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NVIDIA Killed My 2007 MacBook Pro

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In mid 2008, amid growing evidence, NVIDIA acknowledged that a significant number of its previous-generation GPUs (graphics processing unit) and MCPs (media and communications processors) for notebooks are failing at higher-than-normal rates. For readers who are not aware of this story, TheAppleBlog covered this piece of news back in October.

Three weeks back, I was personally afflicted by this problem. One fine morning, after arriving at the office of a client, I took my mid-2007 MacBook Pro out of my bag and proceeded to fire it up. The MBP never got past the startup chime; there was only a blank, black screen. I took the usual troubleshooting steps: resetting the PRAM and the SMC, booting from the OS X installation disc and from an external hard drive, and finally, plugging in an external display…all to no avail. It was then that my suspicions turned to the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT graphics card in the MBP, even though I had not ruled out a misbehaving hard drive.

Without a working display, there was no way to salvage my data unless I took apart the MBP and extricated the internal hard drive. Upon trying to boot the MBP’s system disk on an iMac, and diagnosing with DiskWarrior, it became clear that I was facing not one but two problems.

The system disk of the MBP was not booting up right. In addition to a dead graphics card, I was also facing an impending hard disk failure. Fortunately I was able to make a perfect clone with CarbonCopyCloner.

The next day, I took the MBP in to an Apple reseller for repairs. I told them that the most probable diagnosis was a failed graphics card, but, as a regular procedure, I had to pay a diagnostic fee of $58.

As I waited to hear from Apple, I braced myself for the possible cost of repair should the problem have turned out to not be the graphics card. No, I did not purchase AppleCare for this notebook, a decision I have come to regret after the Super Drive on the MBP began misbehaving and refusing to burn. [1]

A week later, I received a call from the reseller. Apple has confirmed that the NVIDIA graphics card has died, that they would be replacing the entire logic board, and that Apple will, true to its advisory article on this matter, honor the cost of repair on my out-of-warranty MacBook Pro. A couple of days later, I had my MBP back in my hands, back from the dead. I was even refunded the diagnostic fee I had paid.

If you own a mid-2007, late-2007, or early-2008 MacBook Pro of either the 15- or 17-inch model, you should brace yourself for the possibility that the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card in your notebook may suddenly fail. While you can rest assured that you will not have to pay for repairs if it fails within two years after purchase, you should prepare a fallback plan if your only machine does go down. When it does, my advice is to bring along a print-out of Apple’s support article when you send your notebook in for repairs, as the reseller I went to was, incredulously, not aware of the advisory.

And the final word I have in the wake of this affair? If you own one of these MacBook Pros, expect it to fail. Oh, and also: Buy AppleCare; it will pay for itself and then some, quite possibly when you least expect it.

1. Strangely, after updating to OS X Leopard 10.5.6, the SuperDrive on my MBP could burn again, without the dreaded “The device failed to calibrate the laser power level for this media” error dialog box showing up even once.

56 Responses to “NVIDIA Killed My 2007 MacBook Pro”

  1. @Subrahmanyam

    Give the service center the link to the apple article that states the repair will be free for out-of-warranty machines:

    If they won’t budge, or can’t get the appropriate diagnostics code, just call Apple support (I had to). Explain the problem to a product specialist. If you can convince them it’s the NVIDIA issue, they’ll make a note on your account, and the service center will be able to proceed with the free repair.

    Good luck

  2. Subrahmanyam

    I have the same issue with my 2007 MBP. Blank screen but can hear the chime, and power button responds. Took it to an Apple service center (in India) and after a ~$40 ‘diagnostic’ fee, I was told its an issue with the logic board and it needs to be replaced. The ASP was clueless of the Nvidia issue and they have quoted me a whopping ~$1200 to fix it. Any clues on how I can proceed?

  3. I just had my MacBookPro 2007 screen go black! I know the drive is working. The screen went black yesterday but upon rebooting it, it came back. Only today, it went to sleep and the screen never lit up!
    What is the problem? I guess the video card is part of the logic board. So they will have to change the whole logic board. This is probably the single most annoying thing to happen to me with Macs… I used to love Macs but now i don’t understand why they would put a computer on the market that messes up in this way. I am a photographer and use this as a tool. It is very important to me as is probably the case with innumerable people.
    I have apple care but it was bought with the computer in 2007. I believe it carries through to now.
    Is there any last resort method i can try to bring it back before shipping out to repair? i need to back up the drive. As it stands, the dual monitor function doesn’t work so it is clear it is the video card.
    What else can i do?

