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A dozen 2018 Airs all overheat and reboot attempting internet recovery

Hey All!

So this is a weird one -- recently acquired from recycler a dozen 2018 Airs. All great shape, all power on, all wiped. However, when they attempt Internet Recovery, they sit there forever, and after an hour they overheat and reboot. I have also tried connecting to ethernet, and multiple Internet sources, so I know weak connection is not the problem.

These are not locked, but they have the default security utility setting for a 2018 which disallows booting from an external drive, so that is not an option. I have tried wiping in DFU mode, and that did not change anything.

Anyone have ideas? I keep thinking GPU issue, but very odd that a dozen machine would have exact same symptoms.

Also, look at this picture -- the progress bar looks weird. Never seen it like that, and they all look like that.

Thanks!

John

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Can you post pictures of the front and back of the board please?

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@guardian10 I don't have any of them open. They are just 2018 Airs. What would you be able to identify from seeing the boards?

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@rdklinc Broken traces, components, etc. Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, though.

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When you wiped using DFU mode, you did a restore? Or a Revive?

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@flannelist Interesting! I did restore, so I just tried revive, and after 20 minutes it says "system cannot be restored on this device, gave up waiting for device to transition from DFU state to DFU state". What does revive do exactly? Thanks!

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I somehow missed the fans revving part of this question. But my guess is batteries are toast. I’m not sure where all of them came from, but it would make sense why someone might ditch them en masse if they didn’t know this and figured something bigger was wrong.

When a MacBook doesn’t hear from one of the many sensors scattered throughout the device, the SMC assumes the worst and compensated accordingly. It throttles the CPU and revs the fans up to max even if temps are ice cold. It’s an overly concerned mother who hasn’t heard from her kid at exactly the prescribed time. “What if the missing sensor data means everything is on fire?” A bad battery is one of the mail culprits of this behavior (the other is trackpad). So I would wager this is the deal.

If the device is being throttled, that also explains the inability to load Internet recovery as well as finish a DFU Restore (or revive). For the record, revive is essentially a reinstall of the firmware, but keeps all existing data on the machine. Restore just wipes the whole thing, even uninitializes the drive. It’s probably timing out because it’s running at colossally slow speeds, but it’s hard to notice that if that’s all you can get.

Luckily, the batteries in these are not too hard to replace. You do have to take the logic board out to get at the keyboard connector hiding underneath. But in comparison to a MacBook Pro of the same era, it’s a cakewalk.

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Awesome, thanks so much! I've already ordered a replacement battery as a test. I tried disconnecting the battery, and got the same result but even slower (a lot of these machines are impossibly slow with no battery attached). But yeah I agree, all signs point to the battery. I'm still a little concerned about the odd looking progress bar, but who knows, maybe that will go away. These laptops came from a recycler that sells me their "bad" material, so very likely there were 200 good machines, and they just put the ones they couldn't restore in a pile for me. Thanks again, and I'll let you know how it goes! Would be super cool to have a dozen working 2018 Airs, although looking at prices even these are down to like $250...amazing how the Ms have killed the value of everything Intel.

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Thanks so much -- IT WORKED!!! Nice thing was I was able to try it without installing the new battery by simply setting it on top the old one, and luckily the cable reached. It still did fan on high (only for a while), I assume because the case was open. It rebooted at least 5 times, probably because it had to put the recovery partition back first. And fortunately they were not remote managed, because I can only change serials up to 2017, so that would have been very unfortunate. The progress bar looked normal, so this fixed it apparently -- I'm still confused about what the weird progress bar was about. Anyway, thanks again! Really glad that these won't be parts machines!

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@rdklinc Fabulous! Glad to hear it worked out. The weird progress bar may have just been an anomaly because the machine was running at such slow speeds.

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@flannelist I really think this machine was poorly designed...a computer should not fail to get to recovery mode because of a bad battery. In all my 15 years working on Apple laptops I've never seen anything quite like that. I think it also has cooling issues, because I've seen various GPU artifacts here and there, probably from getting too hot.

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@rdklinc I don't disagree. I have seen similar behavior on lots of various MacBooks when sensors can't be detected, or are giving incorrect data. I have also seen it a lot with faulty trackpads or trackpad cables over the years. But this particular Air is always the one that seems to be the worst off when the battery goes.

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