Fixing a 2011 MacBook Pro booting to a Grey Screen - AMD Radeon Video Glitch

I've been a Mac user for years, and I've repaired hundreds of different Macs, from the early II series to the latest 2015 and 2016 model MacBook Pros, iMacs (and other Apple hardware to boot!), and there is almost never a hardware situation where I've thrown in the towel and told someone to ditch their Mac.

The 2011 MacBook Pro has, for almost a decade, been the exception to that rule. There was a major flaw in the AMD Radeon GPUs included with that model year's logic board which seemed to cause GPU failure either due to overheating, internal chip problems, BGA solder joints getting broken, or a combination of the above. The problem was so rampant, Apple was forced to set up a free repair program for affected MacBook Pros—though the 2011 model has since been dropped from that program. I've handled three 2011 MacBook Pros (none of them my own—I had an Air back then), and all three of them were scrapped because of the GPU issue.

My sister just turned over her 2011 15" MacBook Pro, which she said was running slow, and I dug in. First off, it was using a slow 5200 RPM hard disk; after replacing that with a nice, fast SSD, and ensuring she had 8 GB of RAM in the laptop, I was pretty pleased with my work, and was about to shut down the laptop and send it on its way. But then, I noticed the display would 'glitch'. Horizontal banding, some weird color issues... things I had seen before.

Replaced 5200 rpm hard drive HDD with Samsung 850 SSD in 2011 MacBook Pro
Replacing the slow hard drive with an SSD makes this thing feel brand new!

Beginning of the Debugging Journey

Fearing the worst, I rebooted into the Apple Hardware Test mode (right after startup sound, hold 'D' key). I ran the quick test, which found no errors. So I ran the full (super long) test... no errors again. Huh—usually the GPU issue would present itself during the AHT, but not this time.

Apple Hardware Test - No problems found. AHT

So I rebooted. Apple logo, then progress bar, then grey screen. Ten minutes later, still a grey screen—and the fans are spinning madly. Not good.

So then I tried:

  • Safe mode (hold down Shift from startup sound through to login or desktop)—same thing, stuck on grey screen after Apple logo + progress bar.
  • Recovery mode (hold down Command + R from startup sound to Apple logo)—same thing, again.
  • Internet Recovery mode (hold down Option + Command + R from startup sound to Apple logo)—same thing, again.

Getting nervous, I then tried single-user mode (hold down Command + S from startup sound until you see the matrix text going past as the Mac boots into it's FreeBSD underpinnings)—and was happy to find at least this worked fine. I did an fsck -y to check the hard disk. A few records were off, but they were repaired successfully. I didn't see anything obviously wrong, but knowing from past experience that problems usually surface only when the GPU/Radeon .kext files (Kernel Extensions) are loaded... I was assuming the worst.

I was going to pop out the SSD and RAM, and suggest my sister sell the laptop for scrap... but then I thought twice—I would look if there was any possible way to resurrect this thing.

Obviously everything else was working fine—Internet Recovery proved wifi/networking was okay. Single user mode proved disk, RAM, CPU, and even integrated graphics were okay. The only thing that seemed wrong was the Radeon GPU. Surely there's a way to bypass it!

Lucky for me, I found this answer on Stack Exchange: GPU problem - Boot Hangs on Grey Screen.

Attempting to drop the Radeon .kexts

That answer had a fairly comprehensive guide to—using software changes only—disable the Radeon GPU and get the Mac happy again.

After running through the guide twice, I eventually got the Mac to boot... to a grey screen again. But this time it would reboot itself within a minute or so, so that was different! Alas, after hacking around a bit more with System Integrity Protection disabled, the reboot cycle eventually became quite short indeed:

(This got old, fast.)

Hitting dead ends when attempting the software fix, I was about ready to throw in the towel... but then I scrolled further in that Stack Exchange answer, and noticed a link to this interesting article: MacBook 2011 Radeon GPU Disable - Real Radeongate Solution.

Being somewhat handy with a soldering iron (but having never done SMD work—basically, soldering little bits and bobs that are the size of a speck of dust!), I thought I'd give it a go. Better than telling my sister to junk the laptop!

Hardware hack to cut off the GPU entirely

I'm not going to rehash the entire article from RealMacMods (after all, they found the process, and they also offer it as a service for $85 for anyone not willing or able to do it himself!), but I did want to highlight a few parts where I think it's important to further illustrate what needs to happen.

The first part of the process involves prepping the software side of the Mac by doing the following:

  1. Build a USB boot drive with Arch Linux.
  2. Boot the MacBook Pro from said USB drive (hold option key at startup to choose it).
  3. Follow the directions to get in the right Arch Linux boot mode so you get to the console.
  4. Hack your EFI by adding a file telling your Mac to disable the Radeon GPU.
  5. Reboot into Safe Boot mode (Shift key all the way through startup).
  6. Shut down using the Apple Menu > Shut Down option.

Again, see the source article from RealMacMods for the gory details (they even offer a $10 download to package up the fix for you—well worth it if you're not used to a command line!).

Once that's done, it's time to get your hands dirty, by permanently modifying the MacBook Pro's logic board!

First, to prepare the patient for surgery:

  1. Unplug the Mac, put it on a nice, non-scratching, non-static surface, and flip it over. (I use a cutting mat on my workbench... which is an old desk).
  2. Unscrew the 10 tiny phillips screws on the bottom.
  3. Pull off the back cover (should come off quite easily unless it's dented somewhere), and place it aside.

At this point, you're going to want to make sure you have the tools to make this operation not-impossible—you need to desolder / remove a tiny resistor ('R8911') from the logic board, and you need a few tools to do that:

Weller soldering station and magnifying glass at workbench with 2011 MacBook Pro
Pictured: Weller soldering station, helping hand with magnifying glass, and a precision tip for the soldering iron.

You can use a handheld magnifying glass... but if you're like me, you're going to need both hands to steady the soldering iron when desoldering the tiny, tiny resistor from the logic board. How tiny? Take a look through the magnifying glass:

MacBook Pro 2011 Radeon GPU disable resistor through magnifying glass

Still don't see it? Let's zoom and enhance:

MacBook Pro 2011 Radeon GPU resistor to disable highlighted through magnifying glass

And a wider shot, for perspective:

MacBook Pro 2011 Radeon GPU resistor highlighted

So, with the resistor identified, it's time to turn on the iron (I set mine to 500°F and tinned the tip with a tiny bit of lead-free solder) and get to work! I hold the iron in my left hand, and provide a little resistive force to steady it with my right hand. Touch the tip of the iron to each metal side of the resistor (where the joints are), alternating one side to the other for about 1-2 seconds each, until you notice the resistor starts to become free from the logic board. Once that happens (after about 15 seconds in my case), put the tip against the side of the resistor facing the open space on the logic board, and push, with a very slight upward (away from the logic board) force.

You might need to keep heating the resistor a bit before it pops free. And if you're like me, you might shoot the little resistor a few inches across the logic board! Just be sure to do the following after it comes off:

  1. Make sure there's not a solder joint between the two pads where the resistor used to be. If there are, heat the pads with the iron tip until you can 'wick away' the solder a little. Just enough to not join the two pads together.
  2. Set down the iron / put it in it's holder, and get the resistor off the logic board. Hopefully you can just lift the bottom-cover-less laptop, turn it over, and you see a tiny black speck fall to you work surface.

After you get the resistor off. Take a second and marvel at it's minute size. And realize there are thousands of these things soldered to the logic board!

Resistors - through hole and tiny SMD surface mount

Those are specks of dust in the image—except for the very-slightly-larger black spec next to the standard through-hole resistor. The resistor is small enough I can't pick it up with my fingers—or even a standard needle-nose pliers!

With the resistor gone, one step remains: replace the bottom cover, plug it in, and turn it on!

I did so, and less than 40 seconds later (the SSD makes the boot process fast!), the Mac was as good as it's ever been, sans AMD Radeon GPU:

Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated graphics GPU and no AMD Radeon GPU on 2011 MacBook Pro

One last thread that was worth a read-through for more background and debugging information was from the RealMacMods forum, After GPU repair issues (R8911 removal). After removing the resistor, be very careful when upgrading the OS or making other major changes (be sure to keep current backups!). And, as suggested by RMM, try to avoid resetting the NVRAM, just in case that makes things go a bit south.

Comments

Great Read! - fixed two 2011 MBP's that I got oon E-bay this way. THANKS. I also checked out as you said Real Mac Mods.

Does this mod have an impact on Thunderbolt I/O or use of MiniDisplayPort adapters for additional monitor?

I didn't test either, but I would assume the external monitor will work okay, but you won't have the same performance as before the operation, since only the onboard chip (which can't support two high res displays at the same time as well as the Radeon) is crunching graphics.

i spoke with adam at real mac mods who said you dont need a hard drive inside the mac to do this procedure.
he also said if if there is no hard drive the safe boot procedure is not required.

Just wondering, what if I remove the resistor and do a clean installation of the OS, would it still needs the EFI mode? Because technically the OS should see the laptop as having only the Intel GPU only.

Anytime that you would update or do a clean install it will overwrite the efi chip and the efi hack would need to be performed again.

Thank you very much for this! Very helpful.

Thank you very much for this... I'm not talented enough to do this procedure myself, but someone savvy generously accepted to try it for me... And it's amazing! I've decided to change my HDD for a SSD... and It's like having a bran new CPU. It's been almost a week since the hack and everything works perfectly. Only thing : my external monitor (minidisplay) stopped working. Do you know if anyone had the same issue? Is their a fix (or is it the price to pay to kill the Radeon beast?) Best!

I think external monitors should still work after this hack, but it could be that the resolution is too high for the integrated graphics to drive the external display, or maybe for some reason the Mac is not recognizing the external display at all due to some signaling issue.

Do you have the ability to try connecting through a different interface? E.g. if the monitor has DVI and VGA, and DVI is not working, try the VGA connection instead.

From what I know, the external displays physically relies on the AMD, so I would not expect it to work after this hack. Anyway, it's way better to have a working Macbook (with pretty decent performances given its age) without external display than a very expensive flat grey desk lamp turning on and off.

Hi Jeff and thanks for that article !

I did the same thing to my machine (early 2011 15") but noticed that the thermal sensor from de dGPU was still reporting temperatures from 35 to 45 degree (using iStatmenu), have you got the same thing ?

As I understanded the mod was to cut power to the chip powering the dGPU so… that seems od to me

Thank you for finding and posting this fantastic article from realmacmods.com !!! I just saved my early 2011 MacBook Pro!

I did this mod and now my screen wont turn on help!

I got the same.... black screen when switch on... can see Keyboard have light on but Screen nothing, even cannot hear any startup sound!

Anyone experience the same and how do you solve it?

I have similar issues. MBP 15" works fine using internal GPU after software mods. Resistor removal - black screen and no hdmi but MBP still works fine I can share desktop and work on it from another mac.

I wander if the firmware update is needed? I got MBP8,2 BootRom MBP81.0047.B32 SMC 1.69F4
What is yours?

No solution so far.

I see there are updates MBP81.0047.2AB and SMC1.69f3
weird though SMC seems lower version that I have, hard to tell if boot rom vertion is lower or higher.

Before the hardware mod, did you do the EFI mod? Did you tested the EFI mod before removing the resistor? And don't do a Pram-Reset!

Hi Jeff, Thank you for this post. I have the same issue with my early 2011 MBP. In fact, I am on my second logic board, the first having been replaced under Apple's repair program after the first crash. So, I wanted to ask you as (as well as others who have used this fix) whether you have faced any issues with the MBP since you did this, since it has been 7 months since your post. Thanks in advance.

if anyone wants macbook parts apart from the mother board contact me cuz i killed a macbook but i paid less than 100 dollars for it anyways

Great article!!

Is it necessary to disable the resistor? I know that by doing so you'll save heat and battery, but if I don't have any concerns about that are the software mods sufficient?

I ran it for a few weeks with the software mods only. I found I had to rerun the script almost every time I rebooted or it wouldn’t work. I decided to remove the resistor and it’s been flawless since.

If you don't remove the resistor it will sometimes give weird performance issues and flashes on the screen. I removed mine by taking a small flat head screwdriver and heating it with a heat gun and then pushing on it for a second or two lightly and it came off.

I have a late 2011 17 inch Macbook Pro, and have had the logic board replaced once already (under Apples extended program) although that expired in December 2016, and the problem with the AMD chip reoccured just a couple of days ago! This is such a fantastic laptop and I have no reason to upgrade it as it performs fantastically with an SSD and 16GB ram. I've just performed this mod, both the EFI mod and hardware resistor removal and I was amazed to discover it worked! I figured I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain - now my AMD chip doesn't appear in the list exactly as described, and it boots way quicker too.

