Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

Users Reporting Widespread GPU Issues with 2011 MacBook Pros

TidBITS reader Andrew Roazen has alerted us to a widespread problem with the discrete graphics processors in 2011 models of the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro that causes graphical glitches and system freezes. Because they lack discrete graphics, the 13-inch MacBook Pro models aren’t affected. Three Apple Support Communities forum threads on the issue have over 850,000 views and more than 4,400 replies.

Symptoms reported by owners of both early and late-model 2011 15-inch and 17-inch models of the MacBook Pro include:

  • Display artifacts
  • Left and right halves of the display being swapped
  • Blue screens
  • System freezes

YouTube user MrWojzilla has made an example video showing severe artifacts on his early 2011 MacBook Pro.

Causes and Solutions -- The issue seems to be isolated to the AMD Radeon HD graphics chipsets (the 6490M, 6750M, and 6770M) in these MacBook Pro models. Interestingly, previous — back to 2007 — and subsequent MacBook Pro models instead used Nvidia chipsets for the discrete graphics processor.

A temporary workaround is to force the computer to switch to the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics chip using Cody Krieger’s free gfxCardStatus utility, which also shows you which graphics chip is in use at any given time. The integrated graphics are slower, but consume less power (see “Improve MacBook Pro Battery Life with gfxCardStatus,” 21 February 2011).

Many forum posters believe that lead-free solder — which is environmentally friendly but makes for weaker connections — is the source of the problem. Improper use of lead-free solder is blamed for the Xbox 360’s “red ring of death” issue, which caused a substantial number of unit failures.

Unfortunately, since the AMD chip is attached to the logic board, the safest solution is to have the logic board replaced by an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider. Reports from users price out-of-warranty repairs by Apple at $320 for a flat-rate depot repair, which involves shipping your computer away, and around $500 for a faster in-store repair. Either way, be sure to make a complete backup of your data beforehand in case Apple decides to replace the computer entirely.

Another reported solution — if you’re desperate, technically adept, and a little crazy — is to try reflowing the solder connection yourself with a heat gun, as illustrated by Geoff Hill at the Make Stuff/Do Stuff blog. Here’s to the crazy ones.

We hope that Apple acknowledges this widespread problem and issues a recall for affected customers.


Backblaze is unlimited, unthrottled backup for Macs at $5/month.
Web access to files means your data is always available. Restore
by Mail allows you to recover files via a hard drive or USB.
Start your 15-day trial today! <>

Comments about Users Reporting Widespread GPU Issues with 2011 MacBook Pros
(Comments are closed.)

sraz150  2013-12-19 18:51
The only hardware failures I've ever experienced with Macs since 2006, have both been AMD graphics chipset failures: one in an iMac and the other in a MBP. They resulted in logic board replacements.

All six Macs since then (including a work machine) have had nVidia-based graphics with no issues. I'll be avoiding AMD in the future.
Eric E  2013-12-26 18:31
"...the only hardware failures I've ever experienced... have both been AMD..." - it's not just AMD. My late 2008 15" MBP has had two motherboard swaps (thankfully under warranty) due to it's Nvidia GPU that was notorious for issues. Bad manufacturing can hit any maker...
Ken Powell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-12-27 21:59
In checking other threads associated with this problem, it's solder joints between the GPU and the logic board that fail, not the GPU. This is an assembly defect, not a component failure.

Apple offered repair extensions on 15 & 17 inch MBPs exhibiting video problems manufactured between May 2007 & Sept 2008. Who knows if they will do the same this time...
Ian Stavert  2013-12-20 02:31
My 2010 model MBP 15" had a well-known issue with the Nvidia card, which caused crashing of the system whilst that card was in use - isolating this card out by using the gfxCardStatus utility meant that you could not run a monitor - Apple replaced my logic board for free as I had AppleCare, but the cost was going to run somewhere in the $500 range, so it's not just AMD that has had issues - Nvidia cards will not make you immune to future problems. In my case it was a known issue with Apple (eventually) because they put out a Knowledge Base article about it, so see if they have done the same thing for the AMD issue.
Yes, this is a problem that I have just encountered this last week. I performed a clean install of Windows 7 and after installing boot camp 5, but before the reboot, I disable the ATI chip and also remove the drivers from the device manager.
I have an early model 17" MacBook Pro that had this issue late last summer. I had to take my laptop in to the Apple store 3 times to have it repaired as described in the article. The store people were great and knew all about this concern. The last time I took it in, they said it would be the last repair attempt, and if it failed again we would need to discuss a replacement product. Thankfully, the last repair SEEMS to have corrected the issue. I bought this 17" MBP for a reason, and would be disappointed if I had to replace it. Oh yes, I do have Apple Care!
Apple offered on Mid-2010 models an extended Warranty that when it showed it failed a specific GPU (nVidia) test, they replaced the logicboard. But that coverage is now over.

