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How To Troubleshoot Display Related Faults in Your Laptop

Updated on May 19, 2017
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Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

When you wake one morning and your laptop display has gone haywire, you do not necessarily have to panic. A number of beep codes and visual signals should guide you into diagnosing and troubleshooting an apparently dead laptop.

For starters, a blank laptop screen may point to a faulty motherboard, a dim display may be symptomatic of a faulty inverter or LCD screen.

Also depending on the model and brand of laptop, you can also use the light codes usually next to the power-on light to read into the status of the laptop. For example, activity or inactivity on the disk drive light should indicate successful or failure in boot up.

Thirdly beep codes can also guide you into troubleshooting the blank screen. A single beep should signal normal startup whereas more than one, accompanied by no display on the screen, should signal component failure.

The power light signal in an HP laptop. Missing HDD light signal at boot up should indicate some power up problem
The power light signal in an HP laptop. Missing HDD light signal at boot up should indicate some power up problem
Dead laptop screens
Dead laptop screens

1: A Blank Screen

A totally blank screen following power up of the laptop is symptomatic of:

  • Faulty memory module/S (RAM)
  • Loose fiber connection either on the laptop screen or motherboard
  • Faulty screen
  • Faulty display chip
  • Faulty motherboard or microprocessor chip

Incase of no display on the laptop screen, start by connecting your laptop to an external monitor via the VGA or other display port. If all is fine, There should be display on the external monitor. Try restarting the laptop with the signal cable attached, if the external monitor does not identify the laptop immediately.

If there is no display on the external monitor even when you restart the laptop, proceed and check the memory modules just to be sure they are fine. You can do this by opening the rear of your laptop and reseating the RAM sticks or swapping them to see if there is positive response. Some laptop brands have additional RAM slots located below the keyboard. You may need to dig around the laptop to locate all RAM modules and slots.

Alternatively, use Mem test to test the reliability of the chips using another laptop.

Just incase of garbled images, check to ensure the laptop video cable (fiber) is  firmly connected both on the motherboard and LEC/LED screen
Just incase of garbled images, check to ensure the laptop video cable (fiber) is firmly connected both on the motherboard and LEC/LED screen

If RAM is fine however, and the external monitor displays well, then the fault should be elsewhere.

You may need to open up the laptop and check the LCD/LED fiber connections on the motherboard or on the screen itself. Much as fiber connections are usually firm, contraction/expansion, age and repeated closing/opening of the laptop screen can just about make it snap out of position. For example, a little distention of the fiber can leave laptop display garbled and unreadable. Total disconnection is bad enough.

If the fiber is firmly connected, you may need the help of the computer technician to diagnose the health of your LC/LED screen, and maybe trying out other screens. This should not be done at home unless you know what you are doing and have corresponding spare LCDs/LEDs in the house.

Another component that is prone to failure is the graphics processing unit (GPU) chip. This chip which is located close to the microprocessor and controls screen display can fail due to overheating. The infamous nVidia graphics chip from AMD is known to fail especially after three years of heavy graphics use.

Inspite of GPU failure, you can sometimes view information on the LCD/LED or external screen albeit garbled images.

Most times however, a faulty GPU will not allow you to view information on either screen. You will know this when everything else, including Windows seem to be running smoothly in the background.

The infamous nVIDIA GPU heats up over time and the laptop screen may fail to display as a result
The infamous nVIDIA GPU heats up over time and the laptop screen may fail to display as a result

Fixing the graphics chip is tricky business because it involves blowing hot air onto the faulty chip using a heat-gun. It is important to remember that this kind of repair does not guarantee permanent chip repair. Such repairs actually give you less than just a few months when you have to repeat the process again.

If all the above solutions do not yield results, either the motherboard or microprocessor in your laptop could be at fault. At this stage, motherboard or microprocessor replacement maybe the best solution and can be done by the tech guy next door.

If however, you have a compatible microprocessor at home and know what you are doing, try swapping it and see the results.

On the hand, motherboard replacement is a long shot and unless the laptop means a lot to you, it could be time to purchase a new computer.

2: Laptop Display is Dim

Dim display means the laptop is fine except it receives insufficient light to fire up the LCD/LED screen. Dim display is symptomatic of:

  • Faulty display inverter
  • Faulty backlight lamps
  • Brightness set too low

In case of dim display on the laptop screen, either the inverter or backlight lamp failure is to blame. Usually, it is the inverter that fails. Backlight lamp failure rarely happens and when it does, complete replacement of the LCD/LED screen is the best option.

Replacement of backlight lamp inside the LCD can be a nasty experience since it involves ripping the LCD screen apart and toying around with tiny, delicate lamp tubes.

A six inch long inverter board. Its failure will manifest in a faint/dim display on the laptop screen
A six inch long inverter board. Its failure will manifest in a faint/dim display on the laptop screen

On the other hand, replacement of the inverter for the LCD screen is more sensible. An equally tricky assignment is the repair of a failed inverter circuitry on LED screens. It requires meticulous repair procedures which should not be done at home.

Lastly, make sure the brightness in your laptop is not set too low, especially if your laptop has manual knob or switch for brightness. A simple touch on the screen can bring the screen back to normal.

Do you regard laptop screen replacement as complicated?

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3: A Broken LCD/LED Screen

Either because of carelessness or minor accident in the house, your laptop can fall to the floor and leave the LCD/LED screen broken.

While at first, a broken LCD/LED may not be evident in a laptop that is turned off, the cracks on the screen will show the minute it is powered up.

Fortunately, LCD and LED repair should not be as complicated if you know how to open and thereafter assemble the LCD/LED back into the laptop lid.

An LCD screen is attached to the laptop motherboard through a video cable (fiber) which should only be disconnected at the top during replacement. At the base of the LCD screen is a twin power cable which is connected to the inverter, which is located just below the LCD.

Video cable connection to laptop motherboard, and LCD power cable connection to the inverter
Video cable connection to laptop motherboard, and LCD power cable connection to the inverter

An LED meanwhile uses only the video cable to connect to the motherboard and does not use the traditional inverter.

How To Replace The laptop Video Cable

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