Something Screwy Found in a New Mac Pro

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Feedback, News

Loose-Screw-2_small.jpgWell this is a bit strange…. I just received an email from a listener who purchased a new Mac Pro (the 266GHz base configuration) and found something unexpected inside its beautiful designed enclosure. His new system arrived and while gleefully extracting it from the box he noticed an unusual, but familiar, “rattling” sound. This listener, who was a recent switcher, had built his own PCs so he could tell immediately that there may be a loose screw or two rolling around inside his new high octane Mac. He was obviously concerned and sure enough after removing the side door and carefully rocking the case, four (yes four) screws came plopping out (see the picts). These screws were each approximately 1 1/8″ long with 1/8″ thread at the end. After completing the screw extraction, he further inspected the inside of the case and fortunately could not see any empty holes where the screws may have originally resided. He went ahead and set up the new Mac and has been using the machine which appears to be working fine. After reading his email I encouraged him to contact Apple, which he did, and they seem to feel the screws must have “fell” into the case during manufacturing. They did advise him to bring the Mac in so they could do a thorough inspection, just in case.

So now I have a few questions… First, can anyone identify these screws, say where they came from or tell us what they might be used for? Second, how come these screws were not discovered by Apples quality control before shipping? Lastly, are there any other owners out there who have found these screws or similar loose parts inside any of their new Macs (Mac Pro or otherwise)? I would hope this is a one time isolated incident, but lets find out for sure.

Overall I think this does just go right back into our discussion about Apple and concerns I have over the quality of their products in recent years. Are Apples standards becoming a little more laxadasical? Now I don’t want to cause a panic and I am sure this is just one random case. But, we also can’t let Apple slide. One of the reasons Apple is so great is they listen to us, so when we see this stuff we need to say something. Apple has always made quality products and of course we love them, but if they are slipping we need to say something about it. Lets make sure we do our part to help Apple maintain the high standards they are known for and ensure that they continue to make the best personal computers in the world.

There are 22 comments on Something Screwy Found in a New Mac Pro:

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  1. Matt Torbin | Aug 18 2006 - 12:41

    I’ve never seen screws like that before. Generally speaking screws of that size are meant to hold something thick and go in deep (noted by the threads at the way bottom). Could four of the SAME screws come undone and fell out? Sure, but that would mean something awful big is awful loose. Apple in this case is probably right that they fell in by accident, but that’s just odd. Screws of this type would hold something obvious in so if the user doesn’t see the problem I’d tend to agree with Apple.

    BTW Adam, no pun intended of course, right?

    “…so they could do a thorough inspection, JUST IN CASE”…. ;)

    – MT

  2. Alrui | Aug 18 2006 - 12:33

    I’d be VERY concerned – they (Apple or the vendor it was purchased from) should have taken the unit back & shipped him a new computer then analyzed “what went wrong” on their time. Im curious after seeing this where the units are being built – China perhaps? This reminds me working in the MIL-SPEC computer business years ago & food had to be banned from the assembly line due to a bag (vending machine size) of Lays potato chips being found inside the case of a machine when it was opened for a field service repair!

  3. Avner | Aug 18 2006 - 01:34

    Apple seems to be trying very hard to push prices down so they can open up a to a larger market and better compete with PC manufacturers, as Steve pointed out in his WWDC keynote. I’d hate to think that such quality control issues and issues such as we’ve been seeing with the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros are the price we have to pay for that.

    No pun intended here either ;-)

  4. Colin | Aug 18 2006 - 01:53

    I getting more concerned that Apples quality is slipping, in order to make the price competitive.

    I’m also concerned for Apples employees in China, its reported that many workers have to work more then 60 hours per week.

    I would like to see Apple set up factory’s In America and Europe , both countries would benefit from the badly needed jobs

    Apple be careful otherwise you may stop a lot of newbies moving over to the apple platform, remember the Ipod cant sustain a company forever

  5. Rod | Aug 19 2006 - 07:03

    The screws look something similar to screws that are used to anchor a motherboard to a chassis. In a PC there are about 4-5 similar types that are used for this purpose. I believe the quality control section should have caught this anomoly in production.
    If they fell in, and lodged in between parts, unless the machine was turned over or like action it would have been difficult to see them. I can only hope this is not a sign of future Apple related issues (quality)


  6. Alrui | Aug 19 2006 - 11:50

    I dont believe there are actual “QA” departments in the majority of manufacturing companies these days (I have no clue about what a “production” facility looks like in China or any other 3rd world country & probably dont want to). My manufacturing background if from the “old days” where there were many layers of quality control & screws flopping around in the case would have been caught for sure. My bet on those screws is they are used in the power supply to case attachment.

  7. Simpson | Aug 19 2006 - 06:32

    I have used both Macs and PC’s since the the mid 80’s and Apple has always been at the top of quality when it comes to hardware, and of course they charge a premium for that. I don’t think that has changed and I do believe Apple still sweats bullets to keep that rep.

