Apple's 2011 MacBook Pro lineup suffering from sporadic GPU failures

This is a discussion on Apple's 2011 MacBook Pro lineup suffering from sporadic GPU failures within the MacBook Pro forums, part of the Macbook Forum category; Owners of early-2011 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros are reporting issues with the discrete AMD graphics processors in their notebooks, which in some cases results ...

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  1. #1
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    Apple's 2011 MacBook Pro lineup suffering from sporadic GPU failures



    Owners of early-2011 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros are reporting issues with the discrete AMD graphics processors in their notebooks, which in some cases results in the failure of the component, leaving an expensive logic board replacement as the only remedy.

    The problem, as highlighted by multiple threads on Apple's Support Communities forum, first presents itself as a graphical glitch — or, in more serious cases, complete system lockup — when an affected MacBook Pro switches from the integrated Intel graphics chip to the discrete AMD graphics processing unit, or GPU. Reports of the issue first cropped up in February, but have become more frequent over the past month.

    In 2010, Apple introduced the automatic graphics switching system, which dynamically shifts the processing load between the integrated chip and the discrete GPU based on what the user is doing. Owners of MacBook Pros built prior to 2010 have to manually select the more powerful GPU from OS X Settings, which forces the operating system to restart.

    Users of affected machines report that display discoloration, banding, and image distortion are the most common visible symptoms, but many say that their computers suddenly freeze without any of the graphical warning signs. Rebooting — even several times in succession — rarely fixes the problem, and some have even tried to remedy the situation by forcing their laptop to use the integrated chip exclusively with only moderate degrees of success.

    Data compiled from several Apple Support Communities threads by forum user "saramwrap" suggests that the majority of affected users are using early-2011 MacBook Pros with the AMD Radeon 6750M GPU, though failures are not limited to that chip. Those whose notebooks contain Radeon 6490M, 6750M, and 6970M GPUs are also experiencing the problem.

    Apple has yet to address the fairly widespread issue, with many users reporting that the only repair option given to those without AppleCare coverage is a complete logic board replacement at a cost of $500 or more.

    Apple's popular laptop line ran into similar troubles soon after its early 2011 hardware refresh, coming to light in another Apple support forum thread that now stretches more than 140 pages with over 2,000 replies. ArsTechnica reported at the time that Apple was aware of the issue and specifically targeted the problem with a special build of the OS X 10.6.7 update.





    10-14-13

    appleinsider.com

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  3. #2
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    Should I be concerned?

    I am thinking of moving from the PC world back into Macs. I have a line on an brand new but older model MacBook Pro (MD318LL/A) that is a pretty good deal. I looked at the tech specs on Apple.com and it looks like it has this processor you mention. Should I be concerned and rethink this deal or if I get the Apple care package, would it be worth considering. I use computers for home and business - primarily running Quicksbooks and Microsoft Office and the usual internet activities - gaming is minimal.

  4. #3
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    Naw, I wouldn't worry about it...

    As far as Applecare, personally, I always select it for my Apple products..
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    Owners of 2011 MacBook Pros report critical GPU failures, system crashes

    Screenshot of MacBook Pro graphics issue



    It appears a number of early-2011 MacBook Pro models with discrete AMD GPUs are seeing issues with system crashes and hardware failures, with reports of problems escalating in recent weeks.

    According to a 157-page thread on the Apple Support Communities forum, an increasing number of owners of early- to late-2011 MacBook Pros with discrete graphics cards are seeing what is being reported as hardware-related system crashes. And the problem appears to be getting worse.

    With 206,237 views and 2,348 replies, the forum thread dates back to February 2013 with a steady stream of posts all citing issues with the discrete graphics card. Since the start of December, 53 pages of posts have been added to the growing discussion.

    A majority of cases first see signs of the problem during graphics-intensive operations, like viewing high-definition videos or running heavy compute tasks. Displayed graphics become striated in some cases, while other uses have seen their screens go blank unexpectedly. A reboot temporarily solved the issue for a few forum members, but the problems returned after a short time.

    Following the onset of graphical glitches, many users see their machine reboot to a blue or gray screen. For this type of issue, Apple suggests that restarting an affected Mac in Safe Mode, or resetting NVRAM/PRAM will solve the problem. In severe cases, a clean install of OS X is recommended.

