iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

Started Mar 31, 2016 | Discussions
DavidA46 Junior Member • Posts: 35
iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

My 2011 27 inch iMac has been a work horse. So reliable, I thought it would last forever. Well, the video card died and Apple wants $606 to replace it. When I bought the iMac, I upgraded it to top of the line at the time: i7 processor, 2GB video card, 16GB ram, Internal 1TB SSD (2 years ago). It's been up to all my tasks... until recently. I've switched to LR and I noticed screen redraws are slow, and with panoramas unacceptably so. But then again, maybe it was so slow redrawing the screen because the video card was failing?

I've been thinking of getting a new 5K 27" iMac with all the bells and whistles, but wanted to wait until the next generation, rumors of TB3, USB-C. Well, my hand has been forced. I need to do something soon, can't live without my iMac for very long. I do have a bottom-of-the-line 2015 13" MBP for travel and couch use, but not up to snuff for serious LR/PS work. I guess I could get by with it until the next iMac release... Two months? Six months? Who knows. If I buy now, I'll be really mad when Apple releases new ones in a month or two. But, I could "invest" $600 to get the old one working and buy myself enough time to get the next generation. Also, fixing it makes it salable so I should be able to get my $600 back. Right now it's a piece of almost worthless junk.

My current thought is to invest the $600. I keep my Macs for a long time, so when I do upgrade I want the latest and greatest. Apple's ordered the card, so I have a couple of days to decide. I'm not asking anyone to tell me what to do, just rambling and seeing what other Mac users think.

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Howard Moftich Veteran Member • Posts: 9,742
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

You might want to look into non-Apple repairs (if even possible), like an Authorized Apple Repair Station or so.  They tend to charge less than Apple.  Depending on the complexity, you might even be able to get the part and replace it yourself.

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donsullivan Regular Member • Posts: 179
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
3

If you're reasonably adept at repairing computers, the 2011 iMac isn't all that hard to open up and repair. With a little bit of patience all you need to do is remove the glass which is magnetically attached and then the display panel. Once you get those out the graphics card is right there on top and easily accessible.

Take a look at www.welovemacs.com to see if they have the same graphics card you need. In my experience it will be much, much less expensive there than what you're describing.

I had the same iMac and opened it up to add an SSD. You just need some suction cups to release the cover glass from the magnets and then a torx screwdriver for the panel.

It's not for the faint of heart but it's not really all that hard either. This might allow you to get a little more life out of the iMac until the next generation is available without a major expenditure.

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noirdesir Forum Pro • Posts: 13,739
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

DavidA46 wrote:

My 2011 27 inch iMac has been a work horse. So reliable, I thought it would last forever. Well, the video card died and Apple wants $606 to replace it. When I bought the iMac, I upgraded it to top of the line at the time: i7 processor, 2GB video card, 16GB ram, Internal 1TB SSD (2 years ago). It's been up to all my tasks... until recently. I've switched to LR and I noticed screen redraws are slow, and with panoramas unacceptably so. But then again, maybe it was so slow redrawing the screen because the video card was failing?

I've been thinking of getting a new 5K 27" iMac with all the bells and whistles, but wanted to wait until the next generation, rumors of TB3, USB-C. Well, my hand has been forced. I need to do something soon, can't live without my iMac for very long. I do have a bottom-of-the-line 2015 13" MBP for travel and couch use, but not up to snuff for serious LR/PS work. I guess I could get by with it until the next iMac release... Two months? Six months? Who knows. If I buy now, I'll be really mad when Apple releases new ones in a month or two. But, I could "invest" $600 to get the old one working and buy myself enough time to get the next generation. Also, fixing it makes it salable so I should be able to get my $600 back. Right now it's a piece of almost worthless junk.

My current thought is to invest the $600. I keep my Macs for a long time, so when I do upgrade I want the latest and greatest. Apple's ordered the card, so I have a couple of days to decide. I'm not asking anyone to tell me what to do, just rambling and seeing what other Mac users think.

There are third-party software solutions that force the use of the Intel-integrated graphic chip instead of the discrete one. Could this be employed to keep using the iMac, albeit with a reduced graphic performance (Mac laptops have been able to drive 27" displays using integrated graphic chips for at least ten years)?

