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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > 2010 iMac, dying GFX card?

2010 iMac, dying GFX card?
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sek929
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Oct 11, 2017, 01:58 PM
 


Friend messaged me today with this picture, my first reaction was "that looks like a dying GFX card"

It's a 2010 i3, integrated GFX, not sure which chipset. This would mean that the entire motherboard would need to be replaced, right? Also, could this be a dying LCD or something else that might be a bit easier to fix?

I'm going by there later on today to give it a look and reset SMC/PRAM. I don't have high hopes for either.

Thoughts?

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reader50
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Oct 11, 2017, 02:24 PM
 
I agree, dying GPU. The good news: 2009-2011 iMacs have real MXM Graphics cards. Replaceable. The bad news - replacements are costly. eBay always has a few.

There has been talk about flashing MXM cards to become Mac compatible for a fraction of the price. This would also put later, more-powerful cards on the table. But I haven't seen anything on the market yet.

I think you can install an unflashed PC MXM card, and have it work in recent versions of macOS. But without flashing, there is no video during bootup, or for option-boot drive selection. Not a problem most of the time, but it would be a major drag for debugging.
     
sek929  (op)
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Oct 11, 2017, 03:49 PM
 
I think they’d be fine with just replacing it with the card they currently have, I’ll have to check eBay for some prices.

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reader50
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Oct 11, 2017, 04:03 PM
 
Beware that the heat sinks (heat pipes) have often failed too. In fact, slow failure of the HS is a big reason why these GPUs fail. Even if it looks pristine, the refrigerant may have bled out - it doesn't leave a stain.

So if you want a quick solution, buy a replacement with HS that has been tested. Otherwise you should do temperature monitoring and make sure the HS is still good. A bad HS will soon blow the replacement card.

If you do proceed with a repair, I suggest maxing out the RAM while it's open. And put in a newer/bigger/faster HDD. Or an SSD.
     
Waragainstsleep
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Oct 11, 2017, 04:20 PM
 
Replacing it with a working pull isn't likely to last very long. You want someone who can replace the GPU chip on the daughterboard. I know they are based on MXM but I've never heard of anyone succeeding in flashing one and installing it and I'm pretty sure it would have happened if it was in any way straightforward.

I know an outfit in the UK that does the chip swaps for less than many replacement pulls go for on eBay atm. I know some chips are impossible to get but I've had two done for customers this year without issue.
If you can't find anyone in the US to do it, PM me.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
sek929  (op)
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Oct 11, 2017, 04:55 PM
 
Interesting...

I found this and it seems to be the card and the heatsink assembly in one.

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reader50
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Oct 11, 2017, 05:01 PM
 
I'd contact them first, to confirm the HS is included. They do warn the picture may not be representative.

Oh, and while you're inside the iMac, blow out the fans and air passageways. Does wonders for cooling and quiet operation.
     
P
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Oct 11, 2017, 07:01 PM
 
That defect, specifically, is that the solder balls under the video RAM have cracked. They do this on the model because Apple switched to lead-free solder, and it took a few generations for them to get it right. The solder balls crack when temperature shifts too much - when it heats up a lot, starts to cool down, and then heats up again, so the best fix is to make sure the cooling works.

I have heard of success with baking the GPU - i.e., heating it up in an oven to reflow the solder. It did not work for me, though.

I had not heard that the heatpipes are unreliable, but I guess it makes sense.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50
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Oct 11, 2017, 07:32 PM
 
P, have you heard of anyone doing GPU solder repairs? I have a 2011 MBP that just began to suffer the problem. Worked around by forcing the MBP to always use the integrated graphics, with a USB video adapter for external displays. But I sure miss the real thing.
     
P
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Oct 12, 2017, 04:46 AM
 
I do not. I tried it myself (because I was pulling the thing apart to get at the disk, so why not give it a chance?), but I see ads from people offering it on the local equivalent of Craigslist all the time.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
P
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Oct 12, 2017, 08:09 AM
 
One more point: My GPU had way too much heat transfer compound on the heatsink, and I have heard that this is not uncommon. If you decide to bake it yourself, it might be a good idea to apply that compound more carefully when you reattach the heatsink.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
Waragainstsleep
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Oct 12, 2017, 09:27 AM
 
I'll say it again, if you're going to spend $200-300, get the GPU chip replaced. Reflowing the solder is a temp fix.

Its my understanding that a lot of these chip packages have another BGA within the package somewhere which also fails.

Theres a guy in NY who does component level repairs. He has a Youtube channel. Louis Rossmann is his name.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
Waragainstsleep
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Oct 12, 2017, 09:28 AM
 
Originally Posted by sek929 View Post
Interesting...

I found this and it seems to be the card and the heatsink assembly in one.
Thats for a 2009. No good if yours is a 2010.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
Thorzdad
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Oct 12, 2017, 10:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by sek929 View Post
Interesting...

I found this and it seems to be the card and the heatsink assembly in one.
Sorry for this aside... I also have a 21.5" late-2009 iMac. That's an ATI GPU in that link. My iMac has an NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU. Were these options on this model, or did you just get whichever part was on the assembly line that day?
     
