Users complain of Sandy Bridge MacBook Pro freezes

Shelling out extra cash for Apple gear often gets you better-built products, but it’s no safeguard from ugly kinks. If you’ve checked Apple’s support forums lately, you’ll know why. A 43-page discussion thread suggests 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks with Sandy Bridge processors and Radeon HD discrete graphics are freezing under heavy loads.

The user who started the thread on March 1 complained that his MacBook Pro’s fans revved up and his cursor got stuck during a multitasking session with a Time Machine backup running in the background. Others quickly joined in to report similar experiences—fans speeding up and the cursor freezing under load.

This thread has gotten long enough that there’s now a “MBP-Freeze” wiki page detailing common symptoms, possible fixes, and particularly incriminating user reports. One of those reports is from someone who alleges that “3 brand spanking new” MacBook Pro systems he tested all failed in under four minutes. Another claims to have reproduced the problem on all of the new machines at his local Apple Store.

One of the possible workarounds, according to the wiki page, is to download gfxCardStatus and use it to disable the MacBook Pro’s discrete Radeon HD GPU, letting the system rely solely on the integrated graphics component of its Sandy Bridge CPU. That’s hardly a fix, though, and it suggests a genuine hardware fault might be at work here.

Comments closed
    • Noigel
    • 9 years ago

    The moral here is to let any product mature a bit… you don’t want the first one off the shelf. Sandy Bridge ran through and caused all kinds of ruckus… I’m a PC and Mac fan, both sides got hit.

    Now hand me that yellow-sheened, backlight bleeding iPad2…

    • bentbent
    • 9 years ago

    Stevie sayz: Adjust your reality.

    • sweatshopking
    • 9 years ago

    Been doing some reading, and it seems it doesn’t fix teh issue, and it causes additional crashes. Dailytech has a story on it, can’t remember where the other ones were…

    • BotNot
    • 9 years ago

    10.6.7 was just released and seems to have fixed the issue. Please continue flaming and trolling.

    • ltcommander.data
    • 9 years ago

    Well one thing that’s good about every problem with Apple products being made into a major news story is that it does encourage Apple to fix the issue.

    [url<]http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/21/apple-releases-os-x-10-6-7-with-fix-for-macbook-display-issues/[/url<] Apple has already released OS X 10.6.7 and Engadget reports that it appears to have fixed the freezing issue.

      • CampinCarl
      • 9 years ago

      Good on ’em!

      • kilkennycat
      • 9 years ago

      If 10.6.7 really fixes the issue, then do the release notes say exactly what was done to fix the problem?

      If the specifics are missing from the release notes, I suggest that clock rate comparisons for CPU, Memory and GPU be made between the previous OS X version (10.6.6?) and 10.6.7 when running any application that triggered the crash…

        • Norphy
        • 9 years ago

        It’s an operating system patch, not a firmware update. I doubt that 10.6.7 would touch the clock speeds.

    • esterhasz
    • 9 years ago

    I’m not gonna start rambling about how much I want a 15″ MBP *without* discrete graphics – for alas, I cannot have it!

    • Kraft75
    • 9 years ago

    uh, maybe it’s a transistor, somewhere… could happen

    • Mentawl
    • 9 years ago

    I owned one of the new MBPs for just under 2 weeks, before returning it because of serious concerns about the heat it was kicking out under load. Playing any kind of 3D game on it caused the rear casing to heat up to the point where it actually hurt to touch, and heated up the QWERTY row of the keyboard enough that my fingers started tingling holding down the W key =x.

    Not what I’d expect from £1850-worth of hardware at all, and that’s before I get going on the banshee scream of the fans when you put the machine under CPU or GPU load. I’ve got a 2008-model Alienware m15x, with an overclocked 8800M GTX and a 2.5ghz Core2, and it produces less noise under load than the MBP did. All the gorgeous industrial design in the world doesn’t make up for the fact that the MBP may just have had too much hardware packed into too small an area.

    *NOTE* – This is the only reason I took the Mac back. It was a lovely machine, it was light and sleek, and I don’t think I would’ve minded MacOSX much once I’d gotten used to it. The performance was awesome too. It was just thermally worrying, and audibly painful :(.

