Monday, February 12, 2007

Mini Frustration

My two-year-old Mac Mini appears to have some serious issues. The other day while I was using Skype to talk to my sister and a friend, it crashed several times then the Mac OS itself went down. I had to push the power button on the back to restart and it couldn't successfully boot.

Several attempts to erase, partition or repair the drive using the system DVD that came with the Mini resulted in various errors or frozen progress bars.

When I try to start the Mini up without the system DVD, it hangs on the log-in screen and ends with a frozen progress wheel and this attractive black box. :-p

I opened up the case and blew out all the dust in a vain hope that that may magically fix it but, of course, this didn't help at all. While I had it open, I booted it up again to listen more carefully to the clicks it made while attempting to boot. I'm pretty sure that the hard drive is a goner.

Right now, I'm torn between buying a new computer and limping along with this one. I can buy a hard drive and attempt to repair it myself. This will cost about a hundred dollars. The only drawback to this is that, if the hard drive isn't the problem, I'll have wasted the money and it still won't work.

I'm actually quite disappointed in this failure after a relatively short time. While the Mini is two years old, it hasn't seen heavy usage and certainly hasn't seen anything which has required strong hard drive usage (like video editing or torrent downloads). I spend about 3/4 of the time on my old PC doing web or e-mail work and about 1/4 on the Mac doing the occasional graphics, page layout or database work. This failure represents some fragility in the hardware that I wouldn't expect from an Apple product.

While I realize that a Mini is a cheap computer at $500, my eMachine cost $400 and has lasted twice as long as my Mini (so far). I'm guessing that cramming all those tiny components into a small space may have something to do with it since I can't imagine Apple uses cheaper parts than eMachines.


Luis said...

Make an appointment at the Genius Bar at the Apple store in Ginza or Shibuya and take it down there for them to look at. It's free whether your machine is in or out of warranty, and it is possible that they can at least diagnose what's wrong with it, and tell you what repair is needed. They might even be able to fix it on the spot, although that's unlikely. If you get tremendously lucky, they might even agree to fix it free even if it would require physical repair--that's not the norm, but I've seen it happen more than once. Now that you need it, take advantage of the customer support Apple is known for.

This has also got me wondering: did they cut corners on the Mac Mini so that it is not as long-lived as other Macs?

Anonymous said...

If you have a friend with a mac you can connect them and then start yours in Target Disk Mode - using their disk thru your system. Hopefully this will allow you diagnose if your disk is at fault or your system board.

Shari said...

Hi there. :-)

Luis has several Macs that, in theory, could be connected to mine but the logistics are such that getting together is relatively time-consuming and troublesome. I also have a few other Macs but they're too old to run OS X, unfortunately.

However, I will keep your advice firmly in mind for future troubleshooting. I appreciate your taking the time to offer it.

In the end, it turned out it was the hard disk and I did replace it myself so I'm pleased to say that all is right with my Mini again.