Apple Extends MacBook Pro NVIDIA GeForce Service Policy to Three Years

72 Comments

Nvidia GPUs Possible

Addressing what evidently is a common defect in the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT graphics processor units used in the May 2007 and Early 2008 revisions of the original MacBook Pro (remediation of which involves replacing the entire logic board), Apple (s aapl) has announced that it will lengthen coverage of its extended service program for this defect for at least another year.

A revised announcement on the Apple Support web site reads:

In July 2008, NVIDIA publicly acknowledged a higher than normal failure rate for some of their graphics processors due to a packaging defect. At that same time, NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected. If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within three years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty.

Last January, I commended Apple and NVIDIA (s nvda) for stepping up and taking some responsibility for this defect, but contended that the two-year coverage in effect at the time almost certainly did not go far enough. It seemed likely that the problem would eventually afflict most examples of those MacBook Pro models if they were used long enough, and once repaired, owners could not be confident of the issue not repeating itself after the two-year extended service eligibility or even three years of maximum AppleCare extended warranty coverage.

Anyone buying a computer as expensive as a MacBook Pro should have reasonable expectation of it providing reliable service much longer than two, or even three, years. The Pismo PowerBook I’m typing this on is nearly nine years old and still going strong.

An extended service program, more along the lines of the seven-year one Apple implemented for PowerBook 5300 and 190 models back in 1996, after that model proved excessively prone to a constellation of hardware and software problems, would be more appropriate in addressing this GPU issue, which is arguably as bad or even worse than the PowerBook 5300 troubles.

Last month, Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer reported that owners of Apple, Dell (s dell) and Hewlett-Packard (s hpq) laptops had pooled lawsuits against NVIDIA in an attempt to force the graphics chip maker to replace the allegedly flawed processors, and if granted class-action status, the case could involve millions of laptop computer owners, possibly influencing Apple’s decision to extend service coverage by 50 percent.

Here are the specific Apple products affected:

  • MacBook Pro 15-inch and 17-inch models with NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processors
  • MacBook Pro (17-Inch, 2.4GHz)
  • MacBook Pro (15-Inch, 2.4/2.2GHz)
  • MacBook Pro (Early 2008)

These computers were manufactured between approximately May 2007 and September 2008.

If you have one of the potentially affected machines, here’s what to look for:

  • Distorted or scrambled video on the computer screen
  • No video on the computer screen (or external display) even though the computer is on

If your MacBook Pro is exhibiting any of the symptoms described above, you are instructed take it to an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for evaluation, or call your local Apple Contact Center.

Apple is also issuing refunds to customers who may have paid for repairs related to this issue. Contact Apple support for details on the refund process.

72 Comments

Charlie

This may sound stupid, but does anybody know whether the machine has be currently exibiting symptoms in order for nVidia’s diagnostic tools to identify the problem? My MBPro’s display miraculously started working again and now I don’t know what to do.

Here’s what happened:

Several weeks ago I got a black screen and no reponse from the computer at all. I tried everything in my limited arsenal such as resetting PRAM and SMC and eventually regained some life and the caps lock key would light up and I could hear the audible feedback when I adjusted the volume.

I found out about the graphics chips issue and it sounded spot on, so I turned on VoiceOver and stumbled my way through adding a new user and deleting existing users to get rid of the personal data before taking the machine to the shop.

After patting my self on the back for sludging through a couple hours worth of sight-free computing, I turned the machine on this morning to make one last change and… everything works perfectly. Beautiful, crystal-clear display.

Crap.

I don’t know if my thing was unrelated to the graphics chip problem or if it is only working temporarily and will quit again eventually.

I don’t think I can take it to my local Mac place and say, “This is working fine, could you fix it?”

Am I the only one this has happened to? Any suggestions at what my next step should be?

Charlie

Ok, here’s a small update:

After running an operation that took a good amount of time to execute (secure empty trash), the computer once again was without video after a restart.

After shutting computer off and charging for a couple hours, the screen came back again after a restart. A couple of restarts later, it’s gone again.

This would seem to indicate that this is tempurature-related. However, I’d had several cold-starts before without the video coming back.

