GPU failures in 2011 MacBook Pros

Madeleine Swain
28 January, 2014
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Do you have a 2011 MacBook Pro by any chance?

Noticed any problems? Forums around the web have started reporting failures of the GPU in this model MacBook Pro, resulting in corruption, crashing or freezing, intermittent video issues and, in the worst case scenario, total failure.

And, fortunately for Apple, these machines are of course now out of warranty. So, if you are the owner of a 2011 MacBook Pro and unless you were smart/organised/prescient enough to have bought AppleCare, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.

Blackwizard, a submitter at Slashdot.com, notes that reports of failures have sprung up on both Apple’s own forums (where at least one user experienced the Apple equivalent of the notorious blue screen of death) and other blogs, such as this one from Dreamson, where the writer complains vehemently after being told by an Apple ‘genius’ that his only recourse was to replace his Logic Board, at a cost of 4489 Hong Kong dollars ($660.52).

Blackwizard refers to a post by MacRumors, which claims to have also received several tips regarding the issue, notes a Facebook group has been initiated and links to reports of trouble on its own forums. MacRumors also posted the below image, showing the sorts of display problems some users have experienced.

mbp20111gpufailures

Screen glitches on some 2011 MacBook Pros.

“The issue appears to affect 15in and 17in MacBook Pros that have discrete graphics cards,” says MacRumors. “All of the 2011 MacBooks use AMD cards, including the AMD Radeon HD 6490M, the AMD Radeon HD 6750M (both 512MB/1GB variants) and the AMD Radeon HD 6770M.

“Mid–2011 iMacs with AMD Radeon HD 6970 graphics cards experienced similar failures and in August of 2013, Apple initiated a Graphics Card Replacement Program for the computers, replacing the graphics cards of affected iMacs at no cost.”

Blackwizard’s post at Slashdot.com reports that Apple has yet to address this issue and wonders if the company will take “ownership of the issue, or continue to ask customers to pay for an entire new logic board when just the GPU fails”.

Other commenters at the website, however, are defending the Cupertino, California company’s track record in this department, with many reporting instances of Apple replacing parts for free, even on machines that were well out of warranty.

“My mother-in-law’s four-year-old MBP was replaced with a new model after repeated logic board failures (all of which was done for free),” says Anonymous Coward (one of many on the site apparently, as it seems to be a default name), while Just Some Guy says, “I bought a used, out-of-warranty iMac which developed bad capacitors (swollen and leaking) on the graphics card a year later. I called Apple and they replaced everything inside it without charging me a penny. I never heard of that being a big scandal, and in the US I doubt they had any legal obligations to fix my 3.5-year-old used Mac.”

“Apple has done logic board replacements in some cases for affected users, but reports indicate that the issue has reoccured after a logic board replacement as well. It is unclear why the MacBook Pros are experiencing problems, but Apple forum users have speculated that it could be heat related,” concludes MacRumors.

 

6 Comments

6 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. pat says:

    I am experiencing this problem, and I think Apple will do the right thing once enough people have spoken out. Until then, I am keeping the problem at bay using gfxCardStatus (it allows you to disable the graphic card that is causing the problems as much as possible) so my entire computer doesn’t become unusable. People who continue to use that graphics card are bricking their MBP early and late 2011 because it apparently overheats and begins to loosen solder, so turning off that card is the only option. it isn’t a fix all because doing that means no external displays and many apps will not run… some apps require that graphics card, it will need to be enabled if you need those apps or external displays. Doing this is annoying, but it does is delay the inevitable. Here is hoping Apple hears us and repairs all of the MBP ’11 (early and late) as it should with this issue as widespread as it is. So to anyone out there who’s computer hasn’t completely died, look into gfxCardStatus and how it can force the Mac to use only the Integrated graphics card.Pay attention to when it switches to the faulty discrete graphics card – the problem card – so you know what apps are using the faulty card… and when you are using apps that require the discrete card, close them as soon as you don’t need them open and switch back to integrated. The goal is to use discrete graphics as little as possible. It should give your computer some extra life.

  2. Dmitrijs says:

    I am experiencing the same on late 2011 mbp 15 with amd 6770m video. Some forums say this is a GPU ball soldering issue. Anyhow, it is hardware related and massively reportes.

  3. Steve Ball says:

    Apple’s own warranty information page makes it clear that, in addition to Apple’s limited warranty, and in addition to any AppleCare you may have purchased, products are warranted under Australian consumer law to last for “a reasonable time”. If something fails within a “reasonable time” – and I’m typing this on on 2007 MacBook Pro – you’re entitled to have it repaired or replaced, and that’s your choice.

    I recently returned a malfunctioning 2 yr. old Magic Trackpad to my local Genius Bar, and it was replaced with a new one, no questions asked.

  4. John Beauchamp says:

    For Australians this may not be a problem. I think Apple have agreed warranty is 2 years but that is not the end of it. Some products may be deemed to have a longer Warranty period under Australian Consumer Law

  5. Wes says:

    Yep, same here. Those pretty patterns that appear on the pic of the monitor above are becoming common place on my machine. I’ve got a 15″ reconditioned MacBook Pro bought through Apple direct and it’s displaying the same thing. It’s about 2-3 months away from it’s 12 months since purchase and it started a few weeks ago. It’d been slow and subject to massive slow downs when all of a sudden I had the “Please reboot this machine” notice. Big scare though when it didn’t reboot. Just sat there staring at me as blankly as I was staring at it! Tried a few reboots, tried resetting the NVRAM, tried to boot in Safe Mode (failure) – tried most things but no avail. This was after my previous machine suffered a catastrophic failure, hence the reconditioned unit.

    After about an hour, I rebooted again in Hardware Test mode. It didn’t find fault and rebooted fine. Every now and again the screen will go blank and I have to reboot. It’s intermittent, infrequent and infuriating.

    At first I too thought it to be a heat problem (the fan runs constantly) but it’s run in an air conditioned office with a small, but powerful desk fan blowing on it all the time.

    Cold comfort knowing that others are experiencing the same problem – hope Apple addresses it soon.

  6. wes says:

    [update 26-02-14]

    Apple replaced the logic board (it has an incorporated graphics card) on Saturday. Yesterday the problem returned. Today it won’t even boot up at all – light comes on, drive kicks in, but no chime, no display, just a very unhealthy silence…

    At least it was covered not only under the 12 months warranty for a refurb’d machine but under the 90 days after service warranty too. I’ll find out tomorrow what’s going on.

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