Scary pixelated laptop display..what should I do next?
November 21, 2010 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I have a Mac Book Pro 17inch..I have had it for about 2.5 years. The logic board had to be replaced around 3 months ago. Fortunately, apple fixed it gratis, since this model had "known issues" and it was handled under warranty even though it was out of warranty. It has worked fine since then, no problems whatsoever, until this morning when I tried to wake the computer --the screen was crazy looking and the cursor was frozen. Super horrifying since I haven't backed up in 3 weeks (I am a typical 60 year old user). I restarted and everything seemed ok except when I went to blogger (as a typical 60 year old, I maintain a blog)...there was an error message that cookies were disabled. HMMM. I got to the blog by googling myself and things seemed ok.

I see from googling "pixelated monitor" that I could run a hardware test...but I am reticent to do so..that looks scary too. I'm scared of everything!

Can you tell me what you think has happened? I will back up today and take the machine to the shop tomorrow. I just would love to know what you think happened...and if you have time maybe you can point me to an article (or describe) what I should be doing to properly maintain my computer. I generally leave the computer on all the time. Is that wrong? Think of me as your hopeless granny. I rely strongly on the computer, but I have a very nagging feeling that I don't do the right things for it.
posted by naplesyellow to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
By pixelated, do you mean that everything on the display is bigger? If so, that might be an accessibility setting for people with bad vision - you can turn it off and make things smaller by holding control and using the scroll wheel (two-finger swipe on the trackpad).

If that's not the problem, is there any way you can take a photo of the display? That might help us figure out what's going on.
posted by ripley_ at 10:11 AM on November 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, it wasn't bigger..the display was frozen where I had put it to sleep last night and there were just big boxes and some stripes "overlaying" the things that were on my desktop. Things were "jumbled" some of my icons were grayed out--- it all looked "bizarre". I couldn't get a screen shot of it, because my cursor was frozen. Now, after rebooting, the monitor looks fine.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:15 AM on November 21, 2010

Best answer: It sure would be nice if computers were perfect... but trust me, they're not. Computers flake out every now and then, sometimes bizarrely (like you experienced)... the power can surge, random particles from space can screw up the memory (no, really not kidding)... all sorts of weird things can happen that will just cause your computer freak out. Sometimes, when that happens, it leaves things in a bad state. I'm guessing that's what happened with your cookies - the freakout just caught your computer at a bad moment.

By all means, pop by an Apple store and have them make sure things are in good shape. But you almost certainly weren't the cause of the pixelated weirdness. Weird things happen sometimes on computers. It's not "normal" in that this isn't intended behavior, but it's not uncommon and it doesn't mean your computer is broken. Unless you find it happening more than once in a blue moon, I'd not worry too much about it.

Do make sure you're backing up your data regularly, though. Regardless of whether your computer has been acting up, it's just a good idea.
posted by captainawesome at 10:19 AM on November 21, 2010

Show us a picture and we can do a better job diagnosing your problem.
posted by darkgroove at 10:21 AM on November 21, 2010

Same thing happened to my MacBook Pro 15". Weird. I wonder if the recent 10.6.5 update is related. What version of OS X are you running?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:22 AM on November 21, 2010

Were you not able to get a screen shot by pressing command+shift+3? It sounds like it might also be a loose screen cable. Try opening an closing it a few times to see if it flickers. If it happens again, be sure to get a picture, even if you need to use a camera.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:32 AM on November 21, 2010

Best answer: step 1: back up your computer.
step 2: run the hardware test. you'll need your original DVDs to do this - you pop the first disk in and hold down 'D' when it boots (right after the bong noise). make sure you select the Extended test, and then wander off for about an hour or two. (it takes some time.)
step 3: even if it passes the hardware test, take it in to Apple and have them look at it. if your logic board was replaced less than 3 months ago, it's now under warranty for that problem. there's a lot of cables that run off the logic board and up to the screen - whoever replaced it may have just not attached one of them that well and it's loose now. or, you could have a bad replacement logic board (this happens too). it could also be a software issue, too, which they may be able to help you out with. (notably, Mac OS X 10.6.5 fixes a display issue with the new MacBook Air systems - something similar could be going on with your system.)

the hardware test doesn't touch any of the data on your computer. it doesn't even boot up into OS X to do it, it's a separate thing entirely, so don't worry about running it. the worst thing it'll do is tell you something inside your computer's failed or is failing and you'll have to go get it fixed. (it could also find nothing - the one that ships with the computer is workable but not the best stuff around, hence why I say to take it in anyway.)
posted by mrg at 10:47 AM on November 21, 2010

Could be the logic board yet again-- my 15" MBP did about the same thing when the graphics chip finally died (a known issue).

The Apple Store staff have a special HD they use to check for exactly that problem. The minute you say "weird blocks and lines on the screen," they'll know what to look for.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:55 PM on November 21, 2010

Also, if it happens again, try to get a couple photos of the screen using a digital camera.
posted by blueberry at 8:58 PM on November 21, 2010

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