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Macbook Pro Display Replacement Gone Awry....or Perhaps Not

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MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display Late 2013

MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display Late 2013 Display Assembly Replacement

MacBook Pro 15" Retina Display Late 2013 Display Assembly Replacement

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Mijn probleem

My computer is my life. It is a personal life choice not own many physical items, but of the items I do own, I value very much, my computer most of all. As I'm sure is true with many, it is my main source of my digital entertainment, internet curiosity, and software development pursuits. So when I opened my computer one day about two months ago and saw an LED strip blacked out along the left side, I was mortified. At first I thought a simple restart would fix it, until I noticed a hairline fracture on the bottom left corner of the display. As a few more days went on, the single blacked out strip became three, and then a dozen. It was only getting worse the longer I put off repairing it.

To this day, I am still not certain how it got there, but the people I asked said that something must have been in the device when the lid was closed. Whatever the matter, I had to fix it. Apple wanted $800 for the full replacement. It makes perfect sense, but it was frustrating to realize that the hairline fracture would require the same ~$800 repair as it would if the entire screen was bent back 90 degrees.

I looked up the part on iFixit and saw that it was only ~$400; much cheaper than having to pay for someone else to handle it, albeit I'm not much of a hardware guy, so I didn't know how hard it would be to do on my own. I decided to buy the piece and take the risk. I already had the Pro Tech Toolkit at my disposal, why not see if I could put it to good use?

Mijn oplossing

The whole process took ~2 hours. My roommate helped me out and was of great service as a second pair of hands and sorter of the myriad screws that needed to come off the computer. I followed iFixit's guide to a tee, making sure to follow each step with extreme detail. The one thing that worried me most was static discharge. It's not something that many novices consider when dealing with electronics. I had the ESD bracelet that comes with the toolkit, but still, you can never be too careful.

<sidenote> The internals of a Macbook Pro are absolutely gorgeous. I'm not an Apple fanboy by most accounts (although their hardware is growing on my quite a lot), but I was blown away at how perfect everything looked inside. Even if you don't plan on servicing your device, I would recommend just taking the back plate off and admiring the meticulous work that was put in to make it just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. </sidenote>

When it was all said and done, everything back in it's place, I reluctantly turned the computer back on and.....a static black screen. Ugh. I followed all the steps correctly, I worked slow and deliberately, what could have gone wrong? Static! Surprisingly, the device still booted up. The white Apple logo appeared and soon enough I was at my login page. The static wasn't as bad as I had initially thought, but it was still evident. Luckily it was only visible on dark areas of the screen; any dark grey, blue, or black areas contained green sporadic sparkles that danced across the screen, as if mocking my attempt to fix my own display.

It was SO CLOSE. More than discouraging to see how near I had come to a perfect repair. I thought perhaps it was a software issue again, so I restarted my device. When that didn't work I reset the MVRAM, and then I went as far as to wipe my entire device. Nothing worked. The display connects more than I had expected, including wires for bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Those seemed work fine when I checked them, so at least I knew it was only the display connection that was wanky.

Having tampered with the internals myself, I knew that Apple would now no longer help me fix the device, but I made an appointment with them anyway. Perhaps they could at least give me some next step advice. I made an appointment and when I showed the man helping me my issue, he didn't really know what to say. He told me that it was definitely a hardware issue, and the only proposal he gave was to unplug the display port for a day or two. He said that a small amount of static may have built up during the fix and leaving it unplugged my dissipate it. We both knew that this was unlikely to solve the issue, but !&&*, why not give it a shot. I opened the computer back up, unplugged the display, and left it alone for three days. In that time I also bought some compressed air. You would not believe the amount of dust that collects in just over a year. Again, even if you don't plan on doing a self repair on your device, using compressed air to clean out the fan blades may be my new favorite thing to do. Satisfying beyond compare ;)

I blew out as much dust as possible and was about to plug the display cord back in when I noticed one of the pins looked a bit out of place. Perhaps this was the cause of the static? If I could only "bend" it back into place? In retrospect, this seemed like a fine idea. I was desperate to do anything in my power to make this work. Using needle-nose pliers, I attempted to fix the pin. I ended up making it worse. At this point I had given up and was checking my bank account funds to see if I had enough to just pay for the repair, which would put me out a total of $1,200. I felt sick at even the thought of that. As a college student, I could barely afford to a moderately comfortable life, much less blow more than a grand on my already expensive computer. I fixed the broken pin as well as I could, and plugged it back in. I screwed the lower plate back on, turned it over, and pressed the power button. At first it was just black. It was black for the longest time of my life. I thought for sure I had ruined the whole thing at this point. And then...

It just worked. It was beautiful. The Apple logo appeared, and I was logged in. Everything was just as it should be. The greys and blues and blacks were vivid and crisp. I don't know how exactly, but to this day my display has worked better than ever. I still get excited by the thought of it whenever I think about the experience.

Mijn advies

If there was one thing I could narrow my advice down to when digging into the guts of a Macbook (or any computer for that matter), it would be to save no expense to eliminate all possible static electricity. Work on a rubber mat, make sure you have grounded yourself before starting (touching a sink is a great way to ground yourself), wear an ESD bracelet, wrap your pliers in electrical tape, do absolutely everything in your power to make it a safe environment for your device, because static is the hardest thing to deal with. If you had an unsuccessful repair, you would never know if it was caused by static or not. You wouldn't feel it or see it or notice it. Always go the extra step to get rid of all static. It may just make or break the whole repair.

The other point of advice would be to not give up. It gets pretty hot and heavy when you're in the thick of it, and even a slight mishap leaves you wondering if you've soiled the entire replacement. There were many instances where I wanted to just call it quits because I thought I had exhausted any chance of accomplishment. Keep working and see it through to the end. You may be surprised by what works.

MacBook Pro 15" Retina (Late 2013-Mid 2014) Display Assembly afbeelding
MacBook Pro 15" Retina (Late 2013-Mid 2014) Display Assembly


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