Apple 17" Studio Display Backlight Problem

by Bill Catambay (Jan 25, 2005)

IMPORTANT UPDATE: 11/10/06

There is now a settlement to a class action suit with Apple regarding studio displays that go out due to the problem discussed on this page! If you paid to have someone repair your display, or repaired it yourself, you may qualify for a refund!

Details of the class action suit can be found at
http://www.apple17inchlcddisplay.com/.

For those who have had their display repaired within three years of the purchase date, you can receive a refund (or partial refund) from Apple.
Click here for full details.


Thanks to Michael Wyszomierski for sharing this news with me.
This article is meant for any owner of an Apple 17" LCD Studio Display (or possibly other LCD displays). Specifically, it is a discussion related to a known problem with the display involving the backlight inverter.

Anyone can do it! I've received countless "Thank you" emails from all kinds of people who were successful making the fix themselves. For example, on 5/4/06:

I had given up on my monitor, assigning it to its box in the basement, not having what I was told would be around $400 to $500 to fix it.

Then I stumbled across this article on the Apple 17" Studio Disply Backlight Problem (Jan 25, 2005). I ordered the recommended part and installed it yesterday. I have my monitor back! Just a huge thank you for writing the piece and taking the time to carefully illustrate and describe how to replace the backlight inverter. MoniServe came through too, delivering in just 2 days. Wonderful experience overall.

Thank you so much.

Most appreciatively,
Natasha Collins

Before my display suffered the problem, I never even heard of a backlight inverter. Understanding the symptoms is the first step in deciding whether you have any need to learn what a backlight inverter is (let alone how to replace one).

Symptoms
The first symptom of a backlight inverter going out is that the power light on your Mac starts blinking. Different types of blinking indicates different issues, but the specific blinking that indicates a backlight issue is two short pulses followed by one long pulse.


This is an animated GIF showing the blinking power light
(courtesy of
Michael Wyszomierski)

Technical data related to the power light blinking can be found on Apple's tech document 88366.

Other symptoms that you may notice are that the display gets dim overall, and the bottom half of the display gets even more dim than the top half.


Solutions
Some good information as well as a variety of remedies to this problem are discussed on Michael Wyszomierski's
Dim Studio Display web page, and more discussion and solutions are available from Apple's discussion forums (this link should take you directly to the pertinent discussion). After doing a lot of research and reading of the forums, and after spending a few weeks just trying to "hide" the problem (propping a greeting card up against the monitor to cover the blinking light, etc.), I finally decided that I could not happily live with the problem. I did not want to purchase a new monitor, because this display already cost me $1000 and it was only a few years old.

The first thing I did was sign Michael's
petition to Apple to ask Apple to step up to the plate and help us out. After that, I tried calling Apple myself. They were friendly enough, but the bottom line is that they refused to take any responsibility in the matter. I didn't want to pay $300 to $500 to get the display fixed, but I was running out of options. I discovered a class action suit that the Wexler Firm was serving Apple, and although I did contact them, I decided that I couldn't wait for something to happen there (class action suits can drag on for years). I considered a third party flat panel display as they have really come down in price, but I depend upon turning my G4 on via the power button on my studio display. Further, I still have an issue with spending $1000 only to replace the monitor a few years later.

I finally decided that I would operate. I read enough articles on Apple's forums that resulted in do-it-yourself successes that encouraged me that I have a fighting chance. Fixing this problem yourself involves taking apart your Studio Display (not for the faint of heart), and replacing the Backlight Inverter circuit board. There were a number of different prices I saw tossed around in the forums for inverters (as low as $70), but I personally could not find the required replacement Inverter board for anything less than $109 ($130 after shipping and taxes). I ordered the Backlight Inverted on Monday, 1/24, from
MoniServ, Inc., and the board arrived on Tuesday, 1/25! I figured it would be a week before I got "down and dirty" with my Studio Display, but since the board arrived so quickly, I was encouraged to delay no more.

The instructions and results of my operations are outlined below.



Instructions for Replacing the Backlight Inverter

TOOLS THAT I USED:


ITEMS THAT NEED TO BE REMOVED:


STEP 1: Unplug your display from your Mac. I actually forgot this step, and a little spark later on reminded me.

STEP 2: Use the hex wrench to remove the four screws on the back of the display.


Remove the four screws on the back of the display


STEP 3: Use the hex wrench to remove the three hex screws at the base of the display stand.


Remove the three screws attaching the stand


STEP 4:
Pull off the stand, then pull off the small cover the stand was attached to.

STEP 5: Remove the translucent back cover, and then remove the metal cover underneath it.


Remove the stand (aka, base), the small cover, and the two back covers


STEP 6: Carefully peel off the two tape strips at the bottom of the back of the display. Keep these in a clean place, as you'll want to re-apply them later.

STEP 7: Use the Phillips screwdriver to remove the screw at the top of the metal plate that covers the internal electronics.

STEP 8: Slide the metal cover down and remove.


Remove tape strips and metal circuitry cover


STEP 9:
Locate the Backlight Inverter and note the screws and plugs that are attached to it.


The existing Backlight Inverter should have 5 plugs and 3 screws


STEP 10: Remove the plugs (4 connectors on one side, and the CN1 connector on the other side). Keep them situated such that you can plug them back into the proper connectors when installing the new inverter.

STEP 11: Use the Phillips screwdriver to remove the 3 screws attaching the inverter, and remove the inverter.


Remove the plugs, the screws, and lift out the old inverter


STEP 12: Place the new inverter into place, and screw it in with the 3 phillips screws.

STEP 13: Re-attach the cables to the appropriate connectors.

STEP 14: Place metal cover onto back of display and slide up, then secure with Phillips screw.

STEP 15: Reapply the tape at the bottom.

STEP 16: Put metal back cover back on, then place translucent cover back on, and attach with 4 hex screws.

STEP 17: Place small base cover back on, then reattach base stand using 3 hex screws.

STEP 18: Stand the display back up, plug it into your Mac, and press the power button.

If all went well, your display should start up, and the problem of the blinking light and dim screen should be gone. I was ecstatic when I turned my G4 Quicksilver back on and the display lit up beautifullly. I had forgotten how bright it was supposed to be. It was great to not have that power light blinking any more as well. In fact, that is probably the worst part of the problem, and I strongly recommend that if you suffer these symptoms that you waste no time to fix it. This is due to the "burn-in" effect on your brain. I had watched, in agony, the power light pulsate for weeks, and even though the problem went away, occassionally when I glance down at the light I can still see it pulsate! It's like a bad nightmare that doesn't want to go away. I'm sure that in time this effect will wear off. I'm very happy to have my display back in good working order.

Copyright ©2005 by The Mac Guild