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Apple issues update to address MacBook Pro black-screen bug

Apple has released a software update for OS X Lion that is supposed to address a black-screen bug in 2010 MacBook Pro systems.

With the release of OS X Lion, a number of owners of the 15-inch MacBook Pro from mid-2010 found that their systems began showing regular black screens when performing some tasks like manipulating graphics and waking from sleep. We reported on this when it first became an issue and also when OS X 10.7.2 was released.

A short while ago Apple issued a knowledge base article mentioning that it was aware of the black-screen issue with the affected machines, and was working on a fix.

Video update installer package
The video update package can be installed manually or automatically through Software Update. Screenshot by Topher Kessler

I suspected that this was a hardware-based problem since people affected by it have found it to happen both in older versions of OS X and Windows in addition to OS X Lion; however, Apple's engineers have found a fix for the issue in software, though only for systems running Lion.

The 70MB update that Apple has released today includes new graphics drivers for all of Apple's supported GPUs, in addition to a new version of the OpenCL framework. OpenCL is a relatively new technology that utilizes the graphics processor to perform standard computing tasks, allowing applications to take advantage of the powerful graphics unit to speed up tasks that normally would be piped through the central processing unit (CPU).

It appears the OpenCL technology may have been conflicting with GPU switching behaviors, resulting in the hangs and crashes that have been plaguing these MacBook Pro models when running under Lion. The update should correct the bugs in this framework and graphics drivers, and result in systems working properly again.

If you have a 2010 MacBook Pro and are experiencing regular black screens when working on your systems, then I strongly encourage you to back up your system and install this update. The update can be downloaded through Software Update utility, but is also available via Apple's downloads site. The update does require OS X 10.7.2 to install, so if you have not already done so be sure to first download and apply the latest OS update before installing this video update.

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