2013 Mac Pro Freezes Continue - Owners Have Little Recourse - Apple is Helpless

| Analysis

A non-negligible number of 2013 Mac Pro owners are experiencing intermittent freezes no matter what remedial action is taken or the version of OS X installed. Apple launched a repair program in February, but only for Mac Pros with the AMD FirePro D700 and D500 graphics cards. The D300 isn't covered, but it also experiences freeze ups, according to customers. One workaround that does not solve the problem but assists with handling the freeze-up is often cited in the MacRumors forum and is discussed below.

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The Problem

The most often reported symptom is a lockup of the Mac Pro with a spinning beach ball. Audio often continues uninterrupted. The user is unable to recover control of the Mac Pro by any keyboard action, and holding down the power button until the Mac shuts down is necessary. Upon power up, all seems normal. The problem happens sporadically, sometimes several times a day and sometimes doesn't happen for weeks at a time. That is my own experience.

Possible Culprit

The community appears to concur that this is a graphics card issue or an internal bus issue. Inspection of the Console log file by customers has revealed several different errors, but the most common are:

Kernel_2015-xx-xx-xxxxxx_Mac-Pro.gpuRestart

or...

PM WindowServer: GPU Driver appears to be hung (over 5 continuous seconds of unreadiness)

Forum Discussion

An exhaustive discussion of the problem appears in this forum. "Mac Pro (Late 2013) GPU (Driver) Issues." The discussion spans over a year, 29 pages and 702 posts.

What Doesn't Help

Many of the postings describe historical attempts to fix the problem in various ways. Here are things mentioned that do not consistently work.

  • Upgrading to OS X El Capitan from Yosemite.
  • Removing non-Apple applications.
  • Doing a clean install.
  • Getting a replacement Mac Pro or new graphics cards (D300 only)
  • Using the HDMI port instead of TB/DisplayPort.
  • Changing out the miniDisplayPort to DisplayPort cable.
  • Changing displays.

Generally, before the Repair Extension Program described next, when customers took their Mac Pro, under warranty or Apple Care, to an Apple retail store, it passed all the hardware tests, leaving the customer frustrated. On several occasions, hardware was replaced (before the REP), and after a period of time, the problem resurfaced.

Apple's Replacement Program

In early February, 2016, MacRumors obtained an Apple internal notice that discussed a Repair Extension Program (REP):

Apple has determined that graphics cards in some late 2013 Mac Pros, manufactured between February 8, 2015 and April 11, 2015, may cause distorted video, no video, system instability, freezing, restarts, shut downs, or may prevent system start up.

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will repair eligible Mac Pro models affected by the video issues free of charge until May 30, 2018. Apple lists a turnaround time of about 3-5 days.

Apple says both graphics cards must be replaced on Mac Pros exhibiting any of the problems listed above. AMD's FirePro D500 (high-end model) and D700 (built-to-order) GPUs are affected. AMD's FirePro D300 GPU on the base Mac Pro is not listed.

A Workaround

Many of the postings to the above forum describe how turning off the external display(s) or disconnecting the video cable and reinserting allows the user to regain control of the Mac. This presumably restarts the graphics driver. Most often, the Mac operates very sluggishly after this, and, with patience, the user can then conduct a graceful reboot. That returns the Mac to normal speed.

I have used this technique, and it usually works.

Another occasionally mentioned technique is to use an SSH client to connect to the Mac and issue a reboot command. There are even iOS SSH clients that can be used. Remote Login must be enabled in System Preferences > Sharing. Additional details are beyond the scope of this article.

Theories

The unpredictability of this event has made it hard to diagnose. I have had it happen most often in Safari (which I don't use anymore) and even in the Mail App once. Other apps in use when the Mac Pro froze were Chrome browser with Google Hangouts and Skype. (The Mac Pro I use has AMD D300 FirePros.) Amazingly, the audio survives the spinning cursor and GUI freeze-up.

From my reading of the forum posts above, the problem might be a design flaw in the Mac Pro's internal bus that fails under heavy graphics load. I don't recall the problem with OS X Mavericks with which the machine shipped. It did start in Yosemite, which suggests that some graphics feature of later OSes surfaces the bug, but only occasionally. That's just a theory.

Synopsis

Apple has no known repair program for the Mac Pros with the D300 FirePros, and evidence from user conversations with Apple suggests that that the root cause remains unknown. No one seems to know why the D300 wasn't also covered in the REP. I recommend that System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Diagnostics & Usage be enabled so that Apple engineers can log and perhaps diagnose the magnitude of the problem.

Right now, without direction from Apple for the D300 users, the problems continues, leaving many Mac Pro customers frustrated in their ability to conduct mission critical work on a reliable basis. It also seems to be souring customers on the both the quality of this flagship product and the ability of Apple's customer service to deal with the problem. The only solution may be to wait for Apple to release a next generation Mac Pro, recycle the old one, and hope that more modern hardware and Apple's engineering experience have solved the problem for good.

If we hear back from Apple, I'll update this article.

