Apple’s 2008 MacBook Pro Nvidia Graphics Card Recall

Many of Apple’s early and mid-2008 MacBook Pros had a fatal flaw: the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor. When this processor fails it causes either 1) scrambled or distorted video on the computer screen, or 2) no video on the computer screen or external display when the computer is on. When the processor fails it renders the laptop useless for anything other than a doorstop or boat anchor.

Specific Apple laptops affected are the MacBook Pro 15, MacBook Pro 17, and the MacBook Pro, which were manufactured between May 2007 and September 2008.

The Apple page regarding repair/replacement/recall of this graphics processor is buried deep within Apple’s site. We are linking to Apple’s Article TS2377 for anyone whose MacBook Pro (within the affected models) has failed. Read through the page and you’ll see that there is a 4 year window during which this processor is under warranty and will be repaired free of charge.

Be prepared when you visit your local Apple Store as the techs don’t want to do any free repairs. They want to sell you a new Mac or send yours out for paid repair. That’s what happened when we took a failed MacBook Pro 15 to a local Apple Retail Store without having a copy of Article TS2377 to show the “Genius” on duty at the Genius Bar.

Said “Genius” pushed the power button and, 20 seconds into our appointment, said, “Nope, it’s not the graphics card or there’d be squiggly lines on the screen.” According to this post on the Apple forums, this is what should have happened:

“The process is fairly straightforward. The tech sticks a flash USB stick in and boots the Mac from it. A test runs automatically. If the Mac is still covered age-wise AND the graphics chipset falls in the defective category, a number pops up onscreen, that the tech uses to order a replacement logic board. Board in hand, an appointment is made for them to do the switcheroo, takes at least a day.”

No amount of arguing got us any farther than “We can send it off for repair for $310″ and “We’ll give you 10% off in trade on a new MacBook Pro.” Additionally, there would be a $99 charge to configure the new Mac — but that excluded anything Windows related. Since we were running all of our programs in Windows XP Pro using Bootcamp, they wouldn’t configure a similar partition and move everything to the new Mac.

We had contacted Apple Support the day before and, after preliminary tests, the tech confirmed that it was probably a failure of the graphics card. Apple Support, in addition to setting up the Genius Bar appointment, had already told us configuring a new Mac would be included in the price of the Mac.

It was a bad experience for us particularly since we had grown lazy about backing up critical data due to the reliability of the Mac. Our last backup, three months prior to the graphics card failure, was far out of date. We needed the data on the drive immediately not in a week or two after sending it to who knows where for repair.

Sending a computer out for repair can mean the data will, at the least, be compromised, and at the worst, be deleted altogether. Trading the computer for a new one was not an option since virtually all of our day-to-day programs, including online banking, were running in Windows XP Pro in the Bootcamp partition. As the tech at the Genius Bar told us: “We don’t do anything with Windows.”

We left the Apple store with our useless Mac and went to a Dell store to buy a replacement laptop. Why pay premium for a Mac just to turn it into a PC via Bootcamp? We pulled the hard drive out of the Mac and put it into a Macally PHRS-250CC FireWire 400/USB2.0 External Storage Enclosure. From there, after we cleaned a lot of the bloatware off the new laptop, we were able to retrieve the data and custom programs we needed to run our business. The change in computers meant dealing with Windows 7 which we had been trying to avoid, and necessary software and hardware upgrades since most of the programs that were compatible with XP weren’t compatible with 7.

Why make such a stink about this? Quite simply, the Mac failed due to a part that was still under warranty. Because the rep at the local Apple Retail Store refused to honor the warranty, we had to shell out more than $2500 to buy a new laptop and upgrade programs and accessories. His refusal cost us $2500 cash and more than a week of lost revenue, pure and simple. It doesn’t take a Genius to figure out why we’d be pissed.

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