Apple Mac Common Faults, How to Identify Them, and Services We Have to Fix Them

Here at MacUpgrades we live and breath Apple Mac computers, and have done for 20 years. That said there have been a number of common issues which have plagued some Mac models. For a lot of these problems we have solutions. This is not exhaustive list of every problem we can repair, but an attempt to help people identify more common issues and the solutions that are available for them. If you have a fault that is not listed or a machine that is not listed we can still help. Get in touch and let us know the issue - this guide is just intended to give an overview for specific known issues on particular Mac models, rather than list every possible fault.

We also have a more general Mac repair guide, that gives information on how to diagnose issues on Macs.

Choose the type of mac from the tabs below to see the most common issues for the different machines.

  • MacBook Pro
  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook
  • iMac
  • Mac Pro
  1. MacBook Pro Aluminium 2008 15" & 17" – the Last Silver-Keyboard Model

    Graphics card failures: The Nvidia 8800 graphics cards in these machine have a manufacturing defect which leads to graphical distortion on the display and or incomplete booting through. A very big problem on these machines, which lead to an extended repair program from Apple, which didn't fix the underlying issue. The only fix we have for these is a temporary one called a Reflow. Given the age of these machines its only really worthwhile if you have a need for an older operating system.

    Screen weakness: The metal surrounds on the LCDs of these machines often break at the sides near the hinges. This was an unforeseen weakness in the design of the LCD assembly. These days this fault is not worth repairing given the age of the machine.

  2. MacBook Pro 13" 2009 - 2012 – (All Unibody Models)

    Drive cable failures: The cable which connects the hard drive to the logic board runs through 3 90 degree bends, and the copper inside the cable cracks and becomes brittle over time. This exhibits in the same way as a hard drive failure, and may cause a hard drive failure as well. We often recommend removing the optical drive and using a caddy to fit an SSD in the optical drive space as a way round this issue, since replacement cables are also prone to fail.

  3. MacBook Pro 2009 15" & 17" - the First Revision of the Unibody Model

    Screen weakness: The display starts to come away from the hinge area. This was an unforeseen weakness in the design of the LCD assembly where the adhesive fails. This is repairable, but the costs (around £200 + vat) are more expensive than the machine is worth.

    Failure to power on: Frequently caused by a faulty capacitor on the memory power rail C7771. Some of these machines have a small capacitor which begins to short to ground. This exhibits as no power at all when pressing the power button. This is something we can repair - see out fixed cost repair service. Be aware that other things can cause these symptoms - if you bring or send the machine to us we can test for you.

  4. MacBook Pro 2010 15"

    Kernel Panic issues: This is a very common issue on the 15in 2010 MacBook Pros (logic board number 820-2850), often mistakenly attributed to a failed GPU or graphics chip. In fact, in most cases, the issue is with a tantalum capacitor on the logic board (C9560). This capacitor often fails and causes a slight short to ground, so when the computer switches from the integrated (Intel HD Graphics) to the dedicated (Nvidia GeForce GT 330M) GPU it causes a kernel panic. The solution is to replace the C9560 capacitor for a larger and more reliable polymer capacitor (extending the ground plane to allow fixation). We have a fixed price service to repair this fault.

    Graphics card failures: Very rare (it is often the capacitor problem above), but if you get actual graphical distortion on screen it is likely that the GPU has failed. At this point logic board replacement is the only option. This is around £250 + Vat.

  5. MacBook Pro 2011 15" & 17"

    Graphics card failures: This is THE MOST COMMON failure of any MacBook Pro ever made. It affects almost every machine. It exhibits as graphical distortion or incomplete/cyclical booting. The fault is with one of the Graphics chips. There are lots of poor fixes out there (replacing logic board for example is pointless, re-balling is pointless as the fault always returns). As of January 2019 there is a new permanent fix where we permanently bypass the dedicated GPU. See our fixed cost repair service.

