UPDATE: OS X ‘Superbug’ Solution

Having continued to test our solution to the Apple OS X ‘superbug’, we have discovered some more information about the problem and the solution(s), some of it good, some of it not so good.

Let’s start off with the worst first.  That way we can read the better news the further that we continue with the article (along with optionally singing along to ‘Things Can Only Get Better‘ if desired).

Unfortunately, on our testing machine, after implementing the solution documented previously we encountered another kernel panic, very similar to the ones previously being experienced every five minutes.  Obviously this was a huge disappointment.  However, one good thing to come from this is the previous solution is still successful, albeit not the permanent solution we originally hoped it was.

The solution has shown to significantly decrease the number of kernel panics involved.  On our testing machine it reduced the number of kernel panics by a factor of 168x – which is a good result in our books.  However, kernel panics, even much less frequent, are still extremely inconvenient, annoying and unproductive.

The main culprit is once again NVDAResman – which is a process related to the nVidea discrete graphics card.  So we’ve had a look into using gfxCardStatus again, as it would seem that, although not ideal, if we can effectively disable switching to the discrete graphics card and restrict OS X to just on the onboard Intel based graphics card, that should eliminate the panics totally.

One issue remains though, and that is the strange behaviour and inability of the Intel graphics card to render the screen in any kind of readable or useable format when using the Intel graphics card only.  This happened periodically to use throughout testing which is initially why we searched for another solution.

However, to our delight, the previous solution that we gave appears to have rectified the issues regarding the display of the screen using only the Intel graphics card.

So the updated advice is to complete the previous solution and to continue to us gfxCardStatus on the ‘Integrated only’ option.  Thus far, on our testing machine, this has prevented further kernel panics and logic would dictate that if the nVidea graphics card is not in use, NVDAResman won’t be causing further kernel panics.  We’re going to continue with testing the revised solution and keep you informed.  So far, so good.

As previously mentioned, the downside to using gfxCardStatus and the ‘Integrated only’ option is that the integrated Intel graphics card is the least powerful of the two.  However, better to be using a less powerful graphics card than to have an unusable machine.

Another note that we would like to add regarding information about the problem.

We have noticed that one thing that seems to trigger a lot of kernel panics, basically exacerbating the problem and speeding up the frequency of them, is frequent switching between windows.  Whether this is happening due to switching windows itself or a common underlying process being shared by other system components is not known at this stage.  Obviously, switching windows has been quite a fundamental part of computing since multitasking OS’s in the 90s and it’s equally unproductive to minimise window switching.  However, frequent window switching is know to accelerate the rate of the kernel panics quite significantly.

As always, we will keep you updated on our tests and how the issue develops.

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7 Responses

  1. Ben Stones says:

    Or how about demanding action by Apple under UK consumer laws? You can easily go back to them and tell them the laws that makes them responsible for repairs outside of the standard warranty period for up to 5 years if there are inherent faults. And it would appear to me a laptop that causes kernel panics is not a laptop that should be working correctly.

    Perhaps Apple could learn how to create computers that aren’t a pile of crap. £2k laptop with kernel panic errors and no help from the manufacturer? Get a Windows laptop David. At least you’ll be able to be productive for a change instead of chasing up a problem that Apple should have fixed a long fucking time ago.

  2. DPS says:

    Well, Apple are responding to customers in one way. If you’re under AppleCare, they’ll perform a free repair. If not, they’ll charge you. Either way you are welcome to send it off to Apple for a repair.

    However, judging from other peoples responses the only impact has been an unnecessary (and sometimes expensive) replacement of HDD, logic board, video card and reimaging of the HDD – all things which, according the the community, haven’t made any difference – but they say Apple have said that they have been unable to reproduce the fault as well.

    Apples defence against that action would be that at the time of sale, this bug didn’t exist – and they’d probably be right. The bug predominantly seems to affect MacBook Pro mid-2010 models running Lion. The problem doesn’t appear to occur running Snow Leopard. Therefore Apple could (and probably are) saying that MacBook Pro mid-2010 models were sold with Snow Leopard, and it worked perfectly fine.

    I don’t quite think we’re ready to throw in the towel yet. There was numerous issues in the past using Windows laptops. Our last Windows production laptop turned off regularly when it decided it was too hot – then you’d have to give it at least 30 mins to cool down until you could switch it on again – and this repeated time and time again – typically when it was out of warranty.

    I think the anger caused by this from the community is because in general, Macs don’t have major faults. So when one happens, there is a massive backlash.

    However, although Apple are undoubtedly to blame for not properly protecting the kernel of the operating system, it’d be interesting to hear what nVidea’s views are on the issue.

