I’ve replaced the hard disk in numerous iMacs over the years. It’s a fairly straight-forward repair, although not for everyone. But, in 2-3 cases recently, I would replace the disk, re-install the Mac OS X, restore all user data from the old disk (or a Time Machine backup), and return the computer to the user only to have them call me back in the following days, saying “The microphone doesn’t work.”
I would think to myself, “Oh, I must have missed a cable when I was mucking about inside” and I’d tell the client the same. But, time and time again, that wasn’t it.
Google to the rescue. I found many people with the same problem. And many “this worked for me” replies. Some people said, “Hit it like the Fonz.” Others suggested resetting the PRAM. I tried every suggestion I could find, but to no end. I did learn that people couldn’t be heard on Skype when speaking with a normal voice, but if they spoke REALLY LOUDLY, the other party could barely hear what was being said.
Now, I was really anxious, nervous and worried about the work I had done. Had I done something that broke the microphone? Was the design of the iMac such that merely opening the case could damage the microphone?
I realized at one point that the LED flashlight that I would use to prop up the screen from the case had a magnet on the bottom. Did that come into contact with the microphone and damage it?
I tried and tried and tried to find a solution, but could find none. So, I had to give back the computer with no working microphone and apologise profusely and promise to keep looking.
This happened last year. And again this year. And then with an iMac that a client let me keep since they had moved to a MacBook Pro. I was getting to the point that I was nervous whenever someone called me with an iMac problem, just in case I had to replace the disk.
Well, it happened again. But, this time, I was paying attention. Before doing any work, I turned it on, using my own boot disk, logged in and verified that the internal microphone did work. Check.
I went through the repair: turn it off, unplug everything, carefully disassemble the iMac, replace the hard disk, re-assemble, boot (“standard Apple chime” – yay!), install Mac OS X (while waiting, I put little labels with the client’s name on the old disk and on the top of the iMac), log-in, test the webcam and microphone, and ….no sound. Same damn result.
But…. I was so careful! I painstakingly went over every step. Took it apart again. Confirmed that the cables that I touched/detached were 1) not related to the microphone and 2) reattached. I look closer at the webcam/microphone assembly. Found out they were separate. I removed the webcam assembly and saw the microphone attached behind it. A little round metal piece firmly secured to the top and with two thin wires snaking around and behind other bigger devices in the iMac case. In other words, in order to damage this, you’d really have to make an effort. Which left me really dumbfounded.
I’m not sure why I did it, but I looked up the original (“Welcome to your new iMac”) documentation that Apple included with the iMac I was working on. I found it out there somewhere. The manual pointed very specifically to the various devices: iSight camera, iSight camera “On Air” indicator, ambient light sensor were behind the front panel. The microphone was on the top. Not facing the user, but facing up like the audio version of a Hollywood Klieg light. So, I looked there, to see what I could see.
I saw the little label that I had affixed there to identify whose computer it was, but…. I had put it dead center. Right on top of the microphone. I let out a barbaric yawp and wondered if it could really be this simple. Surely, a little piece of tape would not block the microphone so completely and utterly….would it?
Yes, it did.
I removed the label, turned on the computer, and the microphone was perfect. I did the same on my iMac and its microphone works great, too. Still waiting to hear back from the two clients I had left hanging. But, I’m sure that’s all it is.
If you are dealing with a similar problem with the microphone, please check to make sure that there is no tape, sticky-note, or anything else on the top of the iMac case blocking the microphone. You should be able to easily see where the microphone is.
Recently, I heard about someone who was away from their computer long enough that it went to sleep. This is both to reduce energy use and to protect the computer from other people prying into your stuff. The latter works by requiring the user’s password when the computer is woken from sleep. Granted, that’s more appropriate for an office, but the feature is often enabled by default even for individual, home users.
The person knows her password, uses it all the time, and yet today, she was unable to regain access to her account. She tried over and over and over again. Even tried variations — all lower case, first letter capitalized, older passwords for good measure — but nothing worked.
My first thoughts were:
- the keyboard layout has been inadvertently changed.
- a Shift, Control, or Num Lock key is stuck in the “on” position.
I have had a lot of headaches with Windows, because the login screen doesn’t always keep the same keyboard layout the user as chosen and it doesn’t always indicate which keyboard layout is in effect. So if your password has letters that have different locations on the keyboard depending on the layout (QWERTY vs. AZERTY vs. QWERTZ, etc.), then you should try (by memory) typing in your password using one of keyboard layouts that might be defined on your system.
There are other options, sometimes, such as pressing Alt-Shift (Windows) to invisibly toggle between available layouts. In some cases, there will be a small, almost unnoticeable indication of what keyboard layout is in effect. Clicking on this might give you other options to choose from. Lastly, you can also try to find the Accessibility options that are available for those who have various disabilities (sight, hearing, missing or unusable limbs, etc.). These options include an On-Screen keyboard which allows you to use the mouse to press keys, but more importantly, it lets you see the keyboard that’s currently defined.