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My MacBook Pro (15-inch, Retina, Mid 2015, fresh install of latest Catalina) freezes randomly. It requires a hard shutdown (power button for > 5 secs) and then it takes a while to turn on. The MacBook had the logic board, display and lid replaced 18 months ago, has only internal graphics and the SSD is still original.

When it started

  • At least 6-8 months ago
  • Frequency seems to increase slowly but is still quite random
  • Just had 2 weeks crash free right now followed by crashes every other day - Last summer it crashed once a week at most

When it freezes

  • Randomly, but most of the cases within 2 minutes of waking up after sleeping overnight (sometimes after shorter sleeps)
  • Sometimes freezes few minutes after restarting from a previous crash
  • Most likely not related to the apps that are open or currently focused
  • Also froze running or booting into Diagnostic mode
  • Even if I'm not doing anything, just leaving it idle

Frozen behavior

  • Display on (external display too, both HDMI and MDP), content of the screen visible, won't go to sleep or turn off by itself
  • Trackpad, mouse and keyboard not responding (tried also bluetooth and usb)
  • Playback shuts down or loops a short sequence (not sure now)
  • Both on AC (multiple chargers) and on battery

Shutting down frozen state

  • Power button >5 secs is always successful

Turning on after crash

  • Usually not possible to turn back on immediately
  • Combination of long power button presses takes usually succeeds after a while
  • AC or battery no difference
  • Sometimes it takes longer (or a few minutes break) before it turns on
  • After the power button is pressed the fans start spinning slowly but the display is dead and the laptop does not boot
  • To turn off the fans a >5secs power button press is required
  • Repeating this process a few minutes leads to a successful startup
  • I vaguely remember that once or twice a funny icon appeared instead of the Apple boot logo (most likely the first or second from https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204156), turning off for an hour and turning on fixed it

Other observations

Bluetooth

  • Bluetooth sometimes reported as unavailable (strikethrough BT icon in menu bar), but didn't happen at all last few months
  • BT headphones playback skips every few minutes (the headphones play well with my phone, but it still can be them, I do not have other BT headphones to verify)

Things I've tried

Disk Utility First Aid

  • Shows no errors

Diagnostic mode

  • When I run it after a crash it may freeze too (although quite rarely) - with progress bar, on the language selection screen, anywhere really
  • When the diagnostic mode successfully runs it shows no errors

NVRAM/SMC reset

  • They seem to help fix the issue for a few days
  • When the crashing/freezing starts again it is more likely to happen quite soon again

File Vault

  • Turning off File Vault didn't help. Currently on a APFS Case Sensitive filesystem.

Complete OS upgrade and reinstall

  • Happens on both Mojave and Catalina
  • A fresh installation with minimum apps (few work apps, nothing fancy) does not help

System logs

  • They show nothing interesting, but I will try to look for events around BOOT_TIME for few more crashes if a pattern appears.
  • I have turned on showing seconds on the menu bar clock to pinpoint exact time of the crash and then went through all logs available in console after a crash. There were no records for 10 seconds around the time the display froze.

Turning off Bluetooth

  • No help. Crashed.

Swap SSD

  • A new OWC Aura SSD freezes too.

Things I'd like to try

Swap battery

  • I'm eligible for a free battery exchange so that's an affordable next step

Turn of Wifi remove Wifi board

  • Not sure if I can remove the wifi board and boot the OS though.
  • Currently I have the wifi switched off and waiting for another crash.

Different logic board

  • Not sure where I can easily borrow one for testing purposes though.

Any other suggestions or questions please?

Thanks a lot for any input! Much appreciated you made it this far.

  • First thing is to get your drive out of the equation. Do a clean install of the last stable OS you had (High Sierra perhaps?) onto a USB drive. Don't install anything and try to replicate the behavior you detailed above. If it goes away, we're starting to narrow things down. – Allan Jan 10 at 21:14
  • @Allan I'm bringing a new SSD from a friend this weekend, so I'll replace the current SSD. That won't rule out a faulty SSD socket or wire though. External drive is a good idea - is a 32 GB flash drive enough for a clean install? Also a great point about the last stable OS. I don't even know what OSes I had there and I won't suspect it's a OS version issue, but it's worth a try. Thanks! – Ondřej Hlaváček Jan 10 at 21:32
  • 16GB is sufficient so you’re good with 32GB. I’m hoping it’s something simple - let us know how you make out do we can help further. – Allan Jan 10 at 22:11
  • Great detailed post of the issue and what you have tried. Props for that. The first and second icon you might have seen during boot is SSD related. However, it does not mean that it is definitely the SSD. It could be logic board related and also ram. Apple certified repair centers have diagnostic tools that also test the ram. Not something you can get hold of. It's a test that takes a long time to finish and if it doesn't find anything it might be good to run it a few times. I've ran this test many times and sometimes it takes a few times to show that there is in fact a ram issue. – Yilk81 Jan 11 at 15:32
  • Yilk81 thanks for the suggestion, I'll try some more low hanging fruit and off to the repair center it goes. – Ondřej Hlaváček Jan 16 at 8:19
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I have exact same issue. Keeps happening for two weeks now and I can't pinpoint what is causing it. But if I leave computer for a while It would be frozen when I'm back. Seem you have tried almost everything without success.

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