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How can I troubleshoot my 17" MacBook Pro display?

Posted on 2009-12-24
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Last Modified: 2013-11-24
I have a 17" MacBook Pro that is exhibiting horizontal lines across the bottom half of the screen.  If I move the display, the lines move and change, and eventually, they will disappear.  If I close the display, it stays fixed, but if closed for a prolonged period, the lines return.  Connecting an external monitor shows no lines, and the built-in display seems to be lit well, so I don't think it's the display itself.  The external monitor working well leads me to think the graphics adapter is working as well.

What could be the issue?  The inverter?  Any ideas or suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
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Question by:wukovits
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LVL 12

Assisted Solution

by:splait
splait earned 1332 total points
ID: 26119114
It's probably not the inverter.  Most likely, it's a short in the video cable running from the motherboard to the display.  It runs through the hinges, so there is stress, and flexing the screen or closing the lid can cause a change in your video,  It does not affect the external graphics capability, so your monitor runs fine.

You can fix it yourself if you are very industrious and organized, but keep in mind there are a ton of screws and several very small cable connectors that can be easily damaged if you aren't VERY careful.  There are a number of DIY sites that provide pretty good pictures and instructions on the procedure.

If you take it to a certified Apple repair shop, my guess is it should cost about $100 plus parts.
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LVL 26

Accepted Solution

by:
MidnightOne earned 668 total points
ID: 26119169
We used to see this a lot in the days of Powerbook 1x0 series. It was always the flat video cable that runs to the inverter.
Back then, the inverter was in the laptop's base and the video cable ran through the hinge. Repeated normal opening & closing would weaken the flat cable and eventually break connections.
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Expert Comment

by:MidnightOne
ID: 26119173
Annnnnnnnnnnnnd I need to refresh before posting when there's been a distraction of work. :-)
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LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:splait
ID: 26119203
You did fine.  It always helps the asker when one expert backs up another.
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Author Comment

by:wukovits
ID: 26119352
Thanks for the input.  I'll go ahead and order the cable (they don't sell them new from Apple) from eBay and hope for the best.
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Author Comment

by:wukovits
ID: 26119398
For the cable, do you mean the LVDS cable, or the inverter cable?
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LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:splait
ID: 26119413
I would replace both, if you can afford it (they shouldn't be too expensive).  You don't want to have to go back in because we picked the wrong cable.
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Author Comment

by:wukovits
ID: 26119470
OK, one other question:  Does anyone have a teardown manual for the display assembly?  The one I have and others only give you instructions on removing the assembly itself, and not the internal parts.  Apple only sells the display as a whole.
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Expert Comment

by:splait
ID: 26120478
I need the model number of your MacBook Pro in order to get you the right links.
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Author Comment

by:wukovits
ID: 26120604
It is an MA092LL/A or A1151.
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LVL 12

Assisted Solution

by:splait
splait earned 1332 total points
ID: 26120750
Here's a complete set of photos that show assembly/disassembly of almost all Macs.  Just pick yours (they are not listed by model number, but by model release date):

http://repair4laptop.org/disassembly_apple.html
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Author Comment

by:wukovits
ID: 26122337
Awesome, thanks for the link and the assistance in diagnosing the issue.
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