MacBook Pro NVIDIA flaws

As you may have seen via one or more of several Mac news sites, Apple and NVIDIA have announced that several recent models of MacBook Pro and MacBook may have faulty video chips.

This seemed rather familiar to me, as I was recently without my main machine, a MacBook Pro 17", for a total of about three weeks, due to exactly the symptoms they list, among others.

My machine initially showed fairly minor symptoms. It wouldn't wake from sleep after unplugging it from my external 23" display, or would unexpectedly shut down. This continued for a few weeks (frustratingly during the Olympics, when I was using the MBP while watching, instead of on my desk as usual). I also saw some interference on the internal and external screens occasionally. Then it got worse: it started having kernel panics at random intervals. That quickly got worse, to the point where it was having kernel panics on every startup:

I tried the obvious diagnostic steps (disabled third-party stuff, boot into safe mode, reset the PRAM, reinstalled the OS, etc). Nothing helped.

So I took it into one of my local Apple Stores on September 1. The helpful Geniuses confirmed the problem, and took it away to repair. I used an old Mac mini in the meantime. A few days later, on September 5, I picked it up, along with a receipt for the hardware repair: they replaced the motherboard, for a total cost of $1,385.00. Fortunately, the computer was still covered by AppleCare (a great investment for laptops; I highly recommend it!), so I didn't have to pay anything.

Problem solved. All was well.

Or was it? About a week later, I couldn't wake up my Mac in the morning. At least, that's what I thought, but further investigation showed that it was awake (I could hear sounds, e.g. the volume adjustment clicks), but not showing any video. Not even on the external display. Again, I tried various things, to no avail.

So back to the Apple Store it went, on September 15. This time the repair wasn't so quick. Two weeks went by; apparently they wanted to try replacing the screen, but a replacement didn't turn up. Which tells me that they weren't aware of the NVIDIA issue at that point — a little over a week ago.

Eventually, they decided to just replace the motherboard again, and that seemed to fix it. I got my Mac back again on October 1, two weeks after taking it in. Along with another receipt for $1,385.00, covered by AppleCare.

So the first replacement must have also had a faulty NVIDIA chip. Hopefully the second replacement motherboard has a fixed one; I don't want to have to go without my main Mac again! Most of September was bad enough. I must say, though, that — although being without my machine was a major pain — the Apple Geniuses were very polite and helpful. I'm very glad they were available, so I didn't have to resort to more drastic measures like mailing the machine to some distant repair depot or something.

But it is somewhat gratifying that Apple has identified and announced the cause, and it isn't something specific to my machine. Perhaps my machine helped diagnose it, as another case proving a pattern? I'm glad other people experiencing this problem will have a more speedy repair — and a free repair, even if not covered by AppleCare.

If you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro exhibiting this behavior, check out Apple's support document for more information.