Laptop got wet. Now the screen is really bright.
November 10, 2011 8:01 AM   Subscribe

About a month ago, I spilled some water on my laptop. So I let everything dry out. It works again, but now the screen is very bright, as if the contrast is turned way up. After searching the internet, I learned that the problem could be a damaged inverter so I ordered and installed a new one. But no dice. The screen is still really bright. Any ideas of what might be the problem?

More info:

After spilling a not-insignificant amount of water on my laptop--a Lenovo Thinkpad r400--I put it in the oven on about 120 degrees for about an hour. Then I let it dry for about 24 hours after that.

I can make things bearable by adjusting the contrast and gamma levels, but it's not perfect. For one, these new setting make watching videos a hassle--since I have to re-adjust the settings again. More importantly for me, I love screen-darkening programs like f.lux and redshift, but I can't use them now since when they run they reset screen settings to default (in my case very bright) levels.

Also, the screen used to flicker--but never completely went black. But that stopped after I installed the replacement inverter.

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by mcmile to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
There's an extent to which pressure (of the internal bits of the lcd panel) influences the degree to which backlight brightness comes through. One possibility is that you've still got some water trapped deep inside. Another is that due to getting wet and then being oven-dried, parts of the lcd became slightly swollen and/or deformed. Try loosening the screws around the bezel panel and see if that has any effect.
posted by aecorwin at 8:24 AM on November 10, 2011

Also, do a search for "backlight bleed" and see if that looks anything like what you are experiencing. Sounds like in your case the brightness increase is all over the screen (rather than unevenly as is usually the case with backlight bleed) but the type of brightness increase you are seeing sounds at least somewhat similar.
posted by aecorwin at 8:27 AM on November 10, 2011

Yes, I should have mentioned that the brightness isn't spotty or splotchy but uniform across the screen. There may be something to loosening the screws on the panel. After I installed the new inverter, I thought I noticed a slight difference in brightness levels, which could have been the result of unscrewing and rescrewing with slightly less pressure. I'll try loosening the screws when I get home tonight. Thanks!

Even at the time I thought that maybe putting my laptop in the oven might not be the best idea, but when an expensive and much-relied-upon piece of equipment is threatened, one doesn't always think rationally. Oh well. Live and learn I guess.
posted by mcmile at 9:12 AM on November 10, 2011

Have you tried connecting the computer to an external monitor? Whether the image is distorted on the external monitor will help you determine where the problem lies.
posted by speedgraphic at 9:37 AM on November 10, 2011

mcmile: Is it possible you could post a link to a photo of your screen (with the computer on, of course)? Would be interesting & potentially useful to see what it looks like when on. And definitely try speedgraphic's suggestion of hooking up to an external monitor -- from what you're describing I'm guessing an external display would look totally normal (meaning, the problem is isolated to the LCD panel & related hardware) but that's a very simple test it's always good to try with a malfunctioning laptop.

Oh and I thought of another possibility: I actually just got through repairing a co-worker's laptop that had a bad backlight bulb, and in doing so I learned a heck of a lot about how LCD screens are constructed (as in order to get to the bulb you have to literally disassemble the entire screen).

There are actually several layers of translucent-ish plasticky stuff behind the display glass and I am wondering if water + oven might have altered the light-transmitting properties of one of these layers. Not sure if that's even possible (as I don't know exactly what LCD innards are made of, chemically/materially speaking) but it seems at least plausible.

...but in any event, if running constantly in BRIGHTNESS EXTREME!!!!1 mode starts becoming more trouble than it's worth to you, you might want to consider replacing the entire screen (as in, the whole monitor portion, including bezel and whatnot). This won't necessarily be super cheap but it would almost certainly be cheaper than a whole new laptop. I've found screens for pretty much every laptop I've looked up available on auction or industry spare-parts sites and yours doesn't sound like *too* obscure of a model. You can also usually buy replacement LCD panels which might be slightly cheaper than whole monitor units.
posted by aecorwin at 9:53 AM on November 10, 2011

Here's a screenshot. The strange thing is that when I look at this screenshot on another computer, everything looks fine, so I don't know if this helps. I even compared the screen in its default, very bright, setting (top image) to a more "normal" setting (gamma at .6, the bottom image). But they don't look too different. Weird.

I might see if I can find a replacement LCD.
posted by mcmile at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2011

If you can read the screen, but the brightness annoys you, the cheapest solution might be to wear sunglasses (yes, I'm serious.)

If you can't make out the text, or you need to use it at work, this obviously won't work.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2011

The screenshot suggests that your graphics card isn't the problem; that it looks normal on any other monitor suggests that there's something wrong with the monitor itself.

I'd suggest unplugging and re-pluggin in any ribbon connectors between the mainboard and the LCD panel. One of the leads might be loose or corroded, sending the wrong "brightbrightbright" signal to the LCD panel.
posted by porpoise at 7:38 PM on November 10, 2011

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