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Thursday, January 29, 2009, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Apple pulls NVIDIA graphics update, reasons unclear

Apple has yanked a software update that was intended to fix graphics-related issues with its latest notebooks just two days after pushing the patch to users via its Software Update mechanism.

It's unclear what prompted the removal of the patch, released Monday as NVIDIA Graphics Update 2009 and pulled from the company's website and automatic software update system on Wednesday.

The Cupertino-based Mac maker said the update was supposed to improve cursor movement when using the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter with the Mini DisplayPort-enabled MacBook Air, MacBook and MacBook Pro introduced this past October.

It was also said to improve playback of HD video on the new unibody MacBook Pros with GeForce 9600M graphics cards, as well as legacy Mac systems that include NVIDIA's GeForce 7300 GT chip — namely the first-generation Mac Pro and Late 2006 24-inch iMac.

In general, Apple Discussions forums have been buzzing with users reporting trouble with their new notebook's graphics performance for some time.  In one MacBook Pro thread, user munchnstuf reported, "My new MacBook Pro display screen is blinking or flickering every few minutes now.  I've only noticed it when I've switched to the integrated 9400M graphics processor.  I don't recall seeing any blinks when using the discrete 9600M GPU."

Since that post in late November, there have been 59 replies, leading all the way up to this week.  Even after Apple released NVIDIA Graphics Update on Monday, the issues have continued.  User volvr said, "Just installed the new nvidia.patch from yesterday....but flickering goes on!"

Another user, Pipecat, believes it's a software issue, writing, "My external display (lacie electron) goes black 4/5 times in hour, for 5sec each time, (then) go back to normal state... under bootcamp its PERFECT!!!  No issue with the external display!!"

"While the flickering snow corruption was still showing on the external monitor I switched from the onboard graphics card (GF9400) to the discrete card (GF9600 GT) and the corruption was still there," said a forum member named Harvex.  "The solution for me is to switch my monitor onto standby and back on again on it's front buttons, but this doesn't prevent the issue from reoccurring after the computer has been sleeping."


In this YouTube video, Harvex demonstrates the poor display performance.


Over on the MacBook forums, the same issues with the update have been cropping up.

"I downloaded the update today and regret that I did," wrote allanlance.  "The problem for me is now worse.  I cannot use my external samsung 22inch monitor on extended desktop mode, only mirror mode, and that is not helpful to me.  In extended mode it goes black for extended times, flicking on occasionally to remind me that its there still."


Another YouTube video shows severe flickering on a display driven by a MacBook.


Since Apple is notorious for providing users with very little information about its software updates, it's unclear precisely what prompted Monday's patch to be retracted. While severe and frustrating, none of the issues being reported on the company's support forums seemed to have been the target of the latest NVIDIA patch based on its description.