I guess I’ll have to drop to my knees at the Genius Bar and beg for mercy.

Charlie

Ok, all fixed with no charge. It took me three calls to the local independent shop and two to Apple to get it done, but I got it fixed in the end. My favorite part was when the local shop told me to call Apple a second time and “act really mad” to get the approval code.

Sean

Tom.
I wanted to mention that when I took my 17″ MBPro in to get checked, it didn’t have the hard disk installed. The techs said it didn’t matter, as they had to boot from the external disk anyway.

You’re right re. Firewire Target mode, as a HD would have to be installed for it to work – your computer is seen as an external FW drive.

Re. your Macbook Pro problems Tom, you seem to have been treated badly. The symptoms you described are EXACTLY the same you get when you have the nVidia chip problem. I mean, I still haven’t heard any explanation as to why a MBPro would behave like yours (the symptoms you described) WITHOUT the problem being the nVidia chip defect. I would really like to hear an Apple tech’s explanation about that, at least from a technical point of view. I would guess though that their refusal to put a MBPro thru the free program is automatic, i.e. if the nVidia diagnostics don’t return the expected error code, then the chip defect hasn’t been detected. But there should be some sort of additional “human” check they can make, if and when they get a MBPro that has all the classic symptoms.

Anyway, congrats on getting the MBPro fixed for free. Great stuff.

Sean

Tom.
Yes, I guess the vital thing for Apple is to be able to test it with their external USB drive with the nVidia diagnostic software. The Apple techs I met said that the diagnostic sw was provided by nVidia, not Apple, so I assume there’s some kind of warranty and responsibility issue involved too, i.e. nVidia wants to be absolutely sure that the problem is caused by their faulty chip, and not something else, probably because when the sw shows that it’s their chip at fault, they have to pay for the repairs (or their insurance has to pay). Both sides also probably want complete statistics on the issue too. So it would seem that being able to boot the MBPro from the external hard disk is a MUST if you want to qualify for the program. Question: weird or not that the diagnostics aren’t on an external disk with Firewire? I’ve NEVER had a problem with Firewire-connected peripherals in all my years of using Macs, but I have had USB-port problems with several Mac portables, from the Aluminium powerbooks onwards.

Tom: you say they weren’t able to get the USB drive “working with your book”. Does that mean they can’t BOOT the ‘book from the external drive at all? Or that it does boot, but isn’t able to diagnose the computer?
It’s frustrating, I’m sure, as I know from my own experience that the USB ports are not completely reliable. And as I said, maybe I was lucky that they were able to boot the diagnostic drive from one USB port, as the other USB wasn’t able to boot it. Otherwise they might have given me the same answer as they gave you and other people.

Question: if your MBPro shows ALL the signs of the nVidia chip problem, but is unable to boot from the external USB drive – supplied by nVidia – and the Apple techs tell you that your MBPro isn’t covered by the program, wouldn’t it be reasonable to try to get them to boot and test your computer some other way? e.g. They must be able to test for the problem while your MBPro is being used in Firewire Target mode. Or is that impossible?

Tom

sean,
my MBP will not boot, no chime, no keyboard-reaction – so it will not respond in FW mode, too i guess. problem is, the first tech put the internal drive in an external enclosure for me to get access to my data, so now, without the internal drive, nothing would show up in firewiremode, or so I think.
But everything else aside: I got a call from Apple Customercare today and after relaying all the info I had on the issue, and the statements from the techs, and my effords during the last week, they made “an exception” and will cover the mainboard repair/swap by warranty.
I am very glad that they are willing to view this issue not only from the technical standpoint – which indeed is that one has no way of telling what went wrong with my MBP since it will not boot properly – but they also see this in regard of user experience, and are willing to admit that this is very very frustrating and not appropriate to what might be expected with a top-of-the-line product like the 17″ mbp.

Tom

let me clarify: the mbp seems to boot right into sleep mode. you hear the dvddrive working for a while, no startupchime is audible, the screen stays black (an external screen also). the front led is on (if you nearly close the cover it will dim), the harddrive has current and is spinning, but there seem to be no read/write action. the battery is charging and draining as one might expect. the book will get warm if it is on for a while.