    • iq100
    • 9 years ago

    I have two comments:
    1- Isn’t it rather dumb to use a Sandy Bridge processor, with its investment in built-in graphics silicon, with another external graphics chip? And then add insult to injury by engineering a way to switch between the two graphics silicon solutions! If you are NOT happy with the graphics performance built into SandyBridge and plan to need a separate graphics card, then buy a Westmere based laptop. Sandy Bridge are for those who do NOT want/need the performance of a non-processor based graphics chip.

    2- Isn’t it also rather dumb and lazy not to have a clearly written diagnostic/monitoring subsystem that identifies why a system freezes? What parameter caused the system to freeze/shutdown. In plan English, instead of the often useless dump files some OS creates. Does the MBP even provide such a dump file? Usually a processor does not just freeze. There is some firmware that is running that knows it needs to ‘freeze’ because of heat loads.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      1. Sandy Bridge is for those who want/need the performance of SandyBridge. And good luck finding an Apple product with Westmere in it.

      2. When the system freezes, the ‘clearly written’ diagnostic tools might have some trouble running well

        • iq100
        • 9 years ago

        >”… When the system freezes, the ‘clearly written’ diagnostic tools might have some trouble running well …”
        lol …BUT the system ‘freezes’ when firmware detects a condition that causes it to execute a ‘freeze/stop’ instruction, or rarely software/firware is written so poorly it is in a do-nothing loop. In the former case, good kernel designs can/should write a bug dump. Modern hardware/software should not just stop without providing a clear indication as to ‘why’.

          • NeelyCam
          • 9 years ago

          System could also freeze because hardware is operating out of spec, PLLs unlocking, memory transfer skipping a few bits..

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      “Isn’t it rather dumb to use a Sandy Bridge processor, with its investment in built-in graphics silicon, with another external graphics chip? And then add insult to injury by engineering a way to switch between the two graphics silicon solutions!”

      Wtf?!? That’s exactly what it’s for! I don’t want a graphics card doubling my laptop’s power use at idle.

        • potatochobit
        • 9 years ago

        some people like to play world of warcraft on their mac
        that sandybridge IG will have trouble pushing projectile shadows during raids

        • iq100
        • 9 years ago

        >”… Wtf?!? That’s exactly what it’s for! …”
        You are misinformed. It is part of a long history Intel has to take over the graphics add-on business. You are probably too young to remember Intel’s NSP effort. [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Architecture_Labs[/url<] Intel has the knowledge and resources to cut out everyone, but has always feared Federal anti-trust actions.

          • OneArmedScissor
          • 9 years ago

          Yeah, like Larrabee. That just totally annihilated Nvidia and AMD’s business.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 9 years ago

            Apparently, it takes more than having billions of dollars in your warchest and a small in-house development team to take over an established technology market.

            • RagingDragon
            • 9 years ago

            Just like the i740 before it….

            And Intel have been struggling with their Windows graphics drivers since the G965 chipset. With such dodgy execution, if graphics had bee priority for Intel, their executives would’ve been fired in droves by now.

          • clone
          • 9 years ago

          Intel hasn’t taken the add in business because the margins were never right for it when total costs were factored, they’ve been eliminating the need for add in altogether instead.

      • Incubus
      • 9 years ago

      non-processor based GPU…….wow pal you’re one mfm

    • crsh1976
    • 9 years ago

    Not to add fuel to the fire, but there’s also the flickering issue when connecting a monitor via the DisplayPort/Thunderbolt combo port, tho that could possibly be a software issue more easily fixed than an overheating component.

    • jstern
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]Shelling out extra cash for Apple gear often gets you better-built products, but it's no safeguard from ugly kinks.[/quote<] I read current Mac news on a regular basis on a Mac website. (I'm not sure if we can name websites, so I avoid posting the name). It really gets annoying when you read "Better built products" when every week there's some sort of new defect on Mac products. Apple doesn't really have Magic dust that it sprinkles on it's product. Repeat something long enough, and others will start repeating it over and over. I'm the greatest. It's one of those amazing Apple phenomenon. The Mac guys repeat it so much to justify the price, and people start believing it. Another things fanboys like to brag about is about how they can just go to the Apple store to get their Macs fix, and the proceed to give a long list of everything that went wrong with their Mac, and proud of how Apple fix it. Most seem to have a list.

