back to article MacBook Air fanbois! Your flash drive may be a data-nuking TIME BOMB

If you bought a MacBook Air between June 2012 and June 2013, its flash storage drive may be preparing to crap out – and Apple wants to replace it before it goes south on you. Cupertino has issued a warning that "certain" 64GB and 128GB solid-state drives (SSDs) in those previous-generation Airs "may fail," and says that if yours …

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Devil

Not possible.

It just works.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not possible.

Apple is reliant on other manufacturers for parts. Quite often these manufacturers release crap and Apple can't exactly test it for 1-2 years before release can they? they can only attempt to simulate a long life with soak tests.

At least Apple will repair and replace, quite often HP and other makes tell you to go do one.

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Silver badge

Re: Not possible.

I am just typing this now on my second, SECOND replacement 27" iMac. This was due to there being a recall on the graphics card. I sent the machine in to Apple (or rather they picked it up). Since there were many to get through, they farmed it out to a third party subcontractor service company. Said service company screwed up the re-installation of the LED display, so it was out of whack. I took it back to Apple, annoyed that I was returning it again (this was the second recall, there had already been one on the Western Digital HDD it came with and before that I had a previous replacement when an earlier repair to the screen was made). Apple were very apologetic and replaced the whole machine with one of the new ultra-thin models with upgraded specs. So now I'm quite happy.

The thing is after the first machine replacement, they had to renew the Apple Care and it seems Apple Care can only be renewed for the full two additional years. So the date I first purchased the 27" iMac is now about 4 years ago and it feels like Apple have been giving me free upgrades at regular intervals since!

So of course all machines as complex as computers will have problems every now and then, but I personally can't fault Apples response when they do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not possible.

It won't cost Apple a penny as it will be down to the faulty part supplier.

On a good note I remember a Dell XPS I owned that had an Nvidia game card in it. What I didn't know was that there was an overheating problem and Dell introduced a Bios update to control it which incidentally made the fan work overtime. It died two years and 10 months later, when I complained ( no extended warranty ) Dell were economical with the truth and said I could purchase a refurbished card. A quick web search showed the extent of the problem and that Dell still denied all knowledge of the problem. Finally got them to discount a new XPS which turned out to be a dog. I purchased 15 new computers for my business last year, they were not made by Dell.

The wheel always turns.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not possible.

The irony is I'd guess there is a good chance the SSD / flash was made by Samsung!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not possible.

And I thought all that money was for all the extra security vulnerabilities you get in OS-X compared to Windows.

I guess it was for special HDD features too.....

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Silver badge

Re: Not possible.

It won't cost Apple a penny as it will be down to the faulty part supplier.

Recalls *always* cost money. Always.

You have to let your users know. The advertising people don't work for free.

You still need to freight the bad stock back, and the good stock around. Drivers and trucks don't work free.

Then you have to install them. Your techs, and certainly third party techs aren't going to work for free.

Reputation. Make no mistake it's going cost you that, so you have to spend more on PR to counter that.

.

Look at what happened with VW and their f***king DSG gearbox problems in Australia as an example of how NOT to handle a recall. Though I have to say, they made up for the reputation loss by spending up big on PR. Holy crap, even the publications that were poo-pooing their response (or lack thereof) suddenly had full page ads and nice shiny reviews. I guess anyone can be bought if you drive a dump truck full of money onto their front lawn. Oh well, maybe a dump truck was cheaper than actually fixing them all.

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Silver badge

Re: Not possible.

@AC 19:47 - "I purchased 15 new computers for my business last year, they were not made by Dell"

Are we talking desktops? I sure as hell hope you didn't pay Dell or anyone else to build them for you. Unless your business has no one with the bare minimum of IT knowledge required to build your own, more powerful and reliable systems at a savings of $400+ per device.

I thought that nearly all semi-intelligent people stopped buying branded desktops more than 10 years ago.

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Bronze badge

Re: Not possible.

Hum, I stopped bulding desktops when my profit margin went down to less than 50 euros per box. The time spent assembing them, installing windows, burntesting the system, then having to provide a legal 1 year guarantee on any parts, it's not cost effective for low end business machines for word processing and basic spreadsheeting <400 euro/$$$. Dell has that part of the market covered and the only companies that would try to do cheaper are generally using their "nephew who is good with computers" and application licences of dubious, torrented origins...

