Just saved myself $1000+ by not getting my imac repaired at the Apple Store


#1

My old iMac, a mid 2011 27 inch with the HD6970M GPU, had its GPU crap out for the second time a couple of months ago.
The first time Apple replaced it for free under a special program because it was flaky. I suspect the problem is the iMac gets too hot for it, for reasons that will become clear later.

it is almost time for this beast to be put out to pasture, but i have been booting via a thunderbolt enclosure, so it is pretty snappy, and so I was prepared to wait for a new iMac.

Anyway, a couple of months ago the GPU crapped out again and i had the pink stripes of death onscreen. What the heck, I thought,I will take it in to Apple Store and see what they reckon, they might have GPU out the back and still replace it for nothing. The person that served me ran through the diagnostics and said, yep, its the GPU. It will cost you $940 plus labour to fix. When I declined to spend that on a computer probably worth $600 she said, well it is getting old, why not replace it with a new iMac? I sensed they were a bit unhappy when at this point I said if I was replacing the iMac it would not be with anything in Apple’s current lineup, why pay a premium price for a broadwell processor? They had to mumble some useless platitude. I almost felt sorry for them.

But I didn’t replace it, So I have been living with an ipad or borrowing master entropy’s HP spectre or miss entropy’s MBA while waiting for a new model iMac. That was stupid.

Easter I was stuck at home with the flu, and the rumours are that there might not be a new iMac for six months at least. So I looked on youtube at some solutions for a crapped out GPU. Apparently this is a common problem with the mid 2011 iMac with this GPU. The solution is to take the GPU out and bake it in the oven for ten minutes. There are plenty of youtube clips of how to take the image part and do this. Not for the faint hearted though, and there are some design decisions that seem less about layout and more about making it hard for a user to repair, which is annoying.

It took me about five hours, including a couple of trips to jaycar for some thermal paste, and then to get a damn T9 screwdriver kit for the screws, and a trip to bunnings to get some electrical solder after master entropy accidentally stripped two of the wires from the wireless module (a couple of lumps of solder seemed to do the trick).

Anyway, after baking the GPU, I put it all together again, ended up with a spare metal clip and about five screws that didn’t seem to belong to anything, and tried a reboot. Bliss! I will be happy for her to work until a new iMac comes out now. So, $6 for the thermal paste, $30 for a special screwdriver kit, $5 for a new roll of solder, and five hours of stress vs $1000k plus to replace it with a new one. It even runs quieter now that I removed all the dust inside. A win for once.

As to why it works, I think it must be that the solder in this model GPU cracks, breaking a connection. Baking it at 200 degrees melts it all back together again, and so it starts working again.


#2

Kudos to you for taking this on, I know how I feel when I take my machines apart.
Have to say though, such a hit when it works.
And a $1000 pocketful of money.


#3

Well done! I don’t think I would have had the courage to take that on, but maybe, $1000+ is a ridiculous cost.


#4

The only reason I was prepared to do it was the iMac was no longer working anyway, and…$1000!

I also think it is a bit poor of Apple not to replace it anyway, this GPU is a known problem, Apple even had a replacement program for it, but the program ended and now it expects you to pony up almost double what the machine is worth to replace a known defective part.


#5

Thats why I havent had an iMac since I sold my 2007 model, and why I wont upgrade from my Macbook (white 2010) and Mini (late 2012) because I hate that everything becomes obsolete and you cant even do upgrades yourself anymore. I’m not sure what I will do when my stuff no longer does what I need it to, but I could be dead by then so I’m refusing to fret.


#6

You are my hero - an amazing DIY effort!


#7

You’re absolutely right about why it worked. I recently watched a video about the exact same thing you did, and the explanation was precisely what you said. The solders get broken or cracked and baking it melts it back together. It works on logic boards too. The video I saw was working on a logic board.


#8

Clearly a side effect of poor manufactuting processes which Apple should be held accountable for.


#9

to b fair, AMD made the GPU, not Apple.

Apple’s sin is making it hard to get at and fix/replace, at least more than they needed to.


#10

An update.
Almost twelve months to the day it last happened, Mrs Entropy was just shutting down for the night and the iMac screen flickered and went back to the pink bars of great annoyance (So eight months extra life).

So today I pulled it all apart again and put the GPU card into oven at 200 degrees for nine minutes.

Put her all back together and Yay! working again!

I then shut it down so I could reboot off my thunderbolt drive. Uh oh, no start up chime, no fan noise, no clicking hard drive, nothing. Opened her up again, found the power button cable was loose.

Per her back together again, iMac is working! Yay!

I just had a look at what would set me back for a new one. This was the absolute top of the range in 2011. It cost $2600 or so with 4GB of RAM and a 1GB hard drive, plus the top end 2GB video card.

If I go for an i7, to get the top end 8GB GPU and extended keyboard will cost me $3800.
And then, I am used to a 1TB SSD, would the 2TB fusion drive be noticeably slower? And we are sort of mid cycle I assume, should I wait six months, hope the old iMac lasts that long, and get the next update? As long as the RAM isn’t as hard to install as it looks on the new iMac Pro (no I won’t be buying one of those beasts).

I also had a look at a tricked out mac mini with 16 GB RAM, extended keyboard, a 2TB fusion drive and an LG 5K display. What shockingly bad value of money! $4400!


#11

Damn, video card crapped out again!
Did the bake in the oven trick again today. Its working again, for the third time!.
It just needs to last until the next iMac update. Doing backups now.


#12

Given you’re adept at installing - perhaps order a replacement card from AliExpress? I’ve done that a few times for that model.


#13

And if so, order a 6770M if possible.

The AMD GPUs are fairly robust, but the heat dissipation capacity of the iMac design doesn’t handle the higher performance cards so well. 35W TDP for the 6770M as opposed to 95W for the 6970M. The iMac can handle the cooler running card, but the much faster (and hotter) 6970M doesn’t survive in the long run.


#14

Yes - agree. This is what I did for a machine I fixed about a year back. The aliexpress seller shipped me just the card itself (no heat sink), and the heat sink is slightly different on the lower spec card vs the failed 6970 it was replacing, but it still attached ok and worked fine. :wink:


#15

Hmm had a look, it’s about $81 vs $250 diff between the cards. Son likes to thrash this thing on steam, which iS probably why I keep having trouble. I just want it to last through to the next model macs to decide whether to stay Mac or jump to the dark side. Surely they can’t be long now.


#16

Yeh - Steam gaming (espc. Bootcamp) will kill the card quickly. It’s not actually a new design card etc. just a non-failed-yet one… :man_shrugging: