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Testing Your Mac’s Hardware & RAM

October 2, 2017 Comments off

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Photo: Public Domain via Google Search.

Updated Oct. 3, 2017 to include Micromat’s Atomic software:

SILVER SPRING, Md. (Sept. 29) We’ve been looking at ways to test computer RAM from the Macs we get donated to MacRecycleClinic.

Most of the time, we turn on the machine to see if it works. If there’s a problem (and many times there are any number of issues), we pull the memory and plug it into a new Mac of the same vintage and hope it works. Sometimes the Mac will flash it’s “on-off” light on the front to say something was not quite right (sometimes you have to insert the same memory in pairs). But how can you actually test RAM? There are three basic ways to do that – the expensive way, the 3rd party software way and the inexpensive (Apple provided) way.

    1. You can go with a hardware solution – purchasing a RAM testbed that will check out the memory chips and provide a robust report. But the solution is expensive – and requires the purchase of additional plug-in “cards” that are designed to work with the machine – each plug-in is designed for a specific kind of long, or short RAM. The costs can run upwards of $1000.00! One example: See this YouTube video about the Ramcheck LX
    2. Micromat sells a software suite called Atomic – which they bill as “The most comprehensive memory tester for the Mac.” We haven’t been able to try it out yet – so if any of you have – please give us some comments below about the program. By the way – it works with OS X 10.9 or greater, including macOS 10.12 ‘Sierra’ (and we’ll assume 10.13 – High Sierra now). Cost is $29.99 unless you are a previous Micromat customer, in which case, the cost is $19.99. NOTE: TechTool Pro 9 also includes a memory test as part of it’s software offerings.
    3. Use the Mac’s built-in software Hardware Test Suite. Macs, going back to machines from 2000 or so, have built-in hardward diagnostics that offers a more cost-effective solution (as in, free!). We MRC volunteers approve of that! 🙂

    Using the Hardware Test Suite

    Unlike Disk Utility, the hardware test is not an app per se, but requires you to restart your machine and press the “D” key during startup. In some instances, I’ve seen tutorials call for Option + D – but just “D” may be enough in most instances.

      1. Restart your Mac and at the chime, press “D” or “Option + D” and wait for your computer to boot.
      2. You’ll be presented with a screen showing a turning globe and drop-down box to select your wireless network. Go ahead and choose the network and plug in the password on the next screen. Continue.
      3. Once that’s done, the “Apple Hardware Test” screen will open. Choose your language of choice (English is highlighted by default.
      4. Move to the next panel to get to the actual test screen. You’re almost there!IMG_5773 2
      5. To perform the hardware test all you have to do is click on the “Test” button or, as the instructions indicate, press the “T” key. Be ready to wait a bit while the tests are performed. Note the box under the progress screen where your results will be displayed. If you have any RAM issues (or other hardware problems) this is where you’ll find the results.IMG_5775 2
      6. If you do have an issue with the RAM, you’ll need to replace the memory since it is not something that’s “fixable.”

    There are a number of good places to purchase memory – but be sure to ask us first as we have a robust collection of RAM that we sell inexpensively. That said, if you want new, choices range from Amazon and Best Buy to Crucial, and many others. But we usually recommend memoryx.com to our MRC Clinic visitors (we’ll help you purchase the correct RAM).

    Remember that in some cases, your Mac will need not one but two memory cards (usually matched) to work correctly. You can get help from your MRC volunteers, on the memoryx website (by computer type and year it was built) or you can use the MacTracker app on you Mac or IOS device.

    • There are many more resources on the web to help you if you’re interested in learning more about the Hardware Test Suite:CNET: How to Test the RAM on Your Mac

      YouTube
      : There are a number of great videos – click on the link and you’ll be at a search screen with a number of choices.
    • Memoryx.com also has helpful videos that explain HOW to install RAM. But if you’re uncomfortable with doing that, bring it in to the MRC most Monday nights and we’ll be happy to help.

Part Two: Using the Patcher Tool

February 12, 2017 Comments off

img_3975Off the top, I want to thank dosdude1.com for providing the software – and the instructions – to upgrade many older Macs to OSX Sierra. Please donate if you can!

The benefit to this update is that we are getting a number of Macs – Towers, Mini’s and iMacs – that can only go up to OS7 or OS8 and thus are increasingly out-of-date. If we can get at least some of these Macs up to OSX Sierra, we have a great chance to give them new life for a few more years. And that means we can give students, families, non-profit groups and others the ability to work with the latest OS and be as productive as they can be going forward.

The website lays out the requirements, supported (and non-supported) machines, things you’ll need and known issues (which we laid out in Part 1.)

You can use the instructions from dosdude1 to take you through the process. My intent here is to give you my take as I went through those instructions.

TAKE ONE

The instructions are clear that you need a flash drive of at least 8 GB in size. I found that you can get away with a smaller one. That said, you will need to get ahold of a copy of the Sierra installer by using a newer Mac to get it from the App store or dosdude1 gives you a link to the MEGA Unlimited site in New Zealand – but you can get instructions on how to download it from other websites as well.

