back to article Not very bright: Apple geniuses spend two weeks, $10,000 of repairs on a MacBook Pro fault caused by one dumb bug

Apple's "geniuses" spent two weeks and an estimated $10,000 in warranty costs fixing a MacBook Pro screen fault that was resolved with a single button press or three. That's the word from photographer Greg Benz who has outlined the whole sorry tale on his website this week. An initially frustrated and infuriated Benz reported …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, black was Steve Jobs' favorite color

    Can never have too much of it.

    (Anonymous since I'm a coward.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The American elephant in the room, er, ocean.

      Wow, that's dark.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: The American elephant in the room, er, ocean.

        Wow, that's dark mode?

        1. NATTtrash Silver badge

          Re: The American elephant in the room, er, ocean.

          Perfect... Feeling really at home now...

          <humming Bella Lugosi's...>

    2. Oliver Mayes

      Re: Well, black was Steve Jobs' favorite color

      How much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

  2. Dwarf

    Genius !!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, this is a true story?

    1. tmTM

      Been there...

      Did the same with a mobile phone, turned the brightness all the way down then went outside on a summers day.

      Though it was broken till I remembered what I'd done.

      1. Dave K

        Re: Been there...

        I had a fun issue a few weeks ago. Sunny day outside, unlocked my phone as normal then turned it on its side to take a photo and the screen went blank. Huh?

        Pressed the power button a couple of times and turned it vertical, lock screen appeared as normal. Unlocked it and tried again to rotate it for a picture and again the screen went blank.

        After a bit of head scratching I figured it out - I was wearing some new polarised sunglasses and the screen on my LG G4 is also polarised. When I turned it on its side, the two polarisation layers were at 90 degrees from each other, so I couldn't see the screen any more.

        1. RRJ

          Re: Been there...

          Same thing happens on my dash cam.. so need to remember not to use polarised sunglasses if you also like to look at your dash cam when driving.. mind you that silly thing to do..

      2. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Been there...

        I had a similar issue but I found my twilight app (makes the screen redder in the evening etc was set to alway on instead of by daylight. Though since I live in Dundee that means I dare not look at the phone screen in the night as after about 2:40am it goes bright blue again . . .

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      I woudln't be surprised, the amount of times HP "smart buttons" have caused a user to switch their display to external only is depressing.

      Now with recent models they are on the Fx keys and you have to press fn to press an F key >_< (So I stab the sleep button over and over the press F12 to PXE boot, which is annyng as older models the sleep button was fn + F1 >_<)

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Yet again because I don't check my spelling and grammar, I unleash these hidious posts and only realise once the edit time passes.

      2. Uplink

        I had a laptop where Fn+C would disable the touchpad.

        I use the Linux Terminal a lot, I touch type, and Fn was next to Ctrl. It took me ages to understand what was happening.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I call BS on this. The brightness is stored in NVRAM, which obviously would be “reset” when they swapped the logic board out!

    In fact, resetting the NVRAM is usually the very first step in diagnosing this exact issue!

    1. kierenmccarthy

      Re: BS

      Unless of course they didn't actually swap the logic board out.... dun dun dun...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Likkie

      Re: BS

      I sense the whiff of BS too...

      I would have expected them to reset the NVRAM as a first step before switching out any physical parts... thence any new logic board(s) would have different settings saved in NVRAM and should have been reset on first use too.

      Also, for a problem with the screen failing to light up, I would have more likely switched out the screen before the logic boards.

      Definitely doesn't pass the sniff test...

      1. Ken 16 Silver badge

        Re: BS

        And I usually plug in an external monitor if my screen stays black, I assume I toggled my display output the wrong way (because I've done that before during presentations)

    3. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: BS

      I think the key is that this was a repeated failure. The user would get a replacement motherboard or laptop, go back to his old behavior of turning the brightness all the way down, and then the problem would recur, causing him to think another device had failed.

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: BS

        Exactly my thought- otherwise the "problem" would have manifested itself the moment the laptop was first switched on, which in all likelihood, would have been at the Apple Store because they would want to show the customer that the unit was working fine before he left.

      2. John 104

        Re: BS

        The failure is Apple for programming this in the first place. At the very least, normal or half brightness should be working on boot so you can see post messages, etc. There is zero logical reason for this. What a bunch of morons.

        1. keith_w

          Re: BS

          I've been imaging a lot of Dell 7291 laptops recently and they come up pretty dark as well but at least the FN + brightness button works right away.

    4. el kabong

      You assume those geniuses at the bar follow proper rules

      You do that based on what??