  4. Just got my 2007 Macbook Pro 15″ back from a reseller. The logic board swap only took about two days from when I dropped it off. Not ten seconds into starting it up with the new hardware, the laptop went black and would not boot back up again. I hear the startup chime but nothing else…same symptoms as before the repair.

    So, assuming they swap it out again, how long will I have on the next logic board? Anyones guess. Makes the machine a little more unreliable. My biggest issue is that when the failure happened the first time, it somehow managed to corrupt a bunch of irreplaceable photos. Yes, I take my own hits for not being quicker to back them up. But for $3000, a little more reliability within a two year span wouldn’t be asking very much considering I have much older Mac desktops that have sat in a garage for a year and are still failure-free, rock-solid running OS8.5.

  5. Just happened to me too – just under 2 years of constant use and rock solid reliability. Went to sleep and never woke up, no chime – nothing.

    Genius diagnosed the card and it’s out for repair, will be a week before it’s back. I have no idea what the repair will entail – either vid card only or entire LB? No clue, I just hope whatever they’re putting in there is the “fixed” version and not just more of the suspect parts.

    At least I know I’m not alone – and hell yes, I have AppleCare and wouldn’t be caught without it.

  6. Same thing just happened to 1 year 6 week old MBP. shut it down, then 30 minutes later, came back to turn it on, dead screen, not even the startup chime.

    Took it to the genius bar, and they are replacing the MLB and said I could probably pick it up Monday. Hoping thats true, and hoping my new MLB will last longer then this one.

    What happens if the MLB goes out again and i dont have the applecare? Which i totally just forgot to buy….dammit.

    I am seriously considering buying a new MBP and giving the repaired one to the wife, but dont know, because ive got POS dell’s (kids computers) that have lasted longer than my MBP.

  7. Etienne

    Another one bites the dust…

    just over two years of rock solid stability, then out of the blue, garbled screen and kernel panics on boot.

    have apple care, and it’s in the shop now, 5 workings days till I get it back.

  8. I must admit I’m a bit relieved to see that others are having this problem. My 2007 Core 2 Duo MacBook also had the NVIDA problem. I’m out of warranty, but Apple agreed to pick up the tab for the repair. Now, after having the MLB replaced, my fans run constantly, even before OS X gets to the login screen.

    As a test, I tried booting it up in firewire target mod – the fans started going there too. This most certainly eliminates software from the equation.

    The tech that did the repair noticed the fans running, and put the system through “ASD” (apple diagnostics). It found nothing wrong.

    The part that was put into my machine was:
    #661-4955 “PCBA, MLB, 2.2 GHZ, REV2”

    My machine is still at the repair shop – I don’t want to pick it up until the problem is resolved. The next step might be to order in another MLB.

    Has anyone who’s had this problem actually found a resolution?

  9. I just experienced the Nvidia failure yesterday. Today, I was quoted a 10-15 in store repair time and 5-7 if I mailed it in. I honestly expected more from Apple. This is clearly an issue affecting many, not a few, users. Shouldn’t they be better prepared to handle this repair? I use my laptop for freelance and now will be out money regardless of the repair being free. The laptop also had a defective super drive when I first got it. All this time I thought Apple had a superior product, but I no longer have faith that this $3000 laptop will even last three years if in one and a half I am having problems like this. Disgusting.

  10. The graphics card on my 2007 MacBook Pro died coincidentally after my cat sat on my machine to warms is bum. Luckily for Felix I found this thread and so he was spared a one way trip to the vet.

    I have to say that my local Apple Store were fantastic – I took it into them at 4pm on a bank holiday and received a call at 8:05 the next day telling me it was fixed. I was lead to believe that it would take up to 10 days so I bought a new 17 unibody MBP as I couldn’t face being with out it for 2 weeks! Please god don’t let me wife find out how much I’ve spent on this!!!

  11. I have the same problem and left my MBP 17″ in the Apple repair center on February 10. Today February 19 still waiting for the NVIDIA Logic board to be shipped from California Apple center. The problem was diagnosed the same day I left the computer but the part has not being yet shipped!! I love my computer but start hating Apple response time on this knoun issue. Should’n they have in stock these parts to rapidly replace their customers? I paid almost 3K for the machine but waithing the same time an PC owner for a part! Not good.

