentium 4 Dell (seems likely) is comparing apples and oranges (no pun intended), it has absolutley nothing to do with Dell or Apple.

And there are probably dozens of fan control programs for PC, this is the first I've seen for Mac. (I have OS X on my HP laptop and I've been looking for a way to turn the fans down.)

RE: Mmm ...
By slashbinslashbash on 10/27/2006 1:13:53 PM , Rating: 2
Apple doesn't make a Core Solo Macbook. Never has. The only Mac ever to have a Core Solo was the first Intel Mac Mini; current models have only Core Duo.

RE: Mmm ...
By plinden on 10/27/2006 1:56:47 PM , Rating: 4
Comparing a Core Solo Macbook to a Pentium 4 Dell (seems likely) is comparing apples and oranges (no pun intended), it has absolutley nothing to do with Dell or Apple.

So, you take one sentence from my post to make a point, that's totally wrong anyway?

The Dell Latitudes are aimed at professionals, so I'm comparing a consumer Core Duo MacBook at 1.83GHz to a professional Pentium-M D810 at 2.16GHz. Yes, apples and oranges (or should that be lemons) because the consumer laptop runs cooler, and is quieter, thinner and lighter than the professional laptop and was half the price. I haven't mentioned performance, since the transition to dual cores makes that hard to do fairly, but for applications that use a single core (for instance compiling the same Java project using ant on the command line) the MacBook is significantly faster than the Dell (that difference would disappear with a more up to date dual core PC, so there's no need to respond with anything related to that)

Of course, the lack of GPU means my wife can't play <insert current 3D game here> but since she doesn't play games (and neither do I - the GPU in the Dell was a total waste) that's hardly a handicap.

RE: Mmm ...
By Pandamonium on 10/28/2006 2:57:27 PM , Rating: 2
The point is that Macbooks and Dells share most of the same hardware. You're comparing two different kinds of CPUs. The Core chips weren't around when your dell workstation was bought; compare the macbook to any PC running the same type of CPU, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a difference. That's an apples to apples comparison.

While my next purchase will likely be a macbook, I can't stand it when people try to make baseless arguments about why macs are superior. Check your logic before you next post.

RE: Mmm ...
By Quiksel on 10/29/2006 3:34:55 PM , Rating: 2
I can't stand it when people try to make baseless arguments about why macs are superior.

umm, were you reading? His post makes more than just "baseless" arguments:
the consumer laptop runs cooler, and is quieter, thinner and lighter than the professional laptop and was half the price.

While you are correct that his performance comparisons between the machines shouldn't really be considered 1:1, the other features of the Apple product DOES give it a base to qualify a superior product. This is marketing, folks. Make your product unique. Just the remote for Front Row IMO is an innovation, and deserves some mention when comparing these products.

So, please check your logic, too, please.

RE: Mmm ...
By plimogs on 10/29/2006 5:10:15 PM , Rating: 2
ok. I'll take a stab at this -- all this calling into to question of other people's logic, and over an apple product -- wouldn't you know it...

"there's nothing like this (that I know about) for a windows machine"
Granted, I've never owned a laptop, apple or otherwise, but since Anandtech got me hooked on overclocking -- goddamn you Anandtech! you and your comprehensive memory overclocking benchmarks! *raises fist in mock anger* -- I have however sought to keep components from burning up and my computer from randomly shutting down because of overheating, and I'm pretty confident that if you think that there aren't any 3rd party fan control apps for Windows, you just haven't been bothered to google for them at all . I mean, on my first search I was able to download SpeedFan (not that I was looking for any one particular app) which, at a glance, looks very nice indeed.

Then there's everything else you wrote up there... how the Dell is sooo much more expensive -- that Dell looks to have been pretty much a top-of-the-line machine... and as Anandtech has taught me over the years: top of the line costs more than what it's worth (usually adding something to the effect that only people who must have the absolute highest end at whatever the price should purchase it, and implying that they might in fact be purchasing a 1000$ component in lieu of a 200$ one which might have performed just as well with a little luck and a lot of overclocking) -- anyway, yeah, top of the line dell vs midrange apple, that's sure to create a disproportionate price differential; apples VS oranges right there. It's pretty much the same thing when you look at both laptops' features; the Dell is better across the board: more ram, faster CPU (on the bigger 90nm node no less, no wonder it's hotter), bigger screen, longer battery life, dedicated VGA... Not to mention that the damn thing was bought, what, all of 6 months prior?

I have a fun idea, lets go out and spend 1200$ on some new apple hardware, and then find some more apple hardware that somebody spend 2500$ on 20 years ago... and then we can all have another apple(s) to apple(s) comparison...

quality post
By Quiksel on 10/27/2006 10:36:38 AM , Rating: 2
Tuan, I'm not normally a fan of yours, but this is a good news post. Thanks for the detailed story of your experience; I have a few MBP's that will benefit from this directly, and I think your recommended speed of 3500RPM sounds very good for our users. These machines are great when they aren't burning your lap, and I hope this makes an already good machine even better.


RE: quality post
By wien on 10/27/2006 12:22:40 PM , Rating: 3
Tuan, I'm not normally a fan of yours,
No pun intended? :)

By Chadder007 on 10/27/2006 10:57:09 AM , Rating: 2
Now, I would just worry about the fans going out right after warranty from having to turn so much. :(
I wish they would have done something a bit more with the design to help out, considering the new revision of Macbook pros are out now. Maybe a slightly larger fan inside if possible to move the air out without having to turn the fans so much or better venting.

RE: Fans
By glennpratt on 10/27/2006 1:04:42 PM , Rating: 2
3500 RPM isn't very fast.

By The Boston Dangler on 10/27/06, Rating: 0
RE: Geniuses?
By msva124 on 10/27/2006 5:21:13 PM , Rating: 1
It is. There was a virus in the Windows PC that was used to design the fans.

By Hyperlite on 10/27/06, Rating: 0
"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings
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