      Fanbois do make some really strange assumptions. I call BS on your assumption.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: You assume those geniuses at the bar follow proper rules

        "Fanbois do make some really strange assumptions. I call BS on your assumption."

        It's not assumption. First step in resolving screen issues is to reset the PRAM (for monitor depth/resolution issues) then the System Management Controller (for backlight) before even THINKING about replacing hardware. The first-line Apple techs follow a script so they can't even 'forget' to do it.

        1. el kabong
          Thumb Down

          And you assume the geniuses do all that, right?

          Based on what?

          They are called geniuses for a reason, geniuses don't have to follow rules, rules are for regular folks, mkay?

          Being a genius carries a lot of risks, I call BS on your assumption.

          1. John 104

            Re: And you assume the geniuses do all that, right?

            Yes, they are geniuses in the same sense that their track pads are magic.

    5. big_D Silver badge

      Re: BS

      Except, he probably took the machine with the replaced mainboard / the new laptop home, plugged it into his setup, turned down the brightness and the next time it restarted, the problem had manifested itself again...

    6. Paul Shirley

      Re: BS

      Apple would only have handed it back if they thought it was fixed, the 'bug' they couldn't find is why it was repeating . If scripts say reset as a first step then the screen brightness problem disappears before before they start looking for the problem and doesn't get noticed. Very hard diagnosing a problem if it's no longer present!

      Still an idiotic design decision.

      1. Mage

        Re: iD10tic design decision.

        Just checked my Lenovo running Linux. The Fn F5 (*-) does indeed turn brightness down to black. Which seems mad.

        It's hard to decide if it's actually visible with a torch. No, I'm not going to "Restart" with the screen like that.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: iD10tic design decision.

          I prefer that option. It lets me temporarily disable the screen for various reasons. For example, if I want my laptop to keep computing on something while I sleep nearby (for instance if I'm in a hotel), I don't have to see the lighted screen. I could configure it not to sleep when it's closed, but I like having that capability. A simple key press that turns off the screen can be useful. Of course, if that's going to be part of your typical operating procedure, you should ensure you know how to turn it back up, which in this case would be reseting the NVRAM (hold command, option, P, and R at boot time).

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: iD10tic design decision.

            For example, if I want my laptop to keep computing on something while I sleep nearby (for instance if I'm in a hotel), I don't have to see the lighted screen.

            My Thinkpads have energy management set to switch off the screen after 10 minutes (and it locks in 5) when on AC, but they keep running and crunching data even when the screen saver (and the screen lock a little later) has kicked in. No need to explicitely switch off the screen. So unless you definitely want to go to sleep in less than that after starting whatever you want to run overnight, it will not disturb you in any way.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: iD10tic design decision.

          Just checked my Lenovo running Linux. The Fn F5 (*-) does indeed turn brightness down to black.

          If you then do a power-off/on the screen will be at full brightness again during POST and boot until power management starts. Depending on the model you'll have "Thinkpad" or "Lenovo" displayed, plus some text as to which key to press for entering the BIOS setup or selecting a boot device. Corporate lappies may have that last bit disabled, but those nearly always display what company they're owned by so there's nearly always text on the screen.

          And an option to disable 'sleep when lid closed on AC/docked' is apparently offering too much choice to Apple users.

    7. DuncanLarge

      Re: BS

      Er, you mis-read it.

      The issue was fixed EACH TIME they swapped out the logic board but the issue happened again shortly after.

      So they then changed other things including the whole machine. Each time they got it working it would "fail" again.

      So no its not BS. Its a bug.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: BS

        A bug or PEBCAK?

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: BS

          A PICNIC ;)

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        So they then changed other things including the whole machine.

        They should have swapped the user, or at the very least his brain.

      3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: BS

        ”So no its not BS. Its a bug.“

        It’s not BS that it happened, I fully believe that. It’s BS that the Apple techs spent 10 grand swapping out boards when an SMC/PRAM reset (step 1 in the genius script for display issues) would have solved the problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          retail motherboard price ≠ warranty replacement motherboard price.

          they would have likely changed his new MB for a remanufactured / reconditioned one.


    8. Mr Benny

      Re: BS

      Why is the brightness even storedi n RAM? Macs are supposed to be multiuser machines - MacOS is a version of unix after all - so why on earth would the loginc screen brightness be set to that of the last person who used it? The user brightness setting should be stored in their user settings on disk and loaded when they've log in, not before.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: BS

        Macs are supposed to be multiuser machines

        They're not. Any machine shouldn't be touched except by the person who registered its Apple ID.

        1. Mr Benny

          Re: BS

          What on earth have you been smoking?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Sensical screen brightness controls would have been installed...

    But something had to be left out due to the space restricions created by those rounded corners!

