DIY : Three Beeps on Macbook startup? Time to MacBook-surgeon up!

“BEEP-BEEP-BEEP”

Maybe it was by chance, through some weird happenstance, perhaps a wrong tap on the wrong side of your MacBook. Whether it was initially off, randomly rebooted, or you saw some legendary streaks of color across your screen before deciding to force-shutdown your MacBook, you’re currently dealing with an unfamiliar sound that would naturally stress out any user. A round of three beeping sounds with a 5-second pause before the next round, and the inability to reach your user login page.

Now hold on there, rationally-sound skepticist! I may just be a developer and not a MacBook mechanic, but that is precisely why I’m writing this post. If a person with no prior experience fixing MacBooks can troubleshoot their way past the three-beeps error, I believe that anyone can as long as they are led in the right direction. Let’s begin by learning what your MacBook is trying to tell you.

😉

Most, if not all computers have a way of telling you about an internal problem going on with your computer through different patterns of beeping sounds. Similar to morse code, on startup, your computer could have long beeps and short beeps, but the bottom line is that each distinct beep pattern is an indicator of what’s going on inside. For our case of three beeps with a five second pause between each round, our MacBook is trying to tell us that our RAM chip doesn’t pass a data integrity check.

Whoa, what was that last sentence in the previous paragraph? RAM chip? Data integrity check? Why is my computer saying that there’s junk food trying to interact with my data?

Is this what our data is doing with chips?

As outlandish as the technical jargon may seem, it’s actually not too complicated. Essentially, your computer is saying that an inner computer chip that enables your MacBook to operate faster is either loose or going bad. To fix this problem, you’re faced with two paths. The first path is to go to the nearest Apple store and have a technician look over your MacBook, and probably fix your issue. The other path reflects on why you’re here! If you’re ready to go down the road of a MacBook surgeon with its potential risks and rewards, then read on!

Incredibly relevant to our journey.

Here’s a list of what you’re going to need:

  • A small screwdriver to unscrew the back of your laptop. The screwdriver in particular should be able to fit the dimensions of 1.5 millimeters. If you’re in need of a screwdriver to help unwind the back of the screws, here’s a helpful catalogue from Amazon of different screwdriver sets that will fit our needs : https://www.amazon.com/slp/macbook-pro-screwdriver/zm55ronsnfow6pt
  • A container to hold our screws. Certainly wouldn’t want to have them freely rolling around, so let’s give them a temporary home before they return to our MacBook.
  • A proper setting to do this! Try to avoid doing this within a cluttered, non-flat cramped surface. Preferably outside of a room where there may be carpets. Static-cling is an enemy here, which we’ll touch on further within the guide.
  • Patience and gentle hands. When unscrewing the back of our MacBook and handling the insides, remember that this can be a fairly easy job, but it can also be risky. Take breaks when necessary! My article will be awaiting you :).
  • Bonus points if you have a compressed air canister. If you’ve been going around with your MacBook, the fans could probably use a dusting.

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Do you have everything ready? If you do, then we’re good to go!

  1. As a first step, I’d strongly recommend reading through this guide to the last step before attempting to work on your MacBook.
  2. Make sure your MacBook isn’t currently plugged in, and that you’re diving in with clean hands! A clean computer is a happy computer.
  3. This step is going to be key to memorize. We’re removing a total of 10 screws. There are 7 short screws, and 3 long screws. The long screws must return to where we took them from. My way of remembering where I took them from is “On the bottom of my MacBook, in the row nearest the hinge that connects my screen. Every hole except the furthest left.”
  4. Have your container ready, because we’re going to begin unscrewing. The general rule of thumb to follow here is “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty”. We start by rotating our screwdriver counter-clockwise to remove the screws, and when we’re putting them back, we’re screwing them back in with a clockwise rotation. If you’re using the proper screwdrivers, they should be able to come off with a firm, but moderate amount of tension. If you feel that you’re using too much tension, it’s a good idea to stop and make sure that you’re using the proper screwdriver. It’s better to pause and adjust, than to strip a screw!
  5. Once your screws are off, you’ll be met by the beauty of your inner MacBook. Before we touch anything, there’s an important step to minimize any potential damage to the inner hardware. We must remove any static electricity that we may be carrying. This is fairly easy to accomplish by washing (remember to dry!) our hands or touching a metal object to discharge.
  6. Our RAM is going to be the green / blue colored block with multiple black squares within our MacBook. On the left and right sides of the RAM chip, there’s also metal pins which are helping to hold down the RAM within their alloted slots. We’re going to carefully push them to the sides with a finger per pin. Doing this successfully will cause our RAM chips to spring up from their original position. If you’ve owned an old school NES gaming system, 6b may be of reference to you. Otherwise, move on to step 7.
  7. Old school systems like the NES involved a spring mechanism that would allow you to pop in the cartridge, press down on the cartridge to lock it in place within the NES, and then play your game. Reseating our RAM is going to be a similar experience!
  8. Before we pull them out, expect there to be a slit within the yellow part of our RAM chip. The chip(s) are still intact, don’t worry :). Now, we’re going to pull them out towards us, and at a slight angle upwards. If at any point, you feel stubborn resistance, don’t fight it! This is a gentle process, so ensure that they’re being pulled out of their slots properly, and without any damage to the chips. Once they’re out, make sure that they’re placed on a clean, smooth surface.
  9. Double-check that you’ve pulled out all of the RAM chips. You’ll either have one or two RAM chips, identical in appearance. If there’s two, they’re seated on top of one another.
  10. Take a look at the chips and compare them. Are there any irregularities in their rectangular shape and/or appearance? Do any of them have burn markings along the yellow bars? Discrepancies like these can be indicators of the end of a chip’s lifecycle, meaning that the RAM should be replaced.
  11. Once our examination is over, we can begin reseating them in a similar manner to how we took them out. Using the yellow side of your chip, take a moment to align the slit of the chip, to the slot which houses the RAM. You’re going to align and place the chip back in with a slight angle pointing down-diagonally. As you slide the chip back in, you can give ease on the angle. Give it a slight press to ensure that it’s snug within its slot, but make sure to exercise reasonable force when doing so.
  12. At this point, the RAM chips should be resting within their slots, and not popping up due to the metal pins holding them down. Take a moment to ensure that they’re resting.
  13. If you have canned-air to spray, hit the fans with some air-blasts. Sometimes dust within your laptop and its fans can play a role in errors occurring.
  14. It’s time to close up shop! We’re rescrewing on the back of the MacBook. Lay your macbook down on its logo-side, and align your backplate with the holes for the screws. Remember step 3? Top row, near the hinge, every hole gets a long screw except for the hole on the furthest left. We’re going to be screwing them all back in using a clock-wise rotation, and you can screw them in with a firm hold. Not too tight, because you may want to reopen your MacBook for posible RAM replacement or other maintenance in the future.
  15. Time for the moment of truth. Once everything’s screwed back on, we’re ready to check if we were able to get past the three-beeps error.

If our situations were truly similar in that there we no bad RAM chips and you only needed to reseat them, then congratulations! Your MacBook should be working again with no beeping of the sort, and you’re now a self-certified MacBook surgeon! Enjoy the fruits of your labor, you go-getter ;).

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