MacBook Pro with ATI Radeon x1600 Display Anomalies

MacBook Pro (early 2006) users with ATI Radeon x1600 know these display anomalies desperately. These anomalies include horizontal lines on the screen, ugly distortions in images & videos and freeze ups / crashes (system crash) during normal usage.

I also have the same problem with my MacBook Pro. In my experience, this issue is related with firmware and hardware. I’ll explain them but first of all, if you have this problem with your MBP, don’t waste your time to reinstall Mac OS X, because the problem isn’t about OS X (Leopard, Snow Leopard…etc).

Firmware:
Problems with horizontal lines and system crashes began in mid 2008 after some firmware update. Some MBP users say; “I never had any problems with Tiger, then installed Leopard and all of a sudden my computer’s crashing all the time.” Yeah, this is true, but it is not about Leopard or Tiger. After Apple updated the firmware in 2008, then problem with display anomalies began. So don’t try to reinstall OS X. You can’t change your firmware, also you can’t revert to the old firmware too.

Hardware:
Overheating seems to be the important issue, once the temperature gets above ~ 65c usually system starts to exhibit graphics glitches, and then system crashes..etc. My MBP used to run at 78c (170f) at idle, wow look at the temperature at idle ! I even don’t want to talk about load temperature (around 92c). But before the firmware update (2008), there was no problem with temperature, temperature was still very high but wasn’t getting graphical errors or crashes.

Possible Fixes

smcFanControl
You can try smcFanControl. This little application lets you monitor the temperature and fan-speed of your intel mac. You can also set the minimum fan-speed for every fan manually and cool down your intel mac. I have been using smcFanControl for years, which does help significantly, but does not help when the computer is running 78c at idle (even with fans at 6005 rpm).

Reapply the Thermal Paste
I haven’t changed the thermal paste yet but some users did it.
Torley.com: “last saturday i’ve tried to change thermal paste on the GPU and CPU. I’ve seen that Apple Thermal paste was crunchy and solid. I’ve change for new artic silver 5 paste. But there is still horizontal line as soon as the temperature of GPU is over 60°C. But no more freeze…”

Clean your MacBook Pro
You can tightly and carefully vacuum the rear vent (where the screen meets the main body of the MacBook) with vacuum cleaner. This cleaning procedure maybe decrease some degrees of temperatures.

Install Windows / Linux
Somer users switched to Linux or Windows full-time and they say that the problem seems to have gone away. But I have to say that I haven’t had the same experience with them. When I boot into Windows XP, the splash screen displays anomalies. I even couldn’t install any Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Mint..etc) because of system crashes.

Main Solution

In conclusion, my MBP got worse and worse over time and I was only able to boot in safe mode. So my last chance was to remove ATI drivers from the system. When I removed the drivers, anomalies and crashes were all gone. You should know that; after removing these drivers, you won’t be able to play games and won’t be able to use 3d applications (Blender…), movies (VLC), pictures (Preview)… (*you can use other programs for movies & pictures like Chroma, QuickTime, Picasa…) I know this isn’t a concrete solution to problem but at least you will be able to use your computer without any display anomalies or system crashes.

Boot your MacBook in safe mode (immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold the Shift key), and delete the files above and reboot.

Here is the list of files to delete:

/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000.kext
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GA.plugin
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GLDriver.bundle
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000VADriver.bundle
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000.kext
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GA.plugin
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GLDriver.bundle
/System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000VADriver.bundle

If you want to put the drivers back, just download the combo update from the Apple’s site and reinstall it. You don’t need to reinstall OS X, just download the combo update and install. Combo update will put the drivers back.

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29 Comments to “MacBook Pro with ATI Radeon x1600 Display Anomalies”

  1. IanC says:

    I have been trying to figure out this problem too. Still seems to reliably disappear on safeboot. Have now deleted a whole load of extensions that report in getinfo window to be PPC only. Notable inclusions:
    ATIRadeon.kext
    ATIRadeon8500.kext
    ATIRadeon8500GA.plugin
    ATIRadeon8500GLDriver.bundle
    ATIRadeon8500VADriver.bundle
    ATIRadeon9700GLDriver.bundle
    ATIRadeon9700VADriver.bundle
    ATIRadeonGA.plugin
    ATIRadeonGLDriver.bundle

    So can others try deleting those and report back?

  2. IanC says:

    I also had deleted /System/Library/Extensions/AppleNDRV.

    Applying the lasted MacOS combo updater reinstalled all those drivers, but now all my glitches seem gone for a few days.

    (A more complete recipe for fix in Apples discussion forums – search for “”display anomalies”.)

  3. Can says:

    @IanC: Thanks for your suggestions, any news for glitches or crashes ?

  4. Leif Denby says:

    I have the same problems. By installing CoolBook (costs $10) I was able to lower the average temp by about 15C. I still get anomalies at higher temperatures.

  5. IanC says:

    Since last post, tussles with display anomalies have continued, but appear to have settled again. Fingers crossed. It is certainly a complex problem. Sucking dust out of the vent slots may have helped. Certainly, getting the bugs out of corrupted system resources seems necessary. I note that the GPU temp appears to have no effect. CPU temp has an effect on my MacBookPro. Possibly a software bug +/- SMC bug.

    After the SMC reset and dust suction and other attempts to renew kexts, the temperature logs have a different pattern. (See the Apple forum thread “display anomalies” for more.)

  6. Frustrated Frank says:

    I took out ATI files and all is quiet. Running SMC and using Targus cool lap-pad w/ twin fans to keep down temp on 15″ MBP original CoreDuo running Leopard. Should I risk going back to Snow Leopard or is processor just too slow/hot?

  7. IanC says:

    Can, I think you are right. My machine is quite stable missing only /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000.kext (now up 30 days with no problems except for some applications which don’t work).

    Have filed a bug report with Apple, who have linked my report with an old bug report and no resolution yet.

  8. Sven-Eric Heinz says:

    Hi, great man
    i had many trouble with my MacBook Pro 17″ / 2007 and now i had erase the files an the most programms i use are running without any problems. But is there nobody who can fix the problem by the drivers?
    Tanks a lot for your ideas.
    and sorry for my bad english – i’m german…
    Sven-Eric Heinz

  9. Alex Canzian says:

    hi men,
    same troubles with a macbook pro 2,2 (15″ 2,33ghz x1600). 10.4.11 worked perfectly. after upgrading to 10.6.6 problems start. system freezes, randomly. my cpu temp is around 50°, gpu temp 48°in idle.
    full load cpu 78°, gpu 52°.
    after reading a lot of forums and discussions i tried the following solutions:
    - hard disk permission repair
    -hard disk repair
    - scm reset
    - reset pvram
    - i’ve opened the laptop to clean it

    did someone find any solutions? did someone contact apple support? thank’s for the answer and sorry for my bad english

  10. Frustrated Frank says:

    I was doing fine until now. It won’t even boot with out screen distortion anomalies. Safe boot/PRAM/SMC – nothing will work. I am about to pull the hard drive and brick it. Has ATI or Apple ever acknowledged these issues that affect so many users??

  11. Samantha says:

    Thanks for this most thorough explanation of *finally* some sort of fix to save my MacBook. I’ve been following this problem, as I’ve had the problems for a year. After going to the Genius Bar, they told me it was definitely my Graphics card, and suggested I buy a new one for the small price of 200 dollars, and they would install it for another 100, bringing the price to a nice 300. I have a friend who fixed his with the Arctic 5 thermal paste, and offers a pretty awesome explanation with photos of how to do this yourself.

    http://blog.johnkutlu.com/search/label/thermal%20paste

    I am frightened to try this myself, but also, I cannot just delete the files because I need my Graphics card to run necessary programs, like Adobe, even if they don’t last long with the freezes.

    Frank, no, Apple has never recognized this problem or offered any solution.

  12. Frustrated Frank says:

    Well, I was about to trash the thing and it came back to life for awhile– enough to update my iOS and get iPad 2 apps from iTunes. Then, after a software (security) update, things have gotten worse. Not a total lockup, just and diagonal pattern that I can see through and work iTunes with while it is up. I am convinced our machines are capable, even in heat, and that this is still some little annoying piece of code that doesn’t fit with firmware update sometime back in ’08. As I have four other Macs, I just use the machine for a backup device. But still, it should work just fine. My original PowerBook from 03 works better. C’mon Apple, when you are seeing this much energy expended by users on a common problem, just acknowledge it already and give some goodwill service!

  13. Alex says:

    i think it’s only a driver (kext) problem. if i use my macbook pro 2,2 with tiger or with windows xp, even on a hot temperature, everythings work without any issue.
    when using leopard 10.6.7 there are always system freezes. i tried 10.7 dp4 and same situation. even on windows 7 64 bit i had freezes.
    so, why using tiger and xp, on full load everything works?

    i tried all the possible fixes found on the web (even the thermal paste change).

    only apple, with a firmware update could resolve the problem, in my opinion.

  14. Alex says:

    i have to add that a lot of people tried ubuntu 10 or 11 with all graphical effects turned on and no freeze. so, my conclusion, is that the problem is made by apple ati drivers

  15. Can says:

    @alex yeah but in my case, i even couldn’t install ubuntu or other linux distributions because of crashes (heat related system crashes). the installer freezes while installing..etc

  16. Alex says:

    did you clean your macbook pro? did you change the thermal paste? i was about 40 ° C on idle after cleaning my mac

  17. Can says:

    yes i cleaned, but i didn’t change the thermal paste and i’m about 75 ° C on idle.

  18. Alex says:

    probably your thermal paste doesn’t exist anymore! 75° on idle is too much. it’s obvious that your mac freezes everytime

  19. Frustrated Frank says:

    I had my 15 macbook pro running with a cool pad and smc fan control and all kexts deleted for awhile now. All of the sudden, the abnormalities have returned. This time they don’t seem to crash the system, just pixelate so you have to squint to see the menus, etc. Logic board is a red herring. This is firmware/software related to ATI and that is all. Too bad there isn’t a surefire fix!

  20. You will need the video chip solder reflowed or reballed. The solder balls under your video chip are disconnecting. No software or playing with drivers will help.

  21. [...] my fan settings a bit higher as I know my machine is hotter than hell. I also deleted some of the ATI Radeon Extensions, which seemed to help. Def follow the instructions in the link as I didn’t have sound or a [...]

  22. Ragnar the RepoMan says:

    Hi folks. I also had a problem with my ATIRadeon X1600 graphics card. I’ve got an 17” MacBook Pro (model A1151) Intel Core Duo from 2006.

    Bottom line: I had to replace the logic board. I called Apple and they said it sounded like I needed a new logic board. They said that there was no official “known issue” repair/replacement policy for the ATIRadeon X1600 graphics card.

    My local Apple Authorized Repair place told me that a new logic board would cost about $1300, so I bought a used logic board on Ebay for $250 (it came with a 3-month warranty). It cost me $100 to replace it (replacing it is complicated and not for novices like me). It’s been running fine ever since.

    NOTES FOR NOOBS LIKE ME

    Thanks to all the ideas I got on this and other forums, here are all the things I tried before throwing in the towel and replacing the logic board as Apple recommended. Hope this helps someone else.

    I’m running Snow Leopard with all software up to date. While using Safari, it started displaying diagonal lines of small squares or rectangles and had a kernel panic. After that, I was able to reboot and use it for a couple minutes before the display glitches reappeared and froze the Mac. Now, it always boots with the diagonal lines and freezes before it can boot to the desktop.

    Heat didn’t seem to be an issue in my case. The problem occurs cold, warm, or hot.

    I can do a Safe Boot, but the diagonal lines remain.

    I did a Disk Repair but no problems were found.

    I reset the NVRAM but it didn’t help.

    I ran the Apple Hardware Test from the install CD, but it found no problems.

    If I delete ATIRadeonX1000.kext, by itself or with the other ATI-related extensions in /System/Library/Extensions, I’m able to boot normally and the MacBook doesn’t freeze, but the diagonal lines remain.

    I called Apple and they said it sounded like I needed a new logic board. They said that there was no known issue or repair/replacement policy for the ATIRadeon X1600 graphics card.

    I made a backup copy of my HD using SuperDuper (free and easy.)

    I did an erase and install of Snow Leopard and during install, the display was clear for about 20 minutes before the diagonal lines returned.

    At this point, I gave up and bought a used logic board. To find a replacement logic board, look at the bottom of your MacBook Pro to see which model number you have and just search on “MacBook Pro [your model number here] logic board”. I found a used one on EBAY for $250 (it has a 3-month warranty.)

    I had it installed at my local Apple Authorized Repair place and they confirmed that it passed their diagnostic tests.

    It’s been running fine ever since.

  23. Troy says:

    I have had these display anomolies for awhile now. It’s gotten really bad within the last month. Decided to get a different computer.

  24. alec macleod says:

    Flipping awesome! Have a 2006 17 MacBook Pro and completely failed – replaced RAM which managed to get it up and running but still showed massive screen anomalies and always failed to start up. Could not even boot in Safe Mode. Hooked it up to my iMac in Target Mode, cleaned those ATI files out and laptop now working. This has been ‘bugging’ me for months.

  25. Pedrooo says:

    I copied all the files listed just in case if i needed to restore it. After delteing the list of ATI files above, macbook has worked like a champ. we’ll see how long it lasts.

    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GA.plugin
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GLDriver.bundle
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000VADriver.bundle
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GA.plugin
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GLDriver.bundle
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000VADriver.bundle

  26. Darcy Ramcharan says:

    Not to hijack this thread but, I have been looking for a place to bring my Mac for servicing. Do you know anything about this apple repair service? It’s located in West Los Angeles, which is near my apartment. It’s called – Mac Repair Los Angeles, 11322 Santa Monica Blvd, Ste B Los Angeles, CA 90025 (310) 966-9099.

  27. Sid says:

    Hi All,

    Thanks for posting the instructions. Even after deleting the driver files…. Withing next 10 mins, I had the same issue :(

  28. Kev says:

    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GA.plugin
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000GLDriver.bundle
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX1000VADriver.bundle
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GA.plugin
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000GLDriver.bundle
    /System/Library/Extensions/ATIRadeonX2000VADriver.bundle

    can someone please email these files, please?
    kevincody1964@gmail.com

    …TIA

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