Problems, Solutions Reported with 17″ Unibody MacBook Pro

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Date: Wednesday, March 4th, 2009, 11:46
Category: MacBook Pro

Apple’s 17″ unibody MacBook Pro notebook has been out for about a week or so and if you have one, it may just qualify as the Coolest Thing Ever. Still, according to MacFixIt, a number of users have reported experiencing problems with their new notebooks. Though the problems aren’t widespread, here’s what you should know and be aware of should you encounter these issues:
GPU Issues:
Apple’s recent history has drawn attention to a batch of GeForce graphics processors that caused their notebook displays to randomly shut off. While the current laptops do not appear to suffer this problem, several users have reported what appears to be GPU overheating, as well as some instances of persistent graphical artifacts. These artifacts appear as either green or pink patches, grids, or lines on the display which primarily happens when users run graphically intensive applications such as games. Other users have found similar artifacts when running high-definition video.
The issues was described by poster “dallen33” on the Apple Discussions board:

“Just got my new 17″ MBP unibody. I was watching an episode of 24 in 720p and green lines started appearing over the video. I felt the notebook and it was incredibly hot.”

Users are advised to run a full battery of tests on newly purchased computers (especially laptops) to put them through their paces and test for these types of problems. Since these problems happen more when graphics-intensive applications are run, users may not notice them if these applications are not run regularly. Therefore, immediately running a variety of CPU and GPU intensive tasks upon receiving the new computer should ensure things are running correctly. It is also recommended to regularly run CPU and GPU-intensive programs to ensure proper function is maintained over time.
Recommended tests include the following:

1. Go online and download recently released 3D game demos which will be sure to run the computer at full blast. The following games are options that should work, though the more the better since each will access different graphical library functions which will make use of different parts of the GPU. The goal is to get both the CPU and GPU running at their maximum to generate as much heat as possible–the computer should NOT malfunction under any task.
Quake 4 Demo
World of Warcraft Trial
2. Additionally, users should try running DVDs and HD video for a while; downloadable from iTunes or numerous other sources.
3. Test RAM: Lastly, users may wish to test the RAM by running this utility.
4. Regularly run Apple’s hardware diagnostics. To do this, reboot the computer with the “Applications Install Disk 2” (For newer computers; older ones may need Disk 1) in the drive and hold the “D” key immediately after the boot chimes sound.

Graphical artifacts can emerge from firmware problems and, in other instances, buggy drivers as well as faulty hardware. Unfortunately, this is not alway easy to diagnose, especially with brand new hardware that has yet to go through hardware and firmware updates.
Given these circumstances, users may wish to try the following solutions:

1. Reset the SMC and PRAM It is possible a problem is caused by some SMC or PRAM setting, so before affected users return their computers it is recommended to try resetting these. To reset the PRAM, hold down the options-command-P-R keys at bootup, allowing the computer to reset and make the boot chimes several times before releasing the keys and booting normally.
Resetting the SMC is a little trickier, because it usually requires the removal of the battery. For non-17″ laptops, this Apple Knowledge Base document contains instructions for resetting the SMC. It may be that the SMC for the 17″ can be reset similarly to the MacBook Air (which also has a nonremovable battery), in which case the instructions are to turn off the computer and PLUG IN the power cord. Then press Shift-Control-Option keys on the LEFT side of the keyboard, and then press the power button once. Let the computer rest for a few seconds, and then power it up again.
2. Toggle between GPUs Since Apple’s drivers for the new GeForce 9400M/9600M GPUs are relatively new, they do not fully support all the features of these chipsets and also have a few bugs in them. These should improve over time, but it could be that these problems are due to drivers not being set correctly. As such, users should try toggling between the onboard GeForce 9400M and the dedicated 9600M to see if that clears the problem. To do this, open the “Energy Saver” system preferences and change between “Better battery life” and “Higher performance”, logging out and back in to effect the change.
3. Have Apple Replace the Computer: If these problems cannot be cleared by simple tests or PRAM/SMC resets, it is recommended to call Apple and have the computer replaced.

As always, if you’ve seen these issues emerge on your new 17″ unibody MacBook Pro, please let us know in the comments or forums.

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