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Mid-2011 iMac: Graphics issue... again.

alrec

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 11, 2019
4
2
Canada
Hey guys,

Bit of a back story. I bought my Mid-2011 iMac 27" from Apple in 2012. Everything was great until 2015 when it started having the infamous graphics issue (symptoms included artifacts on screen, vertical bars, or full on white screen).

Apple did recognize this as a "known issue" in my Mac and replaced the graphics card (AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GB) free of charge even though the machine was out of warranty. Great!

Now, 4 years later the same issue is back. However at this point, Apple says the machine is "vintage" (5+ years by definition from Apple) and they no longer stock parts for it, so even if I wanted to pay for a repair I'm out of luck. I did have a tech look at it at an Apple store, and their diagnostics didn't show any issues (apart from it having non-Apple RAM). The tech told me that:

- Given the original graphics card was replaced, this issue would not be strictly the same as the original one. Their hardware diagnostics are specifically designed to look for the original "known issue" with these graphics cards, so just because it's not detecting a graphics issue doesn't mean there isn't one.
- Although unlikely, the non-Apple RAM could also be the culprit
- Assuming it is a video card issue my only option would be a third-party repair or replacement. He did mention that there may have been third party manufacturers making cards that work for the iMac, so there could be a chance of finding a new third-party part.

How likely do you think this is due to the RAM? Are there any other low-hanging-fruit I can try myself to diagnose/repair this thing? And has anyone heard of these "third-party" graphics card alternatives?

I realize it's an "old machine" but apart from the described issue I don't really have any problem using it for another x number of years, and I'd hate to throw away an otherwise good machine just because of one issue.

I've considered going to a new iMac as well, but the fact that Apple refuses to stock parts for or repair any machine older than 5 years means that they effectively expect their customers to buy a new machine every 5 years which is not the kind of thing you expect when buying an expensive, "high quality" product.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
 
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alrec

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 11, 2019
4
2
Canada
Spoke to a local third-party repair shop and apparently it's possible to replace a faulty chip on the graphics card of these iMacs, which would be cheaper and more realistic than sourcing a replacement video card.

Also saw this thread on Graphics Card upgrades just after posting... looks like I've got some reading to do: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/2011-imac-graphics-card-upgrade.1596614/
 
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Cruz3LT

macrumors regular
Jun 24, 2019
111
26
Seattle, Washington
Hey guys,

Bit of a back story. I bought my Mid-2011 iMac 27" from Apple in 2012. Everything was great until 2015 when it started having the infamous graphics issue (symptoms included artifacts on screen, vertical bars, or full on white screen).

Apple did recognize this as a "known issue" in my Mac and replaced the graphics card (AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GB) free of charge even though the machine was out of warranty. Great!

Now, 4 years later the same issue is back. However at this point, Apple says the machine is "vintage" (5+ years by definition from Apple) and they no longer stock parts for it, so even if I wanted to pay for a repair I'm out of luck. I did have a tech look at it at an Apple store, and their diagnostics didn't show any issues (apart from it having non-Apple RAM). The tech told me that:

- Given the original graphics card was replaced, this issue would not be strictly the same as the original one. Their hardware diagnostics are specifically designed to look for the original "known issue" with these graphics cards, so just because it's not detecting a graphics issue doesn't mean there isn't one.
- Although unlikely, the non-Apple RAM could also be the culprit
- Assuming it is a video card issue my only option would be a third-party repair or replacement. He did mention that there may have been third party manufacturers making cards that work for the iMac, so there could be a chance of finding a new third-party part.

How likely do you think this is due to the RAM? Are there any other low-hanging-fruit I can try myself to diagnose/repair this thing? And has anyone heard of these "third-party" graphics card alternatives?

I realize it's an "old machine" but apart from the described issue I don't really have any problem using it for another x number of years, and I'd hate to throw away an otherwise good machine just because of one issue.

