Broken 17" Apple Studio Display?

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2 short, 1 long blinking power light I know, I know, I hate looping GIFs too, but this is what many owners of Apple's 17-inch LCD Studio Displays have to look at every time they use their computers. Annoying, isn't it? The sequence of two short blinks followed by one long indicates that the display is detecting a backlight problem. In March of 2002, I purchased one of the displays for $999. They currently retail for $699. The display was only subject to what I would consider normal use, I set it to sleep after 20 minutes of inactivity, and only ran it at half brightness. After nearly two years of almost flawless performance, I was introduced to this blinking pattern. I woke my display from sleep early one morning, and noticed that the top part of the screen was much dimmer than usual, and gradually got brighter towards the bottom. I am not the kind of person who would go and make an anti-Apple website simply because I got unlucky with a piece of hardware. In fact, if you visit other areas of my website, you will see that I am generally an Apple enthusiast. If you read the information contained on this page, you will see why I am so upset about this particular issue.

I first tried to fix the problem by using some common techniques. I restarted. I shut down. I booted into OS 9. I zapped the PRAM. I did the Apple-option-A-V trick. I left the computer and the display unplugged (from power and each other) overnight. I tried the display on a different computer. No luck. I then headed to Apple's Support site, which is generally very helpful, so I recommend starting there if you have an Apple-related technical problem. I searched the articles, and learned that the blinking sequence indicates a backlight problem, which explained the dimness. One of the backlights must be out. I then headed over to the Apple's Discussion Forum to see if anyone had a quick fix for the problem or how much it would cost to get repaired. I entered a few keywords, and was directed to a post describing the same exact problem I have. As of March 18, 2005, it has 604 replies. Apparently what I am experiencing isn't an isolated incident.

Reading through the thread, I learned a few things very quickly:
Not willing to pay 75% of the price of a new monitor on a repair that is only guaranteed for 90 days, I went to my local Apple Specialist and explained the problem. The service technician just shook his head and told me, "it's not worth getting fixed," instead of quoting a repair cost.

Following a suggestion made by several members in the thread, as well as one customer's blog entry, I submitted a letter to Apple via PlanetFeedback. I included my phone number at the end of the message. About a week later, I found that I had a voicemail message from someone at "Apple's Corporate Executive Offices on behalf of Steve Jobs" asking me to call her back regarding my Studio Display. I called back the next day, and explained the issue, mentioning the high repair cost and the fact that I believe it is a common defect. She told me that she would investigate the issues with Apple's engineers to see if there was a known problem with the display, and call me back on the following Monday. On Monday, she called as promised and said that there was "no known problem" with the displays. She then gave me a list of Apple-Authorized Service Providers in my area, and said that they offer "competitive pricing" on repairs. She also asked me to call her back and let her know if they were able to help me.

The next day, I called every service provider she listed, as well as my nearest Apple Store. Here were the responses:
  1. "We're not allowed to fix those. They have to be sent to Apple."
  2. $390 for most parts, but that's not recommended as it's only guaranteed for 90 days. Suggested I purchase a new monitor.
  3. "Is it still under Apple's warranty?" (no) "Take it to a TV repair shop. We don't service monitors."
  4. "Apple doesn't make the parts available to us. We would add a fee for our services and then send it to Apple."
  5. The Apple Store simply connected me to the AppleCare line.
  6. "We have to send those in to Apple."
Apparently "competitive pricing" means less than $20 difference from Apple's flat rate ($409 as of the time I called.)

Before calling Apple again, I went back to the discussion board thread and compiled some statistics in an AppleWorks database. Of the 378 replies at the time, I found 172 unique user names reporting the same problem. Some had multiple displays with the problem, bringing the total number of affected displays to 180. Of the 172 users, 75 indicated in their posts that they had contacted Apple regarding this particular problem by calling customer relations, calling AppleCare, getting the display repaired by Apple, et-cetera. Using data from those who reported the age of the display at the time of failure, I found the average life of the display to be 18 months. I also noticed that some displays had the inverter board fail again after getting repaired. One member reported three such failures on the same display.

