The nVidia 8600M GT graphics chip in my late-2007 (Merom/Santa Rosa) MacBook Pro has failed. I knew it might happen, noting it back in August of 2008, and it was one reason I bought an AppleCare warranty. Apple has promised to repair affected machines for three years regardless of warranty status, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with. Let’s hope everything goes smoothly and my trusty notebook is back in action quickly! I’ll be updating this post with the status of my nVidia repair adventure, too.
I am returning from the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas. I put my MacBook to sleep and slip into its snug resting place in my backpack. Later, before getting on the plane, I open it up again. Odd, there’s no video. The screen is completely black – not even the backlight is on! I try a sleep and wake and a hard reboot – still no video. The “bong” still sounds, and I can hear the hard disk drive making its normal noises, but there’s no video. I buy a copy of Cormack McCarthy’s “The Road” to occupy my flight home, though I still keep the Mac with me at my seat.
Troubleshooting time shows trouble: The DVI connector doesn’t work either. But the worst of it is the System Profiler output: The nVidia graphics chip is just gone. The (non-functional) Intel GMA x3100 is listed, but no display connector appears. Monty Python would call this “Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film.”
Let’s check Apple’s support docs. There it is: TS2377, “MacBook Pro: Distorted video or no video issues”. Gotta love these listed symptoms:
- “Distorted or scrambled video on the computer screen
- No video on the computer screen (or external display) even though the computer is on”
I hear Jamie Hyneman saying “there’s your problem” and read on. Apple will cover it free for three years regardless of warranty. They’ll reimburse self-paid repairs. Whew! I just have to hand it over at an Apple Store and wait a week, apparently. Watch this space!
I made an appointment at a Cleveland-area Apple Store for “The nVidia Test”, the first step in getting the logic board replaced. I decided to clean up the fingerprints and grime a bit, then decided to swap the original 120 GB hard disk drive back in. Some folks have reported that Apple replaced much of their computer, including the hard disk drive, and I didn’t want to lose my 320 GB upgrade.
Swapped the drives and powered on the MacBook to make sure everything works. Well there’s a surprise: Everything including the video now works! I didn’t go near the graphics chip (which is on the underside of the logic board) or connector (on the right near the optical drive) so my open-and-shut case didn’t “fix” it. No, it’s just a flaky chip that decided to come back to life.
This is not as great as it sounds. These things don’t fix themselves, so I definitely expect it to fail again in the future. I’ll still take it to the Apple store for the nVidia test, but I suspect they’ll balk at repairing something that works fine – or at least appears to. We shall see.
And it failed again. I’m typing this from the Cambridgeside Apple store in Boston. We shall see what they say…
The “GPT Test” disk verified that the nVidia chip has failed. Matt and Nick at the Cambridgeside Genius Bar were very friendly – they’ll send it off to “the depot” for repair and it will be mailed back to my home address. Adieu, MacBook Pro!
Weird: Even though Matt entered my correct (new) address, the Apple computer spit out my old one. He says it’ll be shipped to the right address. I believe him.
The MacBook Pro arrived at Apple’s Houston depot and was repaired and shipped back to me today. Wow, they must be pretty good at this repair to get them turned around that quickly. FedEx says I’ll have it in my hands tomorrow by 10:30 AM!
Ding dong! The MacBook Pro was indeed in my hands this morning, cold but fixed. Everything seems perfect – the video works fine, the (upgraded) RAM and hard drive are intact, and all of my data is in place. They even put the SD card reader that I left in the ExpressCard slot in a special envelope and returned it. Everything was done for free, too. I couldn’t be happier with Apple’s support!
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