P
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Oct 12, 2017, 11:44 AM
 
Originally Posted by Thorzdad View Post
Sorry for this aside... I also have a 21.5" late-2009 iMac. That's an ATI GPU in that link. My iMac has an NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU. Were these options on this model, or did you just get whichever part was on the assembly line that day?
The Late 2009 iMacs were two different variants. The dualcores used the older Core 2 CPUs and could come with integrated graphics only, or with both discrete and integrated graphics. That is the 9400 model that you have. The quadcores are the more modern Core design where the memory controller is part of the CPU, and it was not possible to use integrated nVidia graphics, so all models use discrete AMD graphics (there were no integrated Intel graphics on the quadcores of that generation, and anyway this is before Intel graphics became half way decent). For the 2010 and 2011 models, both dualcore and quadcore models use the design from the 2009 quadcores and use discrete graphics only.

The MXM cards from the Late 2009, 2010 and 2011 models use the same interface and it is possible to upgrade to a newer model. The 2010 and quadcore Late 2009 models are for all intents and purposes identical, the only difference is the addition of a separate SSD, so it is probably OK to use an MXM from a Late 2009 model on a 2010.
( Last edited by P; Oct 12, 2017 at 11:59 AM. )
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
P
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Oct 12, 2017, 11:58 AM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
I'll say it again, if you're going to spend $200-300, get the GPU chip replaced. Reflowing the solder is a temp fix.

Its my understanding that a lot of these chip packages have another BGA within the package somewhere which also fails.

Theres a guy in NY who does component level repairs. He has a Youtube channel. Louis Rossmann is his name.
TBH, I'm not sure it is worth spending a lot of money repairing one of these models. Apple has made noises that they will stop supporting Macs in OS upgrades by the time they're obsolete by Apple's definition, which is seven years after Apple stopped producing them. The only 2009 model that is still supported in High Sierra is the iMac, and I'm pretty sure it is because the 2010 model has the same motherboard. It is therefore highly likely that High Sierra is the last version of the OS that will support the 2009 and 2010 iMacs.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
reader50
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Oct 12, 2017, 02:26 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
Theres a guy in NY who does component level repairs. He has a Youtube channel. Louis Rossmann is his name.
Thanks, that was enough to trace him.

Rossman Repair Group website
Louis Rossmann YouTube channel

They say they don't have 2011 MBP GPUs at present (apparently can't source the chips). I've sent an email asking to be placed on a waiting list in case they find some.
     
sek929  (op)
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Oct 13, 2017, 12:12 AM
 
Wow, as expected excellent tech advice from you guys. I’ll be getting the machine here in a day or two, still not entirely sure it’s worth the expense for my friends, but I may fix it regardless for fun. Apple products are challenging but rewarding to disassemble... unless it’s that insufferable glue they stick the screens on with now.....

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Waragainstsleep
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Oct 14, 2017, 10:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
Thanks, that was enough to trace him.

Rossman Repair Group website
Louis Rossmann YouTube channel

They say they don't have 2011 MBP GPUs at present (apparently can't source the chips). I've sent an email asking to be placed on a waiting list in case they find some.
My guys did say there was one chip they couldn't get as they were out of production now. Oddly they have done some 2010 models for me of late without issue, must be a more popular chip.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
Waragainstsleep
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Oct 14, 2017, 10:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by Thorzdad View Post
Sorry for this aside... I also have a 21.5" late-2009 iMac. That's an ATI GPU in that link. My iMac has an NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU. Were these options on this model, or did you just get whichever part was on the assembly line that day?
The 9400m is the integrated system controller IIRC. I don't recall ever working on one of these though I might have one with a blown PSU, I'd need to check. If you're lucky, maybe there is a slot for the discrete GPU to be added. Again though, beware paying too much for a used GPU pull because its life is likely limited.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
Thorzdad
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Oct 15, 2017, 11:42 AM
 
Nah, even though I do graphic design, I've been happy with the integrated part. Frankly, the only issue I have with this iMac is that one of the fans likes to run a lot. I'm guessing there's probably a bad heat sensor somewhere.
     
sek929  (op)
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Nov 2, 2017, 07:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by Thorzdad View Post
Sorry for this aside... I also have a 21.5" late-2009 iMac. That's an ATI GPU in that link. My iMac has an NVIDIA GeForce 9400 GPU. Were these options on this model, or did you just get whichever part was on the assembly line that day?
I finally have an answer for this.

Got the machine to boot in safe mode and the card is what I had linked above. I'm not opposed to a 512 as a replacement if it's compatible.

Perused the iFixit guide and it's not a repair for the feint of heart. The amount of tiny cables and connectors that need to be gently unplugged is out of control. Remember the towel trick for the xbox 360? Think toweling the iMac and leaving it on will fix the solder?

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reader50
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Nov 2, 2017, 08:34 PM
 
No - do not try that. Overheating the whole machine is likely to blow other components. Reflowing cracked solder requires careful application of a heat gun. To just the component in question.
     
   
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