I've considered going to a new iMac as well, but the fact that Apple refuses to stock parts for or repair any machine older than 5 years means that they effectively expect their customers to buy a new machine every 5 years which is not the kind of thing you expect when buying an expensive, "high quality" product.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
Try baking the GPU. I just purchased a mid 2011 27" iMac 3.4GHz and it had the white screen of death. After trying a number of things I came to the conclusion it was the GPU. I baked it at 390F for 8 min and then let it cool for 30 and then re-installed and buttoned it all back and it works perfect. To combat the overheating problem, I downloaded a fan control app. If you go this route, make sure you clean all the fans and the inside of the machine.
 
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ThugFreak

macrumors regular
Sep 12, 2018
160
51
California
Spoke to a local third-party repair shop and apparently it's possible to replace a faulty chip on the graphics card of these iMacs, which would be cheaper and more realistic than sourcing a replacement video card.

Also saw this thread on Graphics Card upgrades just after posting... looks like I've got some reading to do: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/2011-imac-graphics-card-upgrade.1596614/
Have you seen the oven trick?
Lot's of videos and people saying it worked for them.

 
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mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,899
512
The Sillie Con Valley
If you have an HDD in it, the cause of the problem is still there. Baking works by reflowing the solder. Over heating and cooling caused the joints to crack. The heat source is the hard drive inside.

Replacing it with an SSD eliminates the heat source and lets the iMac run a lot faster.
 
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ThugFreak

macrumors regular
Sep 12, 2018
160
51
California
If you have an HDD in it, the cause of the problem is still there. Baking works by reflowing the solder. Over heating and cooling caused the joints to crack. The heat source is the hard drive inside.

Replacing it with an SSD eliminates the heat source and lets the iMac run a lot faster.
Is this GPU problem also in the 27'' 2010 iMac? I am buying a mint condition 27'' 2010 iMac (i7) from a company that is moving for $150. I still have a 1 terabyte SATA 2 SSD from a 2009 iMac I accidentally killed (ripped video connector off motherboard). Too bad I threw away the temperature sensor & 3.5'' adapter.
 
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Aiwi

macrumors member
Oct 21, 2010
39
24
Is this GPU problem also in the 27'' 2010 iMac? I am buying a mint condition 27'' 2010 iMac (i7) from a company that is moving for $150. I still have a 1 terabyte SATA 2 SSD from a 2009 iMac I accidentally killed (ripped video connector off motherboard). Too bad I threw away the temperature sensor & 3.5'' adapter.

It's primarily in the AMD Radeon 6xxx series that has the failing GPU problem. The 2010 iMac has the AMD Radeon 5xxx series. You should be just fine
 
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FlorisVN

macrumors 6502a
Nov 8, 2013
858
329
It's primarily in the AMD Radeon 6xxx series that has the failing GPU problem. The 2010 iMac has the AMD Radeon 5xxx series. You should be just fine

but I think it's important to know, that the Radeon 5xxx series is also not metal compatible, nor compatible with non-metal patches like the one from dosdude1 mojave/catalina patchers.
So if you want to upgrade to mojave/catalina in the future using the patcher, you will need to upgrade to a metal supported nvidia mxm card.
Or maybe you can use the HD4850 mxm card from the 2009 iMac, i'm not sure if this will work with 2010-2011 iMac's, but I think it will..
 
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Cruz3LT

macrumors regular
Jun 24, 2019
111
26
Seattle, Washington
If you have an HDD in it, the cause of the problem is still there. Baking works by reflowing the solder. Over heating and cooling caused the joints to crack. The heat source is the hard drive inside.

Replacing it with an SSD eliminates the heat source and lets the iMac run a lot faster.
I replaced mine with a SSD and haven't run into any problems yet.
 
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krazzix

macrumors regular
Jun 15, 2010
204
250
Netherlands
If you have an HDD in it, the cause of the problem is still there. Baking works by reflowing the solder. Over heating and cooling caused the joints to crack. The heat source is the hard drive inside.

Are you sure about this? Do you have a source? Because most people are saying baking is just a temporary fix. Just replacing the HDD or disabling it would be an easy fix.

I replaced mine with a SSD and haven't run into any problems yet.

Is this still the case?
 
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mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,899
512
The Sillie Con Valley
Are you sure about this? Do you have a source?
Absolutely 100%

I've replaced the HDDs on hundreds of late 2009–2013 iMacs within 5 years in schools. Over 100 were the 2011-12 with the supposed GPU problem. The reason we did this was it was less expensive than having me do yet another service call when the HDDs fried.