Start going to higher spec machines, gaming and the such, you can get some good deals, but you probably are better on a DIY job (and you generally do have a clue on what you are doing), but once into an enterprise market, you either have to have some right tiny needs, or on the opposite, some insanely huge needs to employ people and become your own builder (Google, Facebook, and a fair number of mid-level hosters), ordering OEM parts by the pallet rather than by box, or you are back to Dell who can ship you 90 boxes for some time next week, pre-installed, tested with 3 years on-site guarantee...

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Anonymous Coward

Replacement parts..

To me, this illustrates a problem with the current trend of building the whole machine out of non-replacable parts: low rework ability. Any faulty component can render the whole machine void, which must get costly in repair terms for Apple.

Given their repair policy it's not really a worry for clients, but it must be an interesting balance to get right.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not possible.

I guess anyone can be bought if you drive a dump truck full of money onto their front lawn. Oh well, maybe a dump truck was cheaper than actually fixing them all.

That was actually the motivation behind not fixing the Ford Pinto fuel tank problem: less costly to compensate the families of those who died than fixing the issue itself. It became someone of a problem when that decision process itself leaked. The only way they could have made that problem worse would have been by fitting Firestone tyres as well.

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Re: Not possible.

Actually my betting is, based on what I've seen lately, is that it's likely to be the drives manufactured by toshiba. I've seen about 5 of them crap out in macbook airs, at which point that simply report that they are a sandforce drive, and that the capacity is 32k

Fortunately the repair is quick to do. Unfortunately if you have an SSD in that state then your data is well and truly gone.

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Re: Not possible.

"Apple is reliant on other manufacturers for parts", and I rely on other people (e.g. employers) for money, When they give me a bad check, should I go write Apple a bad check?

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Re: Not possible.

Apple is reliant on other manufacturers for parts, and I am reliant on other people (e.g. employers) for money. If they give me bad checks, should I write Apple bad checks?

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Re: Not possible.

Andy, we're all far too busy getting ready for the Y2K bug to worry about building our own desktops right now.

"Are we talking desktops? I sure as hell hope you didn't pay Dell or anyone else to build them for you. Unless your business has no one with the bare minimum of IT knowledge required to build your own, more powerful and reliable systems at a savings of $400+ per device."

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Silver badge

Re: Not possible.

I'm sure I read at the time that it was a Toshiba part.

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Stop

Re: Not possible.

You'd be very wrong about this. Large businesses prefer to be, you know, running their business rather than building computers. They are quite happy paying extra for premium hardware and premium support so that downtime due to failures gets sorted out quickly. It's a small part of the total cost of ownership of a computer.

It's worth pointing out that the Dell XPS range was a pro-sumer product aimed at the gaming market . Dell even managed to ship these around the time of Windows Vista's release without working graphics drivers.

One hopes that Dell actually properly integration tests the premium models targeted at medium and large enterprises

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Replacement parts..

"To me, this illustrates a problem with the current trend of building the whole machine out of non-replacable parts: low rework ability. Any faulty component can render the whole machine void, which must get costly in repair terms for Apple."

The SSD in MacBook Airs is extremely replaceable. Undo the 10 (?) pentalobe screws on the bottom, lift it off, and the SSD is a slotted-in circuit board just like a SoDIMM or whatever. Replacement shouldn't take more than 6-7 minutes.

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Sil

Re: Not possible.

I don't know, experiences vary and I guess it is quite hard to generalize.

I have bought & used Dell products for 15 years in an SMB with great satisfaction (although I am absolutely disgusted by the lack of configuration options on their site nowadays, I hope they are clear that it costs them lots of missed sales opportunities).

We had basically 1 real problem in all those years with defective power supplies in Optiplex desktops. Someone came onsite and replaced them all, no problem.

As an aside our record computer was an IBM desktop which has been working 24/7 with Windows 95 since 1997 for a very specialized application. To my knowledge - I left the company 2 years ago - it is still working. It was very expensive at the time, about CHF 4500 if memory serves but it sure was a good investment.

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Silver badge

Re: Not possible.

"It's worth pointing out that the Dell XPS range was a pro-sumer product aimed at the gaming market . Dell even managed to ship these around the time of Windows Vista's release without working graphics drivers."

And in addition to the graphics card overheating and early death (in part a card build problem, in part a case/airflow issue AFAICS), Dell shipped them with own brand X Fi sound cards that never had working drivers under Vista. You could (with some diligence) track down a suitable driver on the Creative web site, but it was a pretty poor experience, but Dell's offshore "support" was laughable. I was absolutely delighted to get back to non-proprietary components, and away from Dell.