    1. el kabong

      The user pressed the brightness controls wrong

      Had he followed the apple approved way of pressing the brightness controls nothing wrong would have happened, that user should have paid attention to apple's instructions. Ignore apple's special instructions, pay for it!

      It's all the user's fault, got what he deserves!

  6. Overflowing Stack

    I've done this

    It's really easy to do with the stupid touchbar thing.

    I thought it was dead too, I plugged it into a monitor in the end to see if it was booting up and then when I plugged it into the power socket too, it lit up and realised what the "problem" is.

    I hate my MacBook Pro, would much rather be using an XPS 13, but need a Mac it to build iOS apps.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: I've done this

      I hate my MacBook Pro

      There was a time, not so long ago, when that sentence would never be uttered.

      How times have changed.

    2. Paul

      Re: I've done this

      Building a hackintosh on qemu/kvm is very easy these days

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: I've done this

      I've had similar with a couple of Dell laptops running Win7. I realised there was a problem with the screen brightness and the ambient light sensor auto adjust feature because the display wasn't totally black.

      The easiest way to resolve it was to power off, remove the battery and hit the power button a couple of times to ensure capacitors etc. were drained. After reassembly, it would power up using the restored default screen brightness settings.

    4. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: I've done this

      I am typing this on a mid 2010 15" Macbook Pro, the one with the kernel panic issue if the graphics card is used over the internal graphics chip. I have to select 'internal only' on gfxcardstatus then start Thunderbird which locks whatever it's set at. The seconds during restart before I can set it right are dodgy as a result. It's a handmedown machine from the youngest who had motherboard swaps done under warranty as did lots of folk. To this day Apple still don't understand what the problem is.

    5. aks

      Re: I've done this

      Why not use Oracle VM VirtualBox and install the latest version of macOS High Sierra Final?

      You'll need to allocate a couple of cores and a slab of memory but everything should work.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Why not use Oracle VM VirtualBox

        Well, because Oracle.

      2. Overflowing Stack

        Re: I've done this

        I did try doing that to begin with, I really hate Apple and all Apple products.

        But because I need to be using the latest version of xcode and can't stop working because of any issues with running an out of date OS.

        Also emulation runs piss poor using VM and doesn't play ball with a real iOS device connected to the USB ports.

  7. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Old bug

    This bug has been happening for at least as long as Apple has been making aluminum unibody laptops. It doesn't even require the user to turn down the brightness - sometimes the laptop just won't turn on the backlight for login. You shine a bright light at the screen, if needed, so you can navigate the login. Other option is a hard reboot and PRAM zap.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Old bug

      On older MBPs with the plastic Apple in the lid, you could shine a torch through the Apple and it would illuminate the screen. The apple logo used the screen backlight for illumination...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "In short, if you turn off the laptop screen via the brightness controls, it will remain off when you next start it up, and can't be brightened until you login, giving the impression the machine is virtually dead on power-up."

    What idiot thought that was a good idea?

    1. itzman

      Re: What idiot thought that was a good idea?

      Idiots don't think.

      Ever since the first wheeled vehicle was built and the need for brakes was discovered...

      And software isn't tested either.

    2. JetSetJim

      > What idiot thought that was a good idea?

      Some idiot probably thought "the user has customised their screen contrast and brightness settings, so I will store them and re-use them when next powering on so that they have the best experience of this device possible, and don't curse the Cult of Jobs for having to re-do the contrast and brightness settings every time they switch on"

      A different idiot possibly thought "At the login screen, only the alpha-numeric function of the keyboard is needed - let's load the bits of the display driver (and linkage to keyboard keys) that controls brightness when they've logged in - it might even be more secure"

    3. iGNgnorr

      The real idiocy is that you can't run (or at least see) diagnostics while it is in this condition, and use of external monitors and keyboards is blocked until you login. At the very least diagnostics should turn up the brightness and sound before doing anything else.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "use of external monitors and keyboards is blocked until you login"

        Doesn't that also make it tricky to diagnose the laptop's own keyboard or display?

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "What idiot thought that was a good idea?"

      Exactly. By definition, it's a multi-user system since it boots to a login screen. Why would would any $random_user settings affect the pre-login display and therefore *all* users?

      1. Nick Kew

        Never mind multi-user. The same user is likely to want different settings in full daylight vs the dim midnight candle!

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge


        By definition, it's a multi-user system since it boots to a login screen

        Well, not necessarily. You may want a login screen to make sure only you can access the data on it. As a result it may make the system multi-user, but an encrypted partition also presents what could be seen as a login screen while still not enabling the system for multi-user access.

