Owners of 2011 MacBook Pros report critical GPU failures, system crashes

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited April 2015
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.

MBP Screen
Screenshot of MacBook Pro graphics issue. | Source: Apple Support Communities forum member "abelliveau"


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.

AppleInsider has reached out to Apple for comment and will update when a response is received.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 179
    My late 2005 Intel MBP is still trooping along fine, even though I could cook pancakes on it much of the time.
  • Reply 2 of 179
    Sounds like the old iBook G3 issues back in the day...
  • Reply 3 of 179
    I've had the problem of the screen going black two times but I chalked it up to a bug putting the computer back to sleep unexpectedly. I'll have to keep an eye on it.
  • Reply 4 of 179
    These models had notoriously bad applications of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU. If yours is still working, and you're comfortable with computer repair work, get some good thermal paste and clean and re-apply it on the two chips. iFixit's instructions are excellent, and the whole operation should take about an hour. http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook Pro 15-Inch Unibody Early 2011 Logic Board Replacement/5899
  • Reply 5 of 179
    These models had notoriously bad applications of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU. If yours is still working, and you're comfortable with computer repair work, get some good thermal paste and clean and re-apply it on the two chips. iFixit's instructions are excellent, and the whole operation should take about an hour. [URL=http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook Pro 15-Inch Unibody Early 2011 Logic Board Replacement/5899]http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook Pro 15-Inch Unibody Early 2011 Logic Board Replacement/5899[/URL]
  • Reply 6 of 179
    hillstoneshillstones Posts: 1,490member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post



    My late 2005 Intel MBP is still trooping along fine, even though I could cook pancakes on it much of the time.

    That is an interesting comment considering the Intel MacBook Pros did not come out until 2006.

  • Reply 7 of 179
    I had a similar issue with a 2010 which lasted about 10 months. My 2012 luckily has been stellar.
  • Reply 8 of 179
    This is a big concern to me. I have an early 2011 17" MBP, and I have about 60 days left on Apple Care.

    I think the documentation of failures should indicate a systematic, rather than random, failure which Apple needs to take care, even after the warranty period has expired.

    It is especially important given the 17" is no longer being manufactured. There is no reasonable option for me and those similarly situated.
  • Reply 9 of 179
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    hillstones wrote: »
    That is an interesting comment considering the Intel MacBook Pros did not come out until 2006.

    Intel switch announced in 2005 + 15" MBP introduced January 2006 + 15" MBP shipped February 2006 + 8 years = an acceptable miscalculation on the year.
  • Reply 10 of 179
    just_mejust_me Posts: 591member
    Quote:


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post



    My late 2005 Intel MBP is still trooping along fine, even though I could cook pancakes on it much of the time.

     

    Originally Posted by hillstones View Post

     

    That is an interesting comment considering the Intel MacBook Pros did not come out until 2006.


    LOL

  • Reply 11 of 179
    This is what my early 2011 15" MBP is suffering from. I have switched the automatic graphics switching to off, It does for a time, then a reload is necessary.
  • Reply 12 of 179
    emesemes Posts: 239member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Upon restarting the machine, a blue screen was displayed and the

    It seems PCs aren't the only ones to get BSOD

     

    And apparently iPhone 5s's too

  • Reply 13 of 179
    just_mejust_me Posts: 591member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    Intel switch announced in 2005 + 15" MBP introduced January 2006 + 15" MBP shipped February 2006 + 8 years = an acceptable miscalculation on the year.

    8?9       <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

  • Reply 14 of 179
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    My late 2011 15" MBP just got a new motherboard under AppleCare for this problem.

    Got it back and put my 8GB DIMMs back in and it was crashing with no video anomaly - downloaded Remember and Memtest and determined one of the memory cards was bad - that is getting replaced under warranty.

    Wish there was an easy/cheap replacement for the Radeon X1600 GPU problem on my old MBP - system still works with the GPU kext files removed but then cannot run any graphics intensive operations.
  • Reply 15 of 179
    Sorry, wrong thread.
  • Reply 16 of 179
    hillstones wrote: »
    That is an interesting comment considering the Intel MacBook Pros did not come out until 2006.

    I must of picked it up during a short jaunt back in time. Even managed to pick up some 2005 email while I was there.
  • Reply 17 of 179
    I hate laptops.
  • Reply 18 of 179
    My early-2011 MBP just had its logic board replaced by Apple due to the graphics issue. Hopefully this won%u2019t resurface...
  • Reply 19 of 179
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post



    This is a big concern to me. I have an early 2011 17" MBP, and I have about 60 days left on Apple Care.



    I think the documentation of failures should indicate a systematic, rather than random, failure which Apple needs to take care, even after the warranty period has expired.



    It is especially important given the 17" is no longer being manufactured. There is no reasonable option for me and those similarly situated.



    I'm in the same boat.  No new 17inch models.  I was planning on using mine for many years.  By then, I was hoping they would bring back the 17".  Hopefully there won't be issues?  Does anyone with a 17" model have this issue?

  • Reply 20 of 179
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,387member
    No word from the Genius Bar? Or do they simply hand out a new one, just like iPhones?
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