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I have a 2009 white MacBook that doesn't seem to be waking from sleep properly. I close the lid at night to put it in sleep mode, and when I open it the next day, the display backlight doesn't turn on – I just get a black screen.

I know the computer itself is powered on because I can hear the fans running, and I know it's not in sleep mode because the sleep indicator light turns off when I open the lid. It's exactly as if you lowered the brightness to 0.

I tried adjusting the brightness, hitting all sorts of keys, etc. and nothing gets the display to come back – so I've resorted to holding the power key to force it off, then booting it back up.

Is there anything I can do, or is this a hardware failure? Surprised as the machine is only 3 years old (though it's my employer's, not mine!).


UPDATE: I have an external monitor hooked up to the MacBook, and when the MacBook's display fails to turn back on after waking from sleep, the external monitor also doesn't display anything – just the default "no signal" message that appears when the monitor is on but not plugged into a computer.

If this were an issue with the MacBook's internal display cable (as it seemed like it was), would that also prevent the external monitor from displaying anything?

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  • Can you post a picture of the display at an angle without any glare when this happens? – duci9y Dec 11 '12 at 16:05
  • I had a similar issue when I plugged an externally powered USB hub into my laptop (2007 MBP). The backlight went out and wouldn't come on until a full power cycle. Unlikely to be the exact same issue, but if you have anything plugged in (USB/firewire/etc), take it out and test without that, in case its a high/low voltage on wake-up, from any peripherals. – drfrogsplat Dec 12 '12 at 0:05
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    I recommend resetting SMC. The display backlight is controlled in part by this chip: support.apple.com/kb/ht3964. – bispymusic Mar 12 '13 at 20:07
  • In response to your UPDATE question... A loose display cable should not prevent an external display from working. In fact, I have seen users do this intentionally to older iMacs with bad displays. – bispymusic Mar 12 '13 at 20:08
  • Did you find a solution for this problem? If so, please post it as an answer. – Saaru Lindestøkke Jun 16 '13 at 14:18
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Make sure you are using the laptop with the correct model magsafe charger - if you use a different model's charger, eg a 15 inch 85 watt charger or such, it can cause this problem to occur. A reset of the PRAM would normally cure the problem temporarily.

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I have the same problem and have found that if you repeatedly hit the ESC button, eventually the backlight will turn on.

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This sounds like a hardware problem, if using the brightness keys on the keyboard have no effect.

Have you tried resetting PRAM? (Hold down command+option+P+R while rebooting) This is the first thing that Apple will have you do if you bring it to them.

One suggestion, if you get the backlight on, don't close the lid, put the computer to sleep using the shutdown dialog box, and see if that helps. If it does, then it is probably a bad video cable.

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  • Interesting – I tried sleeping the computer last night from the Apple menu (instead of shutting the lid) and when I woke it this morning, the display turned on just fine. It's possible the wire is bad; I think this computer was dropped at one point before it was given to me (there's a crack in the case to the left of the trackpad). – daGUY Dec 12 '12 at 15:25
  • The laptops owned by corporations usually get much more abuse than ones owned privately. There is a ribbon cable that runs through the hinge and connects the screen to the motherboard, so a drop can easily damage this cable. Is there a camera in the lid? If so try using it to see if it works properly. That same cable would have to carry the signals for the camera, audio, and light sensor. – Ɱark Ƭ Dec 12 '12 at 16:30
  • Yes, the camera works fine (I actually just used it today, coincidentally). – daGUY Dec 12 '12 at 17:19
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I found a temporary fix. Set a hot corner for sleep mode, you can do this in the System Preferences app.

When you open your MacBook, type your password while the screen is still black; press return. This should send you into your desktop while the screen is still black. Then move your cursor to your sleep mode hot corner, an then move it away. This should wake up your back light without you going through the trouble of restarting or resetting your PRAM.

I've had this same problem for quite a while and I just learned to live with it.

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I got this issue when I updated my MacBook to 10.10.3. There was no backlight on Apple Logo. The screen was showing blank. On reading above posts, It was cleared that there is an issue with screen light. I tried my iPhone Flash on back of Macbook Screen on Apple logo and found very blurred Login Page, where I entered password and hit enter. After some time it loaded my screen. It was horrible experience. Never seen such issues, Hope apple fixes this issue.

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  • Hmm. Can you boot back to 10.10.2 or see if the backlight works when you boot with the option key held down? – bmike Apr 24 '15 at 21:21
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This probably might be late. But I hope it solves the problem for future generations. With the addition of the touchhbar this issue is even more serious.

Scenario: When you are connected to a second display, sometimes we tend to lower the brightness of the MacBook to zero to focus on the large second display. This stops you from viewing any warnings or notifications on the battery or power status. When your system shuts down in this setting, your are probably facing the black screen issue.

Now when this happens, as a user, we would have tried to press and hold the power button and at times, it could trigger a restart taking you to the Recovery mode with three options

  1. Forgot password
  2. Password doesnt work
  3. Keyboaord doesnt work.

Solution: In the left top click the Apple menu and shut down the system. Now that your system is shut down. Its time to power it up. On the assumption that We still don't see anything on the monitor, leave the system for about a couple of minutes. Now think of how you normally login to the system and how many login users you normally see and which one is yours. For example: Check the below image as example [Image downloaded from Apple forums]

enter image description here

We are going to follow the below steps assuming your display is still black and you are in the login process rather than the recovery process.

Step 1 : Click the right arrow button. This focuses you to the first user in the system

Step 2: Based on the user you normally login, click the right arrow and focus on your login.

Step 3 : Click enter.

Step 4 : Enter your password

Step 5: Click enter again

Leave the machine for a couple of minutes... Hurray, you might be able to see your screen!

It's important you know which user you are and your password. If it doesn't work, try switching it OFF and ON, and follow the steps again with a different user (Step 2).

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