MacBook Pro: External display works, LCD display not recognized

Yesterday I restarted my Macbook Pro to find that the LCD display wasn't working -- there's not even a dim picture, it's just completely black, as if the display was asleep. Up until that point, it had been functioning completely normally, no visual glitches or issues -- the display simply didn't turn back on after restart.

When hooked up to an external display, the computer is still fully functioning. I can tell by looking at the computer's "Display" list that the LCD screen isn't recognized at all -- the only display listed is the external one. Furthermore, when I press F1 and F2, as you would to adjust the LCD brightness, no onscreen graphic appears. And finally, when I close my laptop, the computer doesn't go to sleep like it usually would -- it remains functioning with the external display.

All of which is to say, as far as my computer knows, the LCD display is completely nonexistent.

Does this seem like a problem with the display cable, the LCD screen itself, or some other element?



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It's odd that the screen would be completely dark with no faint image.

There are two components to the display -- the inverter system, which provides the light, and the video system, which provides the image. If the inverter system (screen, inverter, inverter cable, board) is flawed, you should still see a faint image courtesy of the video system. If the video system (screen, video cable, board) is out, you would generally see an odd bluish/greyish light with no image, courtesy of the inverter system.

The fact that you see neither is a little odd, and suggests this isn't a typical problem. External video works, so you know you don't have a bad video chip. It's a longshot, but I'm wondering if your machine might be stuck in an "external monitor mode" of some type. I would reset the PRAM, because if this is the case, it should set it back to the default mode, which should be to display video on the internal screen. If that doesn't work, you might want to go to System Preferences/Displays and see if it shows a means of switching back to the internal screen (I know you didn't see if there before, but I'm wondering if the PRAM reset might "jolt" it back into existence).

Beyond that, it might be a completely dead screen. It's rare a screen would be so dead that it would neither display light nor an image, but it could happen. I don't think it's a bad cable, because effectively neither cable is seeming to work, and it would be unusual that both were bad, so that points to it probably being another issue.

Lastly, I would try disconnecting the topcase/keyboard entirely, and jumping the machine's power via the power-on pads on the board. I've seen electronics in faulty topcases (usually in A1181s) cause a machine to "stick" in odd video and sleep related modes, so it would be useful to rule that out.

Also, try disconnecting the PRAM battery, and powering on with it disconnected, and then powering on again with it re-connected.

Good luck, and let us know if you make progress!

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I had the very same problem, turned out i had a bad RAM module


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My MacBook Pro 13 inch late 2008 would not recognize the internal display at all but was working properly with an external vga. I tried reseting an doing the software tricks, nothing worked.

This works!!!

Powered down the computer, unplugged everything.

Took back off, unplugged, then plugged back in battery connection cable.

Powered on computer, wah la!

My internal screen is working with no problems!! ;)))

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Worked for me! Was a pain, but took much less time than everything tried.


Worked! Take it apart - disconnect screen connectors. Connect them again. Put back together and viola! Legacy MacBooks rock.


Unbelievable! This worked! Thank you to the genius who figured this out!


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This issue can be caused by a couple of different parts. It can be caused by a bad LVDS cable (video cable), a bad LCD, or a bad logic board. The time and money that you will spend, unless you have another same macbook pro, is not worth it. You may just considering using it as a desktop with an external display, keyboard, and mouse. Apple offers a flat-rate option that would repair this problem for around $300-$400 but this model is too old for that option. Another option is to go online and buy a used macbook pro, you can find a comparable one for around $300-$400. Apples refurbished computers are also a good deal. Hope this helps!

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There has been an issue with the chip for this MacBook. I just called Apple, I know silly, of me to even consider after all these years, but I was outside the "recall" time for this model, expected though. Poster up there has the ticket though . Use it as a desktop. Good luck and here's the link!

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