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I have a macbok pro late 2008 , running the latest OS apple will allow - el capitan.

I have 2 sticks of 2GB RAM. This is above the original specs but due to a firmware upgrade some years ago, it now works with 4GB of RAM

My mbp reboots no more than twice a day, usually averaging once a day or day and half.

I had a lemon of a battery before that swelled like crazy and bent the flimsy alumimum cover. I now have a replacement battery.

My theory is that the problem is down to one of 3 things but these are just theories I'm not mac expert. So I'm here to find out what likely is the real cause...

  1. contacts for the battery shorting out occasionally
  2. faulty battery
  3. RAM problems, unfortunately I never had any success before on any other computer with ram testers so i don't think running one is going to help here. They even say so on the internet, they can prove defective ram if they spot it, but if not - maybe it's defective, maybe not. That said swapping out the ram and testing each stick would mean I would need to run a week on each stick. Because it is basically guaranteed to fail in a week but a couple of days of uptime in inconclusive. I count uptime to include sleep mode.

Which brings me my "smoking gun" question... I believe this will pinpoint the problem once someone knowledgeable about macs and hardware reads this.

The reboot problem will occur even when in sleep mode. Or hibernating mode. Ok not sure about actual sleep but when you choose sleep and go to hibernating - i.e. it has to restore from disk later. Sometimes coming out of it will restore state, sometimes it will do a fresh bootup.

And of course it can reboot at any time during normal operation. Reboot might be too strong a word, i think it just turns off.

So what does that indicate? would that be ram problem or a battery problem?

2 Answers 2

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Troubleshooting is often a process of elimination, so patience is often required. There's quite a few things you could do to try and narrow things down, because even from the info you've provided the cause could be RAM, your battery, or something else altogether.

For example, if it works fine in Safe Mode then it's more likely to be some sort of software issue/conflict.

To start with I'd do a NVRAM and SMC reset (in that order) as there's really no harm in trying that first. Before following the steps below, ensure you have no external hardware connected and that you're using the built-in keyboard.

Reset the NVRAM

Reset the NVRAM on your MBP as follows:

  1. Shut down your machine. Yes, a full shut down, not just logging out.
  2. Press the power button and then press the commandoptionpr keys. You have to make sure you press these keys before the gray screen appears or it won’t work.
  3. Hold those keys down until your MBP reboots again and you here the startup chime a second time.
  4. Let go of the keys and let your MBP reboot normally.

Note: When you log back in you may need to readjust some of your system preferences (e.g. speaker volume, screen resolution, startup disk selection, time zone information, etc).

Reset the SMC

To reset the SMC on your model MBP, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your MBP
  2. Disconnect the MagSafe plug (power cable) from the computer
  3. Remove the battery
  4. Press the power button for 5 seconds and release
  5. Put the battery back in
  6. Reconnect the MagSafe cord (or power cable)
  7. Turn your computer back on with the power button

After resetting both the NVRAM and SMC, use your computer to determine if the issue still persists. If it does, I'd test your hardware as with Apple Hardware Test.

Run Apple Hardware Test

Your model MBP uses Apple Hardware Test. To use this, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your MacBook Pro
  2. Restart your MacBook Pro
  3. Press and hold the D key before the gray startup screen appears.
  4. After a while, Apple Hardware Test (AHT) will start.
  5. When prompted, select your language and click the right arrow.
  6. When the AHT console appears, you can choose to run Basic tests by clicking the Test button. However, I suggest you select the "Perform extended testing" checkbox before you click the Test button.
  7. Your test results will appear in the window in the bottom-right of the console.

Note 1: that the extended test will take some time. Take a note of the results and report back.

Note 2: If pressing and holding the D key at Step 3 doesn't work, start again at Step 1 and, at Step 3 press and hold both the OptionD keys instead. This will try and run diagnostics from the internet instead, so you will need to allow more time for it to complete.

If your MBP passes all hardware tests, then I'd try using it in Safe Mode.

Boot into Safe Mode

Follow these steps to boot your MBP into Safe Mode:

  1. Fully shut down your Mac
  2. Restart your Mac
  3. Immediately press the Shift key and keep it down
  4. Let go of the Shift key when you see the login window (NOTE: If you have FileVault enabled you may need to log in twice).
  5. Take a note of what happens (i.e. can you use it without it restarting)
  6. Exit Safe Mode by restart your Mac as normal and test again

If you find that your MBP works fine while in Safe Mode, but not when booted normally, then let me know and I'll explain the process of identifying the culprit (it's likely to be a login item, corrupted font, or kernel extension).

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  • I heard other ram testers - mem86, etc are much better than the built in apple one, is that true? it was on news/reviews type sites so I don't know if they actually know what they are talking about
    – ycomp
    Nov 3, 2017 at 2:59
  • I'm familiar with windows safe mode but not mac, in mac safe mode can I run all my programs like firefox?
    – ycomp
    Nov 3, 2017 at 3:00
  • my guess it's not corrupted files since I hardly ever used this computer after the latest OS (el capitan) upgrade (until the last few weeks) - plus the SSD hasn't had much usage
    – ycomp
    Nov 3, 2017 at 3:01
  • Yes, some 3rd party memory testers are better than the one used in AHT. However, AHT tests a whole heap of hardware, not just RAM, and it's a better place to start (especially with the extended test option). You may face some restrictions in Safe Mode, but that depends on your software/usage etc. However, just the act of booting into Safe Mode and then normally again will cause your system to undergo some tests and a bit of a cleanup (e.g. deleting caches, repairing disk directory, etc). I would just give it a go and if you find you can't do something you need, then reboot.
    – Monomeeth
    Nov 3, 2017 at 3:07
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The mac usually reboots when encountering a problem. Like windows it restarts when the OS can't recover from it. Apple suggests that you keep your mac up to date to avoid anymore of these problems. The error.

Apple suggests that also this occurs due to certain software.

Not saying that it's kernel panic that's causing your mac to spontaneously restart but it's a possibility.

I've encountered a kernel panic problem and I just went ahead and deleted somethings I've installed that looked like it was causing the panics since the problem occurred.

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  • I don't get any such beautiful message. I heard the latest versions of OS X can do some reporting about crashes but I can't upgrade past El Capitan, it is not allowed by Apple
    – ycomp
    Nov 3, 2017 at 3:07

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