How can I factory reset a dead screen TV?
February 8, 2023 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Screen on my TV (Sony KDL50800C 50=inch 1080p 3D Smart LED TV 2015) died and I’m looking for advice on how to clear my data from it before I take it to Goodwill. Saw a couple videos online of how to achieve factory reset without a remote (using the buttons on the back of the TV itself) and I did that, but how can I be certain it worked if I can’t see anything? Any insight or advice is greatly appreciated.

A few weeks ago I was watching it and suddenly the thumbnails in the menu I was on jumbled and the whole screen looked plaid. Then it began to fade. Turning off/on again resulted in a mostly dark screen but it still "glows" as if backlit. There’s also a weird cluster of pixels in the bottom right corner. TV also seems to be silent now, but it's hard to tell (tried to select stuff blindly to see if I could hear anything, but can’t be sure).

Bought it in 2015 and have had bizarre power issues with it from the start. Like it would reset itself randomly. In the last couple years it wouldn’t come on at all some days unless I unplugged it for a bit.

Anyway, I’m guessing there’s no cost effective salvaging here. I tried looking up some troubleshooting, but nothing seems to apply to my case. I’m fine letting it go, but I would feel better if I could do a factory reset on it first. Honestly at this point I just wish I could bring it back to life for ten minutes just so I could find that reset in the menu and then double check that it worked.

Is there a drive in the guts on the TV I can find and yank out? I don’t mean to sound paranoid, and I know I can change my passwords, but still hate to think that someone could zero in on my YouTube/amazon/etc accounts with malicious intent.
posted by Krulth to Technology (18 answers total)
Side-question: why "donate" it if it doesn't work? Shouldn't you be disposing of this properly, rather than trying to outsource that to a charity?
posted by aramaic at 12:56 PM on February 8, 2023 [16 favorites]

Also - try unplugging it for about 20m - from the wall and/or any power-bars. I had a Sony TV that would "reset" once that was done, and typically was good for about 9-12 months before the screen would fuzz out again.
posted by rozcakj at 1:00 PM on February 8, 2023

Response by poster: Well, I didn't want to just throw it into the trash if it could be recycled. Not expert here, but don't electronics like these contain hazardous materials? I looked up electronic recycling in my area and it seems like the local Goodwill does it. I've taken old/busted electronics to a different goodwill in the past. But those weren't "Smart" TV like this one. And I don't know what they do with the TV or parts.
posted by Krulth at 1:01 PM on February 8, 2023

Response by poster: I did unplug it for a long stretch. In fact I just plugged it in again after it had been unplugged for days. No change. And the remote seems to work (the light bar under the screen flickers when entering a remote command like usual) but can't tell what if anything is happening on the screen.
posted by Krulth at 1:04 PM on February 8, 2023

What data are you concerned about someone getting off the TV? Would it be easier to just reset your Netflix and router passwords and dispose of the TV in peace? (And I agree, dumping this on Goodwill is not ideal - in my municipality we have to pay $25 to dispose of a non-working TV.)
posted by mskyle at 1:07 PM on February 8, 2023

Response by poster: I am not trying to avoid paying for its disposal. I went to my county's waste/recycle utility webpage. It directs you to take electronic devices like TVs to be recycled at E-Waste locations and gives a link - the closet location to me (in fact the only one that is not very far away) is the local Goodwill store.
posted by Krulth at 1:17 PM on February 8, 2023 [6 favorites]

Goodwill is the nation’s largest recycle of electronics. They won’t accept it if they don’t have a recycling plan for it.

I suspect the hard drive is accessible, but did not find instructions in a few minutes of googling. Removing the drive is the secure option.
posted by theora55 at 1:26 PM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Most services will give you a dashboard of logged in devices. If you already did a factory reset, if you plug it in and power it up, there's a reasonable chance that it'll try to log into the configured services at boot (or better yet if there's a dedicated Netflix button on the remote, it'll almost certainly try to log in when pressed). So I'd locate those dashboards for whatever services you had configured and try to find out if they think the TV is still logged in.

Those dashboards also generally let you kill logins individually so you can clear it like that as long as you remember every service you'd signed into.

