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Bogus hardware test error messages on Mac Pros

Apple refreshed its Mac Pro and Xserve lines on Tuesday — in advance of the Macworld Expo. At the same time, Mac Pro owners may have missed a recent technote warning that Apple's hardware diagnostic tools may give out bogus error reports on Mac Pro models.
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Written by David Morgenstern on

Apple refreshed its Mac Pro and Xserve lines on Tuesday. That's a somewhat interesting move, since it's in advance of the Macworld Expo. Some folks wonder why the release came out now and not next week at the expo.

At the same time, the 4-core and 8-core Mac Pros were the subject of a recent technical note that you may have missed with the holiday daze.

Apple's timing of the new Mac Pro and Xserve models shows that Cupertino has other, bigger and broader announcements prepped for Steve Jobs' keynote address. Likely the strategists in the marketing department don't want to "waste" column inches in next week's event coverage with enterprise market workstations and servers.

In addition, by my reckoning, Apple's timing wasn't about countering CES buzz. If it were, the Apple press released would have sprung on late Friday or early Monday morning. Since the traditional Microsoft keynote at CES happens on late Sunday night, there's no message dissonance created by releasing a product on Tuesday. And enterprise workstations are again outside the consumer focus of CES. (Mary Jo Foley said she wished for a bit of Steve Jobs' "one more thing" from Bill Gates at the CES keynote. From what it sounded like, the crowd may have wished for anything Jobsian, period.)

Meanwhile, busy with the bowl games, you may have missed the recent technote about 4- and 8-core Mac Pros and the Apple Hardware Test tools. It seems that sometimes the test says that things are wrong, when they are okay.

When testing Mac Pro quad-core or 8-core computers using Apple Hardware Test (AHT) diagnostics, you may encounter diagnostic flags signaling the computer does not pass when the reading is actually acceptable.

Apple says that the error message looks like this: "4 SNS/1/40000001:ICAC-3.222*" (note that the last 3.222 3-digit number in the string could be something between 1.000 and 4.000).

For this test, a reading of 1.000 to 4.000 can be considered as passing even though the diagnostic flags it as not passing. A value below 1.000 should still be treated as not passing. In this case, contact your local Apple Service Provider.

If you've never run the Apple Hardware Test program, it can be found on the Mac OS X startup disk that comes with your computer. On Intel Macs, it is invoked by restarting with DVD in the drive and holding down the D key. (On older Macs, users were told to hold down the C key.)

The tests can take a while (and even longer) and the Read Me suggests that users unplug external hardware devices, except for keyboard and mouse, as well as network connections.

I like this line from the document.

If Apple Hardware Test does not detect a hardware failure, the problem may be software related.

Go figure.

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