Armed with this new information, I called Apple back one last time. This is what we discussed:

I told the representative (by the way, I spoke with the same one every time) about my calls to the service providers. Her response was that Apple had recently made the parts available to the service providers, and perhaps they didn't know that they were available. She also noted that it was at the service provider's discretion whether or not they would service the displays or send them to Apple. I had heard about this recent policy on the discussion boards, so I mentioned it to some of the service providers when I called, and they didn't know anything about it.

I also gave her the information contained in my database. That didn't impress her very much. She gave me the usual "we have shipped tens of thousands of displays and that number is insignificant" response and also said that people don't go to the boards to report good experiences. I told her that not everyone who has the problem posts on the board. Not expecting a clear answer, I asked how many reports it would take before Apple considered this a known problem. She told me that she's not an engineer, and can't answer that.

I suggested that Apple revise its warranty options for their displays. Currently they offer a 1-year warranty. A 3-year AppleCare warranty is available for $249, but only when the display is purchased with a Power Mac, or $349 with a PowerBook. For comparison, Samsung offers a 17-inch LCD of similar price (around $700) and specifications with a free 3-year warranty on parts, labor, and backlight. The Apple representative's reply was that there has been very little demand for AppleCare on individual displays, and that I purchased my monitor with the knowledge that it only had a one-year warranty. I reminded her that many users saw their displays fail within the first year, which should indicate that the life of the displays is not as long as Apple thinks.

I suggested that Apple adjust its repair costs. Charging 3/4 of the purchase price for a repair is insane. For a while, Apple charged $255 plus a mailing fee to replace an iPod's battery out of warranty. This turned out to be about 75% of the purchase price of a mid-range iPod. Many consumers, including the (in)famous Neistat Brothers, were understandably upset, and Apple has since changed its policy, offering a $99 battery replacement program for out of warranty iPods, as well as a $59 extended warranty. The Apple representative didn't have much to say about that.

Knowing that the conversation was getting nowhere, I tried some "I know people" remarks. I mentioned that I know people in charge of making large computer purchases for schools in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, and that I would have no choice but to tell them about my situation. I told her that these people had experienced the problem with the first generation eMacs, which Apple also initially refused to acknowledge as a common problem. Because of this, they were already suspicious of Apple's quality control and customer service. I told her that one of them was starting a laptop program, and because of the recent PowerBook "white spots" issue, he was following Apple's quality control closely, and was interested in my experience regarding my display. The Apple representative simply told me that they should contact their Apple sales representative should they have any concerns.

And to close the conversation, I informed Apple that I was contacted by someone who is very close to filing a lawsuit against Apple regarding this issue. I didn't give any specific information; I just felt I should give fair warning. Of course, not being an Apple legal representative, customer relations was unable to comment.

That was basically it for our call. She said that she would keep my case number on file and I can call back if I have any further questions.

After the last call with Apple, I decided to launch this website to encourage customers with the same problem to contact Apple. By putting this information on an external website, I am hoping that users who do not know about Apple's Discussion Forum will come across this site when searching for a solution. At the very least, this page will let customers with the problem know that they're not alone.

I am hoping that Apple will:
For more information, read the Apple Discussions thread. If that link doesn't work, try this path: Discussions Home -> Apple Displays -> Displays Forums -> Apple Studio Display 17" LCD -> Half dimmed flat panel display. The topic should be one of the first five in the list, and is usually #1.

One of my posts, replying to another user's question about who would be interested in a class-action lawsuit, was deleted by Apple. I looked at the number of replies at the time (370) and noticed that it was eight less than the number of replies that existed the day before, (378) so obviously I was not the only one to have a message deleted. A copy of the offending message can be found here. This is the automated notice from Apple.

If you would like to view an archive of the thread, which includes some messages that were deleted by Apple, (ooh, bonus features!) I have a copy here (Warning: It's long.) If you want to print out and mail/fax it to Apple, here's a handy PDF file. The archive was last updated on November 15, 2004, and is 137 pages when printed. To make your own archive, follow these instructions.

If you are experiencing the problem described on this page, I encourage you to contact Apple directly so they will know that there is a flaw with the voltage inverters used on the 17-inch Studio Display.

Apple Customer Relations: (800) 767-2775

Apple's mailing address:
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino CA 95014
United States

PlanetFeedback (Use this to email Apple.)

