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Summary:

Between 2007 and 2008, some MacBook Pro models shipped with faulty Nvidia GPUs, which can cause blank screens or image distortions. Apple will fix the problem free if it can detect it, but a new report calls its diagnostic process into question.

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Between 2007 and 2008, some MacBook Pro models shipped with faulty Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics processors, which can cause blank screens or image distortions. Apple acknowledged the issue and offered to repair affected units in October 2008, but a recent report suggests those problems aren’t completely behind the company.

The tool Apple uses to determine whether or not a defective Nvidia GPU is responsible for your MacBook Pro’s problems might not be accurate in a number of cases, according to Mobile Magazine. Apple evaluates machines for the problem using a USB stick running Nvidia’s diagnostic software. Once the drive is inserted, it runs tests and provides printed reports on the nature of the problem. However, the test may not be returning accurate reports in every instance.

In some cases, according to Mobile Magazine, the faulty GPUs can overheat, leading to a short in your logic board when heat-transfer material ends up on parts of your computer’s internals where it shouldn’t be. That would lead to a diagnostic result indicating the logic board had failed, not the GPU. Logic board failures entail a non-warranty repair that can cost more than $1,000.

Mobile Magazine describes one specific case in detail where this occurred, but a call to Hi-Tech Electronics, the shop which performed the diagnostic and repair in question (it replaced the faulty GPU and cleaned the logic board for $260 including shipping, instead of the $1,000 Apple was asking) confirmed it has seen many similar cases, and continues to repair multiple MacBook Pros with problems stemming from the same issue each week.

Apple couldn’t be reached for comment as of this writing. If these reports are accurate, a simple fix would be to open up and inspect the internals of any MacBook Pros potentially affected by faulty Nvidia GPUs, rather than simply performing a software diagnostic test using a USB drive. It would be more costly and time-consuming, but also probably better for customer loyalty in the long run.

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  1. I think some Apple employees might be aware of the less-than-accurate testing method (or maybe I just got lucky). I bought my MacBook Pro in September 2007, and my logic board gave out on me about 5 months ago. I took it to the Apple store and they ran the NVIDIA test and the results said that my issue was not caused by anything related to the NVIDIA card. However, the employee helping me tinkered around some more and then said he honestly couldn’t find another potential cause for my logic board going back. At that point he just entered into the system that it was in fact a NVIDIA issue and voila, they replaced my $900 logic board for free.

    I will say however, that Apple employees are basically trained NOT to tell you about things like the NVIDIA issue. I recommend pointing out to an employee that you are aware of the common graphics card issue and that it may have caused the problem.

  2. Good report! I was covered under Apple Care, so Apple replaced the GPU on my MBP. However, I have, at least once since, gotten the stage lights!

    Don’t get me started in general, however, about the MacBook Pros. The key cap lettering is wearing off (this is the second time!) The aluminum gets too cold in the winter. The hard drive noise is excessive during regular operation (the MBP was quiet the first year or so, but whatever keeps it quiet has lost its grip). The fan, of course, when it kicks in, is a screamer.

    I still like the Mag-safe attachment, though! :-)

    I see a MacBook Air or an iPad Air (combo MBA and iPad, with detachable touch screen and keyboard).

    Good column, good investigative reporting. Time for you all to take on investment banking firms, the defense industry, and Congress! You could do well!

  3. Yes like everyone with these machines I had the exact same problem. One key issue with the way the problem is diagnosed is that many of these machines fail to boot when the board fails so Apple can’t run the software test so sticks the customer with the repair cost. It took a call direct to Cupertino to get Apple to cover the cost of repairing my machine. Applecare was worse than useless at helping out of warranty customers with this problem. Everyone I know with this model has had a logic board failure and mixed results with getting Apple to help them.

  4. I had the same problem around a year ago. I had sent taken it to the apple store on my campus, where they have a repair technician pick up computers every week. He told me that the NVIDIA test had failed, but he knew that the NVIDIA card was the problem. He had me call apple, and go through a couple different departments, and tell them I knew of the problem, and apple ended up fixing it for free. I had been pretty worried, because I knew I didn’t have the money to fix it, or buy a new computer, so I got lucky.

  5. Apple just doesn’t care. We buy macbooks blindly because it is just so damn pretty.

  6. Interesting to see that there should be a post about this right now. My NVIDIA card for my Macbook Pro late 2007 just died yesterday, and I took it to the Apple Store and mentioned that it was probably the video card, since it seemed to be booting up fine (with the chime and all), but just didn’t show anything on the screen. The test that the genius did involved plugging in a usb drive and pressing a few keys during boot up. If the stand-by light at the latch was blinking, it meant that the video card was failing (or so she said). At first try, it didn’t blink, but after running the laptop on battery it seemed to start blinking (no “printed reports” and such), which apparently meant that the video card was failing. Nevertheless, they agreed to replace the logic board which was supposed to cost $1027 under the “Quality Program”.

  7. I have the same problem. I went to the Apple store and sure enough Danny said my computer is not covered eventhough it has the same simptims and it was made in Sept 2008. I am loosing faith in Apple as I thing they are just out to make money and dont care to support the hudreds of cases that I read. What should I do???????

  8. My 2008 MacBook Pro has gone on the fritz. NVIDIA struck again. Went to the Apple Store in Sherman Oaks and I was told it is not covered under the agreement and that it would cost betweek $700 and $800 for the Logic Board. I looked up the closest Apple Authorized Service center and stopped by to have them test it. Within 3 minutes I was told it failed the NVIDIA test and they can fix it in three days at no charge since it was part of the NVIDIA RECALL. HMMMM? Did the “genius bar” employee just did not know enough or was he instructed to charge anyway and lie to people?

  9. Ok so my MBP (bought Oct 2007) died on the weekend. Went to my local apple store tonight and the “genius” said my logic board has died at it will cost me $2154.90 to fix it!! I am now going to go back in and tell them I know there is a known issue with my model MBP. My issue is that mine wont boot up at all, the light blinks once and thats it, no boot up, no fan, nothing else.

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