    Memory slot failure This relatively rare problem exhibits as the machine booting with 3 beeps from the speakers. To identify if this is a problem with RAM or sockets it is advisable to try the modules one at a time in each socket. If the problem follows the socket not the chip then the socket is dead. As the costs of replacing the logic board are high we would recommend maxing the RAM in the one working socket (1 x 8GB single chip), and living with the dead socket.

  6. MacBook Pros 2012 15” Unibody (Not the 2012 Retina Model)

    Graphics card failures: A rare problem that causes graphical distortion on the screen or incomplete booting. Regretfully the only option here is to replace the logic board. This is expensive. Please contact us so that we can confirm the fault and quote accordingly.

    Memory slot failure: This exhibits as the machine booting with 3 beeps from the speakers. In a small number of cases, one of the memory sockets fails. To identify if this is a problem with RAM or sockets it is advisable to try the modules one at a time in each socket. If the problem stays with the socket, rather than following the chip, then the socket is dead. As the costs of replacing the logic board are high, we would recommend maxing the RAM in the one working socket (1 x 8GB single chip), and living with the dead socket.

  7. MacBook Pro 13" 2009 - 2012 (All Unibody Models)

    Drive cable failures: The cable which connects the hard drive to the logic board runs through 3 90 degree bends, and the copper inside the cable cracks and becomes brittle over time. This exhibits in the same way as a hard drive failure, and may cause a hard drive failure as well. We often recommend removing the optical drive and using a caddy to fit an SSD in the optical drive space as a way round this issue, since replacement cables are also prone to fail.

  8. MacBook Pro Late 2012/Early 2013 15” Retina (Not the 2012 Unibody Model)

    U8900 GMUX chip: A very common issue, often misidentified as a graphics card issue. Symptoms exhibit as either a black screen on boot (but the machine still chimes), or when playing a video or doing a GPU intensive task the machine will re-start and give a Kernel panic message talking about the MUX chip. The fault here is a manufacturing issue where the IC which provides power to the graphics chip develops bad connections to the logic board (due to being placed underneath a stress point). We have a fixed price fix for this issue here.

    “Staingate”: Delamination of the LCD panel. Nicknamed “Staingate”, this is where the anti reflective coating comes off the LCD. Apple may still replace the screen for you for free. Check with them for details.

    SSD failures: SSDs are much more reliable than hard drives, but they do have a failure rate. Fortunately these are replaceable. Select your Mac by entering your serial number into our site, to see the options we have for these machines.

  9. MacBook Pro Late 2013/2014 13" Retina

    “Staingate”: Delamination of the LCD panel. Nicknamed “Staingate”, this is where the anti reflective coating comes off the LCD. Apple may still replace the screen for you for free. Check with them for details.

    SSD failures: SSDs are much more reliable than hard drives, but they do have a failure rate. Fortunately these are replaceable. Select your Mac by entering your serial number into our site, to see the options we have for these machines.

  10. MacBook Pro Late 2013 - 2015 15” Retina

    Randomly powering off: The CPU has several power states and voltages. Some CPUs have become unstable at the extremely low voltage on one of it’s cores. The CPU will sometimes briefly dip into that power state, and if it happens to be on the core where it is unstable, you will see the “silent” crash. Screen goes black, a few seconds later it dies completely. There is an inexpensive piece of software which may resolve this issue without replacing the logic board. You can buy it from here.

    Battery swelling: The batteries in these machines are more likely to swell than earlier versions. There was an extended warranty for some of the machines in this series, you can check eligibility here on the Apple website. If not we can replace the batteries for a reasonable cost.

    “Staingate”: Delamination of the LCD panel. Nicknamed “Staingate”, this is where the anti reflective coating comes off the LCD. Apple may still replace the screen for you for free. Check with them for details.

    SSD failures: SSDs are much more reliable than hard drives, but they do have a failure rate. Fortunately these are replaceable. Select your Mac by entering your serial number into our site, to see the options we have for these machines.

  11. MacBook Pro Early 2015 13" Retina

    Keyboard and trackpad stop working together: This is a common issue caused by the failure of the trackpad to logic board cable. As the keyboard and trackpad use the same systems, this exhibits as both stopping working at the same time (failure can sometime be intermittent, working for a while, but it always causes both to stop working). We can resolve this for around £80 + Vat including parts and labour. Please contact us if you have this issue.

