Several screws loose (or altogether missing): Recapping my latest laptop misadventure

May 2, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 2, 2015

I almost forgot to write about my laptop meltdown. No, not that one — I’m talking about the latest one.

It happened a month ago, on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. I was just sitting down at a coffee shop when my MacBook Pro started acting screwy. Then it stopped working. Multiple attempts to restart the machine failed to get things loading properly.

I scheduled an appointment at the nearest Apple Store for the morning of Saturday, April 4. When I went in, I was told that the hardware was mostly* in order, but I appeared to have experienced a failure of my hard drive and/or the cable that connects it to the rest of the computer.

As it happened, of course, the hard drive had been replaced a few years ago, and a new connecting cable had just been installed in November. But when I raised these points with the Apple Genius, I was told that these parts and repairs were only covered by 90-day warranties. Therefore, the coverage had expired.

I was quoted a price of about $150 to repair the computer. Since replacing it would cost at least $1,000 (including taxes and a new warranty, which I would want for any new laptop), I decided to authorize the fix.

The Genius told me that the repair was simple and could be completed that day. At that moment, however, my plans precluded my returning for the computer on Saturday, so I said that the work could wait a day or two. (Ordinarily, I would have asked for my machine back on Sunday, but April 5 was Easter, and the store was closed.)

Two things happened on Saturday that made me change my mind.

The first thing was that I got a call about some records that were stored on a hard drive. (Yes, of course I keep backups, and you should too!) I basically couldn’t access the information without a computer.

The other thing was that I altered my original plans, which were to spend the afternoon in Cary, N.C., before going to Raleigh for the evening. Instead, I decided to head west back to Durham, which made swinging by the Apple Store to pick my machine back up quite convenient.

I was a bit spacey that day, so I forgot having told the Apple employee that I didn’t need my laptop back immediately. Instead, I put in some calls to the store inquiring when my MacBook would be ready to go. I got a bit cross when it turned out that the fix hadn’t been completed.

Eventually, I was told that I could come by before closing time, 9 p.m., in order to pick up the computer. Since I had some time to kill, I drove to a coffee shop to do some reading before heading over to the Apple Store at the Southpoint Mall.

I walked in a little before 9 and waited. In fairly short order, a young man came out with my laptop, which he set down on a nearby display case. He turned it on to show me that the machine was working.

The fellow warned me that since the hard drive was new, and since my computer’s trackpad no longer physically clicks down, I’d need a mouse in order to get going. (The Mac OS X operating system allows a double-tap on the trackpad to function as a click, but to activate this preference, you more or less need a mouse. Catch-22!)

Standing there in the about-to-close Apple Store, I thought this through. I was pretty sure that I had a mouse at home, and I told the Genius so. I paid for the fix. He turned off the computer without running through any of the setup, slipped it into what I assume was a static-free bag and handed it to me. I put the laptop in my backpack and headed home.

A few hours later, after reading and eating at home, I went to get my computer so I could begin restoring the data… and I got a big surprise.

For some reason, when I took the MacBook out of the static-free bag, I was holding it upside down. That turned out to be pretty fortunate: As I was carrying the computer into my office, I noticed that all of the screws that were supposed to hold the case together were missing.

My eyebrows must have shot up. I examined the machine to make sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. They were not.

Well, I knew that the computer was in working order, even if it wasn’t securely fastened. I decided it was time to fulfill a pledge that I’d been neglecting since November.

I located my clear plastic laptop protective shell, wiped it down and dried it off. Then I placed the computer in its shell, put it on the desk, plugged it in and started using it.

I also made an appointment to return to the Apple Store to get the computer screwed together. I made sure to explain on the scheduling form why I was bringing the MacBook in for work.

A few mornings later, I returned to the store right at the time of my appointment. I waited an extremely short time at the Genius Bar. A man in his 40s or 50s came up to me, checked my name and then told me his. He said he’d discussed my case this morning and would take care of it right away.

A few minutes later, he emerged from the back room with my computer. He showed me the bottom of the case, which this time was screwed together properly.

And that’s the story of my laptop meltdown. (Mostly.)


* One of the two minor exceptions in my mostly healthy hardware report, the trackpad, is discussed elsewhere in the text; the other minor exception is my Bluetooth component, which failed years ago, and which I won’t replace because it means buying and installing a new AirPort card.

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