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Released October 2008 / 2.4, 2.53, 2.66, 2.8 or 2.93 GHz Core 2 Duo Processor

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MBP powers up, but *nothing* happens after (no boot sound, no video)

I have inherited an old MBP 15” from a friend. It seems to be a late 2008 / early 2009 Unibody model: model number and serial number on the bottom are worn out and aren’t readable anymore, but it has a full-width latch door on the bottom of the case.

The laptop suffered a  cat-induced fall, and won’t boot since then. It has no visible damage: no dents, no cracks, no bumps. The display glass is intact. Disassembling the laptop doesn’t reveal any obvious damage either.

So far my troubleshooting went like this:

  • it charges quite fine (using the original changer from a 2008 MB sibling), the green dots on the left side show that it is (almost) fully charged;
  • it does turn on when the Power button is pressed;
  • the fans kick in, full blast, and stay on the whole time until the laptop is powered down;
  • the white indicator on the right side of the front panel lights up;
  • there is NO boot up sound, but just *one* time, after powering up the MBP did emit a sound: three short tones, three long ones, and three short ones again. I am absolutely sure it wasn’t the 3long-3short-3long combo mentioned on Apple support site;
  • there is NO video activity whatsoever — no spinner with an Apple logo, no grey screen, nothing at all. Shining a flashlight through the Apple logo on the lid does not reveal anything on the screen;
  • plugging in an external monitor using original Apple DisplayPort -> DVI adapter does not help, the monitor detects no signal;
  • pressing and holding the Power button for about 4 seconds shuts the laptop down.

I have tried resetting the SMC and PRAM/NVRAM, which doesn’t seem to do anything. I also tried different boot key combos to see if the MBP would boot in a different mode, but this does not help either.

At the moment I am not sure where the problem lies, but I suspect either the display, its cable, or the logic board. None of these options make a lot of sense though: if the display or its cable are dead, I should be able to boot the laptop using the external monitor, or at least I would hear the boot up sound. And if the logic board is dead then the MBP shouldn’t power up or shut down at all when the Power button is pressed.

Is there anything I can do to pinpoint the problem further? Did I forget to check or do something? I am ready to invest a few $$$ to make the thing work again, but before I buy any spare parts or other broken MBPs I’d like to have a working theory about what’s wrong with this one.

Thanks a lot in advance!

Update (06/17/2020)

Hello Dan, thank you for your suggestions!

I did reseat the RAM modules, twice. No dice. I don’t think the RAM should be the problem though, since it’s the one the MBP shipped with (2 x 1GB sticks).

As for beep code table, I checked it before posting here, and either my mind is playing tricks, or the beep sequence I heard is not documented. In any case, this only happened once during many, many, MANY restarts, and I cannot reproduce it anymore.

In the meantime, I have been trying to figure out what the MBP is trying to do despite it not showing anything.

What I noticed is that there’s no characteristic WHOOSH sound that the Superdrive should make after the laptop is turned on. I have another Macbook about the same age (late 2008, Model A1278), and it always makes this sound (moving the reading head to check if the CD/DVD is inserted, I think).

Also, compared to that A1278 Macbook, I have to hold the Power button for 4+ seconds to turn the MBP off, whereas the A1278 turns off immediately.

The last thing I noticed is related to the fan noise:

  • I turn the MBP on by pressing the Power button;
  • the fans kick in immediately, and loudly;
  • but SOMETIMES, ~5-10 seconds after powering up, fans stop for a couple of seconds, then continue whirring.

I couldn’t figure out any rhyme and reason for fans pausing: it doesn’t seem to depend on any startup key combos I try, and doesn’t depend on anythign that happened during the previous power cycle. Any idea what might be the reason?

The way I see it, my options are:

  • taking this MBP to Genius Bar. On one hand, it’s not too far. On the other hand, I have no idea how much the diagnostics is going to cost me, and whether they will take such an old model into service at all.
  • buying another MBP off eBay, preferably broken in a different way (e.g. not charging), and trying to replace the display first, and the logic board second.

I’ll update the thread as soon as there’s any progress, but your further suggestions are very welcome.

Thanks again!

Update (06/18/2020)

Another update, possibly relevant.

I have disconnected the Superdrive from the logic board just to see if it was the cause of the problem, and the “fan noise” is gone now. I have mistook the CD/DVD spinning noise for a fan noise. However, the laptop still behaves the same way: no video or sound whatsoever, SOMETIMES it kinda ‘reboots’ 5-10 seconds after powering up: this is made visible by the light on the front panel, which turns off shortly, then turns on again after such “reboot”.

I will switch the Superdrives between this MBP and the other 13” MB I have to see if it’s still functioning.

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Sorry to say Apple won't service this system as its too old ;-{

Vintage and obsolete products

Your best bet is finding an independent with good Mac experience to see if they can help you.

But sadly, I'm starting to think your logic board is gone.

da

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Here’s what the beep code means About Mac startup tones

Check your tone code again to be sure.

Try reseating the RAM you may want to make sure its the correct size and spec for your system.

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Thanks again for your suggestions. I spent some time on that machine figuring if I can pinpoint the issue precisely, but didn't find anything specific. I ended up buying another dead laptop of the same model, with a different issue (not charging), and will try to make a Frankenmac out of these two as soon as it arrives. I will post a follow up in a couple of weeks.

da

@danj So, here's the update I promised.

As mentioned earlier, I bought another borked MBP of the same model, but with a different issue (not changing). I have switched logic boards between these laptops, and did nothing else – and it worked!

OS X is being reinstalled right now, but I suspect no further issues with this machine, seeing how it was able to start the installer. I will run full diagnostics later, but for now I think the topic can be closed.

Thanks again for your help!

da

@approximate - Happy to hear you got things working further along!

da

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approximate sarà eternamente grato.
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