2011 MacBook Pros reportedly crashing under heavy loads

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Last week we reported that the new Intel Sandy Bridge-based early 2011 MacBook Pros are experiencing issues with iTunes Home Sharing. Now it appears that the top-of-the-line MacBooks are also having issues when users are trying to put the new processor to the test.

When operated under heavy load conditions, such as compiling code, running a virtual machine or rendering 3D images, the machines operate at very high temperatures and then lock up. A user describing the issue in the MacRumors forum noted that the machine appears to be completely locked -- no mouse control or keyboard response -- although it can be accessed via SSH. There's a very long thread in the Apple support discussion forums with a huge number of posts by unhappy users.

Fortunately, the problem is very reproducible, which is useful in finding root cause for the issue. It's thought that the problem is related either to the graphics driver or the power management subsystem, which means that the solution could be as simple as a firmware update from Apple. The company is apparently aware of the issue, raising it to priority status and assigning engineering resources to finding a solution quickly.

Until a fix is found, it may be best to quit as many open apps as possible when performing CPU-intensive tasks to avoid running into a freeze situation.

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