    “Staingate”: Delamination of the LCD panel. Nicknamed “Staingate”, this is where the anti reflective coating comes off the LCD. Apple may still replace the screen for you for free. Check with them for details.

    SSD failures: SSDs are much more reliable than hard drives, but they do have a failure rate. Fortunately these are replaceable. Select your Mac by entering your serial number into our site, to see the options we have for these machines.

  12. MacBook Pro 13" 2016 (Non-Touchbar Model)

    SSD failures: The SSD drives in these machines are prone to failure. At time of writing there is an extended repair scheme for this issue here.

    Keyboard issues: The keyboards on these units have a lot of problems. Random keys will stop working. Apple has now acknowledged this fault, and there is an extended repair scheme for it here.

    Battery failures: There is an Apple extended repair scheme for these machine which can be found here.

  13. MacBook Pro 15" 2016 - 2019

    Keyboard issues: The keyboards on these units have a lot of problems. Random keys will stop working. Apple has now acknowledged this fault, and there is an extended repair scheme for it here.

  14. MacBook Pro 13" 2016 - 2019

    Keyboard issues: The keyboards on these units have a lot of problems. Random keys will stop working. Apple has now acknowledged this fault, and there is an extended repair scheme for it here.

    Display issues (Stage lights effect): This exhibits as bright spots along the bottom of the LCD panel. At time of writing Apple acknowledged this fault and there is an extended repair scheme for this here.

Overall the MacBook Airs are pretty reliable and resilient. Mostly due to only having onboard graphics and no dedicated GPUs. The faults listed below are far less common that those on the MacBook Pros.

  1. MacBook Air 13" 2008 & 2009

    RAM failures: This exhibits as the machine not turning on, and playing a repeating 3 tone sound through the speaker. In all MacBook Airs the RAM is soldered onto the logic board, so these faults normally require logic board replacement. Probably not worth it in these older machines, but contact us for a quote if you are interested.

    SSD and HDD failures: These first generation machines used a ZIF style storage device which was also used in the iPods. These faults normally exhibit as flashing folder or incomplete booting. Parts are available for some of the machines. Enter your serial number into our site to see the compatible drives we offer for these machines.

  2. MacBook Air 13" & 11" 2010 – 2012

    RAM failures: This exhibits as the machine not turning on, and playing a repeating 3 tone sound through the speaker. In all MacBook Airs the RAM is soldered onto the logic board, so these faults normally require logic board replacement. This is expensive, and may not be an economical repair in some cases, but contact us for a quote if you are interested.

    SSD failures: SSDs are much more reliable than hard drives, but they do have a failure rate. Fortunately these are replaceable. Select your Mac by entering your serial number into our site, to see the options we have for these machines.

    CPU failures: The CPUs in these machines seem much more prone to catastrophic failure than other Macs. These faults exhibit as no power issues, so we would need to see a machine in order to confirm the fault. If the CPU has indeed died then a replacement board would be necessary. Often for these machine the cost of this is uneconomical.

  3. MacBook Air 13" & 11" 2013 - 2017

    Tantalum capacitor problems: Normally exhibits as a no power issue, so we would need to see the machine to test and confirm the fault. We see a lot of MacBook Airs which have capacitor issues. In nearly all these cases logic the board is repairable with our repair service.

    RAM failure: This exhibits as the machine not turning on and playing a repeating 3 tone sound through the speaker. In all MacBook Airs the RAM is soldered onto the logic board, so these faults normally require a complete logic board replacement. Please contact us for a quote.

    SSD failures: SSDs are much more reliable than hard drives, but they do have a failure rate. Fortunately these are replaceable. Select your Mac by entering your serial number into our site, to see the options we have for these machines.

  4. MacBook Air 13" 2018 and 2019

    Keyboard issues: The keyboards on these units have a lot of problems. Random keys will stop working. Apple has now acknowledged this fault, and there is an extended repair scheme for it here.

