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Replacing a Damaged Laptop Screen

Sandy from Ohio asks:

My granddaughter stepped on the screen on her laptop. Is it possible to replace a laptop screen? Is it a good financial decision to do so?

My first question would be whether you have a Mac or PC laptop? The reason I ask is that, while it is possible to replace the screen on both, the financial variables multiply very shortly thereafter. For example, replacing a PC laptop screen on your own, will cost you time and between $100 and $250, depending on your brand of laptop, but a Mac screen price ranges considerably, from between $100 to $400. Sending the laptop off to have the screen replaced by a professional may save you time and give you peace of mind, but you will likely be without your PC laptop for several weeks and this type of repair can cost up to $1000. For MacBooks and MacBook Pros, the average turn around would be only one week with a more reasonable cost of $350 to $600, depending on the professional to whom you go.

Note: Macbook Air has to be sent back to Apple, and can cost as much as $1300.

As you can see for either computer, if you choose to replace the screen on your own, it will be much cheaper than paying someone else to do it. However, this can be a tricky task. There are a number of issues that arise when accomplishing this process on your own. If you are able to replace the laptop with the exact LCD screen that was manufactured for it, then most of your problems will be eliminated. On the other hand, if you are looking to save even more money by purchasing the same sized screen made by another company then the following problems may occur:

The shape for the video cable connector may be different.

A different inverter board may be required by the backlight lamp.

The inverter board connector may be different.

A specific video cable may be necessary even if the connector is the same shape and size.

When replacing anything inside of a computer, it is highly recommended that you wear an anti-static wrist strap.

The quickest way to ruin your laptop would be to have an excess of static electricity while you are replacing the LCD screen.

Before you replace the entire screen, you may want to find out if this is actually necessary. Obviously, if the screen is cracked, it has to be replaced, but if the images are flickering, faint, or if dark spots are present, then this involves a different type of repair.

Images on a computer monitor are made visible through backlighting. Most laptops have switches for the backlights and these are located near the hinges on a laptop. Sometimes these switches get stuck and can be triggered by opening and closing the laptop a few times. If the screen flickers off and on, then the problem is probably with the inverter behind the screen. The inverter is what powers the backlight. A screen that is white most likely is caused by a cable connection that needs to be replaced. This is located between the screen and the motherboard.

If the final verdict is that the entire screen needs to be replaced, you will want to make a weighted comparison, based on the age of your computer, between the cost of replacing the screen and the cost of buying a new computer. Keep in mind that, since most manufactures quit making new parts for computers after 5 years of age and completely discontinue support after the computer reaches 7 years or more, sometimes the only way to buy the screens is on eBay or Craigs List. You will also want to keep in mind that, depending on your computer, new PC laptops start around $350 and MacBooks are $999 and up.

The general rule of thumb would be to look up the make and model of your laptop on eBay.com [1] and CraigsList.com [2] to see what it is selling for both new and used. If the cost of repair is the same or greater than the cost it is selling for, then I would suggest buying a new computer.

If you decide to do the repair yourself, you can look up that same make and model information on ifixit. They may offer specific repair instructions for your laptop.

~H. A. Bryan