William Carson
William Carson Veteran Member • Posts: 6,205
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

DavidA46 wrote:

My 2011 27 inch iMac has been a work horse. So reliable, I thought it would last forever. Well, the video card died and Apple wants $606 to replace it. When I bought the iMac, I upgraded it to top of the line at the time: i7 processor, 2GB video card, 16GB ram, Internal 1TB SSD (2 years ago). It's been up to all my tasks... until recently. I've switched to LR and I noticed screen redraws are slow, and with panoramas unacceptably so. But then again, maybe it was so slow redrawing the screen because the video card was failing?

I've been thinking of getting a new 5K 27" iMac with all the bells and whistles, but wanted to wait until the next generation, rumors of TB3, USB-C. Well, my hand has been forced. I need to do something soon, can't live without my iMac for very long. I do have a bottom-of-the-line 2015 13" MBP for travel and couch use, but not up to snuff for serious LR/PS work. I guess I could get by with it until the next iMac release... Two months? Six months? Who knows. If I buy now, I'll be really mad when Apple releases new ones in a month or two. But, I could "invest" $600 to get the old one working and buy myself enough time to get the next generation. Also, fixing it makes it salable so I should be able to get my $600 back. Right now it's a piece of almost worthless junk.

My current thought is to invest the $600. I keep my Macs for a long time, so when I do upgrade I want the latest and greatest. Apple's ordered the card, so I have a couple of days to decide. I'm not asking anyone to tell me what to do, just rambling and seeing what other Mac users think.

Prices on a replacement video card are around $400 so, if you want to save a couple of hundred, look through some u-tube videos of how to do the replacement and if you feel comfortable with DIY replacement, thats the way to go. There were issues with the 2011 iMac video card and there was a replacement policy but the time limit ran out some time ago.

LouCioccio
LouCioccio Senior Member • Posts: 2,257
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

Dvwarehouse has only the 1gb on sale for under 500$us. If you are going to do it you would make sale able.

Lou Cioccio

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OP DavidA46 Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

I've decided to spend the $606 with Apple and replace the card. I checked on eBay and Craigslist and couldn't find a new 2GB card for significantly less, and I would still have to do the installation and take the risk of serving things up! You can find used cards for a lot less, but there was definitely a problem with the cards in 2011 when I bought the Mac, and I don't want to have the problem again in two months.

My local Apple certified independent repair shop would sell me the Apple card for $600 plus $100 for installation! Apple has raised the  price of the card to them. They said I could bring the Mac in and they would see if they could find another non-Apple card for less, but my search on eBay tells me that's probably not going to work and I need it back in service ASAP. .

I could just junk the whole system, but I know what else is in there, and for $600 I would have a good system back that might give me another year or two of service. I think I'll take the chance.

Thanks for all the good ideas.

LouCioccio
LouCioccio Senior Member • Posts: 2,257
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

That's not bad. When I was younger I replaced a clutch,throwout bearing and pressure plate in my 1981 Ford Escort then 20,000 miles later the bolt holding the clutch cable (inside the bell housing) broke. We (I had a friend who enjoyed it more than I did) repeat the process a lot of bull work to replace the bolt. When my 1992 Ford Escort needed a new clutch I paid a mechanic. SO I understand why you decided I think I would do the same!

Lou Cioccio

PS I keep my cars for a long time.

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bmoag Senior Member • Posts: 2,491
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
2

You should see a significant boost in performance going from the generation of Intel processors in your machine to those in current machines. Add in an SSD to increase boot times and you will see/feel/perceive a worthwhile difference such that I would consider it unwise to invest $600 in that old machine. Realize you are spending $600 on what was a low level and obsolete GPU at the time Apple put it in your machine. Apple still rolls that way.

If not already done use Time Machine or a clone/imaging program to back up your drive in the old computer before you do anything else. If there is a software solution to force use of the Intel GPU I would look into that but knowing what I do about these things in OSX if something goes wrong you need to understand how to restore the OS from your otherwise bricked machine--not difficult.