    It seems hard to believe that this kind of thing would make it through QC, but stranger things have happened, this is – so far – an anomaly and should be treated so, NOT a sign the Apple quality is going downhill.

    Nobody is perfect, no company is perfect.

    and let’s face it, setting up factory’s in the US or Europe would be financial suicide, and WOULD NOT insure any better level of quality.

  8. BruceG | Aug 19 2006 - 10:31

    Here’s something I thought of — and no proof of course, but suppose this listener had an ulterior motive — such as embarrassing Apple or Adam, and contrived this story. After-all, we don’t have any proof that this is what actually happened. A photo of screws, lugs or whatever could have nothing to do with the Mac Pro at all. All we have is what this individual claims happened.

  9. CalebC | Aug 20 2006 - 12:59

    I am the person who sent this issue to Adam and he was kind enough to try to help me with it. I am not upset at Apple for this error, I am just a bit concerned that a problem will arise later in the life of the machine (and I assure you that I do not have any motives other then the well being of my machine). I have always assumed that this was a simple mistake by a technician that happened to slip through the cracks of QA.

    That being said, I really appreciate the feedback in the comments. The next time I shutdown my Mac, I will examine the power supply a bit closer. I do not believe that the screws are used to anchor the motherboard (they are 1 1/8″ long).

    I love this machine (it is incredibly quiet and fast) and recommend it for anyone interested in purchasing a high-end desktop (Mac or PC).

  10. Nate | Aug 20 2006 - 12:51

    Methinks its one of those 4:58PM on a Friday jobs, haha

  11. MRW|DESIGN | Aug 21 2006 - 09:01

    It looks like a screw for a paralell port or serial port cable / connector. Why this would be near a mac these days is beyond me. Just a thought.

  12. James “Psy” Kocsis | Aug 21 2006 - 12:54

    Free screws?!?! I’m getting a MacPro.

  13. eodchop | Aug 22 2006 - 08:01

    I think those are the screws that hold the heat sinks in place over top of the xeons? Anypne else have any idea?

  14. chibianh | Aug 22 2006 - 06:22

    i agree with the previous commenter.. kinda looks like the heatsink screws. Here’s a link to the pic

  15. Joe | Aug 22 2006 - 09:43

    no i dont think it looks like that

  16. CalebC | Aug 23 2006 - 05:14

    Its possible that the screws belong to the heatsinks (they may screw into the holes on the right side of that image). Since the heatsinks seem to be firmly in place on my machine, perhaps the person reponsible for installing them accidentally dropped extras in the case.

    Thanks eodchop and chibianh.

  17. Michael Potter | Aug 23 2006 - 07:25

    As I normally buy refurbished Macs, and am always pleased with their condition, I was VERY surprised when I opened a brand new iMac, unpacked the keyboard and THREE keys fell off and into my lap.

    Many people would see this as “defective” and not know that the keys could be easily snapped back in to place.

    The point being, I’m generally very, very happy with the quality of Apple products, but this sure made me stop and wonder if QA was on break that day…

  18. eodchop | Aug 23 2006 - 09:00

    I will pop the cover off the side of my mac pro tonight and see if these screws look like they go to anything. I think they are heat sink screws.

  19. Marcia | Aug 25 2006 - 03:11

    The eMac that we purchased in August 2003 had something loose in it when we took it out of the box. We took it back to the store to be removed by an Apple service tech. He found a loose screw but we didn’t see what kind it was. The computer has worked just fine ever since.

  20. Mike M | Sep 09 2006 - 12:48

    I purchased a Mac Pro a couple weeks ago. When moving the system, I noticed that it sounded like there was a loose screw in the bottom of the system unit. Since the bottom part of the unit is difficult to access, I couldn’t see it though I could hear it. Anyway, I took the system unit back to the Apple Store to the “genious” and he performed “level 2 hardware maintenance” in the back room and removed a screw that had apparently fallen in to the wiring in the bottom of the unit and been overlooked during system construction. He said that it was low enough in the unit that it should not have damaged the motherboad.

  21. Joe | Jul 06 2007 - 10:13

    Say, other than the loose screws. can anyone tell me how well the Mac Pro models work? I’d like to hear your feedback. Would you recommend that I buy one? I’m using a G5 right now, but I’m thinking of upgrading to a Mac Pro in the future. How would you assess:

    1. the performance running Windows apps
    2. Peformance running OS X apps
    3. quality of the machine/value for the money
    4. glitches (if any) with exiting hardware/software out there
    5. Ease of maintaining the machine
    6. Ease or difficulty in acquiring memory of peripherals for this model
    7. Other performance issues

    Or–should I wait for the next generation of Intel Macs with the Quad Cores?

    THX, Joe

  22. Jerimy | Sep 25 2007 - 10:11

    Hi, I just had something similar happen to me on my 3 ghz mac pro (refurbished) that I just got. The video card was bent out in back (the card was good in back). I don’t know what happened if this left quality control and missed inspection or damaged while packing. Anyway, thought you would be interested.