February, 2015 – Graham Miln

Hefty Mac Pro

The older Mac Pro is heavy. Particularly when you are lifting it above your head trying to find a balance between delicacy and suppressed panic. After all, you have thousands of pounds of equipement above you and a lot of potential wasted time, if you make a mistake.

After continuing problems with the remaining NVidia GT120 graphics card in my Mac Pro, I decided to remove the second graphics card. I had previously switched to a new Radeon card and that was good. A few OS X updates later I heard the original problems were fixed, so I re-installed one of the spare GT120 cards.

Mac Pro with two graphics cards installed
Mac Pro with two graphics cards installed

Since then numerous graphical problems have returned. All of the type that suggest the graphic’s card memory is still being mismanaged or not freed properly. Applications using IOSurface are subject to the faults.

After running a few experiments I concluded just having the GT120 card in my Mac Pro, even without a display attached, was enough to cause problems.

I opened up my Mac Pro, trivially removed the card, and began to close the computer back up.

Then I made a mistake.

The screw head on my screw driver fell off into the computer.

What followed was not fun or even remotely entertaining. Over the next half hour to an hour I found myself stripping out all I could from the Mac Pro. Lifting and tipping the still very heavy box around. Listening all the time. Tracking the location of that lost screw head.

Somehow it got trapped between two layers of shielding. I could not see it but I could hear it.

Leaving the screw head in the computer was not an option. A loose piece of metal inside a computer can only lead to catastrophic problems. The screw head had to come out before I could get on with my day.

Eventually I had the Mac Pro above my head, slowing lifting and lowering different edges, hoping for a sighting of the screw head – even a sight behind a grill or enclosure would have been something.

Nothing. I saw nothing.

I am persistent. I also have few other choices but to carry on.

After what felt like too long and after my arms were straining to control the weight, I saw the screw head. It had fallen out. There was no reward of a tink sound, just silence, but I could see the screw head now and hold it close in my hand.

Nervously I put the computer back together. The seconds between pushing the power button and hearing the “hardware is fine” chime were eternal. It was going to be alright.