    As noted by forum posts, these methods — and more — were attempted, but did not resolve the issue.

    The cause of the reported glitches is unknown at this time, though some users have speculated that heat is to blame for aggressive degradation of the discrete GPU. Some have found a solution in inhibiting automatic graphics switching to the more powerful AMD card through specialized software. Others, however, did not see success with the stopgap and were forced to replace their MacBook's logic board.

    While some owners were able to take their machine in to Apple for a logic board swap, the operation is quite pricey without an extended AppleCare warranty.

    Anecdotally, one AppleInsider staff member suffered from an identical issue as described in the Support Communities thread. In their case, the screen went black during heavy Photoshop editing. Upon restarting the machine, a blue screen was displayed and the MacBook's fans spooled up to near maximum RPM levels.

    Rebooting to single user mode and performing a fsck to check and repair possibly corrupted files fixed the issue temporarily. Forcing the machine to use Intel integrated graphics also seemed to help the problem until the system went down after about one day of normal use.

    A clean install was performed, which again revived the MacBook, but this too was short-lived. After repeated attempts to resolve the issue in single user mode and multiple clean installations, the machine is now unresponsive. When turned on, a gray screen with horizontal "squiggly" lines appears, denoting a possible hardware failure.





    1-16-14

    appleinsider.com

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    Early 2011 MacBook Pros Are Dropping Like Flies, Heat Issues To Blame



    If you have a 2011 MacBook Pro that is wonking out like it was haunted by a Japanese ghost, you’re not the only one. It appears that a massive number of early-2011 MacBook Pro owners with AMD graphics are having issues with system crashes and hardware problems, with failure rates reaching a critical mass in recent weeks.

    According to an enormous, 157-page thread on the Apple Support Communities, a number of early-2011 MacBook Pro owners began having problems with the AMD discrete graphics cards inside their laptops. The troubles began appear to have begun in February 2013, but activity in the support thread has really escalated over the last few weeks.

    The problem seems to first exhibit itself during graphics-intensive tasks like playing games or high-definition video, or running the CPU hot. The display ends up distorting, or going entirely blank, and while reboots make the problems go away for a short period of time, they almost always return later. After the graphical glitches start, things get worse, with many users reporting inevitable gray and blue screens of death.

    It’s a bad situation, and frankly, the issue seems obvious: It’s a heating issue, to which Macs have always been susceptible. It seems, however, that early-2011 MacBook Pros are particularly prone to this issue. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about it, unless Apple institutes a replacement program: The only way to fix the issue right now is to swap the logic board on your machine, which is an extremely expensive upgrade.

    I'm keeping an eye on this, and if Apple responds to the issue, I’ll let you know.





    1-17-14

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    Some 2011 MacBook Pros Experiencing GPU Glitches, System Crashes

    An example of the screen glitches 2011 MacBook Pro owners are seeing



    Many early and late–2011 MacBook Pro owners with discrete graphics cards seem to be experiencing GPU failures and system crashes on their machines. In addition to several tips received by MacRumors, there’s lengthy thread on the issue on the Apple Support Communities, a Facebook group, and many reports of trouble on our own forums.

    It appears that the MacBooks, first released on February 28, 2011, are displaying screen glitches primarily during graphics-intensive work or games. MacBook owners have noted visible striations and image distortion or an entirely blank screen, which can often be temporarily fixed with a reboot.

    Along with graphical issues, MacBook Pro owners are also seeing frequent reboots to a gray screen. Apple has several suggestions for customers seeing a gray screen, including booting into safe mode and reinstalling OS X, which has not managed to solve the problem for MacBook Pro owners experiencing issues.

    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.

    The issue appears to affect 15 and 17-inch MacBook Pros that have discrete graphics cards. 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.





    1-17-14

    www.macrumors.com

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    Apple remains mum as complaints mount over 2011 MacBook Pro GPU failures

    Screenshot of MacBook Pro graphics issue



    As AppleInsider first reported in October, a significant number of early-2011 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro owners saw system crashes and graphics failures seemingly related to the laptops' discrete AMD-built GPUs. A follow-up report in January found an escalation of reported problems with one Apple Support Communities thread covering 157 pages with 206,237 views and 2,348 replies.

