updated 01:48 pm EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Some laptops suffering from crashes, graphics corruptions
Apple currently has no plans to replace 2011 MacBook Pros suffering from crashes and graphics corruptions involving AMD GPUs, say AppleInsider sources linked to Apple's repair network. Lacking any official guidance, lower-level Apple workers are said to be directing customers to third-party repair outfits. Those firms are reportedly seeing a surge of broken systems, which has led to Apple escalating requests for deeper investigation, and at least some repair network managers being notified.
If they don't crash, affected 15- and 17-inch Pros will display strange artifacts or blank screens. Related complaints have been ongoing since February 2013. Some owners may still have active AppleCare coverage, but others have had no choice but to pay the full cost of replacing the logic board or simply getting a new computer.
When the 2011 MacBook pro was new, self-repair site iFixit noted that there were "gobs" and "absurd amounts" of thermal compound connecting the CPU, GPU, and heat sinks. The compound is intended to facilitate heat transfer between two surfaces, but excessive amounts can cause problems.
The iFixit teardown noted that the excess paste "may cause overheating issues down the road, but only time will tell." It is unknown what effect the paste has had over time, but thermal paste manufacturers note that excessive compound can actually inhibit proper heat transfer.
Other users have had success with third-party repair shops in re-flowing the solder connecting the GPU and CPU to the motherboard. Some forum users have found a limited solution in forcing the computer to keep using the lower powered GPU onboard the processor, and disabling automatic switching to the AMD GPU. A theory has been put forth on the Apple support message boards that a shift to lead-free solder is part of the problem, but as with the rest of the issue, Apple has no official comment on the matter.