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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Inexplicably Slow MacBook 2008 Unibody

Inexplicably Slow MacBook 2008 Unibody
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l008com
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Apr 22, 2015, 02:39 AM
 
(A duplicate of my post from the Apple support forum)

I have a MacBook here that is just downright haunted or something. It is a Late 2008 aluminum unibody MacBook (not Pro) 13". This was the one aluminum MacBook, the predecessor to the 13" MacBook Pro. It is the 2.0 GHz, Core2Duo version.

This computer was running slow, so I checked it out. I upgraded it to 8 GB of RAM (DDR3 on this model). I upgraded it to a brand new 7200 RPM WD "Black" drive. The Mac had 10.7 on it, I was going to upgrade ideally to Yosemite. The processor is a little slow, but the machine should still be running well with these upgrades. But instead, this is what happens.

I am completely unable to install Yosemite. I have NetInstall images of 10.10 and this Mac boots those images in super slow motion. What do I mean? It takes about an hour to boot them, and the entire GUI runs at about 1/10th or less, of the normal speed. Clicking buttons requires waiting a minute or more for them to redraw. It's unbelievably slow. Then I tried a more traditional approach. I booted the Mac's own 10.7, and tried running the installer as downloaded from the Mac App Store. That ran great until the reboot where you start up into Yosemite to finish installing. Then things would run painfully slow and just hang forever.

I tried 10.9 Mavericks and I had similar, but not as severe results.

I tried 10.8 Mountain Lion, and again it ran a little better still. 10.8 is what I'm running right now, and while its running better, it's still running very strange. This is the best way I can describe what's going on:
It's as if the computer's processors are running under-clocked by a significant factor, like 1/10th or more. When the computer is booted, everything you do takes forever. Looking at Activity Monitor, you can see that the CPU is almost always running full speed. And what is taking up the CPU? EVERYTHING. Whatever you are doing, that task will use all of the CPU and still take forever to finish. Loading a single web page in safari takes a minute, while the two related Safari threads use a steady 100% cpu each. (dual core, so 200% is the total). Open system preferences, it will open super slow, and use all of the CPU while it's opening. Spotlight indexers will run and use all of the CPU for minutes at a time.

And keep in mind, this is a computer with lots of ram, a brand new FAST (not SSD but still) hard drive, AND this is a totally fresh installation of 10.8. On a freshly formatted drive. I've given up on importing the Mac's previous data for the time being. This computer is TRULY in slow motion. I know that it's normal for an older computer to run slower, and for tasks to take longer. But this Mac is taking that to the extreme. I have a G4 Mac mini running Leopard here, that runs significantly, noticeably faster than this MacBook does.

I've also kept an eye on the temperature, wondering if maybe it's getting too hot, and throttling itself down to compensate. But nope. CPU temp is a steady 170°. I even bumped up the fan speed anyway, to cool it off more and see if that gave it a boost. But nope.

Lastly, I ran GeekBench 3 on my 2012 Mac mini. It took about 1.5 minutes and scored pretty well. I've been running Geekbench 3 on this 2008 MacBook for over an hour now, and it's still only about 5-10% of the way through the test. And I'm looking at Activity Monitor, nothing is using the CPU besdies geekbench. It's not like something else is running and putting the squeeze on geekbench (or anything elses) cpu usage. Programs get all the want, but I swear, it's like this Mac is running at 200 MHz.

I do not have the original disk with the hardware test on it. All of the standard tests check out just fine. And I've booted from even more boot volumes but the story is always the same. Also another thing I tried was putting the new hard drive in an enclosure, connected to another Mac, and install Yosemite on it that way. Then reinstalling back into this 2008 MacBook. I did that, and the computer would barely run at all.

I'm an independent Mac Repair consultant, and this is definitely the strangest "broken" computer I've ever worked on. The computer is just slow, and for absolutely no reason at all.

One last speed related anecdote, just to drive home the fact this this is not "normal" slowness from an old computer. Recently I was fixing a 2007 iMac that only had 1 GB of RAM, and a similar processor to this MacBook. That iMac booted RIGHT up in Yosemite. It was fully usable, it ran surprisingly great. I'm sure things would have went downhill fast if I had started to open a few programs at once. But just booting and running and opening Safari, it was totally usable. This MacBook on the other hand, will take minutes just to open Safari and finish rendering the start page.

The Mac seems to run better with ever older operating systems. Running 10.6 feels almost normal (although I haven't tested it thoroughly enough to say that for sure.)
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Apr 22, 2015, 07:57 AM
 
How's the battery? On this family of machines, the clock is stepped down if the battery isn't performing well.

How well does it run off an external? If your SATA controller on the motherboard is slightly hosed, this will still affect page out timing, which will slow the machine as well.
     
l008com  (op)
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Apr 22, 2015, 03:28 PM
 
The battery is brand new. But this machine is still one of the models with a removable battery, I can just as easily pop the battery out when it's being slow and see if that improves it.

As for the external, I've netbooted it off of many systems from 10.6 through 10.9 and it has the same issues. This machine actually has no fast io, no firewire, no thunderbolt. Just USB2 which is a pain in the ass. Luckily I have a netboot server ready to go already
     
l008com  (op)
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Apr 22, 2015, 04:16 PM
 
I just got my hands on the apple hardware test and ran it, and got this error:
4PRC/1/40000001 : Processor
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Apr 22, 2015, 04:18 PM
 
RAM may be too slow, but more likely its time to replace the motherboard. That's a CPU malfunction, related to memory processing.
     
   
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