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Failing Graphics subsystem in 2011 MacBook Pro?  



Late-2011 15" MacBook Pro, High Sierra, 16 gigs RAM, 1 Tb SSD (OWC).  Graphics card/logic board replaced in 2016 under Apple's extended warranty.

Long story short(er):  in the last few days, this computer has intermittently locked up, showing a screen with horizontal lines, and the open window split down the middle vertically.

I rebooted into Safe Mode (it took several tries), reset PRAM and SMC, ran Apple Hardware Test (short and long versions) which showed no issues, unchecked the box in Energy Saver that allowed automatic switching of the graphics cards.  I finally got the machine into a seemingly stable state.

This morning I arose to the fans blazing, and a frozen, blank screen.  I had to force quit. Rebooting took over 5 minutes, and temporarily displayed the horizontal lines/split screen.  (I believe this episode was kicked off via a security update - to 10.13.6 - that ran overnight.) After the boot process completed, the security update finished its install, taking roughly 20 minutes.

Again, it has been running fine the rest of the day.

This makes me think the replacement graphics subsystem is now failing, and this MacBook Pro will soon be off to the land of retired Macs.  Amirite?

[BTW, I've tried to attach images and videos of these events, but even an 86k image is too big... "Max file size 10B" - 10 bytes?] 

5 Answers
I have a Late 2011 15" Macbook Pro with a failing discrete GPU, and I keep it working as a server using gfxCardStatus
You will need the Sierra and above version, unless you are running an older version
gfxCardStatus is a free menu bar application that keeps track of which graphics card your MacBook Pro is using at any given time.
You can force a Macbook Pro to use the Integrated intel graphic via gfxCardStatus
The above does not work on Sierra and beyond, HOWEVER, this version works on High Sierra:


Thanks, DFNBFF,
I'll give that one a try and see how it works.


OK - I installed gfxCardStatus and will give it some time to see how it does.

Initially, it took several boots to get to a usable screen, but I was eventually able to download and install the app.  The toolbar icon showed the integrated "i".  I clicked it and selected the choice to use Integrated Only, at which time the laptop immediately crashed.  It took perhaps a dozen reboots, including another SMC & PRAM reset, to finally get an operable.  At that point, I again selected "Integrated Only" and the setting to run on boot.

That did not prompt any fritz out, so we're going to see how long that lasts.  Fingers crossed!

Again, thanks for the suggestion.

At first it seemed like we'd found a fix. It worked smoothly and did not crash for the first few days. Today, though.... fritzy screen, multiple spontaneous reboots, screaming fans. It did finally boot smoothly and was usable, but only after multiple attempts to boot/log in.
Methinks this one is destined to be harvested for parts. Seven years wasn't too bad, I guess.


It is a good run. My Late 2011 Macbook Pro could not be used as my daily driver by Late 2016. It still lives as a backup server, but it needs the gfxCardStatus, and an external keyboard (or Screen Sharing into it).

My several times upgraded Late 2009 27" iMac is the longest running Mac I have as a daily driver at work, but it is stuck at High Sierra, and I'll have to figure something out when it stops getting security updates (maybe a Mac mini and put the iMac into Target Display mode 😀


Yeah, tightwad that I am, I’d really like to keep it for something like that, but if it’s going to randomly lock up, I can’t use it for anything I’d depend on.  But now I’m wondering about installing one of the Linux builds on it, to learn a new OS, and just for the hell of it.

It’s my wife’s machine, and talking about it today, she seems like she’s leaning towards an iMac as a replacement. A 27” screen is really enticing to her.


As you are an acknowledged "tightwad", maybe consider a Mac mini with a nice 27" monitor (or 2), or maybe one of those ultrawide curved monitors that have been showing up recently, then when it gets old and your Wife needs a new Mac, you can move the monitors to the new system and repurpose the Mac mini for other tasks in the basement (or where ever you put your servers).  Just a thought.


And a good one at that. The mini now is quite capable, and I do like the idea of separating the CPU from the display, lessening the impact if any one component should fail.


So interest with macbook i hope i can buy it sometime