The laugh was that (as you say) the XPS machines were targeted at the high end SOHO/gaming user, but the cheapo Inspirons of the same vintage were far better, having working drivers, ATX standard parts, and better cooling, and they were far easier to clean and maintain than the hulking great BTX cases, and didn't come with the high risk, low value frippery of RAID 0 that many XPS machines shipped with.

In my experience Dell provide an object lesson in how to lose a customer for life. It's good that Apple seem to have learned that lesson, but there's plenty of other computer makers who seem determined to stick their fingers in their ears to avoid hearing this (like HP).

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Re: Not possible.

...

Failure ratio of Toshiba SSD in MBA 2012: 47% (21 out of 44)

Failure ratio of Samsung SSD in MBA 2012: 4% (1 out 26)

....

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Facepalm

Meh

Wonder who made the SSD's?

On my desk at work I've got a dozen 32Gb SSD's made by K**gston - all of which came in the same batch of machines (from a non-fruity manufacturer), and all of which crapped out within two weeks of each other.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meh

I've got a 128GB Kingston in the drawer, can't quite bear to sling it but the damn thing used to corrupt every few months, even with the "fixed" firmware.

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Anonymous Coward

No they don't !

Obviously ignorance is least cost route for Apple.

They thrive at at.

Ever thought of sending a letter?

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Thumb Down

Re: No they don't !

"... ignorance is least cost route for Apple..."

Also the default route for some commenters, apparently.

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Gold badge

"Apple is reliant on other manufacturers for parts. Quite often these manufacturers release crap and Apple can't exactly test it for 1-2 years before release can they? "

No, but they also tend to (despite the premium price), not spec premium parts. Although in this case, I would guess there was a firmware bug.

I'd REALLY like to know what the issue was -- is it one of those deals where you have problems if you turn off the flash mid-write? Does the flash module have power control, and using too much power to flash the memory and "burning" it out prematurely? Faulty wear levelling? Something else? I doubt we'll ever find out.

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Anonymous Coward

"No, but they also tend to (despite the premium price), not spec premium parts. Although in this case, I would guess there was a firmware bug."

Actually the drives Apple uses in the MacBook are are almost the definition of premium. Conventional drives didn't meet Apple's requirements (probably due to physical size) so they ordered bespoke drives. I think it's awesome that there's a computer manufacturer that would do something like that.

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You can't be serious...

"Actually the drives Apple uses in the MacBook are are almost the definition of premium. Conventional drives didn't meet Apple's requirements (probably due to physical size) so they ordered bespoke drives. I think it's awesome that there's a computer manufacturer that would do something like that."

I've upgraded several MacBooks and Macbook pros over the last few years using generic drives. All have fitted and worked fine. Perhaps you were trying to squeeze in 3.5" drives - those really don't fit ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Toshiba drives with Sandforce controllers affected

Seems it's those pesky Sandforce controllers again!

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Gimp

Interesting

I bought the 11" MacBook Air when it first came out. Very soon after it suffered total SSD failure losing me data, although being a good boy, I was using Time Machine and the loss was limited. Apple replaced it. The second machine suffered an even more catastrophic SSD failure and I lost more being i was travelling without my backup drive. I learned that Apple were switching from (I believe) Toshiba SSD to Samsung. They gave me a third machine, but I sold it to upgrade to a 13" late 2011 MacBook Air and the buyer says it's still working today. So my 3rd 11" MBA must have had the Samsung SSD. I bought by 13" MBA in March 2012 from Chicago and as I type this, it has behaved superbly, despite being thrust into my bag every day countless times and taken all over the UK since. It is the best Apple product i have ever owned, and the only product of their's that comes close in reliability is the Mac mini and iPad.

Planning to get the new (Oct 2013?) MacBook Pro being the latest MBAs don't have retina displays and my current 13" SSD is full. If it wasn't for the memory being full up (256GB), I would keep it.

Anyway, this issue with the SSDs is probably why Apple try to make their own chips when they can, but I imagine economies of scale mean they could never produce their own SSDs. Memory is a commodity and mass production is the only way to keep prices in check.

One more thing: PLEASE USE TIME MACHINE 100% OF THE TIME! #YouNeverKnow

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WTF?

Re: Interesting

If it wasn't for the memory being full up (256GB), I would keep it.

You're replacing your MacBook Air because the drive is full?