    It seems the problem is getting worse. Now being referred to as a "club," the group of users affected by the apparent hardware malfunction is growing by the day.

    As of this writing the main discussion thread regarding 2011 MacBook Pro GPU-related issues has swollen to 338 pages with a massive 538,585 views and 5,061 replies. The latest entries are dated May 13 and come from the U.S., UK, the Netherlands and Japan.

    While Apple has yet to officially respond to affected MacBook Pro owners, some have found luck in taking their faulty computer in for service. During the extended AppleCare Protection Plan period, which is quickly approaching its three-year limit, some customers were able to get their logic board swapped out. The procedure is reportedly hit-or-miss as there is no official standing order to replace the part, though unconfirmed reports claim a few specialists have said the problem is known to Apple. In any case, instead of paying the price to switch out the component, some users have chosen to simply abandon the laptop as broken.

    With no response from Apple, affected owners have started a Change.org petition addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi in the hopes of shining a light on what they call a "manufacturing defect." The petition has 2,726 signatures of a required 5,000.

    Apple has in the past issued product recalls and initiated replacement programs for malfunctioning parts. Last August, for example, the company opened up replacements for certain mid-2011 iMac models that shipped with faulty video cards. Coincidentally, a variation of the component — AMD's Radeon HD 6970M — happens to be one of the GPUs early-2011 MacBook Pro owners are finding defective in their computers.





    Symptoms usually present themselves during graphics-intensive operations like watching high-definition video, editing large photos in pro-level apps or merely running computation-heavy operations. Many users see their screen go blank unexpectedly, while others have experienced visual artifacts and banding indicative of a GPU failure.

    A number of forum users have seen constant system reboots that arrive at a blue or gray screen upon restart. Apple's own documentation suggests that restarting an affected Mac in Safe Mode or resetting NVRAM/PRAM will solve this particular problem. In severe cases, a clean install of OS X is recommended.

    Temporary workarounds have been suggested, but few have had lasting impact. For example, owners have seen success in rebooting to single user mode and performing a fsck to check and repair possibly corrupted files sometimes works, while forcing an affected MacBook Pro to use its Intel integrated graphics chip also helps for a short time. After extended usage, however, most systems revert to an inoperable state.





    5-14-14

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    Apple ignores calls to fix 2011 MacBook Pro failures as problem grows

    Image showing early-2011 MacBook Pro graphics issue



    Owners of early-2011 MacBook Pro continue to report GPU-related system failures, but Apple has yet to acknowledge the problem as widespread and, according to informed sources, is not planning a replacement program to remedy the issue.

    People familiar with Apple's internal repair network have informed AppleInsider that the company has no immediate plans to initiate a replacement program for early-2011 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models suffering from systematic crashes and graphics failures seemingly related to the laptops' discrete AMD-built GPUs.

    While not yet pervasive, some lower-tier Apple employees are aware of the situation. One Hong Kong Apple Store Genius, for example, has taken to directing out-of-warranty customers to third-party repair companies in lieu of official orders on how to handle the problem. According to multiple customer reports, local representatives in the U.S. and other countries are handling the matter in much the same way.

    Apple Authorized Service Providers are also seeing an influx of broken machines, sources say. In some cases, Apple has escalated AASP requests for further investigation up the chain and at least a handful of repair network managers have been informed of the issue.

    The total number of affected MacBook Pros is unknown, though one third-party service provider estimates recent repair intake for this specific problem stands at about ten laptops per week. Despite the case load, Apple is disinclined to take remedial action to curb incoming repairs, such as a replacement program.

    Known internally as a Quality Program, Apple's takeback, replacement and exchange initiatives are only activated in the event of severe, widespread or potentially dangerous hardware failures. A rare occurrence, the most recent program dealt with overheating Euro-spec 5W USB adaptors in June.

    Problems first cropped up in October 2013 when MacBook Pro owners began to complain of sudden system unrecoverable system crashes though to stem from GPU issues. A few months later in May, reports of failures spread significantly, an alarming trend that continues today. The rate of reported failures could even be accelerating, one person said.