  12. What is the error message u were getting after Hardware test, as i scared that it might be any other problem … my hardware test generate this code.. Failure code: 4VDC/1/40000003: VideoController

    and also pcie lane width is x4 instead of x1

  13. You said:
    “Without a working display, there was no way to salvage my data unless I took apart the MBP and extricated the internal hard drive.”
    I actually had the same problem and used a tried and true method that has worked for years. Using a firewire cable and connecting my problem MBP to another Mac. With the host Mac powered on and the problem Mac powered down, I connect the two via the firewire ports. Then, held down (as I’ve done before with success) the ‘T’ key as I start up the problem MBP. The host sees the internal drive of my sick Mac and I’m able to get my data just fine. I am doing this as I type copying to another external, over 100gb of files.

  14. tom darby

    Add me to this list. Mine died January 2nd and I was about to print invoices and reports for work. I knew the laptop as booting up but the screen was blank. I tried hooking it up to an external monitor but even that stayed blank so I was sure it was a graphics card problem and not hard drive related. I removed the hard drive and placed it in a usb external hard drive case and then connecting it to another macbook pro. I was able to see all of my files and access them for copying them over.

    I ordered a new macbook pro that same night and I’m hoping I can just install the old hard drive in the new macbook pro and boot it and be back to business as usual. If that deosn’t work then I have a ton of programs to install for my photo editing work.

  15. Jeff – I took the hard disk out of the MBP because TDM didn’t work for me; something about the hard disk was causing it not to be seen on the iMac. Yes, the situation was that unfortunate.

    Since I could not afford to be without my data for the duration of the repair job, plus I was quite sure it was the graphics card that was the cause of the problem, I was dead set on sending the MBP in without the hard disk. It was after I was able to clone the hard disk that I slapped it back into the MBP and sent it in.

  16. I am not sure why you would need to take it apart to get the data off the hard drive. Just boot up holding down the T key and plug it into another computer with a Firewire cable. That’s what we did when we encountered a similar problem and it worked fine.

    I do agree with one thing, though. I always buy AppleCare for laptops and anything else I can’t easily take apart (like an iMac).

  17. I had the same thing and had to buy a new MacBook Pro a week after they came out to replace my dead 17″ – and although Apple replaced the 17″ logic board, just as they did with yours, it was the (NVIDIA?) derived problems with random freezes on the new MacBook Pro that really compounded the problem.

    These were eventually addressed in the firmware updates but that was literally a month plus after they had started to ship these units. What worries me is that a lot of people are new to Apple these days and are buying in on the promise of reliability etc and they are not getting the experience that we had all been crowing about.

    I wrote it up on my my blog and there were long discussions about it on the Apple forums

  18. This is one of those occasions where the value of the Target Disk Mode feature becomes apparent. On a Mac with FW you can definitely get to your files by holding down “T” at power up and attaching it to another Mac by firewire cable – it mounts as an external drive.

  19. Yasser Khan

    Mine experienced the same issues except for the hard drive problem. I immediately took it to the service centre in Dubai and they immediately knew about the 8600GT issue. They had replaced the logic board with a completely new one, and is now back in my hands. It took them some time cause they had to double check the issue and shipping delays for the board.

  20. Mine has died twice since I bought it in March 2007, though I’ve always been able to access the data when it was dead via other Macs on my network. File-sharing, screen-sharing, etc still work, if enabled.

    At least I live a mile from an Apple store, and they have special diagnostics just for thie problem and so are quick to recognize and fix. Still, a pain to have it fail. And it’s not entirely clear whether the replacement is just waiting to fail the same way…

  21. I feel that the additional two years free repair is all well and good but what if I plan to use this notebook a bit longer? I’ve used my old trusty old Powerbook for over 5 years without problems and expect this MBP to last just as long. The worse part about this whole issue was never the buyer’s fault! In the end the consumer is burdened by having a notebook that is technically a ticking time bomb.

  22. As far as “The device failed to calibrate the laser power level for this media”, that is the dust in the optical drive. Serach the apple forum for some solutions but most are blowing pressured air or using those cleaner CDs with fine brushes. I used the cleaner with 8 brushes and the Supoer drive was burning dvds and CDs again.

  23. It happened to me 2 months ago , it went to sleep and didn’t wake up since then , i wasn’t sure it has the NVIDIA chip , but i printed the apple advisory page and went to apple reseller in Egypt , and a month later , they said they’ll fix it for free , i didn’t get it back yet thought , but i’m happy they’ll fix it for free , i already got the new one .

  24. Narongwit AREEMIT

    Same happened to me too in last November. Although I didnt purchase the apple care but due to the defection of the NVIDIA graphic card that allows me to fix it without a charge for 2 years. So i m in this blanket.

    Although everything went well, i am still afraid of another failure. Do the new NVIDIA card have lesser chance of failure? Have they fixed the problems with this card?