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Monday, October 18, 2004

PowerBook Pitting

Some of you may have heard of this problem with aluminum PowerBooks -- corrosion or "pitting" of the aluminum surface to the left and right of the trackpad area (1, 2, 3). But you've never seen a worse case than my poor little 12" PowerBook. I mean, check that out! the epicenters of the two problem areas map to the bases of my palms at rest. Apparently my body chemistry is on the caustic side -- must be all those Sour Patch Kids. This actually doesn't bug me terribly, but I'm coming up on the end of my warranty and am not planning on buying AppleCare, so now's the time to get it fixed. Though certain individuals have gotten this taken care of, Apple has no official program yet. So if you have this problem on your PowerBook, pipe up now! Post here, and call Apple (politely, of course). Alternatively, perhaps we can open a sideline business that makes replacement palmrests from birch veneer.

72 Comments:

  • I've just posted my Powerbook case 'damage' at http://toxicsoftware.com/blog/index.php/weblog/powerbook_damage/

    By Blogger Jonathan Wight, at 7:38 AM  

  • I'm seeing the same thing on my 12" PowerBook - it looks like the palm rest areas have been speckled with black ink by Ralph Steadman (though definitely not to the degree of damage that yours is suffering).

    By Blogger Chris, at 8:03 AM  

  • I've got pitting, too, though not that bad.

    By Blogger Mister D, at 1:37 PM  

  • I have this same problem with my 2.5 year old 667Mhz TiBook. But I'm having no troubles with my 1.25Ghz Albook bought in Feb. Of course, I don't carry it with me everywhere like I did the TiBook.

    By Blogger Steve Jenson, at 2:05 PM  

  • My 15" 1.25GHz Al book has slight pitting -- enough that it's definitely irritated me to the point of hoping the warrantee covers it. I got the white spots fixed on my screen a while back, but forgot to ask about the pitting while I was talking to apple about the spots.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:19 PM  

  • My 12" 867mhz powerbook (1.5 years old) looks almost exactly like that, although more of the damage is on the left (because that gets hotter, I think.) On a recent case-and-drive refurb, they *didn't* replace that, but it might be because (1) I didn't ask explicitly (2) I have various decorative stickers on the upper case, and it is entirely cosmetic.

    I'd consider putting plastic over them (they're a little bigger than pda screen protectors, I suppose) except that even a thin layer of plastic would probably impair the heat-flow from there, and I've already lost one hard drive to thermal damage...

    _Mark_

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:28 PM  

  • I have experienced this "pitting" issue with my previous 15" TiBook and current 15" AlBook. On both occasions the pitting is directly underneath the base of my palms at rest. Dark marks in front of the keyboard go a long way to ruin the look of an otherwise beautiful computer.

    By Blogger bdash, at 2:58 PM  

  • Thanks for all the replies. I'll be sure to post an update when Apple tells me what they will (or won't) be doing to resolve this. Since I want Apple to take this online evidence as a sign that they should institute a repair program for the defect, I want to clarify something that's come up in a couple posts: the surface pitting that the Aluminum PowerBooks seem vulnerable to is completely different in nature from the cosmetic problems of the old Titanium PowerBooks. The Titanium PowerBooks had paint problems (in fact, I sanded all the paint off of mine after I got tired of looking at chips and scratches), but the metal itself did not suffer any significant corrosion. Here, the metal, which is not painted, is being eaten away. Those spots in my photos are, literally, small pits in the metal, a millimeter or so deep in places. They started as the miniscule black spots that some have described, but those spots grew and grew as the compromised surface admitted more and more evil palm sweat or whatever it is.

    By Blogger pbx, at 7:19 PM  

  • here's my post on the topic http://www.texturadesign.com/archives/000197.htm

    I use flitz polish, which helps.

    By Blogger anonymous, at 9:59 AM  

  • Wow! What do you guys eat? This has to be body chemistry.

    I don't have this problem, but I could suggest that, if you start seeing this problem, you might want to disassemble your case and have it clear anodized. That would be a major operation, but 1) it would be fun; 2) you'd have a unique powerbook; 3) you could get it anodized in black, red, blue, or green!; and 4) it might solve the problem.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:05 PM  

  • Thank goodness someone else -- seemingly, a lot of someone elses -- has this problem. I thought it was only me!
    I bought the Aluminum PowerBook specifically because I was tired of the paint flaking on my TiBook (incidentally, Apple fixed that problem free of charge... wonder why they won't do the same with the aluminum model which has NO paint?).
    I can't understand why they would use materials that react to body oils in the very place they designed your wrists to rest!

    By Blogger Gene Cowan, at 1:08 PM  

  • I am having the same problem on my less than a year old PB 1.25ghz. What bothers me the most is that I know that unfinished aluminum can be absorbed through the skin, and is bad for you. This finish is meant to protect the powerbook, and also the user, from the materials it is made with. If I get alzheimer's, at least I'll forget why.

    is there a thread on the apple forums yet?

