Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #273

Since my “daily driver,” a MacBook Pro, was out of commission for several days last week (as I explained last week), I had to use my far less capable MacBook Air in its stead, learning four lessons along the way.

I originally bought the 11-inch MacBook Air for travel, so it’s only got 8GB RAM, a 120GB internal SSD, Intel HD graphics 5000, and a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor. My MacBook Pro is far more capable, with a 15-inch display, 16GB RAM, a 1TB internal SSD, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M andIntel Iris Pro graphics, and a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 Processor.

Using the far less powerful MacBook Air as my main Mac was a humbling experience.

The first thing I did was connect my Thunderbolt dock to the MacBook Air. With this single connection, I gained immediate access to my 27-inch external display, fast Ethernet network, printers, my favorite keyboard and mouse, and all of my backup disks.

1st Lesson Learned

A Thunderbolt dock made it easy to connect all of my essential peripherals to the MacBook Air at once, which more than made up for the MacBook Air’s shortage of ports.

This single Thunderbolt cable let me connect my 27-inch external display, Ethernet, printer, keyboard, mouse, and all of my backup disks—all at once!

This single Thunderbolt cable let me connect my 27-inch external display, Ethernet, printer, keyboard, mouse, and all of my backup disks—all at once!

I had installed little third-party software on the MacBook Air, so my next act was to install the handful of apps I can’t live without: TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro, 1Password, Microsoft Word 365, Adobe Photoshop CC, Ulysses, Final Cut Pro, and mimoLive, plus the drivers for my mouse and keyboard.

2nd Lesson Learned

Had I installed software I can’t live without on the backup Mac before the crisis, I’d have saved a couple of hours.

Moving right along, while most of the software ran OK, a couple of apps—most notably Final Cut Pro and mimoLive (which I use for video editing and live video streaming respectively)— ran so much slower they were virtually unusable.

Photoshop was a bit better, but transformations and filters were noticeably slower. I spent several hours trying to coax Final Cut Pro and mimoLive into usability, but ultimately postponed my video editing and streaming work until my MacBook Pro was back.

3Lesson Learned

My next backup Mac should have the same (or nearly the same) specifications as the main Mac.

Finally, when I tried made my appointment at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar last Sunday, the earliest one available was at 6PM on Tuesday. I booked it, but since I didn’t want to be without the MacBook Pro for two days before it was diagnosed, I was first in line at the Apple Store the next morning. After relating my tale of woe, I saw a Genius within an hour. I canceled my Tuesday appointment; my MacBook Pro was returned to me Wednesday morning.

4th Lesson Learned

If the next Genius Bar appointment isn’t soon enough for your needs, try visiting the store and asking for the next available “walk-in” appointment. It doesn’t work every time, but when it does, it’s priceless.

There is one more thing

Kudos to Apple for resolving the issue quickly and as painlessly as possible. Everyone I dealt with was concerned, honest, and reasonable. And, the cost of the repair ($200) was quite reasonable, especially when you consider that this is the first time I’ve had to spend a penny on repairing my almost five-year-old MacBook Pro.

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I had an experience in early February to share with you. After my 11-year-old iMac had a similar failure as you MBP, I figured I had gotten my money’s worth out of it and bought a brand new iMac in November. Two months later I came home to find my baby lying on its face on the desk. Apparently one or more of my cats had knocked it over. (Twenty years of having iMacs and this was the first time ever.) I carefully lifted it up and the case was cracked along the top. Holding my breath, I started it… Read more »

Lee Dronick

Happy ending. I almost always get AppleCare.


In my haste, I forgot to add the moral to my story, which is simply that it pays to keep a current (bootable) clone of your hard drive (Carbon Copy Cloner, in my case).

Lee Dronick

I concur on the benefit of having a Carbon Copy Clone.


Bob: Many thanks for this follow-on to last week’s tale of woe. I felt your pain, particularly having gone through a harrowing experience that I shared with your column a few months back. As a follow on to that event, one thing I started to share with MGG, but didn’t due to lack of spare time, was that I was unable to re-encrypt my disk or to remove additional accounts, like a guest account I created for repairs (with admin permissions but without access to my files). I had full permissions with a new admin account that I created, but… Read more »