Blinky the Laptop
August 19, 2006 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Laptop screen blackout issues:

Sometimes my laptop screen will flicker black. Sometimes it will stay blacked out until I play with the angle of the screen, then it flickers a little more and eventually goes back to normal. What's going on here? Bad connection? Do I need to send it back from whence it came? If so, how do I back up everything?

-It's a new laptop. I got it in December. I've been gentle.
posted by TheGoldenOne to Technology (6 answers total)
If it's under warranty I'd send it back for repair, because this sounds like an issue that won't go away on its own. (The advice here assumes you have a Windows system; if you're on a Mac most of this still applies in principle.)

Who makes the system? Depending on the company you may have several repair options; they may do a replacement for the defective part or they may do a full laptop replacement (handing you a refurbished model). Refurbished is fine - the one you were sent is a brand new system, but a refurbished one would be one that has been thoroughly and carefully inspected, rather than one that is new and as such should not need a full detailed troubleshooting test. (One of my tech-savvy friends prefers to buy refurbished for just this reason - he wants to be damn sure everything has been checked before he takes it home.)

As for backup, this is a good idea. You may not have a problem, but many corporate repair shops will wipe your drive and return it to factory conditions during the repair process. If they swap your system for a refurbished one, they may or may not transfer files, settings, or even your entire hard drive over - be prepared for it to come back to you in the same state as when you first purchased it.

many systems come with a backup program (NTI Back-It-Up, for example, came with my Acer; Retrospect is another version; WinXP has some back-up capability but it may be limited in scope). If you have an external hard drive with enough space for backup, just do a full copy - make an image of your hard drive onto the backup. This may take several hours, but you will have everything.

If space is limited on your back-up media you can choose to only back up your personal files and bite the bullet on reinstalling your software and settings. Some programs (MS Office, for example) have utilities that can export your preferences as a single file, allowing an easy return to your previous configuration.

If you have no external place to back up files (external HDD or a networkable desktop, friend with such who will allow you to use it temporarily, etc.) for a relatively small investment you can purchase an external USB or FireWire drive. A (perhaps) cheaper option is to take an existing (but known good) hard drive and purchase an external USB/FireWire enclosure for it. I repurposed an old 40 gig HDD using this method; not a huge backup drive, but big enough for my personal files. External enclosures are available for both desktop or laptop hard drives.

Given the potential for data loss (and instances such as this) buying an external backup is a good idea and a good investment.

If the price of a backup is too high, use your CD/DVD burner. You can at the very least back up your personal files - many of the commercial back-up programs will make disk images and burn to disk for you, and may even create an entire drive image, but be prepared to have this take a very long time and upwards of 10 DVDs depending on the amount of data, type of back-up and size of your drive.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:25 AM on August 19, 2006

happened to me w/an ibm thinkpad.

culprit? poppy seed bagel.

poppy got lodged in the teeny actuator switch that shuts down screen when closed. performed poppyectomy. all is well.

don't know whether dell has this switch config, but worth checking.
posted by pallen123 at 8:53 AM on August 19, 2006

Yeah; this is likely a loose drive cable running up to the LCD, or a bad connector thereon.

Definitely, if it's under warranty, send it in. Do back up everything, first. Ghost and Second Copy are good tools for this, in differeng circumstances.
posted by baylink at 8:57 AM on August 19, 2006

I have a white G3 iBook and this is a standard problem with that model - the power cable to the LCD runs through the hinge, the hinge twists the cable every time it opens, after 1.5 years or so it wears through the cable, the only thing is to replace it. Hundred bucks labor, thirty dollar part. Sucks. If it's new, maybe a faulty connector of the same sort, out of the box? Either way dropkick those bastards for what they've done to your mind.

Meanwhile, you should be able to use an external monitor to get to your data no problem.
posted by waxbanks at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2006

My one year old laptop (Gateway 7426GX) does this as well, but only when I bring Windows out of standby. I assume it's a loose connection issue - especially since this particular model laptop has a problem with cracking hinges (which I suffer from) - but, the fact it only occurs when the computer first wakes is a bit weird.

If it's under warranty, I'd advise sending it in for repair. I'm just out of my warranty period, unfortunately.
posted by jal0021 at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2006

I had an IBM T30 that did this. It was for work, so I just had the IT dept swap hard drives into a new laptop of the same model, and it's been fine ever since.

You've got a connector going bad in here. Get it repaired / replaced while it's still under warranty. It's probably a common problem.
posted by intermod at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2006

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