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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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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. You can get a free quote from Apple on the repair at https://support.apple.com/mac-notebooks/repair/service and it will likely be in the $300 range for parts, labor, shipping.

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.

If you don't like the web service option, you can also 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 the whole motherboard. As long as there is no physical damage inside, this would be a flat rate repair ($280) for Apple and probably cheaper than buying a logic board used. The flat rate repair would fix anything else wrong with the Mac. But, if you're up to reflow that part and do advanced soldering - there are lots of people that can attempt this repair even though it's not a trivial one.

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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.

  • I don't recommend using usb 3.0 adaptors. I had 3 of them, and two were over $120 each. They were the highest rated ones I could find. One was Startech brand. The nice once eventually broke, and the cheap one kept crashing my computer within seconds of plugging it in. I strongly advise against doing this! – jungledev Oct 15 '16 at 0:35
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    @jungledev I wrote a kernel video driver for a USB 3 to hdmi video adaptor. Apple doesn't provide sufficient support to hardware manufacturers, testing on all releases of OS X intended for the adapter was a pain, and each new major OS X version changes things in sometimes odd ways. I'm not surprised those adaptors had such difficulties. – Adam Davis Oct 15 '16 at 2:38
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I use a USB port for my monitor (dual monitor setup) , no problems at all.

Besides, I have upgraded to an SSD drive (Samsung) and 16 GB RAM (komputerbay). All have worked flawlessly since day 1. I use a MacBook Pro 2013 15".

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From this comment:

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.

A physical port repair/replacement can be done at a reasonable cost; most of the time at a price far less expensive than a logic board replacement. In fact the price for the component is extremely inexpensive (USB-C PCB Surface Mount Connector). What you will be paying for is the labor - typically $100 to $200 on eBay

While this is something that can be done at home, I must stress this is not a typical DIY type procedure. You need some rework skills.

The picture below shows a typical USB connector with a damaged solder pad, this is an easy fix and all that needs to be done is to resolder this connection. This assumes of course that the connector itself is still good that the solder joint is faulty.

enter image description here

If the connector itself is bad (they are physical devices and are subject to wear and tear) it's not overly difficult to replace this. It invloves removing the old connector and replacing it with a new connector

enter image description here

TL;DR

Can this be done? Absolutely?

Is it DIY? If you have the soldering skills.

Do you need a new logic board? No, you can have it done

Is it expensive? No. The component is super cheap and the labor is quite reasonable compared to a new logic board.

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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" https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004MS0DIK/

  • I don't recommend using usb 3.0 adaptors. Please see my longer comment above as to why. – jungledev Oct 15 '16 at 0:36

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