A Lemon From Apple

I am becoming convinced that I got a real lemon from Apple a few years back when I purchased an iMac from the online Apple store. I am beginning to wonder if the poor reliability that I have experienced has something to do with timing. I managed to buy a G5-based Mac about a month and a half before Apple announced the switch to Intel. Was it the case that Apple were willing to let quality slide as they were running out their back stock of G5-based systems?

Here is the history of this particular iMac:

It was delivered to me with a defective DVD drive. The drive would read/burn CDs and read DVDs. Burning DVDs resulted in ‘buffer under-run’ errors. I actually had the tech on the other end of the phone attempt a dump and run on me, by suggesting that I re-install the operating system and see if that fixed the problem. Moron. I made the point that if the OS was factory installed, tested and burned in properly, my re-installing it wasn’t going to make a difference — it was clearly a hardware issue. Finally went through Apple’s ‘depot’ replacement process where they express ship the part to me and I send back the defective part in a pre-paid mailer. Worked like a charm. DVD issue fixed.

Within a few months, the system started shutting down at random. Once again, one of the bright sparks on the Apple support line wanted me to re-install the OS to fix this issue (were these guys former Microsoft support techs?). After working through the moron ranks I finally got to someone who elliptically admitted that this was ‘a known issue’ and that I should take the system into the nearest Apple store for a fix. The guy at the Genius bar looked at the make of the iMac and said ‘let me guess, it started randomly shutting down, right?’. About 20 minutes later, he popped out of the back room with the repaired system. When I asked about the root cause, he muttered something about ‘logic board’ and ‘sensor’ and kept telling me that there was no charge for the repair. Right. Not exactly confidence inspiring, but at least it was operable again.

The Leopard upgrade killed the system. Life was good until I attempted the seemingly simple task of upgrading the OS to Leopard. This went disastrously wrong. Read about it here and here. In the course of fixing this ‘install media’ issue, Apple replaced the DVD drive (again!), the hard drive and finally the Apple installed system RAM.

Less than two months later, the new hard drive fails. This was a mystery. One minute it was running the next minute it blanked the screen and kicked the fan on full. Attempts to reboot the system all ended with the iMac displaying the ‘I can’t find a drive to boot off of’ flashing icon. Booting off of the install DVD and running Disk Utility confirmed that the internal drive could not be seen. Because I have an Apple Care extended warranty on this system (thank goodness!) they opted to send a tech out to the house to replace the drive. Five days later(!) he showed up and replaced the drive. Unfortunately, he had no clue what to do next. I showed him how to partition the drive and re-install the OS and made him stay until the install completed successfully (having experienced the previous shenanigans with the Leopard install). All was well and the system is back up and running. Again.

Until next time. In some ways, its bad that that is my attitude. Even when I balance the horrible reliability of this iMac with the fact that I have a nearly eight year old iMac that is chugging right along, no issues. Ever. The other iMacs (some approaching 5 years old) also have had no issues. I would estimate that Apple has more than paid for the original purchase price of the system in parts and labor. I wish that they would just replace it the next time it fails (not likely). My Apple Care plan runs out next summer. I hope I won’t need it again, but based on history, I have my doubts.

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