    After all, the one thing in come with the majority of reported persistent kernel panics (and absolutely every single one of the kernel panics on our testing machine) is the NVDAResman process – part of the nVidea graphics card.

  3. Ben Stones says:

    So it must likely be a software issue then? Maybe it’ll be rectified in Mountain Lion? Let’s hope so.

  4. DPS says:

    Well yes, there is a strong possibility that it is a software issue. Hopefully it will be rectified in Mountain Lion.

    The evidence thus far would suggest that there is something different between Snow Leopard and Lion which either causes directly or indirectly (i.e. third party software triggers a weakness present only in Lion) to kernel panic persistently.

    Considering Apple have been aware of this issue for sometime (and, to be fair, have attempted to rectify it with OS X & firmware updates) you would hope that the weaknesses is identified and resolved.

    As you said fingers crossed for Mountain Lion. We don’t have long to wait either as it’s released this month :).

  5. DPS says:

    The other theory that we have come up with is defective design or quality of a piece of hardware that was predominantly included in MacBook Pro mid-2010 models.

    Maybe there is a flawed piece of hardware which is failing prematurely or not up to standard? – hence the reason for the delay between release and the problems occurring.

  6. jcastro says:

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to share with you my frustration and experience with this graphics card issues. I have a Macbook Pro Late-2011, OS X Lion 10.7.5 and every time I try to play even a simple game that causes the computer to change from the Intel graphics card to the discrete graphics card I get a freeze screen, like vertical stripes. I restart the laptop and the start-up screen (the grey one) is glitchy too, I see grey and black bars twitching all over the screen.

    I followed the first solution you guys posted but it didn’t work for me either. Also, I see that the problem is about nVidia graphics cards, but I’m having the same problem with my AMD Radeon HD 6770M. I spent $2.200 in this computer and work with Photoshop, Illustrator, and so forth, so right now I just can’t work on my computer. And knowing that having Apple replace the hardware is useless just makes me feel even worse.

    Anyway I hope either Apple or someone else can find a solution for this, and thanks DPS for your great job on trying to find it.

  7. DPS says:

    Hello there, welcome to DPS Computing!

    Firstly, I can understand how you feel regarding such a devastating problem affecting a really expensive machine – we too were extremely disappointed and completely at a loss for words that Apple seem to be doing nothing to resolve the issue – well next to nothing anyway.

    From what we have learned about this problem, games do seem to be one of the applications which increase GPU switching and therefore exacerbate the problem.

    In the past, on one of our mid-2010 MacBook Pros, we have experienced what sounds to be like the same problem that you are experiencing. Interestingly, I tried to screenshot it so I could upload it to the website (so that others could see what we were talking about), however the screenshots showed the display perfectly, without the graphics distortion, which only appears to show on the users actual physical screen.

    Just to clarify, have you installed gfxCardStatus and set it to the ‘Integrated only’ option? (http://www.dpscomputing.com/blog/2012/07/09/update-os-x-bsod-superbug-gfxcardstatus-2-0/).

    If you have done, did you install v2.0? Versions of gfxCardStatus above this only solve the issue until the next reboot.

    The problem thus far, from the information that we have obtained, affects machines with nVidia graphics cards – however the graphics card isn’t the cause of the problem itself (as in the hardware) – it’s the driver Apple include with OS X for all versions after Snow Leopard. This is backed up by the fact that the same nVidia graphics cards are functioning fine in non-Mac machines – which use the graphics driver provided by nVidia.

    Unfortunately, for us, after Snow Leopard, Apple decided to write their own nVidia graphics drivers – and the problems have been around since then.

    This is the first we’ve heard about problems affecting Macs with a AMD Radeon HD graphics card. However, if I was to take an educated guess, I would imagine that when Apple wrote their own in house custom nVidia graphics card drivers, they also did the same with the AMD Radeon HD graphics card drivers as well.

    I too hope that Apple will find a solution for this – I was hopeful that now they have known about this problem for around 18 months that they would have had a fix for it in Mountain Lion, but according to the reports we have received the same problem is present with the same graphics drivers included.

    No problem, glad you’ve found the articles useful – we’re continuing to try and improve the solution and look at new solutions – the current solution(s) seem to, on the whole, have worked well for many people – one of the major problems that we have come up against is that with an infinite amount of system/hardware/software combinations, it’s quite difficult to find a magic bullet one size fits all solution.

    As I said above, have you tried the gfxCardStatus part of the solution? And if so, has it had any effect – positive or negative – on the problem with your system?

    Sorry to hear that you are also experiencing this problem – feel free to reply back and I’ll try to help you towards a solution that works on your system :).

    Thanks for your comment :).

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