If you process raw images the 5k screen can impart a real wow factor showing you pixel info you could not otherwise see. Alas the GPU options in those machines are not optimal but that goes with the Apple territory. As reported by users on this forum the 5k screen has a limited gamut but that is not a deal killer, I would rather have the resolution. If you can wait Apple may actually come out with Skylake generation processors soon which will not necessarily speed things up but should generate less heat, the bete noir of the Apple form factor. As El Capitan does not come with current Nvidia drivers it does not appear Apple will offer Nvidia GPUs but anything is possible.

Your MBP will run any Adobe product just fine and drive up to a 4k panel but once you pass retina resolutions screen redraws are tedious and divert the attention of the CPU slowing down everything--just my personal experience driving a 4k panel with that machine as well as a lower resolution wide gamut graphics panel. If you really want to be cost effective just get a good Graphics panel you can calibrate and plug into the Macbook Pro.

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OP DavidA46 Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

I agree with what you say about the new iMacs and I really want to get one, though I wanted to wait a few months until the next generation is out, hopefully with TB3 and USB-C. I have an OWC Thunderbay 4 TB2 Raid with all my working files (love, love it!), and everything else is also backed up. I did add an SSD and it makes a big difference. I'm not comfortable with forcing the use of the CPU for video, I've read that it's slow, and I wasn't even aware I could brick the iMac!

As it stands right now my iMac is junk with almost zero value unless I go through the hassle and time of parting everything out on eBay. My thought is I fix it, wait for the new generation, and sell it then or wait a bit longer depending on how excited I get about the new shiny stuff!

I'm pretty sure I could get at least $600 as I see 2011 27 inch iMacs in Craigslist with standard specs selling for a lot more than that, and mine has the i7, 2GB video, 2TB HD, 1TB SSD. I would think I could get maybe $1000 out of it, but I'd be OK with $600 to recover my video card cost. If nothing else, it would still be a good machine I could give to my son or grandson.

Thanks for all the ideas and thoughts. Bouncing my thoughts off of others really help to clarify what I want to do.

DukeCC
DukeCC Contributing Member • Posts: 561
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

I think it is worth the repair.  It is still a good machine, and I would be surprised if the recent performance lag wasn't cured by the new part.  I would mention the issue to the repair shop so that they can nose around and see if anything else in there could be to blame.

A 5 year old Mac is about like a 3 year old PC, no?

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OP DavidA46 Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

Thanks for the idea. Also, something else could fail like the logic board then it would have been a bad decision, but I'm willing to take that chance.

This photograph hobby/passion of mine is expensive, but then again not so much as compared to other hobbies I know of like motorcycles, boats, RVs. I tell my wife we're saving money, I only spend $10,000 at most, others are spending  $50,000, $100,000!

OP DavidA46 Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

I thought I'd follow up and let everyone know how this little saga ended. I took the iMac to my local Apple dealer, and got a call back that they could not work on it since I had added an SSD internally. A local independent authorized shop said they could replace it, but at a cost of $600 for the card and $100 to install it. The cost was just getting too high, and I was on the verge of recycling the iMac. As a last ditch effort, I got on eBay and while browsing around looking for a cheap card, I stumbled onto a service that said they could repair the card for $119.  I was skeptical but at that point, I thought what the heck. I've had the repaired card installed for two days now and it's running perfectly!

I also saw lots of YouTube videos on putting the card in the oven and remelting the solder, which apparently works sometimes. I didn't feel comfortable doing that. The shop I sent it to has a machine that fixes it somehow, and they have lots of good reviews.

Hopefully this little investment will get me to the next generation of iMacs.

mustaphapashu
mustaphapashu Regular Member • Posts: 270
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

If you don't mind, who was the shop that did the successful repair?

OP DavidA46 Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

Hi, the shop I sent it to is called "TopNotchMacs" on eBay. There are several others doing the same thing for a little less, but I choose them because they has the most favorable reviews at the time. Here's a link to their page:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/APPLE-IMAC-27-2009-A1312-ATI-RADEON-HD-4850-VIDEO-GRAPHICS-CARD-REPAIR-661-5315-/321906377773?hash=item4af31d842d:g:q2MAAOSw5dNWr7~D

(unknown member) Senior Member • Posts: 2,144
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

$600 borders on extortion!

