PB G4 17in Display: Am I really screwed, or just kinda screwed?
March 16, 2009 6:45 PM   Subscribe

My PowerBook G4 17in, with the dreaded W85 serial number is displaying (or rather not) a white 1.25in vertical block down the left side.

Turned on my PowerBook G4 this morning, checked email, closed the lid and then went out for the rest of the day. Came back, opened it up and I've got this 1.25 inch dead while line down the left side of my screen. Doing a screen capture of this area reveals what should be there, and problem persists after restarting, leaving me to conclude hardware problem. It's about 4 years old, even extended apple care is long gone. It could be much worse, as this laptop is currently my livelihood, and I have access to an external monitor.

Doing some research I found that there is a known problem with serials that start with W85 for this model. Allegedly due to shoddy assembly in China. Apple censors it at every turn.

However, this is my question. These cases tend to look like a few lines, scattered around, but mine [1, 2] is a solid white vertical block Is there any chance that when I got my new hard drive installed at best buy a month ago, they pulled a monitor pin out or something along those lines?

Wishful thinking, or am I going to say good by to $300?

(the old hard drive was working fine, just too small)
posted by fontophilic to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Ugh. You can buy a replacement screen assembly, but at $600, it's probably close to the replacement value for the computer.

If you're feeling brave, you could follow the installation instructions ("difficult") to dismantle the 'book and try to reseat the connector, but I doubt that's the problem. If you're feeling not-so-brave, try taking it to an indie repair place. I've used Mac Tronics on S. Congress: they were fast and seemed capable.

Good luck.
posted by adamrice at 7:56 AM on March 17, 2009

Since it works fine with an external display, it's probably not the logic board or the video card. I'd cast about on Cragslist an ebay for a machine exactly like yours WITH a dead motherboard that you can pick up for spare parts at a bargain. Changing the display is tedious, but if you're a detail person and can keep screws organized, it's not too bad.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:05 AM on March 17, 2009

Oop, added note -- one way to test a machine with a bad motherboard to see if the display is good, is to boot it in FW Target Disk mode. I believe this bypasses the motherboard almost entirely, except for the HD in/out and the FW in/out. It's worked for me with 2 different iBooks that were otherwise borked, anyway.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:08 AM on March 17, 2009

Yeah, I've been doing more reading about this problem. For others that will probably come after me (this question is now ranked high in google results), these are some good resources.


Also good to note, it's being called the "Bridget Riley" defect after the op artist's style. Most of these sites are a several months old, and it looks like apple is successfully sitting on this and waiting for it to go away. Apple culture dictates that my once $3000 computer is now outdated junk, and I'm practically a luddite for not jumping on a MBP anyways...

I think the best solution for me right now, is to treat myself to a nice big 19in wide screen display from new egg (aprox $150) a bluetooth keyboard, and set up a docking station. It might even be better than before, and the screen is currently still useable for going to the coffee shop/couch/odd meeting.
posted by fontophilic at 9:55 AM on March 17, 2009

Doing a screen capture of this area reveals what should be there

Then that means the display card is working fine, and the problem is downstream from there.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:12 PM on March 17, 2009

Just an update for anyone in the future with this problem.

10 days later, (last night) another large white dead block appeared, right before my eyes. It flickered in r g b, each vertical row of pixels, for 5 sec, then turned completely white. It's stuck like that, and this time its right in the center of my screen. Coincidentally, that was about 20 min after I ordered a new monitor off new egg.

All in all, I'm glad I didn't go the repair route, even if I could have sourced some parts on the cheap as devils rancher suggested. My $ invested into new monitor and keyboard will far outlast the life of this laptop (knock on wood), and will still be applicable to a new laptop whenever that comes into the picture.

Thanks all.
posted by fontophilic at 8:32 AM on March 27, 2009

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