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Screen failing intermittently - how to determine fault?

This Macbook Pro A1260 sn W8839008YJY has developed a fault where the screen goes black. Everything else is working normally, even the backlight / brightness keys can be seen to boost the 'black' up and down. It's probably the common fault with the GPU, I realise, but I'm wondering if there is any way of narrowing it down further in case its just an inverter or data cable, or even the logic board. The nearest Apple Store is quite a way off and Apple won't take it back via courier for diagnosis.

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When it fails can you still discern the desktop?

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Your problem is the old NVIDA issue.

While its too late now to get it fixed from Apple as they have now EOF the system (May '13) so they don't repair or stock parts for this model any more. But, you will likely find a few Apple authorized repair centers still working on them and still replacing and/or re-balling the GPU.

You see, the solder its self is breaking down from the extreme heat and age. NVIDA also had a problem with the chip as it was overheating (not meeting spec) which Apple got them to cover their repair costs.

Getting back here to the repair: You need to get the rev2 Apple spec'ed part and replace your current GPU if you have the older out of spec unit. In any case you do want to take the GPU off and clean all of the solder and re-ball with the correct high temp solder.

Be careful with the fly-by-night outfits out there! Some just reheat the chip which will appear to work but will soon fail again as the solder has broken down which is why you need to clean it off and re-ball to do the job correctly. Besides, heating the logic board incorrectly can cause other problems. There is a method that needs to be followed so you don't damage other parts.

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I cant see any desktop, no. Am I correct in thinking that the GPU is soldered onto the logic board? And if so, would i want to purchase a replacement GPU only, or the logic board with it already on?

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Yes the GPU is soldered onto the logic board and required some very good soldering skills to remove and you should replace it with the newer version of the chip (newer runs cooler). Yes, some people have desoldered the old chip back on (re-balling it). But, again you need the correct solder and skills to get it back on without damaging the logic board or other components. This is a very advanced DIY project. Getting a replacement logic board is an easier job to swap out or maybe its time to get a new system.

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Does it go immediately black? I had the same issue but the video was distorted and then went black. And yes, Apple will not repair it for free now the extended warranty scheme has expired for almost a year. The only solution I could find, was sending it to a shop which will assess/repair the GPU for a more or less reasonable fee. That way you only risk post and packing cost in case they are unable to repair.

Update

Last week my friend's MacBook Pro A1260 came back from this British company. They replaced the faulty video chip with a new, Apple-spec one and cleaned the MacBook inside out. It looked like new and the dreaded video issue was gone, of course. Turnaround was fast, communication was friendly and to-the-point. No affiliation, just a satisfied customer.

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You do need to be careful here as some people have just reheated the GPU (reflowing it) while this may appear to fix things it really doesn't.

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Good answer and I'd like to know who the "British" company to whom you refer. Very annoying that the editor has removed the name. Would you consider emailing me their particulars please if I sent you my address?

Thanks for your help. - Peter

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A few months ago it went through a phase of the video being messed up, and then returning to normal. That resolved itself until last week when it just suddenly started to go completely black. Last night I had it in Target Disk mode and it was flipping between black and normal (Firewire logo) fairly often. Started up as usual it stays black almost all the time now.

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