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Details: The shutdowns occur at random times and are usually preceded by a scrolling gray semi-transparent screen and an alert that the computer is shutting down (courteous at least).

Sometimes if I try to power up immediately afterwards, I have to wait .5 - 2 minutes (is it overheating?). The most recent crash caused my email accounts to be deleted. As mentioned, the computer is out of service call warranty. I do have a Time Machine backup. Software is up to date.

I see in the forum that there might be both a software and hardware component to the shutdowns. I also see that full restore and special partial restores might fix the email problem (but am nervous about the partial since tinkering with Macs still feels like voodoo at this point). And I'd rather not spend $50 on a service call unless needed.

From the Apple perspective, what should I do?

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That grey transparent screen indicates a kernel panic, similar to Windows "blue screens". When restoring data from Time Machine after having installed a new OS, you can select to e.g. only restore your user account (personal data and settings) and applications. This seems to be the best way to go without more data. You could copy and paste the contents of the "Report to Apple" dialog you can view after restarting the Mac. It shows what data would be reported to Apple and could help determining the cause of the crashes. Simply displaying the dialog does not report anything to Apple. –  Daniel Beck Dec 1 '11 at 6:12
    
What do you mean when you say e-mail accounts were deleted? –  soandos Dec 1 '11 at 7:30
    
Thanks, Daniel. –  adrianfehr Dec 3 '11 at 5:21
    
Oops...didn't realize that Return posted the message. So, by Deleted, I mean that they no longer show up when clicking the Mail icon, whic only shows the default Welcome to Mail popup with an option to install a new gmail account with my computers user name. I had three accounts linked to Mail: personal Gmail, business yahoo, school alumni Gmail. What is more disconcerting is that I just realized that all of the messages on the business account server were deleted at the time of the crash, despite from day one being left on server. I can't see them via iPhone or web login. Simply gone. –  adrianfehr Dec 3 '11 at 5:28
    
Losing server data makes this a lot more severe. I know that I can recover from the backup -- but is this worth escalating to Apple support since I cannot have hardware or software randomly deleting remote data (if that is indeed what happened)? Has this happened to anyone else that oyu know of or does this seem isolated? Thanks! –  adrianfehr Dec 3 '11 at 5:31

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