I’m having a little problem with my MacBook. Maybe you can help!

First of all, I can’t complain too much because this is a school-provided laptop. If it dies entirely, they’ll just give me a new one. Even so, my little problem is definitely not helping my productivity at school or at home.

Here’s the story:

I upgraded to OS 10.5 at the beginning of the school year (along with everyone else at ISB) and over the last few months I have been experiencing some annoying sleep-related problems. It seems that at least 50% of the time when my MacBook goes to sleep it somehow wakes itself up (I can see the Apple icon light up on the closed lid if I’m near the laptop). Once it’s woken itself up during sleep (without opening the lid) it can’t seem to go back to sleep.

So when I come back to the computer ready to do some work, it doesn’t wake up. I just end up with a black screen and a non-pulsating, bright, sleep light. I am then forced to hold down the power button until the MacBook shuts off, and then restart. I know this is not good for my shiny white friend, but I can’t seem to get it to wake up no matter what I do.

Previously I had experienced a similar problem that seemed to have something to do with the power connection. If I put the MacBook to sleep and either unplug or plug in the power before it’s “officially” asleep (the pulsating white light), it won’t wake up from sleep unless I replicate the power status of the computer before I closed the lid. Now I just make sure to remember to unplug before I close the lid, or wait until the sleep light starts pulsing. An inconvenience, but one I can definitely live with.

This new problem seems entirely unrelated to the power issue and it’s gotten increasingly more common very rapidly. I’ve checked on various forums, gotten lots of excellent advice from my Twitter pals (see below), repaired disk permissions, tried resetting the SMC and changing sleep and display preferences, but it just keeps getting worse.

I’ve started ensuring that I shut off my airport before I put the MacBook to sleep, have disabled Bluetooth and don’t have an devices connected to the computer (aside from the power). I’m even starting to try to remember quit out of Twhirl and Skype before I put the computer to sleep, just in case they can somehow wake it up.

On Thursday alone I had to do a hard reboot 5 times in just one 12 hour period. One of our wonderful technicians tried to fix it on Friday, but it’s still been a problem all weekend. I read a little bit about the possibility that “safe sleep” may cause this problem, and that can be disabled in Terminal but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not.

Either way, now I don’t really want to put the computer to sleep at all (not that I need any more excuses to be online)…

Anyone have any advice?

Light #2 by blakie
Untitled by thejbird

9 thoughts on “MacBook Woes

  1. Sounds as frustrating as my crappy PC Kim. Right now it won’t connect to IWBs at school and won’t load any webpages. It will load webpages at home. I haven’t been able to give it over to our Tech dept because I’ve needed it for reports and online meetings I’ve had. I will have to give it over this week and I know what they will do- the dreaded re-image. They blame my problems on all the ‘stuff’ I load onto it. My question is ‘Who else is going to discover the power of all this ‘stuff’? Certainly not them!
    Hope your problems work out.

  2. I would try resetting your PRAM. Turn off the Macbook, restart it while holding down the option+apple+p+r. Let it chime 3-4 times and then it boot up.

    If that doesn’t resolve the issue you can always boot into single user mode, by restarting the computer and holding down apple+s. Then type in the command you see it should be something like this, fsck -fy, and hit return. It will do a complete file system check of your computer.

    Type in reboot once you see the message that HD appears to be ok. If you do not see that message it will try to repair the HD. Once it fixes it, repeat that fsck -fy, step again to you no longer have any issues.

    Finally, you can do a search in the Apple Knowledge Base of resetting the PMU. That is the Power Management Unit and might be the issue too.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Kim, I’m not sure if this will solve your problem directly or not, but you might like to install a little Mac utility called Caffeine. It is designed to stop your Mac going into sleep mode all the time when you don’t want it to. It’s just a small icon in the upper menu bar that you turn on or off as needed. Get it at http://caffeine.en.softonic.com/mac
    I know your issue that it won’t go to sleep right, but maybe this will let you force it’s behaviour to be more what you want. Worth a try, and it’s a nice utility.

  4. Hi Kim,

    I’ve had a similar problem and it seems to occur when I’ve been syncing/charging my iPod. I find that if I close the computer lid (effectively putting it the MacBook to sleep again) and opening it, the computer powers on.

    Just an observation,


    Oh, let all your faithful readers know if you find out definitively what’s been happening. Thanks!

  5. Hi Kim,

    I’ve only just started cathcing up on reading articles in Vienna from the past few days. Has been the last week of School and therefore hectic.

    Definitely sounds like you need safe sleep mode. I did it to my Macbook and it has solved the sleeping problems for my little gem ever since. It’s just a shame that fixing my sporadic sleep patterns isn’t quite as simple.

    If your a bit worried about entering commands in Terminal, don’t panic, it really is very simple just follow the directions in one of the many posts out there that explains how. I just cant remember where they all are right now.

    The other option is to not move the Laptop until it has actually gone to sleep. If you shut your lid, wait until the Apple Logo light has gone out and the power light starts flashing. It’s when you move the Laptop (picked up by the accelerometer) before this happens that the laptop wakes up even though the lid is closed.

    Hope this helps Kim.



  6. Further to my previous post I found this info at http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20070302210328928

    Newer portable Macs use safe sleep (hibernation) in combination with normal sleep (older computers can use this, too). What happens is that when you put your computer to sleep, the system writes the contents of RAM into the file /private var vm sleepimage, then goes into normal sleep mode. If your system loses power completely, it can recover the contents of RAM from this sleepimage file.

    The problem with this is putting your computer to sleep can take a while (20 seconds to one minute or more), depending on how much data you currently have loaded in RAM. Also, this sleepimage file is the same size of your total RAM, wasting valuable hard drive space. I have 2GB of RAM, so my file is 2GB.

    To disable safe sleep, run the two following commands in Terminal:

    $ sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0
    $ sudo nvram “use-nvramrc?”=false

    When done, restart your computer. Now go delete the file /private var vm sleepimage” to free up some hard drive space. When you put your computer to sleep it, should happen in under five seconds; my MacBook now goes to sleep in two seconds.

    [robg adds: To state the obvious, with safe sleep disabled, a total power loss will wipe out whatever was open on your machine. To enable safe sleep mode again, repeat the above commands, but change hibernatemode 0 on the first line to hibernatemode 3, and =false to =true on the second line. You’ll then need to reboot again. Personally, I prefer the safe sleep mode, even with the slower sleep time and hard drive consumption — even if for no other reason than it’s great when changing batteries on a flight.]

  7. @Jenny,

    Thanks for commiserating! It’s frustrating to have to start over with a re-image – I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that for this particular problem. Either way, you’re right, we have to keep discovering all the new stuff! That’s what education is all about – discovery and learning! Good luck with your new image!


    Thanks for all the tips! I will give them a try and let you know how it goes!


    @cathyjo had the same suggestion – downloading now :)


    I think I did read a few things about this being a problem with peripheral devices attached, which could explain your iPod experience. I haven’t had anything connected (aside from the power) so I don’t know if that’s what’s causing it to happen to me. I have a few more solutions to try, but when I figure out what’s happening I’ll let you know!




    My husband gave me the same advice about not moving the laptop until it’s asleep. I was definitely frequently picking up my MacBook immediately after closing the lid – never even realized that the steady light was like a little warning light. I’ve started being more careful about that lately.

    Thank you so much for all the advice about Terminal and turning off safe sleep. Our technician did come down yesterday to shut it off for me, but I wanted to see how the laptop did over the computer before we shut it off. So far, so good. If I continue to see the black screen, I think this will be my next step.

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