Apple offers free repairs for MacBook Pro video issue dating to 2011

A class-action lawsuit was filed against Apple over the issue, which appeared soon after the latest MacBook Pros went on sale

Apple will repair, for free, MacBook Pros that aren't properly displaying images, remedying an issue that has plagued some Mac users since 2011.

The repair offer is for 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros made in 2011 and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros manufactured between the middle of 2012 and early 2013. People can check if their laptop is eligible for the repair program on Apple's website.

The repair program starts for customers in the U.S. and Canada on Friday and for users in other countries on Feb. 27. Repairs can be carried out at Apple stores or authorized service providers, or people can mail their laptops to a repair center. In-store repair times will vary depending on part and worker availability. Mail repairs will take between five and seven days from when the laptop is received to when it's returned.

Affected laptops may not display any video, show distorted or scrambled video or restart without notice, Apple said.

Apple is contacting customers who have already paid to have the video issue fixed in order to reimburse them. People who haven't heard from Apple but think a repair was due to the video problem should reach out to the company.

Apple didn't divulge how many people were affected by the video issue, only saying that "a small percentage" of MacBook Pros were experiencing problems.

The problem could be more widespread than Apple has let on, however. Complaints about wonky MacBook Pros displays began surfacing four years ago. People immediately took to Apple's support forums to express their frustrations and get help resolving the problem. As of Friday, a thread on the issue had over 4 million views and 12,143 replies.

One person launched an online petition aimed at getting Apple to address the issue. As of Friday, the document had received more than 38,000 signatures.

Last October, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Apple over the MacBook Pro's video woes. The lawsuit, which is ongoing, alleges the lead-free solder Apple used to attach the AMD GPUs (graphics processing units) to the laptop's circuit board can cause short-circuits and cracks when exposed to the high temperatures generated during intensive graphics processing.

E.U. regulations called for Apple to use lead-free solder and the company opted to use the same material for laptops sold in the U.S. to reduce manufacturing costs, the lawsuit alleged. The suit also called out Apple for releasing a software patch to resolve the problem when such a fix wouldn't remedy a physical issue.

In August 2013, Apple began a similar repair program for iMac graphics issues stemming from problems with AMD video cards.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

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