My Mac is not giving up yet.

About a week ago, I had a horrible thing happen. My Mac gave up the ghost. Well, sort of anyway. It didn’t really die, but it seemed like it had. I was buzzing along happily when all of the sudden the video went wonky (that’s a technical term) and then everything froze up. It wouldn’t reboot.
I had never actually experienced this kind of thing before. Everytime something went wrong on my Mac, I was able to fix it. The display showed the normal gray boot screen and Apple logo, but now with sinister blue lines vertically traipsed across the screen. This was the first time I’d dealt with a catastrophic hardware failure.

This failure coincided with friends coming in from out of town, so while my laptop filled the void, I wasn’t missing it as much as I normally would. Once our guests were gone, I settled into the reality of living without my main machine. It towards the end of it’s life being 4 years old, but I wasn’t in any position to replace it (And I was eyeing a $3200 configured MacBook Pro Retina).

Listening to a podcast mention the Apple Store I thought to myself “Oh yeah… Maybe they could look at it”. I had significant doubts. Following Apple’s recommended steps, I rebooted, rebooted into safe mode, cleared NVRAM and PRAM, booted into verbose safe mode, swapped out ram, and finally slumped down in my chair. I packed up my iMac in it’s box and carted it off to Washington Square.

The store was crowded, and I was early. I checked in with an employee, and then checked out Apple hardware that would probably never cross my home’s threshold. I was meeting with an Apple Genius named Patrick. I read his nametag from afar and briefly got annoyed that he was still talking to another customer.

The fact that my appointment started a little late was the very very worst part of the experience. If you didn’t read that right, I had an amazing experience. Patrick was exceptionally knowledgeable and very friendly. I think I was among the last appointments of the evening so I suspect he’d already had a day full of problems.

He hooked my computer up to the Apple Store network and booted up. The computer continued as I expected it to with plenty of failure. Patrick however, effortlessly moved into netboot (something I’d never seen before) to get access to his amazing arsenal of Apple  store tools (alleration FTW!) I was delighted and dumbfounded by the different tools that they have available to them. The hardware diagnostic boot tool was fun to watch (also – a little throwback to Mac OS 9!), The iPad based parts and components tool was all of a day old (and apparently it spent most of yesterday down).

All while doing this, we talked back and forth about what had happened, what might be the cause, what steps I’d taken. He spoke to me right at my level.  Not trying to show me up technically, not below me. And I’m sure that if I’d been a clueless fool he would have shown the same kindness and helpful spirit.

The problem, we concluded, was a video card failure. The repair weighed in at $170 including labor. It was almost a no-brainer. My iMac remains at the Apple Store awaiting it’s replacement video card. I honestly expected the appointment to go poorly, for the employee to tell me there was nothing to be done, I should get a new Mac, and they’d be happy to recycle this one for me.

Instead, I had a fantastic experience that helped me understand the options I had and made me feel good about a computer that’s more than 4 years old. How’s that for awesome? Thanks for your help tonight Patrick, you’re doing an awesome job.

There’s a noticeable lack of pictures in this post. I didn’t think to pull out my camera until the end of my appointment, and Patrick is unfortunately not allowed to have his picture taken at the Genius Bar.

Update:

Here’s the happy ending to my tale. Having gotten my iMac back, I decided to wipe it and do a clean install. So far, things are great!

Clean installs are a rarity for me. Though my data was fine, it was a good opportunity for a fresh start.

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