  1. MacBook 13" 2006 – 2008 White/Black (Models With Coin-Slot Removable Battery)

    Screen goes dark: This is due to the inverter cable, running through the right hand side hinge, becoming damaged. It can be replaced. Contact us for a quote, though please be aware that the age of these machines make almost any repair uneconomical.

  2. MacBook 13" 2009 - 2010 Unibody

    CPU failures: Exhibits as a no boot power issue. This is only resolvable through a logic board replacement, which is not normally an economical repair to do, though we can quote you on it if you wish.

  3. MacBook 12" 2015 – 2017 Retina

    CPU failures: Exhibits as a no boot power issue. In our opinion, the worst machine Apple have made for failing. These machines were almost iPads, but with a closable screen and keyboard built in. The system is built all in to a single tiny PCB. These units mostly die with CPU failures, leaving the data on the built in SSD unrecoverable. These are pretty much unrepairable, apart from replacing the Logic Board – but as these failures are endemic to all the boards, it is not a repair we recommend.

    Keyboard issues: The keyboards on these units have a lot of problems. Random keys will stop working. Apple has now acknowledged this fault, and there is an extended repair scheme for it here, but we recommend trying to see if Apple will give you a credit towards a newer machine instead of repairing these, due to the endemic CPU failures.

We love iMacs here at MacUpgrades, they are great machines. But many of the the early ones are plagued with common graphics card issues. This was prevalent in many of the thick iMacs (those with a DVD drive). The thin iMacs don’t exhibit these faults, and make great machines to upgrade, especially as many of them were sold with a low performance hard drive.

  1. iMac 24" 2008

    GPU failures: The NVidia 8800GS graphics card used on many of these machines was extremely prone to failure. This exhibits in a variety of ways, either as graphical artifacts, incomplete booting, or no display. The only real fixes for these (other than difficult and very rare MXM PC cards) is a temporary one called a Reflow. You can find details on this here, though given the temporary nature of the fix and the age of the machine, it is no longer something we generally recommend.

  2. iMac 21.5" & 27" Late 2009 – 2011

    GPU failures: All the machines in this range with dedicated graphics cards are failure prone to GPU failure. This exhibits in a variety of ways, either as graphical artifacts, incomplete booting, or no display. The only real fixes for these (other than difficult and very rare MXM PC cards) is a temporary one called a Reflow. You can find details on this here.

    LCD failures: Much more common in the 27" models. Exhibits in the LCD going blank after a period of operation, or not turning on at all (whilst chiming and running underneath). Given that these machines are also prone to GPU failure, replacing the screen is not really economically viable, though we can quote you on it if you wish - likely to be around £200 - £300 + vat.

  3. iMac 2012 27"

    Randomly shutting off: A difficult issue to get to the bottom of. Sometimes this is the logic board, sometimes this is the power supply, or sometimes both. But the fault(s) seem to be to be specific to the 2012 27" model. Please get in touch if you would like us to help with this issue.

  4. iMac 2013 – 2019 21" & 27"

    Poor hard drives: – The machines in these ranges which shipped with either the Fusion or Hard Drive only options, seem to have very poor speeds and reliability, even more than would be normal for any hard drive. A slow drive exhibits with long boot times and seeing the spinning wheel frequently. This is something we resolve many times daily by fitting an SSD. Select your Mac by entering your serial number into our site to see options, or get in touch.

  1. Mac Pro 2006 - 2008

    GPU failures: Exhibits as incomplete booting, graphical distortion, or no display. In there machines the card are easily replaceable, but the parts are more difficult to find as they are now quite old. Radeon 5770 or 5870 are a good bet, though any functional card that was pulled from a Mac of this range will work.

  2. Mac Pro 2009 - 2012

    GPU failures: Exhibit as incomplete booting, graphical distortion or no display. In there machines the card are easily replaceable, we sell a good modern card for this machine here (note: requires OS X 10.12.6 or later, which for the 2009 model requires upgrading the firmware).