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For Christmas this year, Apple sent me a software update that crashed my MacBook Pro. A few days after I installed the OS X 10.5.6 update, my battery ran to zero – which required a reboot for the second time since I installed the upgrade. This broke my MacBook Pro. The Apple logo would appear and the status icon would appear for a few seconds, then the screen would go black, with only the backlight shining upwards. I could not boot to safe mode, or to the Leopard install DVD.

I assumed my hard disk crashed or my logic board died. So, I made a genius bar appointment (none was available until two days after Christmas) to request a repair on my AppleCare.

Then, Christmas night, I discovered that many other MacBook Pro users were reporting the same problem (PC Mag reported it here as did MacFixIt) and Ifound a solution. My MacBook Pro is now fixed. It turns out that OS X upgrade 10.5.6 will break some versions of the MacBook Pro if they are running older firmware. I was not aware I was running old firmware, for some reason software update had not been flagging this.

I’ve excerpted the solution below – it requires an external display, keyboard and mouse:

  • Powered off my MacBook Pro
  • Plugged in an external display
  • Plugged in an external USB Keyboard and USB Mouse
  • Hit the power button on the MacBook Pro
  • Closed the lid on my MacBook Pro
  • As a precaution, I used TimeMachine with an external Firewire hard drive to back up my latest files.
  • Deleted Caches directory files in all three places (System/Library/Caches, (My account name)/Library/Caches and (My Volume Name)/Library/Caches. I am not sure this step is necessary.
  • I downloaded the MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update from April 2008 v. 1.5.1. Apparently, I was running slightly old firmware and didn’t know it. When I finally booted my MacBook with the external display, Apple had resent this software update – I am assuming they are figuring out the solution to this problem in parallel to this thread.

I ran the EFI Firmware update and shut down. Held the power on button again until I heard a longtone. The firmware update ran successfully this time and my MacBook booted okay!

Hooray, my MacBook Pro is working again. And this seems to confirm for me that the 10.5.6 update breaks some systems if you are running older firmware.

Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest.