Older MacBook Pro Mid 2010 laptops have a well-known tendency to spontaneously restart due to a hardware fault. In its day it was a souped-up laptop with 2 graphics processors but now it all falls flat on its face because of a tiny capacitor. This component is involved in the switching between GPUs and causes the crash. I should have bought a simpler model.
Now we are in 2021, as I write this, and my old 2010 MBP has started to suffer from this fault more frequently. Well, what should one do? Buy a new Mac? Of course not! Unless really fast graphics processing is your bread and butter. (In which case, go for one of the new Macs with Apple Silicon, the all-in-one M1 chip; so no stupid capacitor fails this time.) But otherwise, take stock and decide whether your old MacBook Pro with its lovely big screen, responsive keyboard and oodles of RAM (you can cheaply upgrade the RAM, you know) and a fast solid-state drive (you can cheaply upgrade the hard disk too), would be fine and dandy if only it would just stop crashing!
MBP Mid 2010 GPU Fix
The chances are that a little bit of software can stop the crashing. Enter MBPMid2010_GPUFix … that’s the project page on Github. The all-important download page is here. Get the zip file. It fixes the problem. But, unfortunately, you can’t just install it. Apart from the usual warning from Apple (about the developer not being one that they approve) you also have to temporarily disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) to run the app. That’s because the app swaps out a system graphics system file and replaces it with one that won’t trigger the fault. You can re-enable SIP after running the app, so you remain protected. There is a really good FAQ here that will direct you to how-to disable and enable SIP.
So, all this might help you get your admittedly old MacBook Pro Mid2010 working again. I hope so. I love mine. I know it isn’t as slim and as light as a MacBook Air, but if you do install the extra RAM and faster SSD, it runs like a Rolls.
GPU Fix on Catalina
Now, to come to the purpose of this post which is to act as an aide memoir to myself, as much as anything. Because I have hacked my Mac using the Catalina Patcher, it is now running a Mac System that neither Apple nor this GPU fix envisaged. Here it is running 10.15.7 when Apple restricts it to just 10.13.6.
But, because it is running Catalina, even with SIP disabled, the GPU fix actually fails because the file it is trying to swap out ‘cannot be found’. This is a false steer. It is there*, but the core file system is still locked; GPU Fix cannot get in.
To unlock, open Terminal, and run this command:
sudo mount -uw /
Then run the app again. Look for the acknowledgement of success.
And then restart.
Afterwards, optionally re-enable SIP. But you will have to disable and run the app whenever you update the system. I suspect that if you have got as far as Catalina 10.15.7 on a MBP Mid2010, you have upgraded as far as is practical. Big Sur is out there, but it is a step too far for this Mac thanks to the lack of compatible hardware acceleration.
For my Mac, 10.13 is the most recent macOS the Mid 2010 MacBook Pro can run without patching. Just because Apple may have closed the door on updates for your Mac doesn’t mean you have to just comply and buy a new Mac! Patches for Mojave and Catalina may work well if you would like to bring one more up to date.
* Further edit: I found that the GPU fix failed again after restoring this Mac from a Time Machine backup (at least the backup worked, even though the Mac was patched, wow). I couldn’t understand why. Then I realised I had to run the Catalina Patcher Updater again from System Preferences, getting it to reinstall the patches, so that GPU Fix had the files to work on. Then, after following my instructions above again, the GPU Fix worked once more.