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It worked fine prior to vacation, never used it while away, schlepped it in computer bag, only removed from bag at airport security on the way there, and again on the way back.

I know the bag didn't get too hot because my candy bars didn't melt :-). Plugged it back in on its stand the next day and nothing happened when I pressed the power button.

What, I've done so far:

  • Opened the back, unplugged battery, can boot with battery disconnected while plugged into power, but runs slow due to no battery. Thought maybe battery went bad even though it only had 3xx cycles, so bought iFixit kit and replaced the battery.

  • Still would not power up. Displayed the battery as made in 1979 at that time.

  • Watched Louis Rossmann video and cleaned out JTAG connector, booted normally, ONCE, after that, with full speed and good readings on CoconutBattery, (battery made in March 2020, 1 cycle).

The motherboard is not dirty at all, it lives on my desk on a stand, except when on vacation, but thought I saw small bits of solder between legs on JTAG under microscope, used tweezers to clean. Would like to remove the connector, but don't really have the equipment to do so, it is way smaller than the boards I used to rework for Seagate back in the early 90s.

Issues before and after battery replacement have been somewhat intermittent in terms of power connector LED and CoconutBattery readings. I have removed and reseated the part the MagSafe connector, connects to (power module?). It's not dirty.

I would hate to replace the logic board, but sending it for repair would be a similar cost to replacing it.

What can I do to fix this problem?

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Have you tried the Apple Diagnostics? This source has instructions for the Apple Diagnostics which are for machines after June 2013 so it should work on your computer.

If this doesn't help you and if you live near an Apple Store, take your computer to the apple store and just ask them to check it for you. Explain your problems and see what they say. Maybe they'll find the problem. Tell them you ran Apple Diagnostics but if offered no help.

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  • why the downvote? its an appropriate answer. – Natsfan Jul 6 '20 at 0:05
  • I don't know why your answer was downvoted. I feel that Apple will not spend much time speaking with me due to the voided warranty. My experience with my local Apple Store has been pretty dismal. Basically buying a replacement is their solution. I have also used authorized service from a third party shop in the past, but the out-of-warranty messaging has been similar. Incidentally have used Louis Rossmann's service for my other Macbook Pro, fixing the dead keyboard and trackpad error, and was happy with the service, although it required a second try. – Mark Jul 6 '20 at 0:45
  • I have not been able to get the Apple Diagnostics to run, I think because I can't power it up and hold the D key. I suppose I could take off the back, unplug the battery, stand it on its side and hold the D key while I plug in the magsafe, will plan to try that. – Mark Jul 6 '20 at 0:47
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There's a rather large clue that the issue is the logic board:

Opened the back, unplugged battery, can boot with battery disconnected while plugged into power, but runs slow due to no battery.

The moment you remove power coming from the battery side of things, your MacBook works (not at full performance, albeit). There's very little chance it's the DC-In board (connects) to MagSafe because a) it boots with battery not connected, and b) it's charging.

  • Reset the SMC. The SMC is actually the PMU in every other laptop on the market. There are very rare occasions to actually reset it (contrary to Apple diagnostic lore), but this is one: you have a bona fide power issue.

  • Send in to Louis Rossman. I've personally used his services (not affiliated, but very happy customer) and his pricing is roughly half of what it costs for a logic board replacement. Your other option is:

  • Surf the secondhand market (eBay, Craigslist, LetGo, etc.) for a MacBook Pro of your vintage that is broken for some reason (LCD, battery, etc.). You may luck out and get a good logic board and given that you've got some electronic skills, part it out and recoup some funds.

  • Don't rule out the top case! (Until you can, of course). It may be failing and the power button is non-functional. Since you're limited on tools, if you can get it to boot again, go into System Preferences → Energy Saver → Schedule and set a wake time for about 10 mins into the future. If it boots, there's a good chance it's the top case.

A few things:

  • Cleaning/removing the JTAG connector won't hurt, but it won't help anything either. It will just be an exercise in futility.

  • A "dirty" logic board won't affect function - it may contribute to heat issues, but it won't prevent it from booting. That said, I always recommend cleaning with an air duster and replacing the thermal paste (cheapest Apple could find) with some quality stuff. Do that when you get it all sorted out.

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  • I have attempted to reset the SMC multiple times, I'm not sure it's going okay. I do see the magsafe change from orange to green, but then the power button still doesn't work. – Mark Jul 6 '20 at 0:49
  • I'm considering using Louis Rossmann again because I want to continue to support his work and Right to Repair in general, however, my previous battery replacement on my other Macbook Pro was a known cost, this time it seems more like exploratory surgery :-/ I'll learn all that I can then consider giving them a call. – Mark Jul 6 '20 at 0:51
  • I love the idea to schedule a wake time and further rule out a failing power button. Will plan to try this one soon. – Mark Jul 6 '20 at 0:53

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