In my last post, Boiling Temperature—Not Just for Vista Anymore, I recounted my experiences with my first generation (2 GHz Core Duo) MacBook Pro overheating to the point (121°C!) where it shut down automatically. Since I had never seen this behavior before, I speculated that it might be related to the latest version of Mac OS 10.5, though of course I feared it might be some newly developed hardware problem.
Such sudden shutdowns due to overheating, were they to continue, would not only be inconvenient but would seem likely to decrease the lifetime of the computer. Since I last wrote, I witnessed yet another runaway heating incident. The maximum revving of the cooling fans alerted me to the potential problem. A quick check of the CPU temperature showed it had already reached 116°C, so I quickly saved anything that needed it and shut the computer down. Upon restart it was back to normal operating temperature. I was facing the prospect of taking my MacBook Pro in for a checkup, thus losing the use of it for an indefinite period of time, without much confidence in a simple solution being found.
Since that time, I’ve become guardedly optimistic that the problem has been solved, as my machine has been doing a pretty good cucumber imitation for the past ten days or so. I believe that the fix was a routine upgrade of Firefox to version 3.0.4. It was only a few days after I had given Firefox the go-ahead to install the new version that I came across a topic called “Overheating caused by Firefox 3 and/or Flash?” in the Apple Support Discussion section devoted to “MacBook Pro (Original) > Internet, and Networking the MacBook Pro”. Some pretty strong circumstantial evidence was presented that the then current version of Firefox (as of October 31, 2008) could cause runaway temperature increases, even when it was seemingly just idly standing by.
Now, I routinely run both Safari and Firefox all the time. Firefox is necessary for editing this blog for example, as Safari destroys text formatting when it’s used to edit a post with WordPress, and I still encounter web sites (government usually, it seems) where Safari doesn’t work. Anyway, I’m in the habit of using both at the same time for general browsing as well. So it is safe to say that Firefox was running every time the runaway temperatures were encountered.
I don’t know what kind of software bug could cause overheating, but I’m hoping that there was one in Firefox that has been been fixed in the latest version. I have a gut feeling that my problem has been solved. Yeah, I know, it sounds too easy, but sometimes we get lucky.
Meanwhile, I’m taking it as one more sign of my own return to health that I’ve gotten a mild cold. I apologize to any regular readers for yet another computer post. I promise I’m working on something else.