Before we get started
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When you encounter an issue with your MacBook, most of the time the software is to blame, for example maybe an app is misbehaving or your operating system is out of date. However it’s not impossible for hardware to fail or become faulty, so if you suspect your MacBook is acting up due to a hardware issue, then this article is for you!
In this article, I’m going to show you how to use your MacBook’s built-in tools to check your hardware for faults, as well as sharing lots of advice on how to quickly and easily find technical support online, so you can fix any hardware issues you do discover.
But before we get started, let’s take a few moments to check that the problems you’re experiencing really are hardware-related.
Rule out the most likely suspects
Faulty hardware is less common than faulty software, so it’s always a good idea to rule out any software-related problems first, before you resort to running hardware tests.
Most of the time, you can zero in on misbehaving software simply by tracking the error over time and making notes whenever the error occurs. Every time your MacBook starts acting strange, make a list of all the apps and programs that are running, and jot down what you were doing leading up to the error, for example were you trying to launch an app or access a particular in-app feature?
Once you’ve finished your note-taking, look for any patterns that might point towards a particular app or piece of software being the culprit. If you have a likely suspect, then remove that app from the equation by uninstalling or disabling it, and then spend some time interacting with your laptop to see whether this has resolved the problem.
If you’re struggling to spot a pattern, then consider whether you made any software changes immediately before these errors started happening. Did you install a new app, or update an existing one? Or perhaps you uninstalled or disabled an app? Did you make any changes to the operating system, such as installing a new version?
If you did make any software changes, then try to reverse them (where possible) and see whether this has any impact on your MacBook’s performance. If it does, then chances are the app or software was to blame all along.
We touched on this in the previous section, but whenever you’re experiencing issues with your MacBook (or any technology in general) you should gather as much information about the issue as possible. This is important, for two reasons:
- If you fully understand an issue, then you may be able to fix it yourself. With more information and support available online than ever before, if you need advice on how to do anything then the Internet should always be your first port of call, and fixing your MacBook’s hardware is no exception. If you gather enough information, then finding a relevant Apple support document, blog, video tutorial, or other useful resource should be as simple as booting up your favourite web browser and performing a quick search. You may even uncover a thread where users are discussing exactly the issue you’ve been experiencing – they may even be debating different fixes that worked for them! Even if an Internet search doesn’t lead you to detailed instructions on how to fix your laptop, then you can reach out to the world wide web for help directly by posting your problem to a Q and A site such as Stackoverflow or Quora. If you do decide to post your problem online, then make sure you share all the information you’ve gathered (within reason – don’t give away any personal data!) as vague questions tend to attract vague answers.
- The more info you have, the more specific you can be when speaking to technical specialists. If it turns out that fixing your particular issue is beyond your expertise, then you may decide to enlist the help of a specialist. Even if you do go down this route, the more information you can supply a specialist with, the quicker they should be able to resolve your problem.
If you followed the advice in the previous section, then you’ll already have a list of all the apps that are running whenever the error occurs, as well as events leading up to the error – all of which is valuable information.
You should expand on this by making a note of any error messages or alerts that your Mac displays, particularly if they contain error codes. Also, consider whether you made any hardware changes around the time your MacBook started to misbehave. Did you install, upgrade or remove a piece of hardware? Don’t forget to take any peripheral devices into account!
But the most important information you can gather about a potential hardware error, comes from your MacBook’s built-in hardware diagnostics tools.
If your MacBook was released after June 2013, then you can inspect your laptop’s hardware using Apple Diagnostics (if your MacBook pre-dates June 2013, then skip ahead to the Apple Hardware Test section).
Before launching Apple Diagnostics, disconnect all external devices except your MacBook’s Ethernet adapter, if you’re using one. You should also make sure you’re connected to the Internet wherever possible, as Apple Diagnostics can use this connection to recommend relevant Apple Support pages based on any errors it does find. Finally, make sure your MacBook is connected to a power source, because the last thing you want is to run out of battery halfway through an important test.
To access Apple Diagnostics, start your MacBook and hold the ‘D’ key until a ‘Checking your Mac’ screen appears. Apple Diagnostics will launch and run a basic test.
If Apple Diagnostics doesn’t detect anything wrong with your hardware, it’ll display a ‘No issues found’ message. (Note, if this happens and you’re still baffled about what’s wrong with your MacBook, then your best bet is to take another look at your notes to check you haven’t missed something important, or you can reach out to either a technical specialist or the community at Q and A sites such as Stackoverflow).
If Apple Diagnostics does detect a fault, then it’ll display some information about whatever fault it’s found, along with a reference code and instructions on how to resolve this issue. If your MacBook is connected to the Internet, then Apple Diagnostics may also recommend sections of the Apple Support & Service website that you should take a look at. To view these pages, click the ‘Get Started’ link.
If Apple Diagnostics doesn’t recommend any articles, or provide you with instructions on how to fix the error, then make a note of the error code so you can enter it into a search engine and perform your own research once you’ve exited the Apple Diagnostics tool. To exit Apple Diagnostics, you just need to click the ‘Restart’ or ‘Shut Down’ button.
Apple Hardware Test
If your MacBook was released before June 2013, then you’ll need to use Apple Hardware Test (AHT) instead. Once again, disconnect all external devices except the Ethernet adapter, and make sure your MacBook is connected to a power supply. You can then boot into AHT by restarting your MacBook while holding the ‘D’ key until the AHT console appears.
At this point you have two options:
- Perform a basic diagnostics test. Simply give that ‘Test’ button a click.
- Perform a thorough diagnostics test. Select the ‘Perform extended testing’ checkbox and then select the ‘Test’ button.
AHT will perform your chosen test and then display the results.
If AHT detects an error, then it won’t be able to recommend any support pages, however it will display an error code, which should be all you need.
Once you have your error code, you can exit Apple Diagnostics by clicking either the ‘Restart’ or ‘Shut Down’ icon.
Generating a System Report
If AHT/Apple Diagnostics identifies a problem with your hardware, then it should provide you with all the information and links you need to understand and (hopefully) fix the error yourself. However, sometimes you may need to gather more information about your MacBook’s hardware setup, for example if it turns out you need to replace a component, then you may need to check exactly what make/model/version of this component your MacBook is using.
You’ll find all this information in your MacBook’s built-in ‘System Information…’ tool. To access this tool, click the ‘Apple’ logo in your Mac’s menu bar, then hold the ‘Option’ key to uncover a hidden ‘System Information’ option (this may appear as ‘System Profiler’ on older MacBooks).
Select ‘System Information,’ and then select ‘Hardware’ from the left-hand menu to view all the different hardware categories – everything from Audio to USB.
Select any category from the left-hand menu to view detailed information about any components installed on your MacBook that fall under this category.
Although the System Information tool is useful for discovering more information about hardware components you may need to replace or update, it can also be useful if you decide to enlist the help of a technical specialist. Typically, the more information you can provide tech support with, the better, so you may want to generate a report of all the System Information data and then share this file with your specialist.
You can generate a system report by selecting ‘File’ from the Mac menu bar, followed by ‘Save…’