You’ll also need a hard drive with an older version of the Mac OS (based on the requirements for the upgrade) or a blank drive. In either case, you’ll be installing Sierra – so it will be a “normal” install as you would with any Mac update, or a clean install on a new or blank drive.

Update: This is my main drive info. I did this upgrade on an exact copy:

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 5.08.04 PM.png

NOTE – we plan to do a clean install and, with some additional software tools (like Open Office) we will plan to make a Time Machine backup to use to make clones for other Macs. (Yes there are other ways to make clones – as in using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cleaner. But I’ve found that using a Time Machine backup is actually quicker. (See note below about this.)

We’ll write about that experience in a future blog.

TAKE TWOscreen-shot-2017-02-07-at-11-04-07-pm

Download the Patcher Tool as instructed. Plug in the USB drive and format it using Disk Utilities. (That said, the Patcher Tool will format it anyway when you go to the next step.)

NOTE – I used a 6 GB partition on a large USB drive that I have with various OSX installers without a problem.

It’s time to install OSX Sierra on the USB Drive. Make sure you know where the Sierra installer app is – the patch tool will want to know.

Run the Patcher Tool and click on the Sierra icon to verify your Sierra install app. This went as planned for me. Now it’s time to install the OSX Base System on the formatted USB drive (or in my case  – partition).

Remember, this will be the boot drive from which you’ll install OSX Sierra onto the drive of your choice. 

With the USB drive selected, I clicked on “Start Operation” to begin installing the Sierra install app.

This is where I ran into some trouble – as the install would get almost all the way to the end and then give me an error message. I reformatted the USB drive and tried again. Same thing. Third time, I LEFT what had been installed on the USB partition and walked away. The install was successful this time! Not sure why but it was time to move on.

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TAKE THREE

I keep a Time Machine backup and a SuperDuper backup of my boot drive, so I decided to use the backup as the guinea pig for this update. I rebooted the Mac from the USB drive (Apple Menu -> Restart – Press the Option key). If your USB drive only has one partition (with the Sierra install on it) you’ll see your boot drive and one that is called “OS X Base System.” THAT is what you want to boot from.

I intended to UPDATE from El Capitan (10.11), but if you want to do a clean install, you’ll need to boot into the install drive and then pull down System Utilities to format that drive (yes – you could have done this before as well).

Proceed with the installation on the disk of your choice. This will take awhile so be sure to go into System Preferences and tell your Mac (using Energy Saver) to not go to sleep or turn off your hard drives.

Once installed, your Mac will boot into the new OS. You’ll know because the background will be the Sierra Nevada mountains and “About This Mac” from the Apple Menu will confirm it all.

TAKE FOUR

I was almost done! Although it LOOKS like you’ve upgraded properly, you still need to patch the new OS. So I rebooted BACK into the USB Sierra installer partition. This time, when it booted, I found a small box had popped up with four menu items. You only care about the last one – macOS Post Install. I chose that and it asks you to choose your Mac model.

Luckily – it TELLS YOU what Mac Model you have. Choose that model from the drop down box and you will see some suggested patches pre-populated for the model Mac you have. Select the drive you installed Sierra on and press PATCH. For some reason, I had to do this twice but it did finally take.

On the bottom of the Post Install, you’ll see “Complete!” on the left and a Reboot button. Ignore “Force Cache Rebuild.”

My Mac rebooted into the backup drive with Sierra installed. It worked perfectly! I checked for any updates and only had one – Pages – to update. The patched system should allow updates as well (at least for Sierra) but there have been none so far.

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FINALLY

That was it! I will likely go ahead and install Sierra on my original El Capitan boot drive (2 TB) as well after giving Sierra a run through on the backup.

Given that the patches are Mac-specific, I’ll likely have to run the patcher tool on each machine we update at the MacRecycleClinic. The good news is, I can boot from the USB drive and install Sierra on any Mac that is supported. From there, I just have to run the Patcher Tool and choose the right version of the machine to patch.

The other plan (as mentioned above) – to create a Mac-specific Time Machine clone may not work but we’ll give it a try and report back.

NOTE that there are still some restrictions with certain Macs – in some cases, for instance, WiFi won’t work – the website says machines ( a wide range actually) running the Broadcom BCM4321 WiFi module. The fix is to install a compatible WiFi card if one is available.

Let us know your own experiences with this patch and any suggestions you might have to make it easier.

MRC Donates PowerMac Labs to Two Area Schools

October 4, 2014 Comments off

STEM SchoolSILVER SPRING, Md. – The Mac Recycle Clinic (MRC) got the school year off to a good start with donations for two area schools:

– 12 complete PowerMac systems went to the Cheverly (Md.) STEM Education Center located in the Cheverly United Methodist Church.  The school provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes for area home schoolers.

