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Old 05-06-2012, 06:59 AM   #1
jcsg OP
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Computer Vibration--destruction prevention

So I have a Mac Book Pro that I commute with. A month ago I was having some trouble with it and long story short, ended up getting a replacement from Apple. (Yay to them)! When I was riding back from the apple store in Greenville with the new computer, I started wondering if the continual high frequency vibration in the touratech case and mount were perhaps causing some of the issue.
I keep the computer in a computer sling foam case within a larger computer bag. It sits perfectly in the touratech case. The touratech case definitely vibrates, as I can reach back while cruising and feel the high frequency in the lid of the box.
Thing is, I have travelled this way with my computer for years. Only now am I having a problem with the computer so my first thought is it can't be a problem...
Then again, even though I never take the computer off road with me, the vibration does seem extreme when you consider it from the computer's point of view!

Any thoughts or solutions (considering it might not even be a problem)?

(Also, why can't I use smilies? They just show up as HTML in my posts.)

John Grover

jcsg screwed with this post 05-06-2012 at 07:00 AM Reason: smilies showing up as html
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Old 05-06-2012, 08:21 AM   #2
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High vibrations can be bad for a lot of things, loosening screws and stuff. But all things being equal, it shouldn't be that big of a deal for a well built laptop like a MBP.

Modern 2.5" hard drives have a lock-up mechanism that keeps the reading head from moving when it's not in use so it shouldn't be a problem too but if you're concerned about it, you could look at a SSD upgrade. You'll gain operation speed, especially on boot-up, as a bonus by doing this.
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Old 05-06-2012, 08:25 AM   #3
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John, my 2 year old MacBook's hard drive crashed in November and I replaced it at the suggestion of the tech at the Genius Bar. BTW, the service was awesome, I was traveling and stopped at the Apple store to have the computer checked, he suggested that I go to a large computer store that had the hard drive on sale that weekend and he would put the OS on the new hard drive if I swapped them. He even let me borrow the tool I need to do the swap all at no charge.

Anyway, I digress. My macbook was my traveling machine. I hardly ever used it when I was at home, it traveled in my 1200GS's side case on a cross country trip and a few other 3-4K+ trips. I can only suspect that the vibration played a role in the hard drive's crash.

I bought a new MacBook Air last December (my daughter inherited the old MacBook), I like the Air much better, it has a solid state drive and it is much smaller than the old MacBook.

Short of buying a new laptop, my suggestion would be for you to replace the HD with a SSD drive. The solid state drives are coming down in price and you can get a 120GB drive for around a $100. Augment that with a cheap external drive or cloud storage and you are good to go.
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Old 05-06-2012, 08:32 AM   #4
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Modern hard drives lock automatically, so head crashes shouldn't be a problem. But the vibration could affect other parts as noted above.

I commute with my laptop in a backpack. I haven't had any issues.
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Old 05-06-2012, 08:37 AM   #5
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I get where you are coming from.

I used to be a Mac guy myself, desktops, notebooks, I even owned the first ibook toilet seat looking thing and it's still running, I gave it to a friend and it's 11 years old. They are solid machines. I flew and traveled for work with the toilet seat ibook for years, it never missed a beat.

That being said, I have traveled all over with a cheap HP Netbook in my KLR, stuck in a fanny pack in a pelican case, and it has never faultered.

I am not saying your rig does not have trouble, but it may not be the bike's fault.
First the Earth cooled. Next came rats, cockroaches and KLR's... and life was good.
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Old 05-06-2012, 11:23 AM   #6
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Well thanks for all the replies.
First off, it was not the HD. They replaced the logic board, then the 2X4GB Ram...still not fixed. Finally they replaced the HD because there wasn't anything else to replace that might be causing the problem. Still not fixed.
The problem seemed like a video card issue to me, but what do I know, and that should have been fixed when the logic board was replaced.

So I got a whole new computer :-)
From Apple's point of view, 3 strikes and they were out....