Tom

hi sean, thanks for the info.
“if you get no video, the MBPro should boot with NO startup chime, you will probably hear the hard disk and fans going, the charger should show a green or orange light indicating that the battery is charging, the battery should charge. ”
this is exactly how my mbp behaves, and Apple denies any relation to the nvidia problem, since they cannot get their diagnosticthingie working with my book.
in the meantime i have tested and can confirm that the powermanagment and the heatprotection works. the battery will drain if you leave the unresponsive book on, and will recharge when connected to the macsafe. if the book gets worm, eventually the fans will start working.

Sean

Forgot to add in my post above that when the authorized center replaced the I/O board and the nearby USB controller, they did charge me for the parts and labor, around € 40 if I remember correctly.
Other problems they find are clearly not covered by the program.

Sean

I’ve had one Macbook Pro fixed for free thru the program (mid-2007 MBPro 17″ 2.4Ghz). The authorized center acknowledged the nVidia problem immediately. As everyone probably knows, they use an external USB hard disk to boot from, with a “special” diagnostic nVidia program to use to check the computer. As mentioned above, though, they have to be able to boot the computer: i.e., your MBPro has to show the “classic” signs of the problem, i.e. it boots but you get either No Video on screen or Scrambled Video; if you get no video, the MBPro should boot with NO startup chime, you will probably hear the hard disk and fans going, the charger should show a green or orange light indicating that the battery is charging, the battery should charge. My MBPro 17″ showed all these signs.

Interesting note: similar to Bjoern’s comments, the authorized center also told me that I had to have the I/O board replaced, as it wasn’t charging the battery properly. I agree with this, as it has always been a problem with my 2 MBPros from this series (I also have a 15″ 2.4Ghz) – there is often a contact problem and the MBPro says “Not Charging” even though the charger is connected. I can usually solve this by disconnecting the charger, then reconnecting it while holding it into the port firmly for a few seconds, until the light comes on green, then turns to orange. Seems like there may be a small problem with the contact.
The authorized center also said there was a problem with the USB port on the charging port side. I’d also noticed this for some time. And it also affects both my MBPros. There often doesn’t seem to be enough power supplied to the USB port. External hard disks and external DVD burners are occasionally not recognized. So the authorized center replaced the USB controller on that side too.
* I think I was lucky that the tech was able to boot my MBPro from the external USB drive. He wasn’t able to boot it from the charger-port side USB port, but he was able to boot from the port on the other side.

I am interested in knowing if anyone denied free service has been able to learn HOW the techs decide if it’s “just a logic board problem” and not related to the nVidia problem, even though the MBPro shows all the same signs. I assume they rely 100% on the special diagnostic program and the error code it spits out. The testing does seem a bit inaccurate at times, as some have noted above. How do you get exactly the same symptoms and NOT have the defective nVidia chip?

Re. the long-term reliability and worries that the problem may re-occur in time, I too was worried and decided to sell the 17″ MBPro (the buyer reports that everything’s working fine) and buy an iMac.
And here’s hoping that the 15″ MBPro keeps on going strong. Fingers crossed!

Phillip Gorse

Macbook pro 15, same problem as every on else , dead graphic card , but apple did there tests and say it the logic board. No evidence of the testing, no error code of the problem. Just say its the logic board and if you want it fixing it £700.

Very disappointed, not what you expect.

Tom

whoa. Same here: my 17″ mbp (~2.5years old) suddenly didn’t start anymore, no screen, no chime. took it to a certified apple service tech: “seems like the graphic chip problem, but we cannot run the tests [because its dead], so we cannot get the errorcode that will make it ellegible for the warranty coverage.” the mainboard-swap would cost about 1000 EUR.
Seems like a catch22 to me: if your top-of-the-line equipment dies on you, there is no way of post-mortem telling what has made it die, even if all indicators (serial number, production date, graphic chip type) scream in your face that it is one of the bad ones. if you can’t tell the cause, it won’t be covered by the extended warranty – sorry you’re left out.

