Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

Readers ask about what is considered extreme heat output for Apple's MacBook systems, among other questions.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
3 min read

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which I answer Mac-related questions sent in by our readers.

This week readers had comments with additional reasons why a Mac may show a spinning color wheel cursor regularly, concerns about the prevalence of power cord fraying for MacBook systems, and whether or not extreme heat from a MacBook Pro's vents and chassis are normal.

I welcome contributions from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: Extreme heat from the chassis on a MacBook Pro
MacFixIt reader Ken asks:

I just measured the surface temperature of my MacBook, and it's ~113 deg F (between the keyboard and the hinge). Is this out of line with normal readings or does it matter how hot the surface is?

This is not abnormal. When I transcode video files with Handbrake using my MacBook Pro, it maximizes the CPU and GPU usage, and I get surface temperatures of between 109 and 115F as read by a Raytek MT6 infrared temperature gun. The air coming out of the vents is around 125F. It can be a touch uncomfortable to have it blow on one's leg, but is not out of the expected operational range.

Question: Additional information about tackling spinning color wheel issues in OS X
MacFixIt reader Ed writes:

In regards to random spinning color wheels in OS X, I was using a USB "extension cord" so my keyboard could be plugged it on the back panel of my Mac Pro. I would get a lengthy spinning ball at seemingly random times and once in a while the system said, "There is no keyboard connected...looking for a Bluetooth keyboard. I could unplug the keyboard and reconnect it and the problem was solved...until the next time. When I bypassed the extender and plugged the KB straight into the Mac there was no problem. I'm now using a Bluetooth KB, no problems.

It is a simple thing to try to see if the KB connector might be loose.

Thanks for the tip. Checking peripheral connectivity is a good step in troubleshooting this. It could have been a loose connection, or a broken wire in the cable, or even if the extender is too long and results in dropped information in the connection, enough that it cannot maintain a stable connection. Usually in these cases the device will simply drop out and come back online, but could, as you experienced, hang up some driver process and result in a spinning wheel.

Question: Concerns about the prevalence of power cord fraying for MacBook systems
MacFixIt reader Kath asks:

I have purchased several (6 maybe) power cords for my MacBook. Three were Apple store and 3 were knock offs (it was getting expensive). They have ALL had the same issue. They crack at where the cord enters the plug at the computer. Has this improved? I am thinking of getting a MacBook Air but?

Apple has addressed power adapter fraying in the past by offering replacements, and in doing so there have been several redesigns of the adapter's connections. In my experiences on this matter the situation has improved; however, the prevalence of this problem largely depends on the user's habits, and whether or not they subject the adapter to excessive tweaking and bending (even if it seems like appropriate use).

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