More expensive than the highest end desktop graphics card on the market today!

But it's the collateral the iMac exacts from its users...

MrXYZ Regular Member • Posts: 186
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?
1

William Carson wrote:

Prices on a replacement video card are around $400 so, if you want to save a couple of hundred, look through some u-tube videos of how to do the replacement and if you feel comfortable with DIY replacement, thats the way to go. There were issues with the 2011 iMac video card and there was a replacement policy but the time limit ran out some time ago.

Another faulty video card and true to form Apple sets an arbitrary "fail by" date to get it fixed under warranty.

That 2011 iMac, which cost the OP a pretty penny, should last longer than five years. I think that Apple should replace known faulty hardware no matter how old the Mac. The company can afford it. Some people use their Macs for a long time; most do not.  The unlucky owner shouldn't lose any value due to a failed video card.

I've owned a bunch of Macs over the years and never had a video card fail. It's a rare occurrence; we're not talking about mechanical hard drives. There is little risk that Apple will be replacing anything but truly faulty cards within the average life-span of a Mac.

LouCioccio
LouCioccio Senior Member • Posts: 2,257
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203787

See if falls in this time period. I was asked to replace  hard drive in a 2011 MacBookPro after a friend of mine had problems. He picked it up in Florida as a used/refurbished so he WAS not the original owner.  He had trouble with reboots and did take it to a "Genius" at an Apple store in Buffalo, NY but could not find anything wrong with it but suggested that it may be RAM. Evidentially the "Genius" never saw or knew a kernel panic. So after doing the drill trying to get it to boot up; it was okay in single user and recovery mode but in normal it would stick part way. I even put it in target boot mode and ran Tech Tools and finally I got it to boot. I noticed about an 1 ½"  from the top screen a ¼ inch line that was all squiggly of video noise. I did clone his drive to a larger one and got the same thing. I saw another link on MacBook Pro video for 2011 and the serial number was the one affected ones. I also noticed his battery did not hold a charge so we replaced it with one from OWC. Later he was watching a you tube video he called that it froze and I told him to shut it down. I think the you tube video must have really exercised the video card on board. The next day he called that he took it to the Buffalo Genius and it failed the video test so he's getting a new board replacement.

So if the OP sees this that may be the next step to look at that link above.

Lou Cioccio

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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 4,084
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

Lord Brain wrote:

$600 borders on extortion!

More expensive than the highest end desktop graphics card on the market today!

But it's the collateral the iMac exacts from its users...

Got a beef?   Another irrelevant post from the Lord.

OP DavidA46 Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: iMac video card failed, replace it or buy new iMac?

DavidA46 wrote:

I thought I'd follow up and let everyone know how this little saga ended. I took the iMac to my local Apple dealer, and got a call back that they could not work on it since I had added an SSD internally. A local independent authorized shop said they could replace it, but at a cost of $600 for the card and $100 to install it. The cost was just getting too high, and I was on the verge of recycling the iMac. As a last ditch effort, I got on eBay and while browsing around looking for a cheap card, I stumbled onto a service that said they could repair the card for $119. I was skeptical but at that point, I thought what the heck. I've had the repaired card installed for two days now and it's running perfectly!

I also saw lots of YouTube videos on putting the card in the oven and remelting the solder, which apparently works sometimes. I didn't feel comfortable doing that. The shop I sent it to has a machine that fixes it somehow, and they have lots of good reviews.

Hopefully this little investment will get me to the next generation of iMacs.

6/10/17: Well, I thought others might be interested to know how this all ended. My repaired iMac lasted about 15 months before the card failed again. But it accomplished what I wanted - it failed one week before the new iMacs were announced, so it got me to the next generation! I would have never thought it would take Apple that long to issue the next generation. I ordered a 27" iMac 5K with the basic specs (1TB fusion drive), but then canceled it last night. I need to put some more thought into it. I'm pretty sure I want to get the 512GB SSD and maybe a faster processor. I'm not so sure the faster processor is worth it. I've ordered 16 gigs of RAM from OWC, for a total of 24 which should be plenty.

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