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Laptop help, anyone?

People who know about computers - I would really love your advice right now.

My laptop, an Acer Aspire 5742, has suddenly ceased projecting images onto its own screen. I say this rather than 'has died', because I have the correct cables to connect it up to my TV, which instantly revealed that the computer itself is absolutely fine and could project images onto the TV screen perfectly well. Indeed, I was able to operate it normally and take an up-to-date back-up of all my files this way. It's just that the screen of the laptop itself remains utterly blank.

Obviously I have Googled "acer laptop screen not working" and tried some of the suggested tips - e.g. using Function keys to check I haven't accidentally turned the screen off, taking out the battery, waiting for a while and rebooting etc. But they haven't helped. Nor have I done anything which I would expect to have caused this, like dropping the laptop. In fact, as far as I can tell the sequence of events has been thus:

Friday night - laptop does a massive Windows update on shut-down.
Saturday morning - screen not working.

I am now planning to take it to PC World tomorrow, but since I know so many geeky people, I thought I would also ask here first, especially since it will help me not to get taken for a ride by the repair people. Does anyone have any idea what sort of fault this might be, or any suggestions for anything else I ought to try before paying lots of money for it to be fixed?

Thank you in advance if so!

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 18th, 2014 09:31 pm (UTC)
It could be a software issue - but if you've already done all of the function-key stuff then it's probably not that.

Which means it's more likely it's a hardware issue - particularly if you don't even get an image/text on boot-up. Hopefully the shop will be able to help you.
Oct. 18th, 2014 10:24 pm (UTC)

If it followed a Windows update, it's possible you've ended up with a graphics driver too advanced for your hardware. If you feel confident, poke around in your device drivers and try rolling back to a previous driver version. I don't know how likely this is (though there have been several issues if this kind with Windows 8/8.1).

Oct. 18th, 2014 10:56 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that's a really good suggestion - thanks! It would at least rule out one more issue, even if it doesn't solve the problem. I'm in bed now, but will try that first thing tomorrow before going to the shop. Cheers!
Oct. 19th, 2014 11:04 am (UTC)
In case you're curious, I did this successfully this morning, but it didn't make any difference. :-( So the laptop is with PC World now.
Oct. 19th, 2014 09:14 pm (UTC)
I don't think this can be the problem.

A computer has a screen it shows before it accesses anything on any disk. This is known as the BIOS stage. If (as strange_complex says) it is never showing anything on the screen then this is before the drivers have loaded (indeed before anything to do with windows has loaded).

So assuming when strange_complex says it doesn't show anything on its own screen then she means it literally never does then you can rule out software drivers or any issues at all related to windows. (I think the windows update thing really must be a coincidence as windows update can't affect this section of the computer that occurs before anything windows related).

However, if she means the screen starts with writing but has nothing on it when windows starts then it could, indeed, be drivers (though this kind of error is very very rare).

Unfortunately, I think the answer is almost certainly hardware. The connection between laptop and laptop screen goes via the hinge mechanism and that's a moving part... it can just fail alas.

Edited at 2014-10-19 09:14 pm (UTC)
Oct. 19th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)

Fair enough. My grasp of how text gets on the screen at boot-up is hazy. I've certainly heard people claiming a particular Dell/8.1 driver issue left them with a completely blank screen; they may have been exaggerating. My version of that problem simply left me with a screen set to minimal brightness that couldn't be adjusted :(

Oct. 19th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, a software adjustment could switch the default display to very dim or to be on a different monitor that is certainly true.

A software update could also leave you with a blank screen after the first few text bits that send you to windows.

I don't think these match the symptoms but they may.

Oh well. I hope the repair place sorts it out. Computer niggles are so annoying.
Oct. 21st, 2014 10:08 pm (UTC)
I don't know which version of Windows is being discussed, but Windows 8 (or 8.1, I get them confused) doesn't start with the BIOS screen -- it has some weird thing called FastBoot or something which means it's meant to boot up in small fractions of a second, so you don't get to see the BIOS unless you actually enable a setting in Windows itself first.

(I discovered this when installing Debian on new laptops. It also has the unfortunate -- for users but presumably not for MS -- side-effect of making it impossible to replace Windows without first accepting the license...)
Oct. 21st, 2014 10:26 pm (UTC)
Hmm... this is not how my windows 8.1 machine is working but it may be set up unusually. You're right though that with the move from BIOS to UEFI the rules have changed somewhat. Still, I think there is (necessarily) a UEFI state before the machine hits anything software (or even touches the disks) to get the machine to a bootable state and windows software updates should not harm this.

In windows 8.1 this usually looks like a manufacturer logo with that annoying windows tumbling balls falling as soon as the windows stage kicks in.

Unless I'm really misunderstanding though, there's still that stage before it's accessed any disks where it's sorting out its IO states.

I was able to replace windows on my windows 8.1 laptop without ever booting windows -- but I had to guess the key combos to do so -- but it could be that this was simply the state I received it in.
Oct. 22nd, 2014 07:04 am (UTC)
I could do it on a Windows 8.1 machine, I think, but not on a Windows 8. On one or the other it was only possible to access the BIOS through a setting in Windows itself, which was utterly hellish to do.
And I've seen machines that don't put up a manufacturer logo at all before starting Windows, though they may be rare...
Oct. 22nd, 2014 09:16 am (UTC)
I don't want to clutter up strange_complex journal so I won't say more on this. Let me put it this way. Every machine by necessity goes through a UEFI or a BIOS stage at boot, they cannot do otherwise.

The logo was merely meant as a way for you to identify the stage where the UEFI or BIOS is in control of screen output, it is common but by no means universal. [When you're talking about windows 8 it's likely to be UEFI not BIOS or UEFI with legacy BIOS]. The logo itself can be switched off (and in some cases may not be present) but the BIOS or UEFI in my experience always prints something to screen (though if you have dual monitor or external output it may be to a screen not switched on -- so I've been fooled by the BIOS output routing to a switched off TV before now).

There are not many manufacturers of UEFI or BIOS roms and I've never seen one that doesn't print to screen (that printing can be subtle and nowadays merge with the windows boot -- the way to tell is to remove the HD and see what it does). Such a beast may exist though as you say -- if you do see one could you let me know the manufacturer of the UEFI as it's genuinely of interest to me.
Oct. 19th, 2014 01:17 pm (UTC)
I had exactly this with my old HP. Wasn't software, wasn't a loose cable, it had to go have the screen replaced.
Oct. 19th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
Ugh, annoying isn't it? Mine has gone off for diagnosis and repair now, so hopefully I'll know what the problem is before too long.
Oct. 21st, 2014 01:54 am (UTC)
It could just be age and old parts. I've got a 5750 which is a slightly more recent and slightly different model (I think yours was higher range than mine at the time of release but it's hard to tell). I'm hoping to replace it very soon as it's close to dead. Admittedly it's my main machine and I use it constantly, so it's had a lot more use, but even so laptops tend to not be engineered for more than 3 years unless you go top of the range Lenovo or similar.

I definitely like my Aspire, but got a really good deal on it (ex display) so getting something as good for the same price is proving to be difficult. January sales are looking likely.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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