– 6 additional towers went to the Chance Academy, which is located in the Michigan Park Christian Church in Washington, D.C..  This school provides the homeschool network in Maryland and the District of Columbia with academic programs in the sciences.

Chance AcademyAll of the machines (including monitors, keyboards and mice) from the MRC are donated Macs that are reconditioned to make sure everything is working properly. We have a “master” hard drive that we clone (copy) so that all machines have the same set of software when they go out the door.

Since all these machines were PowerPC Macs (pre-Intel chip machines), the software is all optimized to work with OS 10.5.8 – the last OS version that works with PPC Macs.

Read more…

Critical Exposure’s Spring Exhibit a Hit with MRC Macs!

May 24, 2013 Comments off

The Washington, D.C. non-profit group Critical Exposure is celebrating it’s 8th annual spring exhibit – Zoom In: National Lens, Local Focus.  We are thrilled that they are using Macs donated by MacRecycleClinic for the exhibit, which features photography and writing by D.C. youth who are creating real change in their schools and communities.

The exhibit is at the Pepco Edison Gallery at 702 8th St. NW (a block from the Gallery Place metro).

Thanks to Merrill College of Journalism Lecturer and PhotoJournalist Bethany Swain for this great pic of a young visitor enjoying the Critical Exposure reception this past week. All the Mac PPC towers and monitors were donated by MRC.

Thanks to Merrill College of Journalism (University of Maryland) Lecturer and PhotoJournalist Bethany Swain for this great pic of a young visitor enjoying the Critical Exposure reception this past week. All the Mac PPC towers and monitors were donated by MRC.

New Domain Name!

April 13, 2013 Comments off

Recyclemac.wordpress.com is now recyclemac.org – either will work but the “primary” URL is now much easier to use. Thanks to everyone for following us! There’s lot to talk about so stay tuned. 🙂

MacRecycleClinic Heads into 2013

January 23, 2013 Comments off

MRC Volunteer Jim Ritz works with a client's iMac

MRC Volunteer Jim Ritz works with a client’s iMac

We’ve hit January yet again and MRC continues to move forward with its goal of recycling and refurbishing Macs. Over the past few months, we have started moving away from most of the older PPC models save the newest and fastest model G4s and G5s. Interestingly, one of the predictors here are Macs that use the original Airport card. Turns out they are becoming incompatible with newer wireless systems – they are not able to provide the higher level of security these new wireless systems demand and won’t let the Macs log into the network. That said – if you need an original Airport or Airport Express let us know – we have many for sale inexpensively!

We’re starting to see some Intels coming in finally but many have had hard use or were damaged when picked up. So we have continued to gather equipment and then try to make one good machine from 2 or more that are damaged.

We’ve continued to donate machines to local school students and families in the Silver Spring area and remain open to recommendations from school counselors or non profits. Recently, we gave a machine to a 6 year old who is being home-schooled. He and his mom took a cab and buses all the way over from Landover to pick up their iMac. We are planning once again to provide laptops to Montgomery County Schools in the Downcounty Consortium for their AfterProm/PostProm parties. We were able to provide machines to every school in the Downcounty last year!

Machines that can not be salvaged are now totally disassembled (to the extent that they can) and are recycled both to a third part recycling company or back to the Montgomery County Government’s Shady Grove Transfer Station in Derwood.

MRC Volunteers work on a sad iMac

MRC Volunteers Jade Curtis and Phil Marchetti work on a sad iMac while MRC clients look on.

We continue our Monday Night Clinic at Marvin Church (Four Corners/Silver Spring) from 7 to 9 pm and tho we are not overwhelmed (a good thing!), we have had a steady stream of folks coming in for help. Some folks have sick Macs, others are looking for help transferring their data from an old machine to a new one. We’re here to help! And trust that we will tell you if we can’t repair something as well.

One frustration remains the Mac Lab we set up at Marvin for use by students or the community – it just sits there unused at the moment. We are hoping the folks at Marvin can find a way to get some adult supervision in the afternoon so the lab can be used.

Please let us know how we can help! We have folks with many, many years of experience who are willing to do things Apple and local businesses are unwilling to do (because it is not cost effective for the most part). As a non-profit, we simply ask for a donation for our time – all the money goes to MRC since we are all volunteers.

 

An Update and Look Forward to the Summer

May 27, 2012 Comments off

Monday Night Clinic - MRCOnce again I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone for reading the blog and giving us a chance to talk about what MacRecycleClinic is all about. The stats say we have had more than 7,000 hits – just amazing for an occasional blog. So thank you!

The Clinic is only open Mondays (save holidays) from 7 to 9 PM which makes it a challenge for folks to find us or take advantage of our services. We only work on out-of-warranty machines but love to answer questions and can help install software or hardware on any Mac. We have also been asked to help grab information from older machines (going WAY BACK in fact to original Macs and even Apple IIs and ///s) or just help keep older machines working.

Read more…

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