Total number of GPU failures=0

The excess heating and cooling cracks the solder. Yes, really. Replacing that spinning heat pump—the WD Black got extremely hot—with a SATA III SSD prevented the problem from occurring. If you have to bake one and don't get rid of the HDD, you will have a problem again.

Why in the world would someone open an iMac and only disconnect the HDD? Removing it improves the circulation and cooling—push the spring bracket back and it's outta there. You can use double-stick foam tape to stick the SSD onto the back if you don't want to plunk down $11 for the right adapter.

Outside of the schools, I baked a few GPUs but mostly replaced the NV RAM batteries to fix graphics card issues—and replaced the HDD, of course. The normal symptom of a bad PRAM/NV RAM battery is black screen or weird colors. This has been true going back to the B&W G3.

In 2014, Apple finally went to a slower, cooler running HDD in the Fusion and EDU iMacs. Miraculously, GPU warranty problems pretty much went away.

You can take that to the bank.
[automerge]1585208348[/automerge]
Oh, my 2010 and my wife's 2011 are still going strong.
 
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krazzix

macrumors regular
Jun 15, 2010
204
250
Netherlands
Absolutely 100%

I've replaced the HDDs on hundreds of late 2009–2013 iMacs within 5 years in schools. Over 100 were the 2011-12 with the supposed GPU problem. The reason we did this was it was less expensive than having me do yet another service call when the HDDs fried.

Total number of GPU failures=0

The excess heating and cooling cracks the solder. Yes, really. Replacing that spinning heat pump—the WD Black got extremely hot—with a SATA III SSD prevented the problem from occurring. If you have to bake one and don't get rid of the HDD, you will have a problem again.

Why in the world would someone open an iMac and only disconnect the HDD? Removing it improves the circulation and cooling—push the spring bracket back and it's outta there. You can use double-stick foam tape to stick the SSD onto the back if you don't want to plunk down $11 for the right adapter.

Outside of the schools, I baked a few GPUs but mostly replaced the NV RAM batteries to fix graphics card issues—and replaced the HDD, of course. The normal symptom of a bad PRAM/NV RAM battery is black screen or weird colors. This has been true going back to the B&W G3.

In 2014, Apple finally went to a slower, cooler running HDD in the Fusion and EDU iMacs. Miraculously, GPU warranty problems pretty much went away.

You can take that to the bank.
[automerge]1585208348[/automerge]
Oh, my 2010 and my wife's 2011 are still going strong.

Thanks that sounds awesome. This could help some people here since they still think you need to keep baking it every 3-9 months, which is clearly not the case if you replace the HDD with an SSD, which is a good idea anyway.

Why in the world would someone open an iMac and only disconnect the HDD?
I meant disconnecting softwarematically. I bought the iMac with a HDD + SSD, but I don't use the HDD, so I just eject it and the spinning goes away.
 
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insydney

macrumors newbie
Feb 7, 2020
18
0
really informative thread...
i have a 2011 iMac 27" 1312 SSD + 1THD
so naturally i'm also experiencing the Black screen.
my symptoms are a black screen that's Brightness related. if i raise the Brightness level beyond 2 the internal screen goes black... However if connected, the external monitor still works perfectly. i'm assuming this means the GPU is ok ?
so my Q is whats the likely culprit. ?
judging by whats been said my first move should be: ditch the OEM HD ?
what should i look at first next ?
 
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mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,899
512
The Sillie Con Valley
Replace the battery (should have done that 3–6 years ago). If not replacing the HDD (which you should), get a BR2013 from Amazon ($8) but if installing an SSD, a common CR2013 is fine.

While you're in there, replace the HDD with an SSD (takes an additional 5 minutes). Besides being the usual culprit, these develop problems beginning at the 3 year mark.

An experienced tech can do this in 15 minutes but they like to charge $75 because you don't know how easy it is.

Put it back together with blue tape. Turn it on—if fixed, re-install the screws. If the problem is still there, bake the GPU to reflow the solder joints.