      • vvas
      • 9 years ago

      Yes and no. The thing is that Apple products, exactly due to the raised expectations, go through a much higher level of scrutiny. I mean, do you ever hear about model X from Dell or Acer having freezing problems? Probably not, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. It’s just that noone really expects anything better of them, so only the super-impressive faults get publicity (batteries exploding and the like). While with Apple, any little kink in their products will echo through the blogosphere.

        • jstern
        • 9 years ago

        I didn’t know Mac problems gets publicity and blown out of proportion. If you re read my post you would see that they immediately get ignored by the fanboys, who then proceed to talk about the great build quality, that last many years longer than PCs, and that’s what the media reports. So it seems to me that you’re just trying to come up with an excuse made on the spot, since you’re talking about a scenario that doesn’t happen.

        Here’s my observation. Steve Jobs once said, “Macs are built with latest and best technology in the industry.” Then newspaper covering it posts that in their newspapers all over country. Meanwhile you go to their website and spend over a $1,000 extra on a core 2 duo mac.

        Like I said, there seems to be a new major flaw every week that’s Mac or iphone related, and the opposite gets reported. Apple products are made by humans, not some type of magical race from the sky who ride on unicorns.

          • Da_Boss
          • 9 years ago

          Most people (especially blind iFans) tend to confuse “Well designed” with “Well built”; the result being your observation.

          I don’t think anyone would argue that Apple products have some of the best designs in the industry. We applaud them for this. But you’re right. Most Apple fanboys are a little less technically savvy, and will deduce that since Apples exterior is usually second to none, that their interior is made with such unique care as well.

          Unbeknownst to them, Apple uses the same commodity parts you can find in just about any PC on the market. These parts are prone to the same thermal limitations, and the same failure rates as anything else you’ll find in a PC.

          One thing I think we can all agree on is that when you’re charging $2k+ for a notebook that costs a quarter of that to actually make, you’re held to a higher standard than everyone else. With all this negative press on them, I don’t doubt that a fix is imminent.

            • potatochobit
            • 9 years ago

            I actually consider Foxconn budget/inferior products like ECS

            • jstern
            • 9 years ago

            Nah, the argument that they all use the same components is brought up many times, follow by the response that Apple designs the case, allowing for superior cooling.

            • Beelzebubba9
            • 9 years ago

            I’m pretty sure the BOM for a MacBook Pro isn’t $500. 🙂

            Also, I can’t speak for anyone else’s experiences, but when I was shopping for an ultraportable late last year I found that pretty much any computer that had comparable features and quality as the MacBook Air cost just as much, so I ended up going with the Air in the end.

    • Da_Boss
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve had my MBP for a few weeks now and I’ve seen no such issues. That being said, I do have the lower end 6490 in it, meaning there is less of a heat factor involved.

    Honestly, the fact that only 6750 MBPs have this issue suggests that the failure is graphics/heat related. Maybe the lack of a better cooling solution on them is causing them to fail more under load. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for a high-end quad-core mobile chip and a 480SP GPU in a 1″ notebook… Can’t blame them for trying, though.

      • Firestarter
      • 9 years ago

      You can blame them if they’re selling them for big $$$s

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      Damn straight you can blame them. These people are just using their Macs, it’s like there’s no internal testing at Apple and they literally just drop-shipped the finished product from China to the Apple stores.

    • tay
    • 9 years ago

    Nice ignorant post by Cyril. This has already been shown to be caused by third party software (istat pro) and smart fan control. Not a MBP problem but an istat one.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Smartass. Did someone say something bad about your shiny toy?

      • GrimDanfango
      • 9 years ago

      Surely it’s the Mac’s ability to remain stable regardless of the software it’s running that has been touted as the main benefit over Windows all these years. I’d say probably 99% of Windows crashes are down to 3rd party software and drivers. Never stopped Mac fans ranting on about Microsoft for the last two decades.

      Considering Apple pride themselves on dictating and controlling software and hardware development in the name of stability and reliability, it’s a bit bad that something like this got through.
      I mean people who buy Macs do so because they want to get on and work without having to tinker about with shoddy software causing crashes, right?