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Comments

John Kheit

Thanks for the report John.  Kind of stinky.  If it’s limited to the D300s, I wonder if Apple could provide an upgrade to those users to D500s.  The cards are replaceable, if I understand it.  Maybe they could provide the upgrade gratis in this case since it seems the normal product is a bit FUBAR.

brilor

Thanks for collecting all the relevant information in an easy-to-consume format John.

I read your article and the MR posts with concern because it seems possible the enclosed design and any thermal issues might contribute to failures( didn’t see temperatures quoted and mentioned in MR posts ).  Since Phil Schiller said it would be the design for many years, I’m hoping Apple can tweak it if there are thermal issues.

Gary Dauphin

This saddens me for several reasons:
1) Apple has plenty of resources to apply to solving this issue.  They are simply choosing not to.
2) Purchasers of this specific machine spent a ton of money and made a firm commitment to Apple and its products.  A decision to buy this machine cannot be made lightly, for most folks.  How are they rewarded for their dedication?  by being ignored when they have serious, documented problems.

Parka

I just came back from the service centre. This is my second trip there. Mine’s the D300.

On the first trip, they replaced the graphics card. It still freezes, so I upgraded Mac OS from Yosemite to El Capitan. Still freezes occasionally. Service centre says I have to reinstall Mac OS so that they can determine that it’s not a Mac OS issue.

Obviously, I’m not happy. Thankfully, I’ve a backup computer. However, I will be servicing this Mac Pro for another 11 months until its warranty is up, and hopefully waste Apple a lot of money in return since they wasted mine.

daveh

Excellent article and describes my situation exactly.

I have the D300s. In fact it is the 2nd Mac Pro I have with this problem.  The 1st one was particularly bad and was returned for an exchange from the 3rd party vendor that I bought it from. This 2nd one has the intermittent freezes and I have the exact same experience as described in this article.

My 1 year warranty will expire next month and I’m undecided if I should even purchase an Applecare extension. I’m 3 hrs away from the nearest Apple store or service center.  I’ve already wasted many hours on the phone doing this test and that test and re-install this and that. I cannot spend an entire day driving to and from an apple store only to be told everything checks out or have replaced D300 cards only to have the same problem reoccur as many have experienced.

As a longtime Apple user, supporter, and stock owner, this experience with the Mac Pro has been severely disappointing.

What will make it right for me?  Either fix the broken machines, or allow me to put it in a box and send it in and give me a full refund. Because it has been broken from the get go.  I’ll even apply part for the $3000 towards a Mac Mini. Really I would.

 

John Martellaro

Parka. That’s the kind of cable-service-like runaround we don’t like to see from Apple.

On instinct, I moved my HP display from Bus #1 to Bus #2 and made sure no other device is on that bus. Will report if that helps.  See the diagram in:

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202801

Naimi Cyril

Hi John,
I have a MacPro D300 (from Feb 2014) and I experienced the issue in the first month under 10.9.2 (or .3).

‘till then many many crashed, warranty is over and we don’t have a clue what to do with this bug. As you said hardware test passed so retailer just re-install OSX and basta ...

I can suggest that all Macpro owner use the Bug reporter to send logs to apple (bugreport.apple.com) they at least really look to the logs !

As you mention ssh is the best way to cleanly shutdown the mac.

I also suggest for chrome user to unselect all hardware acceleration in chrome. Since that I survive more than a week without a crash.
But Chrome reselect acceleration at each update so it’s frustrating sometimes.

On windows 10 (Bootcamp I never experienced the issues even while playing games with crossfire activated !)

John Martellaro

Since moving my HP display to bus #2, by itself, I’ve only had one lockup.  It was caused by Safari.  The Screen Saver lockups have stopped. I don’t have a technical explanation. The short time of testing since June 3rd may mean nothing.  But, I’m more pleased than I was.

Sierra won’t go on this production Mac for quite awhile, so nothing to report there.

Wavelength

John,
Thanks for the article. I have the D300 version as well, 32G of memory and an OWC 1T SSD root. I was having a lot of issues with video from my OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock. I didn’t really need that but it hung around from my last MAC. I have a Multisync EA and an HP LP2475w monitor on the system. When I was using the DOCK both screens would loose sync and scramble then spinning ball then reboot.

I removed the OWC Thunderbolt and plugged the Multisync in via HDMI, found generic HDMI sucked and got an AudioQuest unit and that monitor looks good. I could not get the HP too look good at all with HDMI. I have that using a Thunderbolt as displayport into DVI connector.

The rebooting seems to have stopped but I still have video freeze and sync loss on the 2 monitors. I cleared my console stuff and hope to narrow things down.

Can you tell us what is display bus #1 and #2 are? Don’t know if I have both monitors on the same bus.
Thanks,
Gordon

alberto2806

Is anyone aware of any class action lawsuit I could take part in?

kysskyss

Hello

Isn’t it a problem linked to the dropping of lead in soldering alloy ?
Alloy with lead was more flexible than the replacement ones.
So when the temperature increase, dilatation may more easily push the weld to break.

vicsandr

Anything new on this front under Sierra? I have seen these problem hile running Adobe Premiere cCC 2015 on a brand new Mac Pro.
Good looking out!

vicsandr

Anything new on this front under Sierra? I have seen these problem hile running Adobe Premiere cCC 2015 on a brand new Mac Pro.
Good looking out!

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