Hardware problems with your Mac

When is my Mac physically broken?
Well... sometimes the border between hard- and software problems can be thin. Rule number one is to first look at the software. This is also much cheaper; you can do it yourself. So first go to the Problems Chapter before starting here!

Being wrong cost you money
Going to the Apple repair centre with a software problem? Then you get a bill, even under garantee.
No computer seller gives any garantee on software!

Examples of obvious hardware problems
- a clean install and still having kernel panics
- a hard drive that can't be erased with security setting to all zeros
- weird screen image: stripes or blocks could be a broken graphic card (always check System Preferences => Accesibility)
- screen stays dark? Use a torch light to shine on the screen and look if you can vaguely see things. This can be the difference between a totally broken screen or a broken backlight .
NOTE: off course you first test if there's any power on an external screen.
- broken RAM can occur, even after several time

Apple Hardware Test / Apple Diagnostics

Before running to the Apple technicians it is wise to do this test (in case it is still possible).
Boot the Mac with the D key pressed in. The Mac will diagnose itself by performing a hardware test.
After this test, you get a code. With this code you can go to your Apple Certified Technician. He or she knows exacly what is wrong with the Mac, by that code (only Macs younger than 2013).

Monday morning monsters
Some Macs are known for their specific hardware problem. Apple can do a special repair program for these Macs, even after several years. Your Mac's serial number can tell you if it is part of that program.

Again: don't think that your Mac is broken at a first glance. Start with simple solutions and work to more complex ones. Think of Occams Razor: the most simple solutions is often the best one. So first take a peek in the Problems chapter.
Doesn't that chapter help you, in a moment you'll find some tips and tricks you can use to get your Mac in shape again.

Use original Apple power adapters!

There can be a huge difference in price between original Apple made power adapters (110/230 Volt to USB or to iPad/iPhone/iPod) and those of other manufacturers. There's a reason for tis. Orignal adapters are from a totally different and more safe design. Don't take chances and buy original stuff. Read this and you'll be convinced:

The life-expectancy of a MacBook battery depends mostly on the amount of times the battery has been fully loaded (100%).
More information about this: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201585

How many cycles has my battery gone through?
Go to the Apple Menu => About this Mac and choose System Information.

A nice freeware program you can also use is CoconutBattery.

Tips for a longer battery life
- set your screen brightness as dark as possible
- deconnect external stuff without a power source of their own
- programs like video editors and players use a lot of power
- turn off Bluetooth when you're (temporary) not using it
- same goes for Wi-fi, turning off means saving battery power

Battery fitness
Keeping your MacBook connected to external power all day long is not a good idea. It makes your battery 'lazy'.
Apple explains how to keep your battery in good shape: https://www.apple.com/batteries/

Apple Diagnostics
Boot with the D-key pressed in to start Apple's own hardware test: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT202731

Macs before 2013 https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201257

Hardware trouble: the SMC reset
Some problems can be fixed by resetting the System Management Controler.
This is a chip on the motherboard who's responsible for things like power-button, battery, temperature.
Examples of problems that can be solved with an SMC reset:
- fan's who keep going on without working on the Mac and at normal room temperature
- portable Macs who won't wake up from sleep when you open them
- a battery who refuses to load or indicator lights that work incorrectly
- unexpected sleep
More information about the SMC reset and if it can solve your problem: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201295

NVRAM reset (used to be called PRAM)
A chip on the motherboard remembers certain personal system preferences. For example: sound volume, startup disc, screen resolution and brightness. This chip can be reset to default settings in case of certain problems,
More information: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT204063

Mac forgets the date
Older Macs have a small battery on board that remembers settings like the date when your Mac is powered off. This battery should last at least about 5 years. A sign of an empty one is forgetting the date. Your Apple technician can place you a new one.

Repeating Kernel-panics

Do you keep getting Kernel-Panics, even áfter a clean install?
Then you should consider a hardware problem: for example bad RAM modules.
NOTE: RAM can go bad even after being used for a while.

My Mac makes bleeping sounds when it starts up and won't boot
This is serious! Go to your dealer. Bleeps tell you that there's something wrong with memory or motherboard.

3 beeps at startup
This is a RAM (Random Acces Memory) error. You might get this after placing new modules.
Take the modules out and change their places. Still beeps? Try to clean their connectors with a pencil eraser.
All else: get new RAM modules.

I hear a ticking sound in my Mac or in an external hard drive
Could be your hard disk is about to break down. Backup!

I can't erase my hard disk:

Well, this is the end of the hard disk. Dispose of it according to your local environmental rules.
My condoleances.

I can't read my hard disk anymore. I don't have a backup.
In case you manage to arrange another Mac, you could use 'Target Mode'. In this so-called Target Mode, your Mac's hard drive will function as an external hard drive to the other Mac.
In case this works, you can still backup your files or even try to use data recovery program's or hard disk repair programs like DiskWarrior.
More info: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201462

Never choose 'Initialize' in case you do not have a backup yet. 'Initialize' means destroying all data on the disk!!

Target Mode test your Mac
Before connecting to another Mac, it is wise to test if your Mac is still able to boot in Target Mode.
Therefor: press the T key and boot your Mac. If all goes well, you'll see an icon on your screen depening on the connection your Mac can use for Target Mode.

Target Mode
You'll need two Macs. Both have to have a FireWire port (IEEE 1394), a Thunderbolt port or USB-C.
More info: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201462
1. Both Mac's have to be powered off.
2. Now use a cable to connect the Macs.
3. Then turn on the working (first) Mac.
4. After boot up sequence has finished you turn on the second Mac. Keep it's T key pressed during start up. Press it even before the power button is touched!
Now this Mac will boot in 'Target Mode'.
5. If all goes well and the hard drive isn't completely dead, you can see the hard drive on the first Mac. The second Mac behaves as an external disk. Try to backup the data to the good Mac or use special disk recovery software to repair the hard disk.

Target Mode doesn't work
In case the disk isn't visible through Target Mode? You could try to take it out and screw it into an external USB casing for hard drives. They're not very expensive.

External casing for the disk is no use
Now there's nothing else to do but to inform yourself about data recovery.
You could try this yourself, for example with Disk Drill.

Fire, water, lightning
In case of severe accident: don't try anything yourself.
There are many companies who specialize in data recovery.
Leave the broken hard disk alone and ask professional help!

This could be expensive - say the least very anoying - so make sure you always have a recent backup!

Disclaimer: MacMiep is independent. This means she writes what she wants, based on 25+ years of Mac-experience. She doesn't get paid for stories (positive or negative) on this website.