      • potatochobit
      • 9 years ago

      o’tay

      • TaBoVilla
      • 9 years ago

      steve? is that you?

    • Corrado
    • 9 years ago

    How has no one pointed out that this could be driver issue? These are newer GPUs in a newer OS than the last time AMD/ATI GPUs were in an Apple machine. It also has Apple’s ‘proprietary’ switching technology. Perhaps it has something to do with that.

    • WillBach
    • 9 years ago

    Didn’t Slashdot find this was from iStat’s fan control software? I would link but I’m posting from my phone.

    • shank15217
    • 9 years ago

    sounds like a case where the thermal compound used to keep the radeons cool are not in direct contact or they are losing their contact more than anything. Of course the cpus are different too.

    • RtFusion
    • 9 years ago

    Its not a bug, its a feature! MacBooks are supposed to be perfect.

    • Silus
    • 9 years ago

    So one workaround involves disabling the discrete GPU…
    Apple may have screwed up in QA (this is Apple so they don’t really need to do QA, because millions will still buy iCrap for a gazillion dollars), but that does not bode well for the discrete graphics being used. If it’s software (drivers), then it should be fixed relatively soon. If not and it’s hardware, there may be a big problem at hand here.

    • shark195
    • 9 years ago

    It’s not all rosy as we think all the time, they have got to fix something in there

      • Silus
      • 9 years ago

      Who thinks it’s all rosy all the time ?

      • shark195
      • 9 years ago

      the belief in superior products

    • Sargent Duck
    • 9 years ago

    How could an Apple, of any form, the very pinacle of human enlightenment, be at fault here? Surely it must be the users holding it wrong…

      • Silus
      • 9 years ago

      I agree 🙂
      Maybe the algorithm that defines the number of bars that measure a system freeze is incorrect and it needs to be fixed!

      (for those unfamiliar with it – or with severe lack of humor – this was essentially one of the “fixes” Apple suggested for the iPhone 4 antenna problem. Just replace “system freeze” with “signal strength”)

        • shank15217
        • 9 years ago

        The macbook didn’t freeze, time around the mbp stopped.

          • NeelyCam
          • 9 years ago

          Wouldn’t that make MBP faster?

            • Martian
            • 9 years ago

            No, the time has stopped for the MacBook Pros as well, those poor things will wait for input till eternity…

            • NeelyCam
            • 9 years ago

            Hm… I would argue, but considering your name I would likely be wrong.

            However, maybe this is what RDF really is? People think that Apple products are fantastically quick despite weak hardware because they have temporary mental freezes themself, giving the iShinytoy some more time to finish the task?

            • lilbuddhaman
            • 9 years ago

            I thought it was called the “steve jobs reality distortion field” ?

          • Beelzebubba9
          • 9 years ago

          Actually what you’re seeing is the MacBook Pro going back in time to try and prevent Hitler’s birth – it only appears frozen in our current time continuum because it can’t be sentient in two locations at once.

          That also means anyone who hard restarts one is preventing it from completing it’s mission and therefore responsible for the deaths of tens of millions. 🙁

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Maybe they should avoid playing 3D games

    • bthylafh
    • 9 years ago

    c.f. IFixIt pointing out that Apple stuck huge dollops of thermal compound on their chips, again.

    Betcha that’s got something to do with it.

    • hakron
    • 9 years ago

    I wonder if any of the owners of those freezing MBP tried the same amount of work load under Windows. This little test could point a finger at the freezing culprit (hardware or software).

    • GrimDanfango
    • 9 years ago

    It would be interesting to know whether this is a fault that’s come up in other PCs besides the Mac. Most desktop graphics freezes I’ve had over the years were traceable back to insufficient/poor quality power supply, or cheap poorly designed motherboards that couldn’t cope with full bus bandwidth.

    Of course, Apple devices could be caught clubbing baby seals and ol’ Jobsy would probably manage to convince the world it wasn’t a design flaw.

    I await further details with interest 😛

      • bdwilcox
      • 9 years ago

      I give it a full day before a Macolyte finds a way to somehow blame this on Microsoft, as well.

    • CampinCarl
    • 9 years ago

    Though that makes it seem like this is more AMD’s fault than anything else. Have the Radeon GPUs being used in the MBP shown similar problems in other manufacturer’s systems?

