Bugs and Fixes: MacBook Pro oddities

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro lineup has been getting rave reviews. And deservedly so. Of course, as with any new hardware, these models are prone to a few minor hiccups that don’t affect older MacBook models. Here are two of the oddest ones:

Unusual optical disk drive noises. As first reported by Apple last month, the optical drives in these new laptops may exhibit an “unusual series of noises” when starting up or waking from sleep, even though no disc is in the drive. For those wondering exactly what “unusual” means here, Apple provides a recording of the noise. Out of context, I found the noise to be a bit funny; I’ve even thought about using it as a wacky ringtone.

To banish these sounds from your MacBook Pro, insert a disc “almost all the way” into the slot-loading drive (not releasing it from your hand). Then remove the disc and reinsert it, this time letting it go all the way. This unlikely procedure, dubbed by Apple as “resetting the drive,” should eliminate the problem.

Unexpected sleep. If you are lucky enough to have more than one mid-2009 MacBook Pro (or Late 2008 13-inch aluminum MacBook), Apple advises not stacking them on top of each other (at least not with their magnetic latches all facing the same way). If you do, the top computer may go to sleep unexpectedly, even in the middle of a startup.

While not likely to be a common problem, I found it interesting to learn exactly why it can occur. It can happen because “the magnet in the bottom computer may activate the magnetic switch in the top computer.” Apple considers this to be “normal behavior,” because this is how sleep onset is normally activated when you close the lid of an unstacked MacBook. Sleep is triggered when the magnet in the laptop’s display clamshell gets close enough to the magnetic “Hall Effect” switch in the MacBook body. By the way, Apple didn’t make up the name for this switch; you can check out various Web sites, including this Wikipedia page, to learn more about Hall Effect switches.

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