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MacBook Air mid-2012: Random screen glitches and lockup/crashing

Hi iFixit community,

I have a problem. Seemingly at random, my mid-2012 Macbook Air locks up, the screen glitches out, and quickly crashes. When the speakers are on, I also get some awful sounds coming out. This happens regardless of being plugged into power or not, though it does seem to occur more rapidly while on battery. I’ve attached a video of the strange behavior.

I had previously (and carefully!) replaced the SSD and battery to keep it alive a few years back. Thinking those components might’ve been the culprit, I recently re-replaced both. It’s currently sporting an OWC SSD and fresh battery from iFixit.

I’ve tried looking in the machine logs and can’t find anything particularly useful. I’ve reset the SMC and PRAM many times. I’ve reinstalled a fresh MacOS just to be sure it wasn’t something weird in the kernel. Sadly, none of that has worked.

Anyone seen this before, or any ideas about what’s going on? Can I revive my favorite little computer?

Thanks folks!


Updates (from tests in comments):

  • Model is an A1466, so mid-late 2012
  • In addition to the issue happening on the built in display, it also occurs when using an external monitor exclusively (lid closed).
  • Running a GPU benchmark tool did not crash it outright.
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@mattwilson - Your system is part of this series A1466 and more precisely MacBookAir5,2 - Mid 2012 models

You will see all of these use the Intel graphics engine: HD Graphics 4000 which is part of the CPU module. None of the Airs use dedicated GPU's like the Pro models do.

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Unfortunately that looks like a GPU failure. If it’s an A1369 from early 2012 it’s a typical issue, less frequent on 2012 A1466 but it may still happen. You can download and run a benchmarking App like Valley from Unigine, that would cause a repeated reboot or shutdown as soon as launched and would confirm the GPU failure. I’d recommend backing up your data before that, as the board may brick for good anytime.

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Ah, dang. It is an A1466 so here's hoping. I've downloaded and run that benchmark tool, but didn't experience a crash when using it, actually ran it for a few minutes with no issues. So, inconclusive on the GPU status I guess.

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@mattwilson If it just happens with closed lid and connected to an external screen that changes considerably the picture you initially described. It points more to a thunderbolt issue, nothing I would be happy to deal with at board level either. I don't think there's much you can do even in this case except avoiding to close lid ;)

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Oh, it happens either way! I meant that as it happens the built-in display, or a connected display running as the sole screen.

But I suspect you may be right regardless...

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@arbaman - The air systems use the built-in graphics engine within the CPU chip. The issue here is either the fan, heat sink or the thermal paste has failed if it can start up cleanly cold and then get into this state. Otherwise the logic board will need replacing.

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@danj I believe it's easier for a user to understand the concept of GPU without going into deep technicalities. In this case the main chip is a CPU/PCH of which the PCH part takes care among other tasks about the graphics too.

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Matt W さん、ありがとうございました!
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