My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 12

My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 12

Summary: This post answers a question that I've been asked a several times since starting out on my MacBook experience - Do Macs crash, lockup, or otherwise generally misbehave?Well, do they?

TOPICS: Hardware

This post answers a question that I've been asked a several times since starting out on my MacBook experience - Do Macs crash, lockup, or otherwise generally misbehave?

Well, do they?  Of course they do.  I know this might come as a surprise to some and might even anger some readers, but I've never owned or seen a desktop computer or notebook that didn't once crash or lockup or do something unexpected, and the MacBook Pro is no different.  It's started behaving oddly on me several times since I've had it.  Once is locked up totally while playing a DVD (admittedly I was doing several other things at the same time, including running Aperture).  Another time Firefox just wouldn't run and there was no instance of it running in the Force Quit dialog so I had to restart.  Another time the system wouldn't recognize any CD or DVD that I placed in the drive.  There have been a few other times too, but I don't remember the precise details.  All the incidences have been trivial really, but all of which caused me to have to reboot the system.  A few seconds after ordering a reboot the system was once again up and running and ready for action.  To be honest with you, I take no pleasure it saying that the system has needed rebooting on several occasions - I would have liked to find a platform that was, from an uptime point of view, close to perfect (the last platform I used that came close to that was Windows NT 4) and it would have made a really compelling case for buying a MacBook.

OK, so Macs crash.  What matters is not whether a piece of technology crashes, it's whether it does so in such a way that you lose data or corrupt the system.  I'm pleased to say that I've not lost any data or suffered any form of system corruption at all.  All the instances of misbehavior that I've encountered have been very low key indeed and mostly concerning the multimedia aspects of the system.  In all my time using the Mac I've not come across an instance of Firefox locking up or becoming slow (as it does on most of my Windows machines regularly).  In fact, I don't seem to be noticing the memory leak that plagues Firefox on the Windows platform at all.

Does the Mac misbehave less than Windows PC?  Hmmm.  I think I'm going to sit on the fence for a while longer before answering that question.  Over the past twelve days I've had to reboot the MacBook several times, but is this because the system is misbehaving or it is me not interacting with it properly?  In that time it's certainly needed rebooting more often than my main notebook or my desktop PC, both of which regularly go for a week without rebooting unless some update or installation program demands it (rather than shut down the systems I hibernate them when they're not in use).  However, most of these crashes did occur in the first week I had the Mac, and I have tried doing some ambitious things with it.  The past few days it's been pretty stable indeed.  Hopefully it's settled down.  However, in my experience, crashes and lockups are pretty rare on my Windows system.  Like I said, the systems usually go for days without needing a reboot.  It may be tempting fate to say it but it's been a very long time indeed since I've had a crash or lockup that's caused me to lose data (other than having to close tabs open in the browser - which isn't data as such but can still be annoying).

What are your experiences of with your operating system?  Do you find that it's fairly robust or do you find it crashing on a regular basis.

Previous installments:

Topic: Hardware

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  • Wha.....?

    Running Aperture while you're playing a DVD??? Well.......never mind.

    Anyway, it's too bad that Apple didn't include an AirPort Express with the Pro. You would have been wireless in about 2 minutes.

    Welcome to the Mac, and enjoy!
  • Force Quit Menu

    The force quit menu only shows running applications that are visible to the user. It is possible firefox was still running as a process. Generally if this happes, go into terminal, and type top then enter. This will give you a list of running processes. Find the firefox process, and see what its PID number is, hit control-x to exit top. Then type kill pid and it should stop that process.
    • You're making the case...

      That Windows handles dead processes better... :P
      • well....

        I have had similar cases in windows where the application will quit, but the process is still running. However, it is easier to quit a hung process in w2k/w2k3/xp as you can just click the process tab and end it there. Unless its a system process, then you can't. Where as with OSX you can quit a system process if you have the proper privileges. So in most cases windows does handle them better I think. But I rarely have to go into the terminal to force quit an application.
        • Use Activity Monitor instead

          Dropping to the command line in a terminal session and using the "top" and
          "kill" command is certainly one way of killing a process. But why not use the
          GUI application in the Utilities folder instead? It's designed just for that (and
          other things) and it is certainly more intuitive to use.
    • Can you do the same....

      ...through Activity Monitor?
      tic swayback
      • Yes

        Activity monitor completely skipped my mind, as I never use it. But you can quit processes through it. So long as they don't require rot access to quit (as some system processes will require). A hung process will be read in activity monitor, you can right click and chose to kill it there.
        • typos

          I really wish this feedback let you edit post sometimes.

          That should be "root access" and "be red in activity monitor".
          • Here's to being able to edit...

            I wish I had read the extra comments before posting about using AM instead,
            but alas I can't edit the post to be more relevant.

            Also, I think you can kill root processes in AM, but I'm not 100% positive.
    • Crash vs Page-out

      Using the Terminal is rather advanced for new users. The Activity Monitor is a
      much friendlier way to kill processes. Also, one other option: If you have a hung
      app that has a black pointer under its Dock Icon, click and hold on or right-click
      (control+click) on that icon and you'll get a contextual menu that will give you a
      Force Quit option if the App is indeed hung. If you see a "Not Responing" at the
      top of the list, the app could either be crashed, hung or simply unresponsive due
      to page-out disk activity.

