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The Thunderbolt port on my trusty several-year-old MacBook Pro is failing. To connect an external display, I now have to wiggle the cable around, then pull it out a few millimeters until the contacts are lined up just right. It's only a matter of time before the port breaks entirely.

Everything else about the machine is in great shape. Is this a "replace the entire motherboard" problem, or is there a {better/faster/cheaper} solution?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

While I'm sure it IS possible to just replace the thunderbolt port it would be labor intensive and a specialized procedure.

So yes, this is a replace the entire logic board procedure.

Apple DOES offer a flat rate repair service for out of warranty Macs though. They talk about it a little bit in their KB article - AppleCare Direct Mail-In Repair Serivce - but I can't find a public facing article explaining the tiers and pricing.

Basically they offer a flat rate repair. Assuming your Mac is damage free (no major dents, liquid damage, etc) they will mail it to their repair depot where the issues will be addressed and parts will be replaced for a flat fee. The fee varies between models/sizes but will more than likely be less than the cost of having the logic board replaced by itself at an Apple store or AASP.

You can either arrange this by calling AppleCare (1-800-APLCARE) or visiting the Genius Bar at an Apple store or AASP. You can find nearby Apple stores and AASPs using Apple's handy locate tool, just search for Service in your area.

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For that Mac, the thunderbolt port is a part of the motherboard (on the left, 3rd from the top): enter image description here

So unless you're able to source the parts, perform a package exchange that clearly is a machine solder and then test things, the most economical repair would be to exchange change the whole motherboard. As long as there is no physical damage inside, this would be a flat rate repair for Apple and probably cheaper than buying a logic board used.

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If you can find the exact replacement part, then an electronic technician can replace it for you. Finding the exact component isn't trivial, though. Having Apple repair it is likely your best bet. Next best would be replacing the motherboard.

In the meantime, you can find decent USB video adaptors for the mac that should meet your needs for less than the cost of a repair, and none of the wait for the repair. Don't expect to play 3D games on such an adaptor, but everything else should be nearly as good as the thunderbolt connected display.

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You can also try bypassing that port entirely and just use a USB port with an adapter like "Cable Matters SuperSpeed USB 3.0/2.0 to HDMI/DVI Adapter for Windows and Mac up to 2560x1440 in White"

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