MacBook Pro Screen Flickering: 5 Possible Reasons and Fixes

It feels like something straight out of a Black Mirror episode: one minute, your MacBook Pro screen is working fine, and the next, it shows flickering lines. Fortunately, unless it is due to hardware damage, there are many steps you can take to fix it, like turning off ‘Automatic graphic switching’ or resetting SMC and NVRAM.

Hi, I’m Devansh. I haven’t faced the flickering screen issue in any of my Macs yet, but it’s something I’m always alert about since it seems to be a common issue.

In this article, I’ll first ask you to follow some steps on a priority basis. Then I’ll introduce you to five possible reasons for the flickering screen issue. This knowledge can help you troubleshoot effectively. After that, I’ll answer some common questions.

Keep reading if your MacBook Pro’s screen is covered with distorted lines, making getting anything done impossible!

First Steps

If you have almost no visibility on your MacBook Pro screen, you might need to connect an external display temporarily for troubleshooting. Now, before we get down to the five possible reasons for the flickering screen issue, here are some simple steps you should take:

Believe it or not, restarting your MacBook Pro or updating macOS can be enough to bring your screen back to normal. In addition, running an Apple Diagnostics test will rule out any hardware damage. Now, let’s move on to the five possible reasons.

Possible Reason #1: Faulty Integrated Graphics Processor

Did you know that many MacBook Pro models actually have two GPUs? One is a low-power integrated graphics processor, while the other is a discrete graphics processor. The MacBook Pro switches between the two for optimized battery usage based on your current graphical use. This feature is called ‘Automatic graphics switching.’

If your MacBook Pro screen is flickering, one possible reason might be that the integrated graphics processor is faulty. By turning off this feature, you can switch permanently to the higher-performance discrete graphics processor instead and thus fix the flickering issue. Ready to give it a try? Here is how to turn it off.

Step 1: Open ‘System Preferences’ and click on the ‘Battery’ tab. In Catalina 10.15 and earlier versions of macOS, click on the ‘Energy Saver’ tab instead.

Step 2: In the new window, press on the ‘Battery’ tab in the left menu tree. Deselect the ‘Automatic graphics switching’ checkbox.

Step 3: Restart your MacBook Pro and check if the flickering screen issue has been fixed.

You won’t see this option if you’re using an Apple Silicon MacBook Pro (with M1 or M2 chips) since those models have an integrated GPU. Now, let’s move on to the next possible reason.

Possible Reason #2: Software Error

Whether you own an old non-Retina MacBook Pro or a newer model with the M1 chip, neither is completely immune to the flickering screen issue. This could boil down to a software bug or some kind of incompatibility. If so, there are a few software resets you could try out on your MacBook Pro which could fix the screen.

  • Reset SMC: Stands for “System Management Controller” and is responsible for power, thermal, and peripheral management along with many other low-level functions.
  • Reset NVRAM: Stands for Non-Volatile Random Access Memory and stores info that your MacBook Pro requires when booting up.
  • Safe Mode: Booting into Safe Mode disables startup items and performs a check on the disk. Useful for troubleshooting and isolating the root cause of the flickering issue.
  • Reinstall macOS: This won’t delete all your data. It can be done using macOS Recovery and could take a little while, but it carries a high possibility of fixing the screen in case of a software issue.

I created detailed step-by-step guides for three of these, so they should be straightforward to perform. If doing these doesn’t improve the screen flickering, move on to the following possible reason.

Possible Reason #3: Battery Error

It’s also possible that your MacBook Pro screen is flickering because of an issue with the battery. If this is the case, recalibrating the battery could solve the problem, especially for older MacBook Pro models from 2006 to 2012.

In this process, you simply drain the battery fully and then fill it back up again. It refreshes the battery and can iron out various bugs. I’ve written a guide on this; you can check it out here. If nothing else works, this is worth giving a shot.

Possible Reason #4: The ‘Flexgate’ Issue

Did you buy your MacBook Pro between October 2016 and February 2018? When your MacBook Pro was made could be the root cause of the flickering screen issue. According to Apple, some 13-inch MacBook Pros (model year 2016) may exhibit unusual bright spots at the bottom of the screen. iFixit has created a great video about this issue.

If this is the cause of the flickering screen issue in your MacBook Pro, don’t worry. Apple has a special program for this. You just need to get in touch with an authorized service provider, and they’ll fix it for you free of charge. Visit this page for further details.

Possible Reason #5: Screen Damage

Lastly, it could just be that the screen has been damaged somehow. Apart from the ‘Flexgate’ issue, it could be because it’s been dropped from a height or has been flexed and stressed too much.

If this is the case, avoid using your MacBook Pro, as it may worsen the issue. Instead, your best course of action is to get in touch with Apple Support and consider further options.

FAQs

Want to learn more about the flickering screen issue? Here are a few common questions.

How to Make Sure Your MacBook Pro is Protected?

To avoid any physical damage to your MacBook Pro, you can add a protective cover to it, like a plastic hard shell cover. Also, be sure to use a sleeve when taking it outside. Plus, don’t use sliding webcam covers. Instead, just get a sticker. Overall, try to use it delicately and not pile up any heavy items on top of it.

Can Changing Graphical Settings Fix Flickering Screen Issue?

Yes, it might. Open ‘System Preferences’ and click on the ‘Displays’ tab. Here, you can tinker around with various settings.

Try temporarily disabling True Tone and switching to a different scaled resolution before returning to the original. If there’s some kind of bug causing the flickering screen issue, this could resolve it.

Conclusion

Having your MacBook Pro screen flicker can be a scary experience, and the cause can range from a simple software error to the infamous ‘Flexgate’ issue. Fortunately, following the above steps will fix the issue in most cases. If it doesn’t, you can always contact Apple Support to get it sorted out.

Which of these methods fixed the flickering screen issue in your MacBook Pro? Feel free to let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as possible.

About Devansh Kamdar
I'm an Apple fan who's been using an iMac and a MacBook Pro for work-related tasks since 2017. I also own an iPhone 13 and several other small Apple accessories. Although I'm preparing to build my own PC soon, I still spend most of the time on my Mac.

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