One thing I would say when removing the resistor - that thing is so damned small and I was worried I was going to damage nearby components by trying to get this tiny thing off. All it took was a very small flat blade screwdriver applying just a tiny bit of pressure to the side of the resistor whilst applying heat to one of the legs on the resistor - after that the leg detached and I was able to just move the resistor back and forth a tiny bit to detach it from the other leg and a nice clean removal! I haven't done the jumper mod yet so my display wakes up after sleep so I just need to remember to do a shut down each time instead of a sleep but that mod is for another day...

hi i would like to do this
Build a USB boot drive with Arch Linux.
Boot the MacBook Pro from said USB drive (hold option key at startup to choose it).
Follow the directions to get in the right Arch Linux boot mode so you get to the console.
Hack your EFI by adding a file telling your Mac to disable the Radeon GPU.
Reboot into Safe Boot mode (Shift key all the way through startup).
Shut down using the Apple Menu > Shut Down option.

but my macbook doesnt boot from external drives it also hangs there is that going to cause my trouble?
thank you

Ugh!!!! So I was thrilled to follow these steps and resurrect my 2011 Macbook Pro 17" laptop. I even picked up a Samsung 512GB SSD. Everything worked flawless... except the display keys would not dim the screen. Ok, no biggie. After googling a bit I found that resetting the NVRAM/PRAM should fix this.

I now have a booted laptop with a black screen! It has the keyboard backlight on and the second internal drive is chugging away, but no display!!! I've reset the NVRAM a couple of times and the SMC too. Still no joy.

Any ideas?

Whew! A HUGE thanks to Adam at RealMacMods.com for giving the direction I needed. I had purchased there packaged up files to boot and mod the Gfx driver use over at https://realmacmods.com/macbook-2011-radeon-gpu-disable/. After I screwed things up, I reached out to him. He provided these instructions:

  1. unplug the internal HDD and CD drive
  2. plug in USB thumb drive previously created to boot Ubuntu package (It is modded for MacBook pro)
  3. hit power
  4. wait 60 seconds
  5. hit enter
  6. wait 60 seconds
  7. hit enter
  8. shortly after, your screen should come one and you will be able to follow the instructions and run the tool again

Running the tool creates an EFI variable that tells the OS not to switch to the AMD GPU. Removing the resistor kills the power to the GPU.

The variable is stored in the NVRAM, so if you clear NVRAM it clears the custom variable.

The brightness issue is present in High Sierra, but not in Sierra or below. The only viable solution in HS at this point is an app called Brightness Slider in the app store. It's free.

Saved my bacon!! Thanks again Adam!

That's awesome, and thanks so much for posting the follow-up here!

Good thing I didn't try to reset my pram!

The biggest issue im having is the lack of sleep functionality on my laptop - the mod has made the computer usable again, but it would be amazing if there were a way to get the computer top be bale to sleep again. any tips on this? running high Sierra here.

To have sleep/wake functionality working again in HS (no black screen on wake) you have to do the jumper mod. Search realmacmods site and you will find it. It's a simple mod, just a wire jumper between a resistor and a capacitor. I've made It on mine and It worked perfectly!

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much sprocket12 for sharing your instructions received by Adam from RealMacMods. YOU MAKE MY DAY!!!!

I've tried the manual steps from RealMacMods and removed the resistor but after doing that the MBP was booting but I had nothing but a black screen . I thought that I screwed something on the main board while removing the R8911 restore.

I found your comment and bought the moded disk image from RealMacMod (The best 10$ spent of my life ;)

I follow your steps and BINGO! I now have a display and I have executed the script included and the faulty GPU is disabled

The only thing that I have to do is to solder the jumper for getting High sierra to work.

By the way, does soldering this jumper for high sierra will also fix the problem with the keyboard brightness keys that not working?

thanks again guys!!

Anyone know if the issue is the same for the brightness on Moave as it is on High Seirra?

Great and easy, I took the shortcut and paid the $10, wow in less then 10 minutes I have a functional Mac again! My air is ok but i love my pro. I can see where the sleep function will drive me nuts so i will keep researching on how to get that working again or a work around. Thanks so much for your direction. I too only use a magnifying glass and your pics to remove the resistor with a small flat screwdriver. verified no connecting element left and replaced cover! Thanks again as you just saved me 1500 getting the new macbook air!

Hey David have you tried the mod from ReakMacMod for High Sierra ?

From their site : “ ADDITIONAL STEP FOR HIGH SIERRA

High Sierra requires an additional hardware mod. This jumper wire is different between 15″ and 17″, both are shown below. Without this mod, your screen WILL NOT turn on after going to sleep. On the 15″ we just need to put a small jumper wire (enamel wire) between PIN 2 of R9704 and PIN 1 of C9711. Logic board does not need to be removed for this step. Only bottom cover removed.“

Thanks for your wonderful contribution. I have been going nuts since my early 2011 17" MBP started misbehaving. I do most of my work in Bootcamp, and disabling the discrete GPU allows windows to boot, but the display resolution is too poor for any work, since Windows does not use the inbuilt GPU.