Regardless of how you do it, once those logins are terminated, there's little that someone could do if they did get the device working again. And the odds of that happening are very slim. Seven year old badly broken TVs aren't worth spending time on for bad guys. It's worth worrying about actual hard drives from computers for example, even if you think they're broken but I'd personally worry more about getting hit by lightning than someone trying to access my accounts from an old and broken TV that's been sent to recycling.
posted by Candleman at 1:29 PM on February 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, theora55 and Candleman.
posted by Krulth at 1:33 PM on February 8, 2023

On most of the cloud services (Netflix, Amazon, Google), there's a way to log in from a computer or phone and get a list of logged-in devices. You can also force-log out any/all devices connected to your account. It will be sufficient to prevent someone from using your account on that TV if it somehow comes back to life. In your case, if you can't identify which device is the TV, I'd just remove anything you don't recognize, and then deal with potentially having to log in on your old tablet that you forgot about.

It won't protect you from someone who is willing to disassemble the TV, and use specialized electronics to extract the passwords from storage, but that's not a very likely scenario. There's almost certainly no hard drive inside your TV. It would probably be a flash chip permanently soldered to (one of) the PCBs, which rules out the sort of concerns that you have with computers, with the drive being trivially accessible to anyone.
posted by yuwtze at 1:36 PM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, yuwtze. I'll look into force-logging out the TV. I didn't think of that.
posted by Krulth at 1:45 PM on February 8, 2023

I suspect the hard drive is accessible,

This is the service manual for the KDLxxW800C televisions, xx=50 or 55 depending on screen size, and nowhere does it mention a hard disk. Such a TV having a hard disk would have greatly surprised me, although I'm not averse to being surprised. It does have storage, 16GB of eMMC. That's solid state, one or two of the chips on the main circuit board.

Krulth: if you're really, REALLY worried about data stored in the TV, you could (using the manual linked) remove the electronics boards, then hand in what's basically a bare screen with a bezel and a pedestal. The boards you just put in a box, which you hand in at a later date after breaking them in two.
posted by Stoneshop at 1:51 PM on February 8, 2023 [5 favorites]

Without seeing it I can't say for certain, but it's probably fixable if you care. The various boards seem not to be terribly expensive and it sounds like the backlight and panel are fine. That said, given that you can get a pretty decent brand new 55" TV for $400 these days, it's hard to feel good about spending $50-$100 on an old one, even if the new one may well only last 4-5 years.
posted by wierdo at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

If, while you have it unplugged, you can hold down the power button, that might drain capacitors/reset the magic smoke/etc. I'm not an electrician, but I know people have said those words to me before.

Also, I'm with wierdo about trying to fix it. It's already broken, so what can go wrong? What are you going to do, break it more? I actually (because I'm a chicken about the word "capacitors") use a local guy who's real job is fixing old solid state receivers and stereos and stuff, but will take a look at soundbars and tvs for something like $60. Since he's a local guy, I feel like $60 is a reasonable gamble. He's fixed 3 things for me, and I'm currently waiting to hear if the 4th is coming back from the dead, or off to the big e-recycler in the sky.
posted by adekllny at 2:33 PM on February 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

It's not worth trying to fix unless you already know how to fix things like this, and then you would have already. You can buy a 50" 4K TV right now for $200 online.

If you're near a Best Buy, they may be willing to take it. In California, they're required to.

Page 73 of that service manual shows a block diagram of the board that houses the EMMC that is marked BMX. (radical!) The exploded parts diagram on page 15 & 20 shows the that the BMX board is the one immediately under the back cover, before you get to the thermal sheet/shield.

So unplug, hit the power button (on the unit) to try to discharge anything, remove the back cover, and the board.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:50 PM on February 8, 2023 [3 favorites]

There is also rarely a password stored on the device for all but the very jankiest services. The password is used to generate a token, the password is discarded by the TV and the token is stored for long term access. This is why you can force a device to log out without having to reset your password.
posted by rockindata at 3:54 PM on February 8, 2023 [4 favorites]

Did you have it hardwired, or on wifi for access? Could you see if it remembers your wifi?

Alternately, just change all your streaming account passwords to invalidate what is on that device.
posted by nickggully at 7:24 PM on February 8, 2023

Just curious but have you tried cycling through the 'source'/'input' for the TV if there's a button anywhere on the device? If it got reset to something like the VGA input but there's no input that could account for a black screen
posted by TimHare at 9:32 PM on February 9, 2023

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