You do know it's cheaper to just buy a bigger drive and clone the old one onto the new one?

Here's a couple of hashtags for you: #unnecessaryspending #brainwashed #cultofjobs

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting

PLEASE USE TIME MACHINE 100% OF THE TIME!

Nope, I travel too much. With the new WiFi speeds it may actually be possible I enable it again (because then it will at least not slow me down) when in the office, but I generally prefer a Carbon Copy backup (I have it set up so it wakes up at night and runs a backup, or nags me in the morning if it hasn't managed because I forgot to connect the USB hard disk.

So your statement is correct insofar as advocating a solid backup routine - I've had a few close shaves myself so for me it's religion.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: Interesting

It's generally hard to find SSD drives that fit the Macbook Air. They don't use the standard 2.5" drives. That's the curse of thin laptops, a lot of ultrabooks are the same. Upgrading to a 480GB SSD is going to cost you almost £500 once you factor in shipping and customs charges, if you buy it from these guys. http://eshop.macsales.com/search/MBA2010.480 I've not found a similar supplier in the UK.

While it's still cheaper than buying a whole new laptop, there's nothing like a good excuse to buy a new laptop :)

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Silver badge

Re: Interesting

I once bought a new car because the tyres wore out...

(OK, there were other reasons too...)

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Re: Interesting

You can get the OWC drives from a UK supplier. Not exactly cheap, but not as pricey as buying a new machine either:

http://www.macupgrades.co.uk/store/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=480gb+macbook+air

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Bronze badge

Pushing design before technology is ready

Thus soldering the SSD chips directly on the motherboard is not a good idea...yet. I hope Apple learns something from this.

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Bronze badge

Re: Pushing design before technology is ready

I'm sure that the Apple engineers will be taking your sage advice on board.

Or maybe not, since they seem to be struggling by without your help.

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Silver badge

Re: Pushing design before technology is ready

Er, I don't think they are soldered direct to the mobo on the MBA - RAM is on some models, but not the storage, IIRC.

Might have to double check that, but I *think* I'm correct in saying that?

Steven R

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pushing design before technology is ready

err it's an mSATA slot for the SSD...

but don't let the facts get in the way of your FUD!

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Bronze badge

Re: Pushing design before technology is ready

@ K 4

Nah, no FUD intended. I could just be misinformed or perhaps it hasn't happened yet. The internet is a tricky place to get information. Even a Mac user I know thought it was the case by now. Perhaps we have the product generations affected mixed up. At least it was rumored to be where Apple was going with the product. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/apple/rumor-apple-soldering-macbook-air-ssd-to-motherboard-and-why-its-a-bad-idea-updated-2x/10509

I actually have some stake in Apple doing well. After some time using computers side by side with a Mac user I know vs My PCs it finally became clear that I need to go Mac as soon as I have the spare cash.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pushing design before technology is ready

"Nah, no FUD intended. I could just be misinformed or perhaps it hasn't happened yet."

I would be surprised if it happens any time in the next decade or two. SSDs are one of the components that still have relatively high rates of failure. If Apple starts soldering them onto motherboards, then they will have to replace entire motherboards if something goes wrong with the SSD... not cost effective for them at all.

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Anonymous Coward

I believe that if Apple had done a Life test on the on the SSD which is just a piece of semiconductor they would have found the problem much earlier.

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Anonymous Coward

No worries, I'm sure running Conway's Game of Life is standard testing procedure at Apple.

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just out of curiosity...

what do you call a female fanboi?

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Gimp

Re: just out of curiosity...

what do you call a female fanboi?

I believe Fangurl is the preferred term.

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Silver badge

Re: just out of curiosity...

"what do you call a female fanboi?"

Myth?

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Silver badge

Re: just out of curiosity...

Idiot, same as a fanboi.

Idiocy cares not for gender, race or creed.

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Silver badge

Re: just out of curiosity...

I'm guessing I was downvoted by an idiot...sorry, fanboi/girl?

Seriously, if you're a blinkered fan of <system>x and refuse to accept criticism of it (definition of a FanX) then you're an idiot, end of.

Everything has faults. Windows has faults. OS X has faults. Android has faults. Linux has faults.

If you can't accept this, then your arguments - of any kind - are utterly invalid in the world of those of us who are capable of critical thinking.

Downvote me to hell for this and see if I give a fuck - trust me, I won't, because you're the ones proving your rank stupidity.

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