Can you assist me with short answers to the following?

1. If I remove the resistor, and thus permanently disable the discrete GPU, will bootcamp (Windows) suddenly start seeing and using the inbuilt GPU?
2. I found a brand new logic board for a late 2011 17" MBP on eBay at an insane price. What is the likelyhood that this new logic board will eventually develop the same discrete GPU problem?

Thanks.

Hi to all,
I just encounter this issue in my MBP 15", if some one share with me automated utility to disable your AMD Radeon GPU, download from https://realmacmods.com/product/macbook-pro-2011-radeon-disable-utility/
I am trying to purchase but unfortunately site not responding.

thank you

Two days ago (Sunday, November 13, 2018), I also attempted to buy the $10 download from RealMacMods. Managed to have the credit card charge make it through and set up my account/password (I think), then suddenly the site went down. This morning (Tuesday) I was able to get to the site but within a few minutes, it apparently went down again. They must be having tech problems. I'll wait until this afternoon at which point I'll try and contact someone at Elite, since there seems to be some commercial relationship with them.
I definitely want to try this solution and am willing to pay them to do the work themselves with my 2011 17" MBP.

Thank for helping me with my fears, I was able to gather the strength to go after that R8911 - wow that thing is small... I just touched it on each end a few seconds at a time with a soldering gun (and a loupe to help with magnification) and eventually it came off... everything working great so far.

Quick question though - I am running El Capitan, if I upgrade to Sierra (or do any system updates) will the hack go away, needing to re-solder R8911... or am I good to go? What about getting rid of the boot chime (it needs a NVRAM change for it to work, but don't wanna mess with it because of the resistor)?

Adam at realmacmods is a genius. Really helpful support and it was a real treat to see the display burst into life again. For $10 that's fantastic value for money.

I removed the resistor first (long story) so assumed I now had a dead machine but the wait 60s and hit enter, then wait 60 more before hitting enter again actually worked. Magical.

The USB needs to be FAT32 and Master Boot Record. Remember to use the provided 16.01 .iso provided, not the current one (dur).

Posting this from newly resurrected 15"MBP. 10.12 Sierra runs well; there are indeed sleep/wake and brightness issues in 10.13. But with an SSD and 8Gb RAM the 2011 MBP rides again!

Has anyone run into an issue where the backlight goes off and doesn't come back on, even with the jumper modification, downgrading the OS, reapplying the EFI variable fix and removing the resistor, i've run into this on 3 different logicboards. I've got 7 or 8 more logicboards, to hopefully not destroy, has anyone had problems with the backlight circut doing this mod?

Thank you, this saved my MacBook Pro 17" !

Just one thing, I did the USB using ArchLinux but when i did this command line :
printf "x07x00x00x00x01x00x00x00" > /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/gpu-power-prefs-fa4ce28d-b62f-4c99-9cc3-6815686e30f9

I got an error. After searching the web, i finally came up with the solution :
printf "\x07\x00\x00\x00\x01\x00\x00\x00" > /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/gpu-power-prefs-fa4ce28d-b62f-4c99-9cc3-6815686e30f9

I used "\" before every "x" and it worked !

Thanks again.

Hello,
I had the same issue and I tried this.
Unfortunately after removing the the resistor R8911, my mac boots now but a complete black screen.
Had someone the same result ?
Thanks

Hi Seyo,
I got the same issue. Did you fix it already?

Hi all. I'm the "Jim" from earlier in November who commented on problems with the Real Mac Mods website going down after I successfully purchased the $10 DIY download. Long story short, the website eventually resolved itself and I decided to send my late 2011 MBP in to them since the teenyness of the DIY effort was not something I finally decided to undertake. Adam at Real Mac Mods has done a spectacular/miraculous job of reviving my $3500 machine. Cannot thank him and Real Mac Mods enough. $85 plus shipping is far and away the best bargain going today.

That's awesome! Thanks for the follow-up, and the glowing recommendation of RMM!

Thank you Jeff and RealMacMods for this wonderful article and simple step by step instruction, how to do.
Today i did to My MBP 15" and its working fine without any issue.

Thanks once again.

Thanks so much for this useful guide. I've sent in my MacBook pro to a very skilled technician for the mods. The software side I did already and works well, though I did the manual way as per realmacmods.

Anyone know if the jumper wire will affect other operating systems such as Linux and Windows? Mine is running High Sierra and will have the screen issue after waking up from sleep, but once the wire is in place I have no idea if other operating systems will have issues with brightness/sleep.