Over 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.
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!
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. You can even take a shot at replacing a damaged smartphone display!