Why do Mac graphics cards fail?

A recurring problem in Mac computers are graphics card failures. Although it is true that other brands such as HP, Acer and Asus also fail. It is a recurrent problem due to certain features of the computers, such as their little physical space inside, or the high performance that we require from them, and also due to the manufacturing defects of some models.

First of all, we must know when we performed the last maintenance on our computer: cleaning the fans, changing the thermal paste (you must always use a high quality thermal paste), etc. A device with accumulation of dirt and a negligent maintenance can cause many problems.

This failure is usually caused by provoking a stress in the graphics chip, also known as graphics adapter, video card or graphics accelerator card. This card is responsible for the processing of images of the device. If we play any HD videos or high quality games, we will be putting an additional extra work on the card.

error tarjeta gráfica líneas verticales en pantalla
Graphics card failure – Vertical lines on the screen

Apple has also made many errors in different computer models, such as the MacBook models A1226 and A1260 (2007 and 2008). They had a failure related to the graphics card that those models were using at that time, NVIDIA 8600M GT, which contained defective chips.

Leaving aside the older models, we still see many 2011 MacBook models, one of the Mac models that has had more graphics card failures. And also the 2012 MacBook Retina that had image failures, unexpected restarts and screens without signal due to the GPU’s chip for video transmission.

And, given that there is no infallible company, new models with manufacturing defects appeared in 2015 and 2016. In addition, 2018 MacBook models with overheating are being reported, which is a sign of possible failures, which occur over their potential lifespan (despite Apple has said that it has been solved with an update).

If you own one of the following Mac models, it is possible that your computer will suffer a failure of the graphics card sooner or later: MacBook Pro 15” A1286, MacBook Pro 17″ A1297, MacBook Pro Retina 15” A1398, iMac 21,5” A1311, iMac 24” A1225 or iMac 27” A1312 or A1418.

How to know if the origin of the problem is the graphics card

Although it may seem that the symptoms are clear, these can be easily mistaken for motherboard or screen failures. This process will be easier for a qualified technician. First, you must detect the excess heat generated by the laptop, both in its ventilation and in the bottom of the computer (where the heatsinks are located).

Mac graphics card failure

Another possible symptom of graphics card failure is that the image suddenly disappears or the computer randomly restarts when you test your graphics card by playing HD videos or games. If this happens, it is possible that the graphics card can be saved, and you won’t need to change it.

Another problem that can be caused by the graphics card (although it is not always caused by it) is that sometimes the computer turns on properly and other times the computer turns on but doesn’t show anything on the screen. The LEDs light up, but nothing else happens.

A graphics card failure is often verifiable at a glance. You can see small squares on the screen, or vertical lines, and sometimes nothing appears on the screen of your laptop.

Symptoms of a graphics card failure

  • Vertical lines.
  • Horizontal lines.
  • When the operating system is loading, the bar doesn’t finish loading and the screen stays blank; or the computer restarts.
  • Black screen; the start-up chime doesn’t sound.
  • The computer doesn’t turn on or make any type of sound. If you have this problem with your computer, you should check our blog entries about what to do if your MacBook or iMac doesn’t turn on.
  • The computer suddenly powers off when you try to play videos or look at pictures. In addition, it may happen that the computer requires a higher performance and that it overheats.
  • Pixels that appear for no reason.
  • Double image, as in the following picture:
error tarjeta gráfica pantalla doble
Graphics card failure – double image

How to discard a problem in the graphics card

As guidance, if you find the following symptoms, it is not a graphic card failure. You should look for a fault on the screen, RAM or the motherboard.

  • If you connect an external screen and the image is correct, it is a failure of the screen.
  • If the screen loses brightness on one side or flickers, it is usually a failure of the screen too.
  • When the computer is loading, a folder with a question mark appears on the screen.
  • When the computer starts up, you can hear 3 tones but it doesn’t load. It is probably due to a RAM or motherboard failure.

Repair the graphics card of your Apple computer

Once your device is out warranty (by accident or by expiration) both the Apple service and the official technical services will solve this problem by changing the entire motherboard. That will raise the budget to almost the price of a new computer. That is when you can rely on highly qualified services like ours. We will repair your device by replacing the graphics chip or by only repairing the part affected by the failure; and we will give you full warranty for a much more reasonable price. If your graphics card is damaged, contact us to help you fix it:

In addition to our warranty, you can trust the opinion of a multitude of satisfied customers (you can check their reviews on Google or Facebook), and the security we offer you by making a totally free diagnosis so you can decide the future of your device with the guarantee that you are making the right decision.

Contact us by phone 933 900 524, or by filling out the form in the «Contact» section. You can also visit us at our repair centre in Barcelona during office hours.