A Very Personal MacBook Pro Disaster, Part 4 [Conclusion]


In part 1 of this series, “A Very Personal MacBook Pro Disaster,” I told the story of a family 2018 MacBook Pro whose USB-C ports, all ports, were behaving erratically with an external display and attached HD and SSD devices. It was under warranty and went in for repair.

In part 2, “A Very Personal MacBook Pro Disaster, Part 2,” I told more of the experience I had with my local Apple retail store. The experience was very positive, both at drop-off and pick-up. You’ll want to read about that.

In part 3, “A Very Personal MacBook Pro Disaster, Part 3,” I described the process of—and hurdles encountered—setting up a MacBook Pro that has a new logic board. There were many issues.

Space Gray Docking Maneuver

Soon after this 2018 MacBook Pro was purchased, I followed the same path that I did with the 2015 MacBook by buying an inexpensive Other World Computing (OWC) USB-C Dock—because we don’t have any Thunderbolt 3 devices. That Dock has worked perfectly with the MacBook for four years. However, as I found out, this Dock is better suited to just the MacBook and not MacBook Airs and Pros.

That’s because, as Apple describes it, “MacBook models introduced in 2015 or later have a single USB-C port. This port doesn’t support Thunderbolt devices.” A pure USB-C dock, then, is appropriate. It supports USB-A/C devices as well as gigabit Ethernet and DisplayPort.

OWC’s 14-port Thunderbolt 3 Dock

So if you buy a MacBook Air or Pro that supports Thunderbolt 3, you really need to use OWC’s Thunderbolt 3 Docks. It has, I am told, drivers that are better suited to the high end MacBook Air/Pros with Thunderbolt. Even of you don’t use Thunderbolt devices. (There’s a 12 and 14 port model.)

Other Worldly Assistance

I was connected to Dan T. at OWC. He was brilliant in assisting with the return of the USB-C Dock and simply charged me the added, incremental cost of a 14-port Thunderbolt Dock. It arrived overnight.

And that’s when the family MacBook Pro failed. (No connection, I believe.)

Fast forward to the end of my Chapter 3.

Now, with everything checked out, it was time to connect all the external devices: Display, drives, printer, keyboard, and trackball. To do all that, we had just taken delivery of an Other World Computing 14-port Thunderbolt Dock.

Nothing worked. That is, every external device we connected failed in some way.
Extensive variable isolation proved that the (repaired) MacBook Pro’s ports were perfect and the OWC Dock’s ports were defective.

Back to Dan T. at OWC with a technical analysis and report. This time, at my request, he had an OWC technician bench-test a replacement unit off the shelf to certify it. That took an extra day, and so we had a second Thunderbolt 3 Dock in two days, well before I was able to return the defective unit. Which I later did with OWC’s supplied pre-paid UPS label.

Upon connecting the second Thunderbolt 3 Dock to the repaired MacBook Pro, every external device worked perfectly, including HDs and SSDs connected to the extra USB-C ports. And external display. And everything has been perfect since July 22.

Lessons Reiterated

  1. Variable isolation is of paramount importance. It takes a lot of testing to isolate which port or device is defective. Take extensive notes. Provide them to the manufacturer in a coherent, literate report. This takes time and patience, but it’s essential.
  2. Buy AppleCare for peace of mind even if you doubt the value proposition.
  3. Have at least two backups of your Mac. Use Time Machine plus at least one other method by your favorite developer.
  4. Keep good records of all your apps that require licensing. Create a directory called System Support and put everything you know about your Mac in there.
  5. Apple and Other World Computing provide fabulous customer service. You can trust these two companies to stand by their products. Kudos to the Apple store at Park Meadows Mall and to Dan T. at OWC.
  6. Be patient. Be polite. Be thorough.

And so the saga comes to a close. My hope is that this story will be of help to any reader suffering similar calamities.

4 thoughts on “A Very Personal MacBook Pro Disaster, Part 4 [Conclusion]

  • John:

    A saga, although not quite Homeric, I’m confident that Homer himself would have appreciated and enjoyed, if for no other reason than your summary lessons learnt, which are brilliant and spot on.

    I particularly appreciate lessons 1, 2 and 6 which have general applicability to practically any other endeavour in life, certainly any whose outcome is important to all concerned.

    Such a clinical and well-documented walk through of problem solving is a valuable community service, because at some point, everyone who uses tech will face an apparent failure, which can be solved and resolved if rightly approached, and if proper preventive and due diligence measures were done prior to the failure, like backups.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • So… the OWC USB-C docks don’t work with MacBook Pros with Thunderbolt 3? I’m confused on this. Mine seems to be working well.. I’ve only got ethernet and USB devices on it though.

  • A slight push-back on Lesson 2. Your machine was covered by the standard warranty so you did not actually use Apple Care (did you?) Up until a recent purchase I’ve never purchased Apple Care and have never needed it. (Although I do recommend it for others because if does have other benefits). The reason I’ve never needed it is not because nothing has failed. On the contrary, I’ve had Mac and iPhone issues, some after the warranty has expired, but because Apple has stood by their products. (And I have not abused said products or said service).

    So I think Apple Care is a good thing and better than the usual extended warranty, but I don’t think it is a necessity. Apple does a good job supporting their products.

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