Wha's wrong with my MacBook screen?
August 31, 2008 3:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me diagnose my MacBook Pro with a black, non-working screen.

The display on my MacBook Pro no longer turns on. When I turn the computer on, I sometimes (not 100% of the time) hear the chime that indicates the computer is booting, but the screen is black, no sign of life. There's drive activity after the chime, so I think it's booting.

For a few weeks before this, it was not dead, but dying. If the screen was black, I could power cycle the computer repeatedly, and within a few minutes, the screen would come back to life. This was frustrating, but it was still usable. But it gradually got worse, and now, there's nothing, no matter how many times I power cycle it.

Any suggestions on how I might figure out (or guess) which component is broken?

The MacBook is just over a year old, and naturally, I'm asking here because I have no AppleCare.
posted by blue mustard to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could be the backlight, or the power supply to the backlight, or the ribbon to the backlight. You may have to bring it to a repair shop.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:27 AM on August 31, 2008

Did you try resetting the PRAM? I had a similar issue recently with my iBook, the screen would remain dark after power-on, resetting PRAM worked. But your problem sounds more like a problem with the backlight.
posted by starzero at 4:16 AM on August 31, 2008

Thirding the backlight diagnosis, most likely the power supply.
posted by flabdablet at 4:44 AM on August 31, 2008

Do you get the firewire icon on the screen if you boot it in target disk mode?
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2008

To see if it's the backlight or not, shine a flashlight at the screen. Playing with the angle of the flashlight, you should be able to see things on the screen where they should be. Just very dimly and in odd colors.

If you absolutely can't see anything, plug the laptop into an external monitor and see what comes up. If it's nothing, you may have a system board issue. If it comes up fine, something in the screen itself is wrong- bad cables or simply a broken screen.
posted by gjc at 8:09 AM on August 31, 2008

It could be as simple as a loose backlight cable. Definitely try the flashlight trick mentioned above.
posted by meta_eli at 8:19 AM on August 31, 2008

If it's the backlight, you can shine a small flashlight into the Apple logo on the back of the screen and see a faint, dim image of your screen. If you need some info from your computer immediately, this works in a pinch.

If you do this and you see nothing but a fuzzy Apple logo, you have more problems than just your backlight and may be better off buying a new computer.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:27 AM on August 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everybody. I tried shining a light at the screen, but I still see nothing. Tried resetting PRAM, no change. I have neither a firewire drive nor an external monitor, so I can't try those suggestions at the moment.

Oh well, guess I'll probably have to track down a repair shop....
posted by blue mustard at 9:02 AM on August 31, 2008

I don't know what exactly model you have, but this is a well-known issue that was recently discovered to be a huge problem. I think the problem is with a chip in the graphics card or some such. Nvidia is the culprit:


It isn't just MacBook Pros, a large variety of notebooks were affected. You may very well be able to get reimbursed for this.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:56 AM on August 31, 2008

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