Macbook Pro Boots to a Dark Screen

Its that “oh crap” moment at Tarn Aeluin. You open up your MBP and nothing happens. You reboot and your Macbook Pro boots to a dark screen. Everything was fine yesterday, but now just nothing. Hairs start standing up on the back of your neck while you consider what exactly is on your machine that is not backed up. Sweat starts building on your

MBP Gone Dark

My treat this morning during a raging snowstorm.

forehead as you try to think of what to do.

Sound familiar? Well – its now happened to me enough that I’m going to keep a dedicated blog post just so I can keep track of successful solutions.

What are the symptoms of a Dark Screen?

I’ve had this problem 6 or 7 times on various MacBook Pro Retina machines. My current machine is a Mid-2014 15″ Retina with the 2.8 GHz CPU, 16GB of RAM, and the SSD drive. I think every time this has happened it has been when I get up in the morning and flip open the lid. Prior to this happening I was using the machine the night before with no issues and just put it to sleep by closing the lid. When I open the lid the next morning, the screen is dark – completely black. I can hear the machine connecting to wifi and the pinging of Skype notifications and other stuff.  The machine is working – for some reason the screen is not. Sometimes I can connect an external monitor and get a screen and sometimes I cannot.

What I’ve noticed is that when I have this problem, almost every time I had my MBP hooked up to something the day before. Yesterday I was using a projector in a conference room at work. An old crappy projector connected with the VGA-Thumderbolt adapter. This morning – black screen. I bet that projector caused this. Keep in mind I was using my MBP for several hours after using the projector at work and then at home too. The black screen seems to happen after a complete nights rest.

What are the Solutions to a Dark Screen: No Tone At All

There are a number of things to try and get your MacBook Pro working again. The first thing to not do is panic. Most likely everything is fine and the machine is just a little messed up. To start off consider what you were doing the day before. Did you have your MacBook Pro hooked up to a TV, projector, an unusual monitor?

The next thing to try is to hook up your MacBook Pro to an external monitor and see if that works. First try an HDMI source and if that doesn’t work try a thunderbolt to VGA adapter. If the external monitor works try unplugging it and sometimes this resets something and all of a sudden the internal screen will work. You can try fiddling with the Display settings as well, but I have not seen that help. It either turns on by itself or not.

Try closing the lid and re-opening it with the external monitor attached. Sometimes that “resets” something.

At this point if you have the external monitor working I would get a USB stick and backup anything that would be devastating if you lost it. (latest draft of your bestselling novel?)

If the screen did not come on, do a complete shutdown and restart the MBP with the external monitor connected. If you get an error on boot, like a CPU scramble, or other system restore screens, you might have a more serious issue.

What are the Solutions to a Dark Screen: I Got a Tone!

If you reboot the Macbook Pro and get the tone that’s a good sign. Sometimes I will get nothing at all after rebooting. When that happens the capslock key no longer works and I don’t think a desktop is appearing. Hard to tell since you can’t see anything. When this is happening usually the laptop’s fan will come on – probably a safety feature when things are messed up.

If you reboot and hear the tone and see an Apple logo that’s also good. However sometimes I’ve seen this and then the machine goes into a CPU scramble. If this is happening try to remember if you updated any software – especially OS-X. If you keep getting this you might want to try an OS-X re-install. A re-install will not remove your files unless you also do a drive format.

If you are getting a tone, but still have a dark screen, there are two techniques that you can try to reset the MBPs settings. I’ve found that both can work, but it is inconsistent which one will work on a given day.

  1. Reset the System Management Controller (SMC)
    1. Connect your MBP to the power adaptor
    2. Shutdown the MBP fully
    3. Disconnect any external monitor
    4. Hold down Shift+Control+Option+Power for a few seconds (I would say about 5)
    5. Boot the MBP as usual
  2. Reset the Parameter Random-Access Memory (PRAM)
    1. Connect your MBP to the power adaptor
    2. Shutdown the MBP fully
    3. Disconnect any external monitor
    4. Boot the Mac
    5. When you hear the chime hold down Command+Option+P+R keys simultaneously (you need to be quick and precise with this).
    6. Two things might happen now:
      1. The MBP will chime again – if it does then release the keys and let it boot. The PRAM should be reset
      2. The MBP will boot into the System Utilities. If it does – run First Aid on your drives. If everything is ok then exit the utilities and allow the MBP to reboot. Your PRAM should be reset now.

If none of that has fixed your dark screen then you probably have a hardware problem. The one last thing I can suggest is pressing on the hinge of your display above the F1 and F2 keys. There is a connector in there that can come loose. If you press like you are trying to push it back in this can get your display back. You need to press fairly hard as if you are trying to smooth something out – just rubbing your thumb back and forth a bit over this area. This actually worked for me once and my MBP has been good since then (about 4 months ago) until today.

Luckily today (1/22/2016) the PRAM reset worked like a charm and my dark screen is bright again. My MBP is working fine and I wrote this post on it. Calm waters are restored here at Tarn Aeluin. Ain’t technology great? 🙂

1 Response

  1. Happened again – its the hinge again. Closed and opened and could attach to external monitor. Decent push on the hinge and 2-3 reboots and all is good again. Gotta get this fixed.

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