Help me describe and/or fix my Macbook Pro's freezing and graphics issues.
March 20, 2008 10:12 AM   Subscribe

I have a Macbook Pro Core Duo 2.0GHz (not Core Duo 2). I am having random system lockups, graphics issues, and odd problems that I do not even know how to describe.

Here are a sampling of the things the laptop has done recently. I've had a hard time searching Apple's forums/the web for this stuff, simply because I don't know what words to use to describe some of the graphic issues in a search.

- Random lockups without graphics issues: clock stops, mouse won't move, system is frozen and requires hard power-off and power-on.

- Display "tearing." If I'm scrolling a window, e.g. in Safari, pieces of it will "tear off" and not update properly. It's pretty hard to describe and I wish I had a picture. I also experience other issues with parts of the screen seeming to not update properly sometimes.

- Upon waking up from sleep, the screen goes from black to noticeably "on" (backlight on), and gets a greenish tint before hanging the system and requiring a hard reboot.

- A couple of times (can't remember, but it might have been upon waking from sleep), I have hard issues where the whole screen will appear somewhat washed-out with a very odd effect where the screen is grainy, pixels stand out more, and it's almost (but not quite) like someone is holding a window screen in front of the display.

- System runs hot. I can get up to 80-83 C when I'm really pushing the CPU.

I'm running 10.5 with all the latest updates applied. I have Applecare, but all of these are intermittent and hard to describe so I don't really know what to do. I'm kind of hoping at least one of these issues will sound vaguely familiar to someone in a "oh, I had a problem sort of like that" kind of way and even if I don't learn how to fix it, maybe at least I'll get some ideas on how to describe these issues to Apple.
posted by david06 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
The terminology to use with Applecare is "intermittant system freezes" and "video distortion", then describing the specifics. This sounds like a failing mainboard.

Three things to do before you call:

1) Generic Mac OS system problem voodoo fix: repair the permissions on your drive.
2) Generic Mac OS system problem voodoo fix 2: reset the system management controller. Shut down, take the battery out, unplug, hold down the power button for 5-10 seconds. Put it back together, and see if you still have the issue.
3) The Applecare folks will typically want to ensure that the issue isn't an OS-related issue; if you happen to have an external drive you can boot off of, install Leopard on it and try running off that new install drive for the amount of time it would typically take you to crash out. If you still have these issues with the fresh install of Leopard, they'll require much less convincing that you need hardware work done. They can boot you to a clean install of Leopard and test at the Apple Store at the Genius Bar as well.
posted by eschatfische at 10:21 AM on March 20, 2008

repair the permissions on your drive.

FYI, this is in Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility. Click on the drive, then on "Repair Disk Permissions" in the First Aid section.
posted by eschatfische at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2008

Do the lockups and "tearing" happen when the machine is running cool? They sound like GPU overheating symptoms. 80C is hot. Try blowing out your fan with compressed air, see if that helps. Also, see if you can reproduce the symptoms by stressing the GPU with an intensive 3d game or 3d benchmark.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:26 AM on March 20, 2008

Also, I had these sorts of issues with my MBP (non-C2D as well) when I first got my grubby mitts on it.

I was not aware of this previously, but check this. I received two "OS" disks with the machine. I was instructed by someone, somewhere, in some official capacity - I can't remember the specifics - to insert one of these two disks and hold a particular button on boot-up, which launched a diagnostic utility which then ran and gave me an error code while testing the system memory.

I called Apple and supplied the code and they were able to resolve the issue.

Which, in my case, involved sending me a new MBP - but only after the first time I sent it in, they took out the ram, re-seated it, and sent it back. Fuckers.

Anyway, I just tried to do some Google-Fu to find the specifics of this fabled diagnostic utility, but my efforts have been fruitless.

Maybe I dreamed it.
posted by kbanas at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2008

And to be clear, this diagnostic utility was not TechTool Pro or some other 3rd party thing. It was an Apple utility running off an Apple disk.

Although, as you are an AppleCare member, you do, I believe, get access to the full version of TechTool Pro. Have you run an exhaustive diagnostic?
posted by kbanas at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2008

Response by poster: kbanas: do you mean the "Apple Hardware Test" program that comes with the system? If so, I ran it and the system passed.

qxntpqbbbqxl or anyone else: can you recommend some free/trial downloadable game or other program which will stress my GPU/CPU to try and reproduce the problem? I don't have any games for the Mac.
posted by david06 at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2008

Do you have World of Warcraft? That's kind of the hallmark 3D game I play on my Mac constantly.

I know you can sign up for a free trial and download the client for free. That's a lot to go through just to test out 3D graphics, but it's the only thing I got.

Others may have much better suggestions, obviously.
posted by kbanas at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2008

Tearing artifacts are a sign of a failing video card. Likely bad VRAM. If you have AppleCare, take advantage of it. Before calling, do the following troubleshooting steps so you can save yourself some hoop-jumping later. Check the status of the video issue after each step to see if it helped (I doubt any will).
  1. Zap the PRAM. Immediately after boot, hold down Command-Option-P-R. Wait until you hear the startup chimes twice, then release.
  2. Reset the SMC. Shut down, unplug power, pop out battery, and then hold down the power button for 5 seconds.
  3. Boot from an external disc or an install DVD.
If none of this was useful, all AppleCare and tell them you did these steps already.
posted by pmbuko at 11:13 AM on March 20, 2008

Yeah, that sounds like a clogged heatsink or a gpu whose heatsink grease has dried up.
posted by gjc at 7:31 PM on March 20, 2008

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