Apple Macbook Failures and Fixes

Last update: Jan 6, 2019

For some reason I have now have a bunch of apple products, and more than half is messed up. So here’s a few things I’ve come across trying to RCA what’s going on…

Known issues I encountered and fixed…

Macbook Pro (specifically 2011)

  • Broken Video card, MacBook Pro 8,2 2011, 4 core i7: Known issues with video card overheating and going bad (screen with stripes, refuses to boot). Since there’s a built-in Intel video card and the Radeon HD 6750M, you get video when the intel runs but it goes bad when you get to high res. Also the default thermal paste used is terrible.
    • Force the internal Intel video card (try at the EFI level)
    • Reheating/Reballing is “not recommended”, but a fix can be done reheating at 150C/5min. The reason it’s not recommended is mostly that the video card is expected to overheat again and die some time after the repair.
    • Reballing Fix (2017): I did the reheating: I pulled the board out, removed the heat sink, removed the old hardened thermal paste, dusted the chips, boards, case, fans etc. at the same time. I put the bare board on a metal tray after removing the heat sinks and used a heat gun to heat the CPU and video chip for 7 minutes. For temp control, I just used a bit of solder in a cup next to the board and saw it melt and ball. I cleaned and put everything back together with fresh thermal paste.
      Since the worry is overheating I used the best thermal paste I found on the market, Grizzly Conductonaut. It’s hard to apply but the macbook heat sink is copper and compatible. The CPU and video cards barely reach 40-50C so they should not fail anymore.
      Amazing! The screen went back to normal and I have no issues so far. I’ve even loaded Kev’sdeep sea html 5 3D demo to check the temperature, and it stabilized around 75C, and 20fps for my 2.3GHz CPU. The 2GHz CPU does 9fps.
    • Reballing Update Jan 2019: My video card went bad again, and in general the laptop often acted sluggish. I did the Bump Pad re-balling again with the heat gun. This time I peaked at about 170C on the surface of the video card for 3 or 4 minutes (using a temperature laser gun to check). This I suspect this re-flows the bump pads from the IC to the pins of the chip since I’ve only heated the top of the chip, not the BGA pads because those require 350C to melt.
      The video card is alive again AND the laptop now seems to function full speed, GeekBench is close to the top scores for the memory type I have both CPU and video card compute. I noticed the conductonaut paste had crystalized and had some hard balls I had to scrape off to reapply. This makes me worry of its quality/stability long term. CPU temp is a decent 55-60C now and can reach 3GHz on Intel CPU gadget when I push it from 1~1.5GHz idle. Note that now opening the laptop only takes 10mn. Only the 1st time is daunting.
    • Warning: Taking appart a macbook pro requires being careful to remove connectors. Use a youtube video first time. I actually broke the keyboard and trackpad connectors by accident ($10). I should have watched a video on how to take it appart first. You may also want to get spare case screws ($5), as the star T4 screws strip way too easily.
  • Non genuine battery: They seem to cause headaches so return it asap if it fails booting and testing right (run AHT with OPT-D-power and GeekBench & Intel PowerGadget), or just get a good used genuine battery.
    • AHT 4xxx/4/40000005 error: The battery will throw a AHT error, and may or not prevent charging. The error doesn’t seem to be an issue for me. It charges etc. but AHT still has that warning
    • kernel_task CPU problem: The macbook may feel super sluggish, and maybe the fan kicks in. This seems to be related to sensor issues with the battery. You should try a few times to see if this goes away.:
      • first try to reset your NVRAM (opt-cmd-P-R at boot)
      • then SMT (ctl-shift-opt-power, starting machine turned off AND plugged into a charger). The SMT reset did for me ♥.
    • Intel SpeedStep bug: There are many posts about this issue and no real solution, except this one: Rhys Oxenhams explaining the issue. It seems a new battery ma cause MacOS to trigger Intel SpeedStep to under clock the CPU when there’s potential for overheating which shows up as kernel_task CPU usage shooting from 2% to %750 when looking at all processes in Activity Monitor (Menu: View – All processes), or at ps on a terminal (sort by cpu with “o cpu [enter]”).
    • Note you can also look at other tweaks like maxing out your GPU.
  • Upgrading to High Sierra: It’s become hard to do from Lion. In order to do so you need to go via an install of Yosemite. It’s actually not necessarily available in the Apple store for you unless you have a direct link! If that fails check macDrug. Note that 2011 can’t upgrade past High Sierra.
  • LaunchPad: The old keyboard have the Dashboardand new keyboards have  the LaunchPad mapped to F4. Of course there’s F4 and fn-F4 and you can’t easily remap the F4 behavior. The fix is to install FunctionFlip which toggles those function and alt-function commands key by key. Install it and flip the F4 key. Now you still have to map the AppLauncher to F4 and you’re done (System Preferences – Keyboard – Shortcuts – Launchpad & Dock – Show Launchpad –  fn-F4)

Cinema Display 27″

  • Intermittent screen shut off or not coming on linked to faulty Mini DisplayPort wire.
    On newer models (which only have power and miniDisplay cables), it is possible to plug in a separate Mini DisplayPort in the back, since there are usb and mini display ports there. I must try the secondary DisplayPort cable.
    Unfortunately I also have an older model (usb, power and mini display cable and no ports in the back). i could try to replace the combo wire ($70 cable on ebay, make sure it’s the right one, the cheap $20 one doesn’t have USB and is not for this display and might be compatible with the new display). 

Macbook Air

  • Water damage creeps up fast on macbook air, and can destroy the SSD too.
    I need to revisit this to see if I can fix the macbook. Repair is $750.
    Update Jan 2019: See HD recovery, I got my data back! I may also post pics of the damage and recovery attempt.

All MacBooks

  • Hard drive recovery (Jan 2019). I had a MacBook Air that was destroyed and thought the drive was too. When I tried to load it on another Mac it failed, as well as when putting it on a PC. Well not true. I retried again, but this time I booted the laptop in safe mode and was able to get onto the drive and recover my data. Good to know!
  • Flaky Wifi: Not quite figured it out, but my macs seem to stay on the wifi but the web browsers loose connectivity and I have to turn off/on the wifi. This is with Comcast Motorola DOCSYS v3 and macbook pro, macbook air of multiple generations OS X El Capitan to High Sierra.
    I don’t know if it’s just some DNS bug or something. One thing could be some wifi power save.

Macbook boot options

  • D-Power or Option-D-Power: The Apple Hardware Test (AHT) is built-in most macbooks. It will scan the hardware and report error codes.
  • Command-R-Power or Command-Option-R-Power: Recovery mode allows you to re-image the macbook

    Also in terminal: “csrutil disable/enable” to allow editing /System plist files (ls -lO /System to see if you’re allowed to write them)

  • Shift-Control-Option-Power: Resets the System Management Controller (SMC)
  • Command-Option-P-R-Power: Reset the parameter random access memory (PRAM or NVRAM). When holding keys wait for the second beep.
  • Shift-Power: Safe-mode boot, skips some boot items to help troubleshoot software issues
  • Command-V-Power: Verbose safe mode boot, lists on screen what is done during boot
  • Command-S-Power: Boot single user mode command line
  • Option-Power: Startup Manager, to choose boot device (Option-N-Power boot on network, Option-C-Power boot on removable device)

In MacOS

  • System Information(Profiler)>Power
  • Activity Monitor

Great resources



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