As for SSD, I have considered replacing the optical drive with an SSD for certain things, but my HD is 750 GB and the laptop is a 17" screen version. I like the idea of the MB Air, but it just isn't there for what I need to do yet. In 3 years when the time comes for a new laptop, I'm sure the SSD will be the choice to make as they get larger and come down in size.
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:20 AM   #7
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I killed a zumo 660 gps within 5 months with vibration only, a gps without moving parts designed for bikes and shock resistant by design... so you think a 3-5 times heavier/larger laptop made to stay still on a table should survive?

you might want to consider using 1-2 inch of foam all around it in a pelican case...
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:55 AM   #8
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Had an IBM Lenovo Laptop from work that commuted with in my top box most days and went on a business trip on the bike to Scotland - never had any issue (in 4 years) with it that could be linked with vibration/shock as a cause. The HP replacement has also travelled that way for nearly a year and so far no issues.

My personal Macbook has been round Scotland and on a couple of shorter trips and the only problem I have had with it is a failure of some 3rd party memory which I can't specifically link to vibes anyway. However it has not been on the bike that often compared with the work laptops.
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:44 AM   #9
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Backup your important files, because hard drives can and do fail on any computer, one used on a motorcycle and one that sits on your desk.
Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:50 AM   #10
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Backup goes without saying....Keep 3 on hand and 2 in another city :-)

Wish there was a backup for the bike so every time I crashed, I could simply restore.
Would be cool if we could retouch our xrays in photoshop too.
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:17 AM   #11
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If you do attempt to do some vibration isolation, remember you need something fairly soft. Something like a layer of foam all around it like in a Pelican case will provide some isolation along the long axis of the computer because the edges load the foam pretty heavily. Along the short axis the foam would provide almost no isolation because the foam would be acting on such a large surface area it would transmit virtually all the shock and vibration. If you do something like that remove some foam over most of the large flat faces so that it is supported mainly on the edges. Then it will provide the best isolation. Designing real isolation from shock and vib is tricky and you really need to test because you sometimes discover you have actually made the problem worse by moving a resonance point to a frequency that is a problem in your application.

All that being said, I have carried a laptop in a neoprene sleeve in my Micatech side case, for about 50,000 miles without a problem
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:26 AM   #12
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All modern regular hard drives to lock the heads over a "parking area" when powered down.
That being said, it is still a precision device with some delicate parts inside...
I have still switched the hard drive in my travel laptop to a SSD (Solid State Drive).
It has no moving parts, so nothing to crash, and sum-bitch is it fast
The other good news is that it uses less power, so I get better battery life.

I don't need a lot of drive space on my travel unit,
and I was able to pick up an Intel 320 series 80Gb drive for less than $100.

Oh... and did I say it was FAST? ;-)
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:09 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Stalky Tracker View Post
Modern hard drives lock automatically, so head crashes shouldn't be a problem. But the vibration could affect other parts as noted above.

I commute with my laptop in a backpack. I haven't had any issues.
This almost for sure always works but I can certainly see not wanting to wear a 17" laptop....
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:50 AM   #14
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The hardbags have the downside of transferring vibration in comparison to body mounted carry in a backpack/messenger bag. The body soaks up tons of vibes that the hard cases transmit. Like others have suggested an inch of foam encasing the computer should absorb a lot of the vibration I would think and worth a shot.

Otherwise you'd need to adapt to carrying one on your back if you're concerned. This last year i committed to carrying a laptop on my multi week off road trips to help my aging eyes deal with route planning etc.

It's an 11" PC that I shoved into my backpack and thrashed about off road for about 3,000 miles. Like you I had concerns about computers dealing with the rigors of motorcycling. One data point isn't conclusive proof or anything but bottom line the computer is still rocking and survived crashing in a deep river crossing and being submerged. I wrapped it in two Ziplock freezer bags and it kept the muddy water at bay.

I would forget about the laptop at times and take off the pack and drop it onto the ground

when having lunch, hanging in villages, etc and was always nervous when I went to fire up the computer. Luckily no issues and the computer is still going strong. So if you're up for a change you could revert to carrying it on your person and it should fare pretty well.

Best of luck.
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:13 PM   #15
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Electronics are sensitive! I would worry less about the HDD than the motherboard. Individual components aren't going to suddenly fail, but a poorly made circuit board would certainly be affected negatively by constant vibrations. Any questionable solder joint (i.e. "cold" joint) could certainly wiggle loose and cause issues. Additionally, the memory sockets are just a series of contacts... constant vibration could certainly wear the contacts causing memory issues. As well, any daughter-boards that connect to the mainboard could wiggle loose. "Normal" laptop use does not include hours of high frequency vibrations... so your issues don't surprise me... even if it was working for years at home prior to that.
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