During my photo assignment to Colombia last week, my 17" unibody MacBook Pro stopped working. As some of you may recall, I have two Intel X25-M SSD 160GB drives installed in a RAID 0 (striped) configuration. The conditions weren't ideal: 99% humidity, constant rain, lots of mud and bugs, and unstable electricity -- when we had it at all. For some unknown reason, my MBP turned on inside my computer bag, and when Macs do that, I'm told that they shut down before reaching catastrophically-high temperatures.[^1] When I found my computer, the aluminum casing was really hot -- not too hot to touch, but hot enough for me to be worried. Pushing the power button did nothing; I assume the computer is prevented from starting back up before it cools down sufficiently. After allowing the MBP to cool down, I hit the power button. The familiar startup chime sounded, and Mac OS came to life. I plugged the power adapter in, and the MagSafe connector light turned orange to signal that the battery was charging. About 15 seconds later, the light turned green, the battery gauge in the menu bar said "charge complete" (or whatever it says when the battery is fully charged), and the screen dimmed suddenly, indicating that power was not connected. Soon after, the screen went bright, and the MagSafe connector went orange. This cycle continued for as long as the machine was on. When I turned the machine off, charging seemed to function normally.
The next day, I turned on my machine and started ingesting photos and videos from compact flash cards (on battery power -- we didn't have electricity anymore). After copying about 12 GB, Photo Mechanic stopped responding. I was able to Force Quit the app and re-launch it, but soon after, I was unable to do anything but move the mouse and attempt to tab between apps (unsuccessful). I turned the machine off by holding down the power button for 5 seconds. The machine would not start up again, giving me the Apple logo and spinning wheel for a minute or so, and then showing me a no bootable disk icon.
I reset PRAM. After that, the machine would only boot to a white screen. Furthermore, I was unable to boot from a rescue USB stick I always have with me (it has Mac OS on it, as well as Disk Warrior and SuperDuper!). When I returned home, the machine also failed to boot from other bootable external drives. After removing both SSDs from the Mac, I tested them individually and discovered that one of them was completely dead (inaccessible to the machine in Disk Warrior / Disk Utility). It is interesting that leaving it plugged into a SATA port on the computer prevented me from booting from any disk.
I called Intel today, and they are overnighting me a replacement SSD as part of their "cross-ship" RMA process, which costs $25 in shipping.
The battery also seems to work normally now, although I have no idea whether the strange charge/no-charge cycle before was related to the impending drive failure. There is also no way to tell whether the heat *caused* the drive failure, or whether it was simply coincidence. In any case, I am lucky that I am a backup fanatic -- I didn't lose any data. Still, it has already cost me many days in productivity, and it will likely be a couple more before I am 100% up and running. I'm going to start carrying a Torx T6 and Phillips #000 screwdriver with me when I travel so I can debug properly in the field.
[^1]: Since my machine started back up (eventually) with its battery at 20%, I assume that the machine did shut itself down.