      • khands
      • 9 years ago

      Yeah, from the sound of it this is an AMD issue not an Intel one, poor article title.

      That being said, it really sucks for AMD, they get a deal with Apple and screw the pooch pretty much immediately.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 9 years ago

        It’s AMD’s fault that Apple sold a faulty configuration? Pass the Kool-Aid, please!

          • flip-mode
          • 9 years ago

          Gotta agree. Even if the problem is with the AMD gpu rather than some other component in the system, the fact that this seems to be such a widespread and repeatable problem is more damning of Apple having a blind spot in their quality control.

          • khands
          • 9 years ago

          I’m not giving Apple a pass on this either, but the article title is pretty obviously in error.

            • OneArmedScissor
            • 9 years ago

            So was your post. The article itself doesn’t even name Intel, much less the headline, but you guys went way out on a limb there.

            • khands
            • 9 years ago

            Do you not see [i<]Sandy Bridge[/i<] in there? It should be [b<]Users complain of [i<]Radeon[/i<] MacBook Pro freezes[/b<].

            • Growler
            • 9 years ago

            Sandy Bridge is used here to indicate the generation of the Mac Book. It’s to indicate that the newest revision is having the issues, as opposed to the older Core 2 machines. Yes, the Radeons are new as well, but the CPU is the conventional way of describing them.

            • khands
            • 9 years ago

            I suppose not having a better nomenclature is the issue I have here then, as it implies fault where the issue appears not to lie.

            • potatochobit
            • 9 years ago

            the conventional way of describing a macbook pro is unibody or non-unibody ; )

      • pedro
      • 9 years ago

      Who writes the GFX drivers here? Apple or AMD? From what I’ve read thus far it’s seeming more likely to be a software issue. I say this mainly because people are Bootcamping these machines and running happy as Larry.

        • zdw
        • 9 years ago

        Under Boot Camp the AMD GPU is on all the time – there’s no graphics switching (or at least that has been the case historically).

        Apple works with AMD to integrate the drivers. This is the first time there has been Intel/AMD graphics switching (previous laptops were all Intel/nVidia), so it’s probably a driver issue.

        I tend to think that Apple will clean this up in an OS patch – they’ve been known to release hardware specific patches for stuff like this.

          • moriz
          • 9 years ago

          not true at all. my acer laptop has an AMD GPU and supports switchable graphics with its core i5 processor. it’s not a seamless as the intel/nvidia solution (it doesn’t autodetect based on load), but it works.

      • shank15217
      • 9 years ago

      Funny you picked up on Radeons when the CPUs in the 15 and 17inch mbp are core i7s as well. How do you even know its the gpu and not the cpu? Yea you can say disable the gfx card but in essence you are turning of a source of heat, not necessarily the problem. I hope you are not a tech of any sorts 🙂

        • CampinCarl
        • 9 years ago

        I’m not quite sure what you mean. The article clearly states:
        “One of the possible workarounds, according to the wiki page, is to download gfxCardStatus and use it to disable the MacBook Pro’s discrete Radeon HD GPU, letting the system rely solely on the integrated graphics component of its Sandy Bridge CPU.”

        This removes it from the equation in it’s entirety, so that the onboard GPU is used. The wiki page suggests that this fixes the problem.

          • cygnus1
          • 9 years ago

          No, it doesn’t fix the problem. It’s a workaround that disables a major feature of the laptop. Shank was trying to say that it could be the CPU overheating when the AMD GPU is loaded. And the workaround simply prevents the extra heat from the AMD GPU. A laptop is very confined space, and many components do not have the same heat tolerance. The GPU could possibly tolerate an extra 10c or 20c where the CPU can’t.

          Basically your ‘workaround’ has not pinpointed the faulting component, simply prevented the crash at the expense of a major, complicated feature. And as others have said it could just as easily be the auto-switching driver that Apple and AMD wrote.

      • Martian
      • 9 years ago

      Is it the first time when Apple has problems with discrete graphics in its notebooks? Even the low quality nVidia solderings wouldn’t have failed with sufficient cooling.

      • swiffer
      • 9 years ago

      Apple’s in-house integrated / discreet GPU switching software solution isn’t properly shutting down the Radeon GPU when it’s no longer needed.

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