This is topic Macbook Pro display problem in forum Ask a Geek! at The Geek Culture Forums.

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Posted by Ugh, MightyClub (Member # 3112) on February 13, 2011, 11:11:

I wanted to use the MightyClub household MacBook today, so I popped it open and... Nothing. Keyboard lights were on, but nobody was home on the display. Gave it a little time, then shut the lid to put it back to sleep, which has worked in the past when this happens. Gave it a while, but it didn't go back to sleep. Hard drive was whirring, but not chattering. Finally I gave up and forced a power-down by holding the power button 5 seconds.

Now the real fun. Powered it back on and immediately got these weird vertical green bands on a black background across the whole screen instead of the Apple logo. The left and right thirds have a lighter overlay, like an alpha blend. The only advice I've been able to find thus far is to reset PRAM, which I've tried repeatedly. No change. Tried plugging it into the TV via DVI, no output at all there (TV says it detects the new source, but then says no input from that source)

Anyone out there ever see anything like this? It sounds a little like the NVIDIA GPU problem, but I don't want to drive over an hour to the nearest Apple Store for something that can be fixed easily at home or is not covered by the extended repair program (this thing is well out of warranty).

Note also that other than occasional "black screen on wake" issues I don't think we've seen any other GPU weirdness. One of the clublets had just used the MBP a half hour or so earlier with no issues. Oh, also, no change with lid position, so I don't think it's the connection through the hinge.

hardware details:
Macbook Pro 15", early 2008 (purchased Late Feb)
2 GB total RAM, extra over stock installed by MacMall if I remember right
OS X 10.4.x I think, whatever came stock plus updates. If the screen was working I'd confirm [Mad]
Posted by Ugh, MightyClub (Member # 3112) on February 13, 2011, 11:26:

I let it run for 5 - 10 minutes with the funny screen, then closed the lid. No sleepy after a minute or so, so I opened it and forced a power-down.

Up until that point I had been battery only, at an almost full charge. I popped out the battery, hooked it to the power cable and started it. And, of course, the screen was fine. Shut down normally, put the battery back in, started with battery only again, and the screen is still fine. What the?!

So I guess for now it's OK, but any after-action thoughts you all have would be welcome. Was it the "letting it sit at the bum screen for 10 minutes" action, or the "removing the battery" plan. The elder clublet accepts full credit for telling me earlier to plug it in, so anything that would prick her ego would be worth extra points [Big Grin]
Posted by Snaggy (Member # 123) on February 13, 2011, 11:33:
I would have to insist that posting about it on the Forums was the cure! [Big Grin]
Posted by Serenak (Member # 2950) on February 13, 2011, 14:01:
Because the MacBook (or other Mac laptop) has no PRAM/NVRAM backup battery removing the battery when not plugged into the mains will implement a PRAM and NVRAM reset to default values, it will also (I believe) cause a SMC (or PMU on older models) reset which can cure a variety of extremely bizarre symptoms... recently fixed an apparently dead iBook G4 with this trick.

Glad that your problem is A) resolved and B) wasn't an expensive repair.
Posted by The Famous Druid (Member # 1769) on February 13, 2011, 15:54:
I'm thinking along similar lines to Serenak.

With any 'computer' (including all manner of household appliances with embedded chips, microwaves, VCRs, etc) once the chip gets confused, often the only way to restore sanity is the old "turn it off and turn it back on again" trick.

With mains-powered appliances, "turning it off" can mean unplugging it from the wall, (and, sometimes, waiting 15 minutes for on-board capacitors to dischange fully) the "off" switch on most gadgets these days doesn't mean what it once did.

With battery powered devices, "turning it off" usually requires removing the battery - one reason I'm deeply suspicious of the recent trend towards non-removable batteries in Apple products. If you can't remove the battery, you have to wait a _long_ time for the battery to discharge fully, I am not a patient man.
Posted by Ugh, MightyClub (Member # 3112) on February 15, 2011, 10:12:
Yeah, my thought on disconnecting the battery was that something other than PRAM might need a nudge. Still, nothing like having your daughter say "Geez, dad, I told you to take the battery out a half hour ago" to make you feel like a superstar geek troubleshooter [blush]
Posted by dragon34 (Member # 997) on February 15, 2011, 12:49:
I would say that sounds like an NVIDIA GPU issue.

If you want to be totally sure,

SMC Reset
Shut down
Remove battery
Hold power button in for 5 seconds
Replace battery and plug and turn back on.

PRAM reset:
turn on, hold command + option + p + r until it chimes at least twice.

I would still at least report this symptom to apple lest they try to wiggle out of fixing it later. If you have an external monitor handy, might be worthwhile to see if the distortion exhibits on that as well. I have definitely seen them be fine one day and dead the next. Also, if you can use it at all, back it up. Sometimes they stop booting if the graphics card gets really bad.

Good luck!
Posted by macmcseboy (Member # 1232) on February 15, 2011, 19:07:
I wholeheartedly agree with dragon34! 2.4 or 2.2 GHZ models some 2.6 models too!
Posted by Ugh, MightyClub (Member # 3112) on February 21, 2011, 10:27:
Sigh. The problem manifested again over the weekend in a few different ways. I'm off through the snow and slush up to Syracuse tonight for an appointment with a genius.
Posted by GrumpySteen (Member # 170) on February 21, 2011, 10:47:
But... but...

it just works

Posted by Ugh, MightyClub (Member # 3112) on February 21, 2011, 11:14:
Haha, yeah. But this particular problem is NVIDIA's fault.
Posted by macmcseboy (Member # 1232) on February 21, 2011, 22:42:
Take it in to yer local mac fixit shop and have them run the NVIDIA diagnostic... if it fails, Apple still has a Repair extension program for these. you may very well qualify for a new main logic board. You won't know lest you bring it in.

NB... it must chime, and you must be able to get the caps lock light to work, if you get no video.
Posted by Ugh, MightyClub (Member # 3112) on February 22, 2011, 09:37:
Bad news: The GPU is indeed dead
Good news: My MBP is covered by the extended repair program
Bad news: They didn't have the replacement logic board on hand due to a recent run of GPU deaths, so I have to go back up again in a few days to pick it up.

Interesting fact: In the meantime, the elder clublet would rather use my iPod Touch than the old iMac G4 to satisfy her Facebook urges.

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