David

Just took my Macbook pro to Apple Store because of video card going out. They told me that because there is a little dent on the side of the case, that they would have to replace the case for $186 before they could swap out the logic board. This smells really fishy to me… I’m thinking the policy is to figure out how to tack on some kind of cash flow to these warranty problems.

Bjoern

Wow and I thought I was the only one with problems. My Macbook pro wouldn’t start for the above mentioned reasons so I took it to an apple store. They tested it for the price of 60 € only to tell me on the phone, that it was the I/O board. An hour later in the store it was suddenly the graphic-chip but my notebook was not eligible for the mentioned free repair. On the way home I noticed that they gave me the wrong bill so I headed back and demanded to know what was really wrong. And now it was the logic-board and it would cost me 1800 € to fix it (they said this with a straight face). I send it to a repair-shop I found over the internet and they fixed it for 250 € by exchanging the (tada!) graphic-chip. Wow, that was the first and last apple computer i bought….

Juan

Thank you Kall, very interesting. I have taken it to another one and this time “ethical” service center who did not hesitate to perform the tests and repairs. I showed the small dent in the outside case and was this time reassured that it is unrelated to the graphic card. I hope to get it back fixed soon.

I will raise a formal complaint, as I thought that what the other guys tried was outrageous, and they don’t need to try to act in such a dishonest manner trying to dodge legitimate claims, or trying to recover their costs when they sell a premium product with faulty components.

I have to say that this incident has put on me a serious cloud of doubt on Apple as a whole, and that I feel a lot less confident on the brand. I hope the company is not getting arrogant and that this was a “one off”.

Juan

Listen to this one…..My graphic processor failed as mentioned above. I took it to an Apple center. They confirmed the failure but argued that since there is a little dent in the outside cover (is a 2 yr ols machine), they have to “replace the whole display” and charge me “around 600 dollars”. Is like taking your car with a defective part on the engine for a recall and then be told that they would only perform it if you change be conditional to changing all the tires. Rather than apologize for selling a faulty product which is causing major inconvenience, they are trying to take advantage and make money. I found this unbelievable, and would like to know if anyone can suggest me what to do or who to call.

Many thanks

kail

Hey Juan,

The display unit (LCD) is seperate from the gpu and is only connected through a small ribon cable which is easely detached. Tell them to replace the logic board (video chipset is intergrated) free of charge as stated in the applecare terms and conditions

If a hardware defect arises and a valid
claim is received within the Warranty Period, at its option and to the extent permitted by law, Apple will
either (1) repair the hardware defect at no charge, using new or parts equivalent to new in performance and
reliability, (2) exchange the product with a product that is new or equivalent to new in performance and
reliability and is at least functionally equivalent to the original product, or (3) refund the purchase price of
the product.

Print that section out and take it in to them. If they try to get you to replace the screen tell them you know the screen is seperate and if they are unable to provide a replacement logic board that is compatable with your computer then a replacement computer will be in order as stated in section 2 or a refund as in section 3.

Bear in mind that apple has stated that they will provide a repair free of charge for the faulty video chipset caused by bad packing regardless of warranty period. After they have no choice but to comply with you and you get your laptop back fixed place a formal complaint with apple to have your agents authorisation to provide apple service revoked due to major misconduct.

Kenny

Same here. 17in MBP. No chime and video. Philippine Mac service said its the logic board. Same problem with all of you. MAC should fix this problem. And my next laptap wont be a MAC anymore. Shit!

chris

mine died at 25.5 months, apple repaired it along with several other minor issues. then fans failed apple repaired, now shorting in the hinge to the panel causing the screen to flick off when moved.

Fred Lin

My MBP 17″ had the Nvidia issue in October 2008, had it fixed at no cost in about 7 days. However the new logic board was overheating alot, even when it was just idle, it was at about 60-70 degrees, and easily 80 degrees when surfing or gaming, with the fans at max.

Yesterday (8 Jan 2010) the nvidia chip died again, right out of the blue. Just got it in the Apple Service Center in Shanghai, and they accepted the system. Hope they will not call me back and claim it’s not the nvidia problem.

My main worry is, what happens if this happens 1 year later? or 3 years later?
Apple recently extended their ’special warranty’ for this nvidia issue for 3 more years from the date of purchase between 2007 and 2008, but if it breaks down again 2 years later doesn’t that mean we are screwed?

Also, eventually that logic board will be discontinued in production, and there will no longer be parts available for replacement.

As far as I know, the logic board they replace is still the same one with the Nvidia issue, because that defect is not something they can correct without re-designing/structuring a new logic board. That means no matter how many times we get the Nvidia problem fixed, the MBP is still a ticking time bomb!

I think the best way that Apple could really prove their commitment and responsibility to their customers, is to allow owners of the affected models to at least have the option to exchange for a up-to-date Macbook Pro (without the nvidia chip in question) for a special price. That way we can at least be ensured that our fears for our Macbook Pro going kaput has been put behind us, and that will continue a longevity of appreciation of Apple’s service and products.

Mind you that the Macbook Pro 17 inch model is Apple’s top of the line notebook, the most feature-heavy and not to mention expensive model. I really would expect a little more, and certainly a little more longevity for this investment I made.

I hope someone from Apple reads this, and brings it to attention.

Juan

Fred, I hope they do. I lost a lot of confidence in their ability to support their products. Why did it take so long to admit this? Why only x year? A faulty product is faulty regardless of its age.

Alfred alecio

I am also one of Apple’s victims I bought my Macbook Pro in Singapore 18 months ago. I am now in Malaysia and sometimes in Thailand. My logic board has been declared dead by Phuket Alpha (Apple’s agents in Phuket)
My MBP is an intel machine with NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics.
After testing behind close doors I was told I would have to pay 41,000 Bahts, about 1,234 USD. Since all my previous PCs have lasted me considerably longer than this, the most expensive laptop that I have ever bought,
I feel that I have been legally robbed by Apple.

Caveat Emptor.

drpg

I’m having the same problem here in Spain. My MBP doesn’t boot/chime anymore.

The support center (not Apple directly) says that they can’t replace the logic board (for free) since they can’t pass the gpu software test.

Apple says that, even though my computer showed “graphic artifacts” before it died completely, “if the caps lock light doesn’t light-up” then they can tell for sure that it’s not nvidia related.

I think that Apple should, at least, take a close look at these MBPs that die completely and study if they need to extend what situations are covered by the extended warranty.

za.IT

My experience with Apple Service Centre in Singapore is that these people always claim that the problem is due to the logic board so that we have to pay for repair. I know of 3 friends who experience this rubbish from Apple Singapore even though symptoms are similar to what stated in Apple’s website.

fie

Im Singaporean and I experience the same problem. Theres no chime and they insisted that the logic board died. I learnt that the logic board may die due to this graphic card issue. So what should i do?

Talha Wynne

im experiencing the same problem. I am from Karachi Pakistan, and i have to tell my apple repair store a validation from apple international, but they haven’t specified a region. can anybody help?

aftab wilson

@Clinton:

I’m have the same problem here in Karachi, Pakistan. Got screen distortion/scrambling before logic board died. Apple says it died cause of a different reason and it’s not covered. Repair store can’t carry out nvidia geforce test on a machine that won’t chime/boot. I’m wondering if you know how they managed to test yours without a chime/boot. Maybe there’s a way (other than the black hard drive they use) and I need to let my repair store in Pakistan know this.

Thanks,
Aftab

Clinton

My Macbook 3.1 2007 with Geforce 8600M GT, the video is not coming on when you close the lid or when you reboot the machine. Sometime the machine will not boot at all and I found a work around to get it booting again.

System diagnostic indicated a video controller failure.

This all started after the SMC 1.3 update.
The machine is not covered by the extended warranty for what ever reason.

If you look on discussions.apple.com, you will see many such instances. So Apple are not acknowledging the full extent of this problem.

I spoke to a guy that repairs laptops and he says any machine (Apple or other) with a Gefroce 8600M GT is likely to fail.
He also says my symptoms are classic examples of the Geforce failure.
Basically some pins on the chipset are not making contact and this varies with heat conditions. If the chip does not power up, the macbook will not boot.
If it power up, the video may not work or be distorted.

