Mac Catalina install question

Recently I installed MRtrix3 on my 2016 Macbook Pro with the latest Catalina OS. I finished the install according to the instructions and the viewer tested fine. A couple of days later the motherboard stopped working properly and had to be replaced. A colleague mentioned sometime back she had ‘ruined’ her Mac installing MRtrix3.
Has anyone had similar problems with Catalina 10.15.4? I am hoping my experience was just coincidental, but I want to reinstall on the new motherboard and I am concerned about the possibility of re-killing the machine, especially since service centers are unavailable duing the Covid lockdown where I am in Spain.

This is the first I’d heard of this. If this is happening, we want to hear about it!
I would assume that when someone mention ruining their system, they might be referring to software issues related to having installed homebrew, and/or conflicts with other packages such as anaconda. These things are typically relatively trivial to fix when you know how… But I’ll freely admit it’s not going to be obvious to non-technical users.

If there is any suggestion that MRtrix3 is somehow affecting users’ hardware however, we need to figure out why. There is nothing that MRtrix3 does – or indeed can do – that isn’t standard and allowed by the default macOS security policy. The only thing we might do that could affect hardware is that we make extensive use of multi-threading for parallel processing, which can end up overheating the CPU if the system doesn’t throttle back performance as it should. Macbooks are frequently affected by overheating problems, but every system should be equipped with hardware temperature monitoring and software drivers to manage the load on the system to ensure the temperature remains safe (also called CPU thermal throttling). If that is indeed the problem, I would suggest that this is an issue for Apple to fix – but in the meantime, you could get MRtrix3 to use a lower default thread count by setting the NumberOfThreads config file option.

In any event, I’d really appreciate your feedback on this issue – or indeed any other macbook users out there. Please report any updates about this!


MRtrix does not kill your motherboard. It is a user space application like any other.

If your motherboard died after installing MRtrix that is just an unlucky coincidence.

Thanks for the quick and reassuring feedback. I will wait a few days before installing in case anyone has additional comments. Just to be clear, the problem I had a couple of days after the install was that the laptop would onlly boot up in safe mode, so the local Mac tech guys ended up replacing the motherboard…they didń’t offer any further clarification.

If you install MRtrix3 via homebrew you can minimise the heat stress with the option --without-multithreaded_build, which is equivalent to NumberOfThreads=1.

I also have a 2016 MacBook Pro, and I run MRtrix all the time :slight_smile: Like Donald and Ben already said, there is no way in which MRtrix could directly affect your hardware; it runs in user space like any other application.

That said, many MRtrix commands and certainly also the compile cycle are computationally demanding processes. Because MRtrix is designed to take maximum advantage of multi-threading capabilities, the CPU can start to heat up rapidly. It is then the OS’s job to reduce the system load to avoid overheating. macOS normally handles this well, but the MacBook Pro 2016 generation is notorious for its bad thermal design so this can be a concern. But to be absolutely clear, this is entirely Apple’s responsibility and, if the issue you experienced was indeed due to overheating, you would experience the same problems with other computationally expensive tasks such as 3D rendering or video editing.

On my MacBook, I limit the number of processes for compiling using NUMBER_OF_PROCESSORS=1 ./build (and then I go to get a coffee). When running commands, I don’t usually limit the number of threads except for the bigger jobs.

As a final side note, just make sure that you’re not using any system apps that disable thermal throttling. Those tools promise higher performance, but if you’re not careful they can really cook your system.

Just a note to say thanks again for the helpful guidance. The new Mac OS installer worked quickly and easily and MRtix3 now seems to be running fine on the 2016 Macbook Pro with the latest Catalina.

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