Please sign the petition for Apple to acknowledge this as a known problem. If a similar petition already exists, please email me and I may link to it. Since the site that hosts the petition is sometimes down, I will archive it periodically here. (Last update 2-9-2005, 432 signatures.)

Repair/Replacement Suggestions:
Note: If you are still under the standard warranty (unlikely now since the displays have been discontinued) or have AppleCare, the easiest solution is to call AppleCare at (800) 275-2273 and have Apple repair your display for free. Also, thanks to Neal for informing me that purchases made with a Visa Platinum card automatically have the warranty doubled on the purchased product. He was able to have his display repaired for free under this agreement. Check with your credit card company to see if your purchase qualifies for an extended warranty. Some stores also offer extended warranties or "protection plans," so perhaps you got lucky there.

Apple Authorized Service Provider
We know that Apple will charge an arm and a leg for repairs, but an independent service provider probably won't. When I first started calling service providers, things looked pretty grim, but Apple is no longer withholding the necessary parts from the authorized service providers. Since the providers don't have to send the displays to Apple anymore, they can offer much more reasonable labor rates. Find authorized service providers here (ignore "Apple Retail Store" results) or use this form to limit your search to Apple Specialists. For a first-hand account of why it makes sense to visit an service provider, read Apple's $440 Piece of Plastic by Ted Landau on The Mac Observer.

Recommended by many display owners, The IMAGE will fix your display for $175 plus $25 shipping and handling. Turnaround time is usually 1-3 days, and the standard repair warranty is 90 days, (same as Apple) with extended warranties available.

DIY Options:

MoniServ will repair your display for you (rates), or, if you want, they will sell you the inverter from and you can perform the repair yourself. Many people have opted to perform the repair themselves, and have been successful by following Bill Catambay's instructions.

If you can solder
An anonymous author has provided instructions for repairing the inverter board without replacing it entirely.

If you're willing to wait it out
Black electrical tape.

For more repair information, please explore the rest of this page, and also visit the Apple Discussions thread to read about repair experiences and advice.

Replacement: (This section contains affiliate links, so I'm not sure if I can call the advice "unbiased.")
Many readers have asked for non-Apple replacement monitor suggestions. After using my broken display for over a year without repair, I finally bought a 17" Samsung Syncmaster 730B. Recently, I added a 19" ViewSonic VG920 to my desk, since I like working with dual monitors. The ViewSonic is connected via DVI and the Samsung via VGA. I'm not too happy with the colors on the Samsung, but the ViewSonic colors are very close to what I'm used to on the Apple display. Both displays run at the same resolution of Apple's 17" LCD, and best of all, have a 3 year warranty which covers the backlight.

If you're willing to give Apple another chance, as the displays are really nice when they work, you can at least know that their displays have come down in price, although the 17" model has been discontinued. They now offer the following models:
Apple Cinema Display 20
Apple Cinema HD Display 23
Apple Cinema HD Display 30

Miscellaneous repair/replacement notes:
Several readers have sent me emails asking about getting parts for their displays. Since I don't have a forum of my own, I suggest that those looking to buy/get or sell/give a part to use the existing thread on Apple's discussion board, so we are all looking in the same place.

If you're looking to repair a 20" display, please note that the 17" display inverter from Moniserv will not work. The Apple part number for the 20" display inverter is 922-5987, available from You may also be able to order it through an Apple Reseller if they're willing to let you perform the repair yourself. You cannot order the part directly from Apple.

Since Apple seemed unimpressed when I mentioned the number of people reporting the problem on the Discussions thread, I asked Manuel of The IMAGE how many displays they had fixed with this same problem. Last year, they repaired approximately 50 of these displays with the inverter problem. If this is only the number fixed by The IMAGE, then just imagine how many Apple itself has repaired. "No known problem." I don't think so.

If the incessant blinking of the power light is driving you crazy, use a black Sharpie marker to color in a Post-it note and place it over the power button. You may wish to use a piece of tape or second Post-it to secure the bottom of the colored note, so the light does not escape out the bottom and reflect off of your keyboard.

