Graphics Issues on Late-2011 17″ MacBook Pro

Graphics Chip Issues displaying as pixilation on a Late-2011 17" MacBook Pro

I had read about there being a widely-reported issue with 2011 MacBook Pro’s having graphics chip failures but I had been lucky as to not experience any myself until 3:30 yesterday afternoon on 12/10/14, 13 days after my AppleCare expired!

Graphics Issues on Late-2011 17″ MacBook Pro

Hardware:

  • Late-2011 17-Inch MacBook Pro with 2.5 GHz Processor, A1297, MacBookPro8,3
  • AMD Radeon HD 6770M or Intel HD 3000 Graphics (I’m assuming I have the AMD chip)
8/4/16 Update and Temporary Fix Link:
After getting my logic board replaced under my AppleCare warranty back in December of 2014 I have now begun experiencing the video chip issue again, on the replacement logic board they gave me.  Here are some pictures:
Late-2011 17-Inch MacBook Pro GPU Failure
Late-2011 17-Inch MacBook Pro GPU Failure
Late-2011 MacBook Pro Graphics Issue striped blue screen
Late-2011 MacBook Pro Graphics Issue vertically-striped blue screen
I contacted Apple via their online chat and learned that my MAcBook will again be warrantied according the the article I have linked in the 2/20/15 update below.  This is a big relief since I really don’t want to pay $600+ for this repair and since it is such a widespread and reported issue.  A big thumbs up to Apple for acknowledging and covering these issues (who knows how much the class action lawsuit played into this).
I also learned that Apple has a three strikes program and if my fixed MacBook goes bad again before 12/31/16 they will give me a brand new MacBook. I can only hope I have that great of timing on the next failure!
The timing details on the warranty extension (from Apple’s website) are as follows: The program covers affected MacBook Pro models until December 31, 2016 or four years from its original date of sale, whichever provides longer coverage for you.

2/20/15 Update:
Apple now has extended the warranty on 2011 MacBooks with graphics issues!!! Here is a link for information on Apple’s website:  MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues

Here’s the email I received from the attorney’s who have been pushing for a class-action lawsuit, which I believe is the catalyst for Apple finally agreeing to cover these problems:

Email announcing Apple’s extended warranty coverage of these problems

Here’s an example of some of the things my 17-inch MacBook Pro was doing:

When the first signs showed up, I quickly got on a chat session with an AppleCare representative.  My biggest concern was seeing if I could be grandfathered under my expired AppleCare since this is a widely reported issue.  The tech on the chat said they would be able to cover it, to my great relief.  Then they said I’d need to talk to a phone representative and scheduled a call.  I kept the chat open and waited for the call, but then my computer shut off.  The Apple tech call came in and when I brought up that they were going to cover it under my expired warranty the guy said that they would not be able to.  I told the guy to check the chat session but he said it was not available and that only a senior adviser could even make that kind of promise, so I asked to talk to one.  Finally I got a senior adviser and he took my word for it and made an exception and covered the issue under my expired AppleCare.  They did have me go through the following troubleshooting steps:

Reset the PRAM

Step 1: Shut down MacBook
Step 2: Hold down the Option, Command, P, and R keys.
Step 3: Press the power button while continuing to hold the keys mentioned in Step 2.
Step 4: Hold the Option, Command, P, and R keys down until the computer restarts, then release.

Boot to the Recovery Partition

Step 1: Shut off your MacBook
Step 2: Hold down the Command and R keys
Step 3: While holding down Command and R press the power button and continue to hold down the Command and R keys until you see the Mac OS X Recovery tools show up.

Boot to OS X Internet Recovery (to see if it is a software issue)

This is similar to a Recovery Partition Boot but it downloads the software directly from Apple to boot from, just in case there is something going on with your Hard Drive.  To perform an Internet Recovery Boot follow these steps:

Step 1: Shut off your MacBook
Step 2: Hold down Command, Option, and R
Step 3: While holding down the keys from step 2 press the power button
Step 4: You may release the keys once you see the spinning globe

I wasn’t even able to boot into the recovery partition and the graphics issues persisted even during the internet recovery boot so the senior adviser booked me an Genius Bar appointment for that night.

My trip to the Genius Bar

At a nearby Apple store, the screen was displaying pink stripes as seen below when they ran their tests:
Graphics Chip Issues on a Late-2011 17″ MacBook Pro

From what I understand, the issue at hand here is with the lead-free solder used to attach the graphics chip to the motherboard.  With the heating and cooling cycles, cracks develop and eventually the connections lose electrical connectivity and you experience what you seen in the pictures above.  There are some people out there with highly specialized equipment for “reballing” the GPU chip onto the motherboard but I won’t be messing with that.  If I had not been able to get my computer accepted under my expired AppleCare I probably would have been doing a post on how to replace the motherboard on a 17″ Late-2011 MacBook Pro.  Thankfully I’m only reporting the experience of having someone else fix my computer, free of charge.  The repair as shown to me by the Apple Genius that checked me in was 606.05!

Compared to the price of the 2009 17″ MacBook motherboards on sale at the ifixit.com website, the price above is actually a good deal (ifixit is asking like $750 for a used motherboard).

My MacBook has now been fixed:

MacBook GPU Issue Repaired!

Another example of what it was doing:

Pink & white display Graphics Issues on late-2011 17-Inch MacBook Pro

Other Relevant Information:

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