Busted – How To Deal With a Broken Screen On Your Laptop

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broken screenOver the past couple of years I have traveled a lot and took my work with me wherever I went. I worked from the most ridiculous and beautiful places all over North America and Europe. My office was wherever I set up my computer. And for a while my desktop felt like home. And then I broke my laptop screen. Disaster!

What do you do when you depend on your laptop; to look up information, submit work, and meet deadlines? Well, I am here to tell you that you will survive. A broken screen certainly isn’t the end of the world and it’s less pain than a broken hard drive in any case.

A laptop is such a compact unit that breaking one part makes the entire device useless. Yet it’s built in a modular fashion. Hence, many of its parts can be fixed or upgraded, including the hard drive and RAM. With the broken screen it’s not that easy, but it can still be repaired. But that’s not the only solution.

broken screen

Your Options

When your laptop display breaks you have several options. You can attach the device to an external monitor, fix the display, or buy a new laptop. If you have read my feature story on consumption and electronic waste, you already know what I did.

Attaching An External Monitor

I needed to work and I dreaded working from my old netbook, so I decided to attach an external monitor to my laptop. I first had to go out and buy one, but I had wanted a second monitor anyway, so that wasn’t a big deal. Using an external monitor is a quick fix that buys you time. At the very least, it lets you examine whether the rest of the laptop is really OK.

If you don’t have a spare monitor at home, you may be able to borrow one from a friend, buy it second hand, or get a good deal from a local store; TFTs aren’t that expensive. You might even find a free one via local classifieds like CraigsList. If you do decide to buy a new TFT, be sure to invest in a model that will be of use to you, even if you end up repairing the laptop or getting a new one later on.

Repairing The Broken Screen

Now that the screen is busted, you have nothing to lose. After attaching an external monitor, you will probably find that the display is in the way. At least that was my experience, so I removed it…

…and used a beheaded laptop for a short time. Suddenly, the webcam became much more useful! I think they should build laptops with webcams that can be pulled out. I really enjoyed having a webcam on a string.

When you remove the display, don’t be afraid, but be careful. Try not to break anything and document your every step. This will help you put the thing back together.

Take special note of how cables are wired, e.g. cables for the screen, the webcam and antennas. Also don’t forget to write down in which order you removed the parts, where you released screws (if any), and which ones went where. Finally, be sure to keep all the parts together and store them in a safe location.

To be honest, I neglected to document the dis-assembly. While reassembling the display, it happened twice that I figured out mistakes several steps down the line, meaning I had to go back and do them all over again. That’s enervating because breaking something as you’re putting in the new display would be a real drama.

But before you can think of putting everything back together, you first have to find a replacement display. I thought this would be hard, but in the end it wasn’t. Look at the back of the broken screen for a model number. Mine was LP156WF1 and it was an LG Display. You can use that number to search for a spare part.

Using the model number I searched on eBay and found several merchants that sold brand new displays. The price for my Full HD 15.6″ display was €77 (ca. US$100) plus shipping. In the US you will get a better deal. I ordered and within two days the display arrived.

If you were smarter than me and documented the dis-assembly, the reassembly will be a breeze. It will still take some time; just be patient and don’t forget to breathe. In the end, you will have your old laptop back!

broken screen

Buying a New Laptop

Personally, I think it’s drastic to buy a whole new laptop if you just have a broken screen. Since my laptop was only a year old, this wasn’t an option at all. However, if your laptop is old and you really wanted to replace it anyways, go for it.

Before you trash the old one, note that you can salvage several valuable parts that still work, for example the hard drive or RAM. Whatever is left over after you removed the useful parts, should be recycled. Electronic waste contains a bunch of rare materials that do not belong onto the landfill or into an incinerator. Please recycle!

Take Home Message

A broken laptop display can be repaired and it is not that hard. Even girls can do it!

What was the last electronic device you successfully repaired and was it worth it?

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Comments (28)
  • Emily

    “Even girls can do it” WTF, tongue in cheek or not, super lame comment, I’ll never be reading you again

  • Gracy

    Hi..is there any other way to fix a broken display dan replacing it? My sony viao screen’s become white with coloured lines on one side n I can see the other half of my desktop background flicker and as two (above n below)..wat do I do?

    • Buych

      Gracy, I think your problem is that your screen has cracked partially, if the crack covers, half of your screen, expect the entire screen to be cracked by christmas. Basically, the only options you have are the ones listed above. The screen cannot be fixed at all, so those are basically your two options. The only reason that your screen is white with colored lines, and others are black, is mostly because of the type of the screen. LCD looks different than a LED, and you probably have a LED, as I believe when those crack, they turn white. I had a PSP screen entirely crack on me and it absolutely sucked because you could not find a PSP screen cheaper than $200, or a cheap PSP that had a working screen. It was a lot cheaper to just get a new PSP. In the case of a Sony Viao, I would HIGHLY recommend either getting an external screen, or finding another screen. I remember when I was looking for a Sony Viao how expensive they were, and it would not be worth it to go out and buy an entire new laptop when the only thing broken on it is the screen.

  • Lorraine

    I have a laptop with a broken screen I also have someone who can fix it -well transfer data my data from my broken laptop to another and stuff I do want will be deleted. ..problem is will they be able to see my pictures whilst doing this?

    • Tina S


      Are you wondering whether they will be able to look at photos you don’t want them to see or whether it’s possible to provide them with a screen, so they can see what they are doing? In short, yes for both.

      You can attach an external monitor to your laptop, so they can see what they are doing. And actually they have to in order to find and copy the files over. They won’t automatically see the photos, but of course if they are curious, they might open a file to look at it, including an image / photo file.

      Other than staying with them and looking over their shoulder while they are copying your files or ask them not to open any of them (which might make them even more curious), there is not much you can do. Well, you could just do it yourself. It’s not that hard.

      Feel free to post a question asking for more advice over on MakeUseOf Answers.

  • Christine S

    when you say use a secondary screen temporarily can it be a screen from an old laptop? or does it have to be an independent screen? and you did the repair job yourself thats awesome. is there any special tools you can suggest? i have one month before school starts and need to get my sons netbook up and running again (it was only a few months old when he slammed it shut with his earbuds on the keys) thank you for writing in such a way it gives me confidance to at least try.
    thanks ever so much

    • Tina Sieber

      I’m sure it’s possible to somehow connect the screen from an old laptop, but I don’t know how.

      I didn’t use any special tools for the repair job. It also depends on your device. Various size and shapes screwdrivers will be helpful, if the manufacturer used screws for the assembly.

      Search for the model on Google or YouTube and see whether someone has attempted to change the screen on it. Maybe you can instructions or a manual that shows how the screen is assembled.

      Good luck!

  • Amir Meta

    this is a great article! But i must say that in my case i cannot order online new screen, in my country there are no shops that sell stuff like this, all this due to political issues… So my option is that i dismantle the entire thing, put it to old DVD case (in my case old VHS video recorder) and connect it permanently to TV with DVI/VGA cable and connect a wireless mouse and keyboard and that’s it! it looks pretty cool!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.