    By Blogger mellowvision, at 8:04 PM  

  • So what happens when you guys bring your p'books to the Apple Store?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:12 PM  

  • I too have the same problem on a PB 1.25Ghz purchased back in June. It is mimimal, but it is still there and it irks me.

    Please let us know when Apple responds to you. Thanks for blogging about this!

    By Blogger Ed, at 11:00 PM  

  • I've got the same problem! http://homepage.mac.com/trezzer/PhotoAlbum34.html for pictures.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:55 AM  

  • Update: Apple has agreed to repair my machine under warranty. At their behest my friendly neighborhood literally-around-the-corner independent authorized Apple reseller checked out my machine today. The replacement part should be here early next week for an onsite swap, and the damaged one will go to Apple's top-secret Endogenous Human Corrosives Analysis Unit. I haven't asked yet what is going to prevent this from happening again. Maybe they'll include some gloves? In any case I'll make another full-fledged post (rather than a comment) when the case is closed.

    By Blogger pbx, at 12:05 PM  

  • I have a subtle non-obvious explaination for you. bear with me on the logic of this:
    1) Does the user have 'silver' amalgam dental fillings?
    If so, did you know they contain between 48% - 55% mercury, and silver, tin, copper, and sometimes smaller amounts of zinc, palladium, or indium.
    2) If you google for "mercury aluminum rust" as one search, you may see where i am going. Popular Science explains the chemical reaction of Aluminum and Mercury.
    3) Basically the mercury in your fillings (if you have any) is leaching into your body (grinding, chewing, swallowing, breathing) and coming out your pours where you sweat, and palms on laptops sweat. The mercury and aluminum pitting would then be a natural chemical reaction.
    4) The abnormal issue is having mercury amalgams which can cause a whole host of other chronic health issues ranging from subtle to outright obvious.

    By Blogger -craig, at 6:27 AM  

  • Repair is done!

    By Blogger pbx, at 10:26 AM  

  • Any word on what to do if our PowerBook isn't still under warrenty?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:17 PM  

  • Unfortunately, no. I'd call Apple directly and inquire. If enough people report the problem they may decide it's worth fixing outside of warranty. Hopefully they'll do that before my hands succeed in eating through this new one!

    By Blogger pbx, at 8:56 AM  

  • Lousy Apple support...

    I just got back from a 1.5hr trip to the Apple store only to be unequivocally told this is entirely a cosmetic issue and would in no way be covered under warranty. Buggers!


    Steve - n9yty a t n9yty....com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:24 PM  

  • Don't give up. Call 1-800-SOS-APPL and open up a case. Get the support person to look at my photos and the other photos and stories posted here. Technically I suppose it *is* cosmetic, at first, but I don't see anything that would stop the aluminum from being eaten all the way through eventually. In my case I think that only would have taken another 12 months or so. Once the surface is compromised it moves pretty quickly.

    BTW, I'm already seeing tiny black spots on my machine again. Clearly aluminum and my hands are not a good mix.

    By Blogger pbx, at 7:43 AM  

  • My powerbook is starting to develop a few tiny "dots" of pitting. Apple has deleted the forums regarding this problem, and I was wondering how long it took to get as bad as yours did.

    By Blogger Ryan Forsythe, at 1:32 PM  

  • I just got off the phone with apple on the issue and unfortunately they have no idea what it is and can't help me, since it's just over a year since I bought my computer. Trust the problem to start appearing almost exactly a year after I bought the computer :P I hope they start a program like the ibook logic board thing because these spots are scary. They should at least find out what it is and reassure us that we're not gonna die from it, even if they don't replace the aluminum for us.

    Anyway I'm annoyed but I guess it isn't the end of the world :-/

    Daniel

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:52 PM  

  • I've had the same problem on my fifteen inch powerbook bought last year. The "genius" at the Genius bar said it wouldn't be covered under warranty. He asked if I wore a watch or scrathched it in some way. The interesting thing about the spots is that they seem to occur along four or so straight lines, parallel with the keyboard. I've read (can't remember where) that someone noticed the same thing, so they decided to run a voltmeter along the lines of spots. He claims there was a slight increase in voltage along the lines where the discoloration occurs. Interesting. In my case, the spots cannot be felt with your fingertips. Anyone else have this problem?

    By Blogger Jacoby, at 2:56 PM  

  • I'm seeing the same thing on my 1.5Ghz G4 PB that I've had since June. It's right along the edge of the aluminum above the DVD burner slot. I do have AppleCare, and have already had the display replaced as the hinges were way too tight. I certainly don't want to see it get as bad as some of yours, but I don't see it stopping. I want to see how AppleCare takes care of it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:18 PM  

  • yeah...I'm glad I'm not the only one that this is happening to. mine isn't as bad as some of them I 've seen, but it is clearly visible, and certainly ruins the appearance of my laptop.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:51 AM  

  • What worries me though is that surely if this can happen, you are probably also absorbing aluminium into your bloodstream at the same time?

