Laptop screen dying: DIY to prevent RIP?
February 9, 2009 9:00 AM   Subscribe

My laptop screen appears to be dying. Is there anything I can do?

I have a 3-year-old Dell Latitude X1 laptop that has taken a fair bit of abuse over the years. Recently, the screen has started having an intermittent problem: part of the screen will take on a much lighter shade, and it will look as if the resolution has been reduced - almost exactly like when Windows is run in Safe Mode. Here are some pix:

Abnormal: 1, 2, 3.

I can rectify this problem by slightly bending the screen from the side, or by changing the angle of the screen.

My questions:

(1) What is the problem? I assume its hardware related, and (hopefully) some connecting wire that is being bent/broken. Or could it be the motherboard?

(2) Is this something that I might be able to fix on my own and for relatively cheap? The computer works great otherwise and I'd really love to hang on to it, but I'm not willing to pay $1000 for a replacement screen.

(3) Is there some way that I can diagnose and/or fix this? I am comfortable opening up electronics and doing basic repair work (e.g. replacing drives and fans and so forth) but hardly an expert.
posted by googly to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This may be as simple as a loose cable. If the system isn't under warranty I would definitely open it up and take a look. See if you can find a service manual or instructions for opening your particular laptop. It's often a lot easier than it seems at first. For yours you probably bend the screen all the way open, then pry up the plastic section between the keyboard and the bottom edge of the screen. This should pop up from the left or right. You may see a small hole the size of a flathead screwdriver that indicates where you start. Popping that off should give you access to screws that remove the keyboard. The screen connector will be under that, if you're lucky.
posted by odinsdream at 9:18 AM on February 9, 2009

This happened to my boss' laptop recently. It turned out to be a problem with the FL inverter, which can be replaced by hand (verrrrry carefully) if you want to save a few hundred. This site was extraordinarily helpful and concise, specifically these pages. (1, 2)
posted by greenland at 9:46 AM on February 9, 2009

Unless you are into messing with computer hardware, take it as a sign that this is time to upgrade. Buy a new one or almost new, transfer your entire hard-drive with a program like acronis, using an external USB kit to attach your old hard drive to it, then sell your old laptop on ebay, describing the symptoms EXACTLY so that someone who knows how to fix that particular situation can take over.
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2009

Here is the relevant page from the Dell Latitude X1 Service Manual. There is detailed information on the display connector at the bottom of the page.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 11:28 AM on February 9, 2009

Thanks for all the help so far! A follow-up question: if it does turn out to be the cable or inverter, what is the best (i.e. cheapest) place to get these parts? I am in Canada but can also pick things up in the US.
posted by googly at 11:53 AM on February 9, 2009

I just Google Shopped for an FL inverter and had it shipped.
posted by greenland at 12:13 PM on February 9, 2009

Look for a printed part number (MRU, PN, every company uses different acronyms) and plug that into Google for a shopping result. The service manual should have part numbers listed as well.
posted by ijoyner at 3:13 PM on February 9, 2009

Dell part numbers look similar to this on the stickers:

dp/n: cn-07r345-12345-123-1234-aba

The part number you'd want to search for in this example is 7r345. Dell's part numbers are 5 digits like that, and usually in the 0x000 or x0000 or xx000 format. Note: their part numbers are specific to the EXACT part that was installed. So a Samsung screen and an LG screen probably have different numbers, but would be compatible. Usually sellers will have the compatibilities listed.

There is no separate part number listed for the LCD cable in Dells resources, but the part number for the whole display kit is M6347. Probably it's a whole lid assembly with cables and LCD panel.
posted by gjc at 5:09 PM on February 9, 2009

I used a medium binder clip (those small/medium/ large big fold over paper clips) on the area where the loose connection appeared to be. Simply opened the screen and clipped the clip on the edge in the vicinity of the 'spot'. Temporary emergency fix obviously.This worked amazingly well for the longest time. YMMV.
posted by Muirwylde at 9:26 PM on February 10, 2009

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