Fixing the display on a G4 iBook
March 13, 2009 10:27 AM   Subscribe

The display on my iBook G4 is dying. Have I diagnosed the problem correctly, and is it worth trying to fix?

The display on my 3 year old G4 iBook is starting to go. The backlight turns off when the screen is at certain angles, sometimes opening and closing the screen a few times will fix it but it is slowly getting worse. Googling suggests this is a problem with the inverter cable slowly breaking as it gets trapped in the screen hinges - does that sound right?

Google also suggests I can change the inverter cable myself, but it is incredibly fiddly. Has anyone got any first-hand experience with this? Is the worst-case scenario that I don't fix the screen, or could I easily break things further while trying to change the inverter cable? I am reasonably competent with desktop PCs, but I've never tried fiddling with the insides of my laptop, and if there's a good chance I'll break the whole machine I will leave it alone and keep it for use with an external monitor.
posted by penguinliz to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, it's a difficult repair. Yes, you could damage the cable further if you attempt the repair, then back out and try to use the computer as it was.

That said, it's not an impossible repair. The harder part is going to be find the inverter cable part for sale. There are some grey-market shops out there that will sell you one. The only way you could get the part new from Apple is from an Apple Authorized Repair Center, and we're technically not supposed to sell you the part, but do the repair ourselves. has take-apart instructions, but I haven't looked to see if they have a guide for this particular repair. If you completely hit a wall and still want to do the repair yourself, send me a private message and I'll help you to obtain Apple's repair manual for this model iBook.

It's also possible that it's not the inverter cable, but the inverter board. My money is on the cable, as it's a more common failure point, but it could still be the board. It's also possible that it's your logic board failing, as all iBook G4s have a known issue with their logic boards, but this is much less common and you'd likely be seeing other symptoms if it were actually your logic board failing.
posted by at 11:55 AM on March 13, 2009

I first used an online disassembly guide (like this one for the G4) with no prior laptop experience to fix a few problems with my Toshiba laptop a few years ago. It worked perfectly well afterwards, and I got a couple more years of life out of it. Just keep track of where everything goes, and make sure to discharge yourself of any static electricity before opening the laptop.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:56 AM on March 13, 2009

I fix Macs for a living. A bad or fraying inverter cable is the most likely source of the position-dependent backlight loss. It could also be the inverter itself (low possibility, easy enough to swap out); the display cable (LVDS) coming loose from the display (unlikely, but easy to check); or the LCD itself. Unless you have experience AND patience, I'd caution against replacing the inverter cable yourself, as doing so requires removal and then dissection of the display assembly (the part that swings up when you open the closed laptop). It's pretty much a complete tear down, though you'll leave the logic board, hard drive and optical drive alone once they're exposed.

iFixit has parts should you choose to DIY.
An Apple corporate store should charge about $300. An independent Apple store will probably do it cheaper, eg my store would charge about $190. Call one close to you, give them the serial number and ask for a quote. Good luck.
posted by now i'm piste at 12:20 PM on March 13, 2009

mrbarrett, please check your MFmail.
posted by now i'm piste at 12:51 PM on March 13, 2009

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