Prior to that, the 2007-08 (2.4/2.2ghz) models with nVidia "bump" issues and the 4 year extended program that had. Seems Apple isn't giving a longer coverage.

If there really are many issues with the 2011 GPUs, I suspect Apple will add a stress-test to MRI and hope they offer an extension program.
Richard Orlin  2014-01-02 08:35
The Macbook Pro isn't the only Mac that is using the 6770M GPU. I have a mid-2011 27" iMac using the same GPU and I'm beginning to experience strange graphics behavior with the finder.
Scot Mcphee  2014-01-06 21:54
I've got one of these AMD-equipped 2011 MBP's. I've found that I don't get graphical glitches as much as infuriating slow downs, freeze-ups and painful 1 min+ screen redraws. When this article appeared a few weeks ago, I installed gfxCardStatus and forced it to use the built in graphics and haven't seen my problem appear since. The problem is I often connect it to an external monitor (but not over xmas) which means I have to used the AMD card. ;-(
There is an on-line petition for an Apple recall / replacement for free. Here are the links:

- Short:
- Full:

Share, please.

Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-06-05 06:56
I received the following lengthy post from reader Hal Feldman:

OK. I've been in research mode for a while now and although this may have been said in pieces, I'd like to offer this compilation of information for both affected users and for Apple employees monitoring this discussion.

1) The overall problem appears to be caused by the discreet GPU being exposed to extreme heat. Eventually, the GPU itself is damaged *or* the solder points are compromised. Either way, you get a graphics failure followed by a kernel panic.

2) Some have said that Mavericks is the cause of the heat. This may have some validity because Mavericks taxes the discreet GPU more often and therefore more heat is generated.

3) Some have said it is the amount of thermal paste and/or method Apple used to apply the paste that has led to less than satisfactory heat transfer to the heat sync.

4) Some have said that thermal paste naturally dissipates/breaks down over time and this in and of itself can add heat to the core of a MacBook Pro.

5) Some have said that the fans and airflow design are less than satisfactory to handle the heat generated by the MacBook Pro components.

6) Some have said using a MacBook Pro in a warm environment or on a surface that traps heat (such as on a bedspread, lap, wood table, etc.) adds to the build up of heat inside a MacBook Pro.

7) There is no doubt that the more heavy-duty users generate more CPU and GPU cycles that add to the internal heat in a MacBook Pro (or any computer for that matter).

I believe all the above contribute to the premature failure of the MacBook Pro graphic systems. Your combination may be different, but the result is eventually the same.

So, depending on how "hard" you drive your Mac cumulatively will determine when (or if) your MacBook Pro will fail with this issue.


As Apple, and most other manufacturers these days, do not work at a detailed level of compoents on a board, the "repair" is to replace the entire logic board. Yes, it is overkill, but it is the only way to handle mass produced products. (I remember TV and stereo repair shops. Notice how they have virtually disappeared...)

The question is why consumers are being asked to pay for what ultimately is an inherent design flaw. I doubt Apple could have tested to prevent this up front, as it took approximately tow years of average use to start to see this manifest itself. But, at some point they will have the evidence they need to call this a PROBLEM.

Although my faith is shaken right now, I still have belief that Apple will get to a tipping point here and take care of their users. Apple used to "listen" faster, but I also understand that they need to be fiscally responsible before handing our shareholder "money".


We need to continue to promote new people to submit their issues through channels, use this discussion form productively and TAKE GOOD NOTES on each of our cases. A Genius told me the notes I showed him will be my saving grace. YMMV.

My own two cents...

1) Re-applying thermal paste would possibly reduce heat generation, but it is not sanctioned by Apple and would likely void warranty *or* any special program by Apple.

2) Reflowing (remelt existing solder to get rid of fractures and cold joints) would possibly "fix" graphics, but it is not sanctioned by Apple and would likely void warranty *or* any special program by Apple.

3) Reballing (replacing the solder points) would likely "fix" graphics, but it is not sanctioned by Apple and would likely void warranty *or* any special program by Apple.

4) Replacing the logic board would certainly put you at ZERO on the damage done by heat meter, but if the logic board design hasn't changed, you may end up hitting the same thermal threshhold and need to repeat the process.

Now, perhaps, just perhaps, Apple figures this out and they do a modification to the logic board production, such as: (a) change the GPU to a model that produces less heat, (b) use better heat sync components, (c) change fans to move more air, and/or (d) use different solder that doesn't break down. Then replacing the logic boards might be a permanent solution for us unlucky soles with these dead/dying MacBook Pros.


For now, I am begrudgingly running my hobbled MBP in INTEGRATED GRAPHICS mode without any problems. Yes, it stinks, but I am not out any money and I don't lose my machine for days on a repair that will likely fail again.