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MacBook Pro freezes after 30 minutes

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Hi,
I have a MacBook Pro which I bought in April 2008 – so it's now 3 years old.
It has 4gig of RAM and an Apple service-centre-fitted 500gig hard drive fitted a year ago.
Now, if I restart my laptop it 'locks' after about 30 minutes: the cursor doesn't move and I can't force quit, so all I can do is hold the power button down until it reboots.
The only apps running at the time were Mail and Safari, plus the likes of Little Snapper etc in the background.
The laptop is very hot underneath.
I used to notice the fan come on when surfing sites with Flash – but I haven't noticed the fan go on in maybe a week or more. So my first guess was that a fan had stopped working.
I took the laptop to the only Apple service centre in Dubai a week ago, and 2 engineers have looked at it. They say they have run a number of standard tests and can't find anything wrong.
Have you any ideas which I can suggest to them when I ring them tomorrow?
Or any questions I can ask them such as "Have you run a ____ test?"
Thanks!

Answers

The Late 2007 and Early 2008 MBPs share a troublesome graphics chipset called the Nvidea 8600M GT. The failure is heat-related. You should ask the techs if they have performed the Apple test that is used to diagnose the probelm described in this Apple Repair Extension Program:
http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2377
Print out the article and take if with you.
Your symptoms are not quite to the point of those mentioned but it is worth the inquiry. You can use System Profiler (in Applications > Utiltites) to check the chipset condition. Launch System Profiler; the first screen:
will tell you if yours is among the models affected by the Nvidea issue. If the Model Identifier is MacBookPro3,1 or 4,1, you have the affected chipset. Now click on "Graphics/Displays and note the new screen:
If the line "PCIe Lane Width" reads anything other than "x16" your chipset is falling or has failed.
All Macs use thermal sensing that will shut down the computer if the core temperatures approach the level that could damage the processor. For your model, it is about 100C. If the chipset does not report suspicious values, you need to see if some background process is overactive and using up processor cycles. Use the computer for a while, then close all user apps and launch Activity Monitor (also in the Utiltiies folder).
Set AM's "show" option to "All Processes" and highlight the column "%CPU" to sort by processor usage:
Watch the screen for a minute or two, noting any processes that bubble to the top and are using 20% or more of the cycles. Note the name of any offenders and post here so we can tell you if they can be eliminated.
Are you using an external monitor in "Clamshell mode" (display lid closed)? That can trap a huge amount of heat in a MBP with silver keys. The case bottom is a heat sink--if the rubber feet are broken off, put something under the case to allow air underneath. The hinge area on the rear of the case is an important exhaust vent. Make sure noting is pushed agains the case there.
I hope this gives you a starting point.
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