5-6-2004, 3:27 AM: Extra-special thanks to Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing for posting a link to the petition. Have you signed yet?
5-6-2004, 5:03 PM: My post linking to the petition is deleted after almost 12.5 hours on the board.
5-11-2004: Crazy Apple Rumors links to Boing Boing's entry which links to The Petition which links to this page! Thanks CARS! (By the way, if you've never visited the site, I suggest that you do. It's hilarious.)
9-22-2004: Eric Siegmund, the lucky customer who had his out-of-warranty monitor repaired for free by Apple, reports that the monitor has gone bad again after 9 months. The repair only had a 90-day guarantee, so Eric has purchased a NEC 19" LCD monitor, which costs about the same as the Apple 17-inch did (Apple has discontinued the 17", leaving the $1300 20-inch model as the least expensive in Apple's line), is larger (duh), and has a three year warranty.
11-1-2004: I've replaced the Post-its with black electrical tape:
Monitor covered in black electrical tape to prevent the blinking power light from being seen.
11-16-2004: Andrew was kind enough to email me with a solution to the blinking light:
"All you do is disconnect the smaller of the two plugs that are plugged into the bottom of the mainboard of the display. The attached service manual provides diagrams and disassembly tips, etc. If you look on yours, note the small labels next to the socket that say which wire does what. However, unplugging the whole connector for the power button will disable the power button completely, so you'll have to press the power button on the mac itself to start the computer."
Note: The service manual is for a 20-inch Cinema Display, but the procedure remains the same.

More from Andrew:
"I examined the power connector for the front button today in detail. There is a small wiring diagram printed next to the connector with labels corresponding to each wire. The wires are entitled "FN POWER," "+5V," "LED," "GND," "FN FORCE," and "LED INHIBI." I believe "LED INHIBI," the blue wire at the rightmost part of the connector, is what controls the flashing. [see update from Brian below before disconnecting anything] In other words, the main board sends a signal on that wire to the white LED in the power button to flash."

He didn't test his procedure because he doesn't need the power button and doesn't want to impact the resale value of the monitor by cutting the wire. I'll give it a shot and report on the results when I get around to opening up my unit. If anyone else wants to try, please let me know how it goes.

6-28-2005: Update to the above instructions:
Brian writes: "After replacing the inverter, ordered from Moniserv, the power light continued to flash, though the backlight itself was back to normal. I tried the fix recommended on your site: Pulling the "LED INHIBI" blue wire. This does NOT work. Doing this will cause you to lose the ability to turn on your Mac from the monitor, and the light will continue to flash. Instead, disconnect the "FN POWER" wire (the black wire on the left of the connector). This will preserve the functionality of the power button, but the light will no longer come on. Instead of cutting the wire, I was actually able to pull the wire out of the connector, allowing me to re-connect it in the future if necessary."
1-2005: The petition now has over 400 signatures. Apple hasn't listened to my statistics in the past, so if anyone else would like to give it a shot, try mailing them a copy of the petition. If you do this, please shoot me an email so I know about it. Thank you!
Apple Computer
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014.

1-25-2005: Bill Catambay, editor of The Macintosh Guild, has fortunately become a victim of the infamous backlight inverter failure. I say "fortunately" because he took action and wrote an excellent how-to article, complete with pictures, on how to do the repair yourself.

1-31-2005: For the more technically inclined, someone has posted instructions on how to repair a failed inverter without replacing the entire board.

7-19-2005: Apple's $440 Piece of Plastic. Writer Ted Landau personally experiences why one should bypass Apple and go to an independent reseller for repairs.

Word spreads...
- Tony spotted a mention of the petition on theunofficialappleweblog and Engadget.
- Ralph saw a story about it on MacDirectory.
- Like reading your Apple and Mac news ¿en Español? NoticasMac has an entry about Apple censoring posts on the Discussions Forum. My Boing Boing entry is mentioned briefly.
- Mac Move posted a skeptical entry about the petition on the afternoon of May 6th, the day I launched the petition. At the time, only 15 people had signed.

Thanks everyone for the publicity!

If you have any information or questions regarding this issue, please feel free to send me an email:
This is quite possibly the second ugliest website I've ever created. (Click here for the definite ugliest.) If you'd like to service the Apple community by redesigning or reorganizing this page, I'd be happy to see what you came up with and give you credit. Translations of this page are also welcome as I am only fluent in English.