When my machine would not boot (no chime just power light) I had the idea that heat caused the problem and so it may have the reverse affect.

So with a fully charged battery I turned the machine on. leave it on a flat surface until the battery runs down. It gets hot, so something is working.

Then let it cool and do not move the machine. Then hold down the power button for 5-10 sec, release it and plug in the power. Hit the power button and it could boot with video and all.

Other people have done this, so the theory is sound. It also proves this is heat related which was the same as the original failure which Apple acknowledge.

So why are these machines excluded?

Brandon

Hi,
I have the same problem, so i tried your way to make it work. It did work, the screen came alive, i immediately back it up, do all my work on it, and when i try to restart the computer, the screen die on me again. Did this happen to you? If so, do i need to repeat the whole procedure of leaving it on and press the button for 5 seconds. As mentioned, it died on me after i update the OS, bloody stupid of me. Please advise what i can do to stop the screen from dying on me again, downgrade the OS? Cheers

Norvell Smith

I had this problem recently, it is a shame because I do love the OS. And they did fix with no questions ask, but now I am sitting here paranoid that it will happen outside of the extended service agreement. If it does kill over, I cannot afford to buy another one, unless there reliability has been proven for a reasonable amount of time. So, I am forced to partitioned my drive so that I will be able to remove all of the data quickly with a windows OS. Which is insane !!!

Ideally I would rather get a reliable replacement. There solution of replacing the logic boards with the same board, and having us wait until it dies, is not fair to us. We purchased these computers with expectation that have not been met. And they are not fixing the problem, they are prolonging the agony. Even the new logic boards seem to have the graphics under-clocked.

Also they have a lawsuit in place, what do we have? unreliable notebooks who service will soon expire both apple care/extended !!!

Jonathan Jeon

I also have LG R700 with Nvidia GeForce M 8600 GT+. I am launching a small claim lawsuit against the manufacturer (LG) next week. I had it repaired with Bios but the problem continues – this is unacceptable. The defect was known since early 2008 and neither LG/Apple/Nvidia did anything about it.

alexanderklar

Nope, Apple won’t give me a refund since my insurance covered the repair cost. I had to rent another MBP in order to work through the times of repair, but Apple won’t pay for rental fees. Now I just hope that Apple extends the warranty coverage for this case even more so I don’t have to live in fear that this happens again and again in the future.

alexanderklar

Thank you for this article. My MBP’s graphics processor has died two times within the last 18 months. Both times my apple retailer had to exchange the logic board. I am glad to know now what the error was. Also thanks for the hint about the refunding program. I hope I qualify and thus have just sent a mail to Apple support stating my case.

Charles Moore

Hi Martin;

As I understand it, the extended service policy applies to The GeForce 8600M GPU issue only and is entirely separate from AppleCare coverage,which is not affected by the change in coverage. The extended service now covers that issue for three years regardless of whether the customer has purchased AppleCare coverage or not.

CM

Martin

I wonder if this will extend the Applecare warranty by a year as it is an ADDITIONAL 2 year warranty. If they do extend it , will this be automatic as I am registered with Applecare on both my MBP machines……….

b352

I had this happen to me too. Took the MBP to the repair centre and they told me that my MBP didn’t qualify. They ran a “special” hardware test behind closed doors and in the end just said “nay”.

Which leads me to conclude that Apple’s test is not accurate and some customers will be left out standing in the rain.

Rory ONEders

try calling apple support and just be persistent they will transfer you to another person. Tell your long history with apple and how it doesn’t seem right over and over again and as long as you stick to it they make exceptions….squeaky wheel gets the greese!!!

cheers

Jeff

I had this happen to me not too long ago. I called Apple’s customer service line and they made me wipe my entire hard drive making me lose some important stuff since it was a while since I backed it up. I took it to a certified mac repair place and they said wiping the hard drive was unnecessary.

Though all is fixed now. Just took 2 days for my laptop to get fixed and all is good now.

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