My Troubled Mac

The good – My other Macs work perfectly

The bad – Repeating kernel panics

The ugly – Appears to be a major hardware issueg4mdd

 

On July 4, 2006, I purchased a used Apple G4 1.42 GHz Dual Processor FW800 MDD (Mirror Drive Doors) Mac on ebay. The total cost, including shipping, was just under $900. I thought this was a pretty good deal, since it was a 2nd generation version, with quieter fans, updated power supply, and copper CPU heatsink. It came with 2 GB (4×512)of RAM, two 80 GB hard drives, Pioneer DVR-105 SuperDrive, Iomega Zip 750 drive, ATi Radeon 9000 Pro 64 MB video card, Apple internal modem, Apple Extended USB keyboard, Apple Optical USB mouse, and system restore disc.

I had purchased several other used Macs on ebay, and all of the other Macs arrived and performed as expected. But problems relating to the ebay sale of this 1.42 FW800 MDD Mac began immediately. It was missing a couple of items listed in the auction description. I exchanged email messages with the seller, who promised to send the missing items, plus some other stuff “just to be nice.” But those items never arrived. I began to experience occasional kernel panics, and emailed the seller asking if he’d had any problems with this Mac. He never responded. I just passed it off as typical ebay seller behavior—be polite until the buyer seems satisfied, then drop out of sight. At this point, I figured that the kernel panics were something that I’d be able to troubleshoot and fix without much problem.

First Steps and Upgrades
I ran TechTool Pro hardware tests, which reported no problems. But I was still receiving the occasional kernel panic and total system lockups (freeze). Since the 1.42 FW800 MDD Mac came with cheap, mismatched RAM, the first order of business was to replace all RAM with 2 GB of high-quality matched RAM. I also reformatted the boot drive, and did a fresh install of Mac OS 10.3 (Panther), including all Apple updates. I also replaced the 64 MB ATi Radeon 9000 Pro video card with a 128 MB nVidia GeForce4 Ti4600. The problems persisted. I tried all suggested troubleshooting steps found on Apple’s and other web sites, to no avail. Since my primary computer was another Mac, the 1.42 FW800 MDD didn’t see much use anyway, so I just sort of ignored it for a while.

Second Attempt
Feeling the need to finally get the 1.42 FW800 MDD Mac in working order, I replaced the boot drive with a new Seagate 500 GB Barracuda 7200.10 (ST3500630A). I installed Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger), and all Apple OS updates. I replaced the nVidia Ti4600 video card with a 256 MB ATi Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition. I removed the Iomega Zip drive. I tried all possible combination of RAM DIMMs installations. But the problems persisted. I purchased the correct Hardware Test CD from Apple, but its tests found no hardware problems. I’ve ran Memtest for hours, and it reports no errors. I even started running the Mac with one of its CPUs disabled, which seems to reduce the frequency of kernel panics, but doesn’t eliminate them.

A Hardware Problem
I think that this Mac has a serious hardware problem. I’ve read several forum posts where people have gone through exactly the same thing that I have. Some of these accounts date back to 2003-2004, when their 1.42 FW800 MDD Macs were still under AppleCare warranty. The people who did finally get their Macs fixed went through weeks of frustration, and those who’s Macs were not under warranty, spent lots of money before finally fixing their Macs. Here’s a synopsis of the typical chain of events:

  1. Take the Mac to an Authorized Apple Service Center.
  2. Technician runs the standard set of tests using Apple & third-party software diagnostic tools.
  3. Tests all fail to find any problems.
  4. Technician starts replacing major hardware components (RAM, CPU, motherboard, power supply, etc.) to find the source of the problem.
  5. The fix usually involves the replacement of one or more major components (CPU, motherboard, power supply).

Unfortunately, even going through all of this did not solve the problem for everyone.

At My Wit’s End
I’m quickly nearing the point of giving up on this Mac, or at least relegating it to some lessor task that it might be able to handle. Replacing major hardware components doesn’t seem like a viable, or worthwhile, option. Finding a new CPU, motherboard, or power supply would probably be very difficult, and the cost would be prohibitive. Buying used parts would be a total crap-shoot. I could end up spending more money to fix this Mac than it would cost me to buy a brand new current generation iMac or Mac Pro. So why bother?

One Last Attempt
Call me a dreamer, an optimist, or a fool, but I’m going to engage in one final attempt to find a cure for this Mac. I will not spend any money to fix this Mac. Instead, I will install another brand new Seagate hard drive that I already have in inventory, and install Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger), and all Apple updates. I will not install any additional software. I will remove all but the essential hardware. If I still have problems, I will conclude that the issue is a serious hardware problem not worth fixing. If that is indeed the case, this Mac will become a parts machine, or a door stop. I’ll let you know what happens.

Follow my progress in Part 2.

…jf…

3 Responses to “My Troubled Mac”

  1. flashplayer Says:

    Nice!

  2. KonstantinMiller Says:

    Hello, can you please post some more information on this topic? I would like to read more.

  3. Jeff Says:

    See my updates in My Troubled Mac – Part 2, with more to come as Part 3, 4, etc.