The SSD will improve performance so dramatically, you'll wonder why you didn't do this 5–7 years ago when it was a thing.

If cracked solder joints turn out to be the problem, the HDD was the cause. Period. Apple finally figured that out in 2013—the 2014 non-SSD iMacs came with slower, cooler HDDs.

None of the hundreds of 2009–2014 iMacs where I replaced the HDDs and batteries at the 3–5 year mark has developed a GPU problem. Not one.
 
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insydney

macrumors newbie
Feb 7, 2020
18
0
Replace the battery (should have done that 3–6 years ago). If not replacing the HDD (which you should), get a BR2013 from Amazon ($8) but if installing an SSD, a common CR2013 is fine.

While you're in there, replace the HDD with an SSD (takes an additional 5 minutes). Besides being the usual culprit, these develop problems beginning at the 3 year mark.

An experienced tech can do this in 15 minutes but they like to charge $75 because you don't know how easy it is.

Put it back together with blue tape. Turn it on—if fixed, re-install the screws. If the problem is still there, bake the GPU to reflow the solder joints.

The SSD will improve performance so dramatically, you'll wonder why you didn't do this 5–7 years ago when it was a thing.

If cracked solder joints turn out to be the problem, the HDD was the cause. Period. Apple finally figured that out in 2013—the 2014 non-SSD iMacs came with slower, cooler HDDs.

None of the hundreds of 2009–2014 iMacs where I replaced the HDDs and batteries at the 3–5 year mark has developed a GPU problem. Not one.
i've only had this iMac a week so not sure what's inside yet.. cable & connections etc
there's already an SSD installed, but whoever did it left the OEM HDD in there as well, i will remove the HDD as its probably the cause of all the issues.
whilst in there i'll definitely renew the thermal paste and possibly cook the GPU, if i am feeling brave enough
i have a new CR 2032 (3v) NVRAM battery, is this suitable ? you mention the cr2013

so this black screen issue isn't related to power to the LCD in your experience ?

the problem with doing all these particular things at one time is you can never be sure what the main problem was,
i read nothing but -ve things about the AMD GPU but changing the GPU looks way beyond my skills
many thanks for your assistance
 
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mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,899
512
The Sillie Con Valley
i have a new CR 2032 (3v) NVRAM battery, is this suitable ? you mention the cr2013

so this black screen issue isn't related to power to the LCD in your experience ?
That was a typo — I meant CR2032. If there's an SSD in there, that's fine. The BR2032 is the high-heat version that Apple uses as OE.

If they left the HDD in there, it's usually to keep the temp sensor plugged in. If so, you'll need one of these. Amazon usually has them, too.
OWC 2011- on Temp Sensor

For maximum cooling, use this to mount the SSD
Drive adapter

Anyway, replace the battery first. If that doesn't do it, bake the GPU next. Get it working, then deal with the drive.

The 2010–2011 have three SATA Busses incl the optical drive. It's ok to have two drives in there but if that HDD is still plugged in, it needs to be gone.
 
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insydney

macrumors newbie
Feb 7, 2020
18
0
That was a typo — I meant CR2032. If there's an SSD in there, that's fine. The BR2032 is the high-heat version that Apple uses as OE.

If they left the HDD in there, it's usually to keep the temp sensor plugged in. If so, you'll need one of these. Amazon usually has them, too.
OWC 2011- on Temp Sensor

ins: that's so ironic... keep the heater in there just so you can read the temp

For maximum cooling, use this to mount the SSD
Drive adapter

ins: haven't ripped it apart yet, i will see how they have mounted the one in there, probably double sided tape

Anyway, replace the battery first. If that doesn't do it, bake the GPU next. Get it working, then deal with the drive.
for a novice like me it's a PIA to pull the MB twice so perhaps i should heat it anyway ? however the external monitor works suggesting it's alive ?

The 2010–2011 have three SATA Busses incl the optical drive. It's ok to have two drives in there but if that HDD is still plugged in, it needs to be gone.
insy: ok so not good to have HHD + SSD + OD can it handle OP+SSD ?
many thanks for your help, this is like trying to learn another language :)
 
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