How to repair/replace a broken laptop LCD
Yesterday, my girlfriend accidentally stepped on my new laptop. At the time I didn't think much of it. Only today when I switched it on, did I discover a broken screen with huge black blotches and a few jagged lines.
Besides learning to never ever watch movies again on the floor (it's a long story, but speculate if you must), I've decided that I should probably wipe away the tears and look at how to repair this damn thing.
My goal is to find the cheapest and most effective way to have the screen replaced. I expect it to be a real pain in the arse. I have no insurance of any kind, nor any type of extended accidental coverage. And why do these things always seem to happen after cancelling the additional coverage I didn't use for the past 5 years running?
The LCD screen
The laptop screen is one of the most expensive bits to replace. Any alterations would void the warranty. So in my quest to get this fixed, here's a few things I've learned:
1. Confirm it's the LCD: the LCD, backlight and inverter are all built into the 'lid'. Ensure it's the LCD affected and not the backlight. If the backlight still comes on, it's not the inverter. If you hold a flashlight to the corner of the screen and can barely see the image, then it's the inverter/backlight that has died. To tell the 2 apart, you can check the inverter with a multimeter, but usually it's the backlight 'bulb' that dies.
2. Replace or resell?: unless you have a new laptop, the cost of replacing the screen could outweigh fleabaying it. If you have an old laptop worth £150 on the market and it costs you £100 to replace the screen, consider cutting your losses short. The time and effort it takes to replace it may outweigh just selling it for £50 as spares on the market. On the other hand, if you have a laptop that's worth a bit more, replacing it may be the best option.
3. Check your insurance: if you have home insurance with accidental coverage or any other kind of elecrtronic insurance, it may be possible to have your laptop replaced. Some companies will try to avoid paying out under any circumstances, while others will just send you a new laptop without even requesting for you to send in the broken one, leaving you with 2 laptops to step on.
4. Stay within the law: Try not to do anything dodgy. Some suggestions I came across online include taking a laptop back to the shop you bought it from, claiming it was damaged in transit, or buying insurance after the fact. Both are however illegal so we do not encourage this whatsoever. Last I heard, British prisons still use hand soap, so it's a slippery slope.
5. Buy a replacement screen: the cheapest legal way I've found so far is to search ebay for the same model and just get a replacement screen. It will run anywhere from £50-£100. Try a variety of keywords. Specialist screen sellers will usually markup prices after purchasing these screens in bulk from Asia. But if you use keywords like 'spare <laptop model>' or 'repairs <laptop model>', you can occasionally yield a spare laptop with a perfect intact screen, but a broken keyboard or failed CPU/empty motherboard, at a bargain price.
6. Things to beware of: Looking around, I discovered 'touchscreen LCDs' for around the same price as normal LCDs. I was pretty close to ordering one, only to find out that the 'LCD' element may not exist. Instead, it's simply an overlay screen that goes on the existing broken LCD. As fun as it may be, it doesn't exactly resolve the problem. So beware of so called 'touch screen LCDs', because you could end up spending twice on both the overlay and a new LCD.
7. DIY Tools: You'll need a small screwdriver, maybe an allen wrench. You'll also need a glass of wine, and some patience. The Instructables website has a DIY guide. Some of the pics are a bit blurry, but the instructions are pretty straightforward. There are plenty of free guides online specific to your laptop showing you how to disassemble it. But ensuring you get the right model is half the battle. Some bloggers reported new screens to have even extended their battery lives, but this can go both ways, I would imagine.
Finally, I'm currently exploring options outside of eBay with laptop repair companies, so I will share any further experience/insights if any in a separate post.
If you have any other tips or personal experience on repairing broken LCDs/screens, please share them below. In the mean time, I'm off to find a new girlfrie- I mean, the screen! The screen!