    Early-2011 MacBook Pro discrete AMD GPU



    As noted in previous reports, the GPU issue might present itself onscreen as visual artifacts, banding or a blank screen. What triggers the failure is unknown, though a common thread seems to be graphics-intensive operations like watching high-definition videos and performing processor-intensive operations in digital media programs.

    Affected MacBook Pro owners have taken to Apple's Support Communities forum, with one of the longer threads racking up well over one million views and 7,611 replies since February 2013. Others have signed a Change.org petition asking Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi to fix or replace MacBook Pro units subject to the "manufacturing defect." With 7,920 supporters, the petition needs another 2,080 signatures to reach its goal.

    For those few who still have an active extended AppleCare Protection Plan, failures pose more of an inconvenience than a dilemma, but out-of-warranty users must pay to have their MacBook Pro repaired. Since the AMD graphics chip is soldered onto the logic board, Apple or an authorized service provider must replace entire part. Not a cheap fix.

    As many three-year AppleCare warranties for the early-2011 MacBook Pro are likely expired, the chances of Apple introducing a replacement program are slim. Going forward, owners with faulty hardware will have two options: pay out-of-pocket for a replacement board or scrap the laptop as broken.





    8-13-14

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    2011 MacBook Pro GPU complaints not going away as petition reaches 18k signatures



    Long-standing complaints that the 2011 MacBook Pro suffered from a manufacturing fault resulting in GPU glitches and failures don’t appear to be going away, as an online petition calling for Apple to fix or replace affected machines reaches more than 18,000 signatures.

    The petition notes the premium spent to buy Apple laptops, and says that Apple’s only response to date has been to ask owners to pay for an extremely expensive logic board replacement …

    An Apple Support Communities thread on the issue has now reached over 9,000 posts across more than 600 pages even as Apple has been removing entries, and a Google search for 2011 MacBook Pro GPU brings up autocomplete suggestions for searches totalling over three million hits.





    Owners of machines suffering from the problem have also been tweeting with the hashtag #MBP2011, and there are a number of websites devoted to the issue. Owners are reporting Apple repair costs of between $300 and $700, with diagnoses often pointing to failure of either the soldering or thermal paste on the AMD Radeon HD 6750M.

    Apple did offer a free video card replacement on some mid-2011 iMacs exhibiting similar symptoms, though the cards in the MacBook Pro are different, and such recalls are rare. The most recent was in August, when Apple offered free battery replacements for some iPhone 5 phones.

    We’ve asked Apple for comment but expectations are low obviously. These things usually take some class action lawsuits to elicit a response from Apple.





    10-17-14

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    Class-action lawsuit over 2011 MacBook Pro GPU issues extended to Canada



    Following a petition with thousands of signatures related to GPU complaints and a class-action lawsuit filed in the United States, another class-action lawsuit has been filed north of the border against Apple Canada over the same GPU issues affecting some 15-inch and 17-inch 2011 MacBook Pro models equipped with an AMD graphics chip.

    The virtually identical class-action lawsuit was filed in Canada by Montreal-based legal firm Lex Group Attorneys and argues that certain 2011 MacBook Pros suffer from a design and manufacturing defect that causes graphical issues such as severe screen distortion, pixilation, graphical artifacts, and ghosting, often rendering the notebooks unusable.

    According to official court documents, the defect stems from lead-free solder used to connect the AMD GPU to the logic board of the affected MacBook Pros. The lawsuit argues that customers were forced to pay up to $600 in out-of-warranty replacement costs, and that Apple ignored and failed to reimburse owners faced with these out of pocket expenses.





    Apple did offer a free video card replacement in the United States for some mid-2011 iMacs exhibiting similar symptoms, though the cards in the MacBook Pro are different, and recalls as a whole are rare. The most recent was in August, when Apple offered free battery replacements for some iPhone 5 models that were deemed to have defective batteries.

    Apple has still not provided comment on either of these lawsuits, and given that it generally remains tight lipped on matters such as these, it might not ever provide any official word regarding the cases. If the class-action lawsuits are won, affected customers across Canada and in select parts of the United States could be entitled to a settlement.





    12-12-14

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