Apple Says It Has Cure for the Shutdown Blues

The Mac maker posts an update on its Web site that it claims will fix problems with MacBooks that randomly shut down.

Apple Computer is offering a firmware update that the company claims will help alleviate random shutdown issues with its MacBook notebooks.

The Cupertino, Calif., computer maker posted the update—MacBook SMC Firmware Update 1.1—on its Web site Oct. 26. The update, according to Apple, will help a MacBooks internal monitoring system and stop the computer from shutting down at random.

"The SMC Update improves the MacBooks internal monitoring system and addresses issues with unexpected shutdowns. This update is recommended for all MacBook systems, including those that received warranty repair," according to the companys posting.

In August, the Web site began calling attention to the fact that several users of MacBooks had experienced problems with their notebooks.

Matthew Swanson, who lives in Atlanta, founded the site after his wife experienced problems with her 2GHz MacBook. Swansons site eventually coined a term for the problem—RSS, or Random Shutdown Syndrome—and visitors to the site began offering explanations about why the shutdowns were happening.

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Swanson contends that the problem is with the MacBooks heat sink. Once the heat sink is replaced, the notebooks work and the shutdowns end.

Apple has never responded directly to the problem, although it has posted warnings and updates on its Web site telling its users what to do in case they experience the same problem.

In the latest update, Apple tells its users that if they are running Mac OS X 10.4.6, they should upgrade to Mac OS 10.4.8 in order to install the SMC update.

Users running Mac OS 10.4.7 can also install the update, but the company does recommend an upgrade to the latest version of the Mac OS.

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After looking at the update, Swanson said he finds it interesting that Apple is offering a firmware update to fix what had been thought to be a hardware problem.

"Its quite interesting in fact that a firmware release could fix a physical (or at least it has been thought a physical) problem with the heat sink wiring," Swanson wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK.

"The only thing we can think of is the firmware update will allow the MacBook to bypass recognizing there is a physical issue and let the OS continue running without randomly shutting down—so our question is, Does this really fix the underlying problem?" Swanson wrote.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment.

On the shutdown site, Mac users have begun posting their own responses to the latest Apple update.

One poster wrote: "Im guessing all this new firmware update does is disable a certain function involved with the heat sink. If your wires are melted, then theyre melted. I think Apple found an easy way around their problem, but wires without insulation is still a hazard regardless."

Another poster commented: "As an Apple tech, I can confirm that this is simply ignoring a bigger issue. I have seen firsthand dozens and dozens of MacBooks with the thermal sensor wires melted to the side of the heat sink. Though this may be a nice temporary fix to get people up and running, I really hope that Apple is not encouraging this as true fix."

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