    By Anonymous Rick Hurst, at 3:45 AM  

  • Ok Apple won't help us at all about the pitting issue. Time for me to move on...Has anyone discovered and home remedies to touch-up or fill the PowerBook pits so it isn't such a dreaded eyesore?? I'm ready to take some risks and experiment on this thing. There has to be some kind of titanium paint out there. I wonder if there could be even a spare panel floating around that can be salvaged and used to replace the pitted one.

    By Anonymous brian clark, at 11:04 AM  

  • The palmrests are made from PLASTIC and not aluminium.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:49 AM  

  • You are quite wrong on that point.

    By Blogger pbx, at 9:08 PM  

  • I had the problem with my TiBook and my AlBook and ended up getting TiArmor (I think the company is called Vix Inc.).
    It's done great to protect my new 15" Aluminum.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:00 AM  

  • Just found this post while looking for information on the corrosion issue. One year after and the same problem remains. I've got an 1.5GHz 12" Alu PB and it's starting to show the black spots.

    Not only that, but the area that stands between the palm rest and the keys seems to have a different finish, as paint is coming off.

    Fotos:

    http://bugio.org/shagma/temp/pb_paint.jpg
    http://bugio.org/shagma/temp/pb_paint1.jpg
    http://bugio.org/shagma/temp/pb_paint2.jpg
    http://bugio.org/shagma/temp/pb_spots.jpg

    By Anonymous hugo lopes, at 5:16 AM  

  • I'm getting pitting on my 12" powerbook also. Less than a year old, so maybe I can have it fixed? Might just go for the Vix covers. Too bad, such a nice machine otherwise.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:17 AM  

  • i also started having this problem and also have just passed my warranty (was up a few months ago). called apple and they quoted me on 650 dollars to have the wrist rests replaced....absurd in my mind. however, they also told me to talk to my authorized apple repair (i live in Montana and we don't have apple stores). Talking with them, they said they could order in the part and replace it for about 250, which seems much more reasonable, although still more than the 100 or so that I originally wanted it to cost. Although my pitting isn't a huge problem, it is getting worse and it still really annoys me enough to get it replaced. Once its replaced, I'll probably go with Vix covers as well and hopefully that will be the end of it. Has anyone tried to repair it themselves or found something to cover it up??

    By Anonymous derek, at 2:54 PM  

  • Me, too. My 15 inch powerbook is seeing little black spots which I hope don't get bigger as time goes on. I guess I'm not the only one, though...

    By Anonymous tom, at 5:07 PM  

  • I want to back up hugo lopes. The paint on the lip area between the palmrest and the keyboard is also starting to turn dark grey and scratch off my AlBook. Anyone know a solution?

    By Anonymous Jeremy, at 11:56 AM  

  • I read your complaint, and i dont know if you are still having this problem, but i ordered a product called "conceal" from buyconceal.com that has been recommended by apple store managers as an effective alternative to getting the palmrests replaced. check it out if you still have problems, its about 25$ after shipping and it looks like all you'll ever need.

    By Anonymous Aaron, at 7:21 PM  

  • let us know how that conceal stuff works, im thinking about purchasing some myself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:42 AM  

  • http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~anjos/faultymac/

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:42 AM  

  • My Powerbook is about 3 years old, and I thought I was the only one seeing this happen. I have a few pits, that are in perpendicular lines that seem to follow the edge of the hard drive underneath.

    Did anyone have any luck with the Conceal product?

    By Blogger David, at 6:45 AM  

  • Hi, I just noticed this problem with my 16-month old AlBook 1.67Ghz. I never had it on the TiBook I owned previously (3 years).

    It's not very bad, yet... Pretty insidious though.

    Not too many posts on how applecare handled this! I'm still under warranty and would like to see others' reports. I will surely get back here if I try to send mine in.

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  • Aluminum deposits in the blood are known to cause Alzheimer's disease. Isn't anybody just a bit worried?

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  • this is the Aaron that bought the conceal. First of all, its made by the company that made TiPaint, and upon ordering it, it took forever (like 3 months) to get to me.

    I literally stopped thinking about it and figured id been duped.

    when i got it, i painted up the scratched portions, which are right under my left wrist, and let it dry.

    i let it dry way longer than it was suggested and got back to the computer. it wore off in about 1 hour. it really sucks, i think getting a silver sharpie (it matches better than the conceal) and vix armor will do the trick. paint over it with the sharpie, and cover it with the armor, otherwise the sharpie will wear off immediately. im ordering the vix stuff asap.

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