      Is the computer really crashed? If you are playing a DVD and using Aperture at the
      same time, you'll be ok unless you start trying to switch between them, then you
      force a massive page-out, especially with Aperture or any big graphics caching
      app. If you think you're hung, open up your Applications/Utilites/Activity Monitor
      and list your processes by CPU usage. You'll probably discover the app in question
      is indeed running. Check disk usage with the same window and you'll see what's
      going on with the page-out.

      Page-outs, writing large amounts of real memory temporarily to the hard-drive
      can be a pain in the butt because you get watch the "Beachball" go around and
      around for sometimes up to 2 or 3 minutes depending on how big a page-out is
      going on. But it's not a crash and OS X, like a Unix, is like a diesel engine going up
      hill when it hits a big page-out--it's slow, but it always gets there.

      I commonly run more that a dozen apps at once, including much of the Adobe CS2
      package. I've done this long enough to know that a large page-out is a great time
      to check my email. You can still multi-task.
      Len Rooney
      • Granny knows the difference?

        How is granny supposed to know the difference between a crash and a page-out? Shouldn't the OSX experience be simpler than having to go into Activity Monitors to check to see if the app is "Not Responding" and then have to guess whether the reason you can't use your computer is because it has crashed or because it is writing to disk? Sounds very complicated to me!

        What does this do to the myth that OSX is the better OS for the technically incompetent?
        • Granny

          Granny thinks the system is hung when it's paging out because Windows has
          conditioned her to think that way.
        • Why are you here?

          I have read a few of your posts to this blog and I have to ask, why are you
          even here? Are you interested in upgrading to a Mac? Or are you just
          interested in trying to convince others not to get one? The old adage about
          having nothing good to say seems to fit. It might be different if you ever had
          anything positive to contribute, but you seem more interested in latching onto
          a few half-truths and trying to amplify them into major problems than you are
          in having an open dialogue about the pros and cons.
          • This is a common problem

            among 15 year old boys who can't get a date.
        • What's complicated

          I tell Granny, if she's not happy with the performance of the machine, restart. But I
          also tell her that the spinning beachball means that the machine is working on
          something but it does not mean that the machine can't do other things, like check
          the internet or get your email while waiting.

          But this situation rarely applies to Granny anyway. Large page outs are caused by
          swapping between large apps. Especially large graphics apps that already rely on
          virtual memory to run (Photoshop, Illustrator, Aperture). OS X is a fantastic OS for
          multi-tasking and you can load it up with as many apps at the same time as you
          want and it very rarely stumbles. But your app load is subject to available
          resources (CPU cycles, RAM, available disk space), as it is on any machine. I am,
          however, convinced that OS X handles multiple apps much better than XP (haven't
          tried Vista).

          Besides, restarting wouldn't hurt the machine anyway, it just ends up taking
          longer than waiting for the page out to complete.
          Len Rooney
  • Something is Wrong

    If you've had that many lockups and similar issues in that small number of days, then either (in the case of some of the issues listed) you are using buggy applications or drivers, or something else is wrong.

    I make no claim as to OS X being "crash-proof" - my iMac did give me a kernel panic the other day (the only OS X kernel panic I have ever seen outside of a hardware problem), and I do see one of those glitches now and then (particularly with the drive not recognizing CDs/DVDs when inserted - I suspect a driver issue on that one, due to some strange symptoms I've seen in Toast when this occurs) - but the frequency that you are specifying is far higher than I've seen on any "normal" OS X system I've run. And I do some strange things with/to my Macs from time to time, believe me...
    • Yeah

      It does seem that something is odd. Yes I have had OSX crash on me, but all of my machines generally only get rebooted for OS updates. My MacMini has had up times of over 100 days on many occasions. My old G4 was the same one. And my iBook gets shut down enough as I carry it around that I have not been able to see how long it will stay up. Although one small server I had built running 10.2.8 got an uptime of nearly a year before I finally shut it down (it was not on the net so security updates were not such an issue).

      But it does seem like something weird is going on. I have never had that many crashes in such a short period of time.
    • Maybe Adrian's Mac has a virus?

      [i]If you've had that many lockups and similar issues in that small number of days, then either (in the case of some of the issues listed) you are using buggy applications or drivers, or something else is wrong.[/i]

      After all, we [b]know[/b] for a [b]fact[/b] that OSX has a lot of critical vulnerabilities in it. Oh sure, only the PoC exploits have been reported but the "bad guys" don't have to report [b]everything[/b] they do. Adrian, I hope you haven't done any online banking with your Mac!
      • Not likely... do a little reseearch

        Mac = 26 potential viruses
        Windows = 71,000 potential viruses

        Probability is that Windows will be infected before Mac... just based on install base and potential infection vectors. Not looking good for the Window camp... still!

        [url=]Source one... sorta[/url]
        [url=]Excellent source of virus issues![/url] ]:)

        Now go into the fetal position and beat your head off the floor. ]:)
        Linux User 147560
  • New (relatively) convert

    I've been using a Mac Mini at home and a MacBook at work since early last
    fall and I can honestly say that I've been very happy with the stability of
    both machines.

    The Mini has been a real workhorse and I can't recall having to ever reboot
    the machine to solve a problem. I've had the occasional third-party
    application hang, but have always been able to force it to quit without a

    I have also been very happy with the stability of the MacBook, but it does
    require a reboot once in a while before AirPort will connect to some
    networks. It's not a problem I've ever experienced with Windows, but not
    enough of a problem to be a deal-breaker.