        But yes, cranking up the brightness at that point like that seems a sensible step.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge

    It seems very odd that Apple goes out of its way to disable so many things on the login screen. If you have an external display or keyboard, there's probably a reason for it... if you sit down at the computer and find the brightness is wrong then you'd probably want to adjust it before logging in... but it seems Apple know better.

    Oh, and genius bars seem to have problems following step one in diagnosing screen/backlight problems.

    1. James O'Brien

      What? You mean shine a flashlight at the screen to see if your getting an thing on it incase the back light decided to pack it in? Hell got bored one day so I made something that spreads the light out and I can hold against the screen to do this easier.

      User: "my screen doesn't work!"

      Me: already opening the drawer I have it in if they answer the first question of, are you sure it's on, correctly.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    I may have this slightly wrong

    The button was black, with black text illuminated in black.

    When pushed, a little sign popped up saying "Do not push this button".

    OK, now I have a terrible pain in the diodes down my right side.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I may have this slightly wrong

      Damn. Ninja'ed

  11. Robert Moore

    Genius, more like idiot.

    I used to be a certified Apple tech, for a third party shop.

    Step one verify the fault.

    Step two of every diagnostic, press and hold Command, Option, P, R, and the power button. Wait for it to chime twice. After that the screen will come on.

    You would be shocked to know how many times that fixed the issue.

    1. Andrew Hodgkinson

      Re: Genius, more like idiot.

      If you read TFA - he has a T2 chip in the laptop and a password set. It turns out that PRAM reset doesn't work if you have that. People tried PRAM resets; they didn't make the backlight come on.

      There are very many levels of fail in the whole sorry story, but it boils down to modern Apple - each major hardware iteration gets worse and more expensive; each major software iteration gets more buggy, gaining new bugs that are never fixed; the once-industry-leading documentation is getting sparse to non-existent.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Genius, more like idiot.

        @Andrew Hodgkinson

        "If you read TFA..."

        First up, this highly relevant bit of info isn't in the article - it's at the end of the linked blog. Most people won't read that far.

        Second, it's still easy to reset the PRAM and SMC on a T2-equipped Mac, it's just a different key combination. The Apple techs will have known this, and if they didn't, the script they follow will have told them as soon as they plugged it into their diagnostics station.

        Turns out by reading the linked blog, the Apple techs weren't quite as idiotic as the Reg article would have liked them to be in order to justify the "Apple 'geniuses' fall for Dim Backlighting issue" headline. They want it to read like a real-life BOFH article.

  12. Christoph

    The screen brightness was turned down? That's a 1980s fault! They ought to know about it by now.

    1. ActionBeard

      Yup. In my first job in IT - which was 1990 - I supported Pick systems. All user access was via dumb terminals. A colleague asked out loud one day "what do you do if you try to log in but there's no response and the screen is completely blank?". Someone ten feet away repled "turn the brightness up".

      1. Nick Kew

        Not just the 'puter screen ...

        I had that problem a couple of times with the lights in my living room after I moved here. Never turned the dimmer down that far, but it somehow reached that state.

        Just last week I thought my radio had died, when I turned it on and got silence even after turning the volume up. That turned out to be a power cut.

        Familiar things that go back a long way. No excuse for anyone under 100 not to have grown up with them. Confusion is natural, but never more than a few seconds of it. So long as the underlying product isn't so perverse as to refuse to adjust ...

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Not just the 'puter screen ...

          Couple of weeks ago the kitchen light wouldn't work, I swapped the starter (fluorescent), took the tube out and reset it, no luck. Eventually figured out the upstairs lighting had fused and the kitchen, in the extension is on the upstairs fuse. The tube had started to take a bit longer to start up so I jumped to the obvious diagnosis and kept digging without considering the wider picture.

    2. John R. Macdonald


      I was pulling the 'turn the brightness down all the way' prank on my coworkers using 3279s around that time.

  13. ashcairo

    This exact thing happened to me a few months ago, luckily I managed to use my smartphone torch to make out the login screen - posted a video about it for proof here:

    1. dfsmith

      U.S. definition of "torch"

      I read your comment and immediately thought "Wow! I need a flamethrower on my phone too!". Guess I've been living here a while....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: U.S. definition of "torch"

        Roll out the patent application for the iOS Torch App.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: U.S. definition of "torch"

          Roll out the patent application for the iOS Torch App.

          Samsung can show prior art.

      2. Fred Goldstein

        Re: U.S. definition of "torch"

        Maybe that explains Elon Musk. An English guy says he needs a torch. Musk thinks, hey, I can one-up any old torch and I'll sell a flamethrower!

        That of course assumes that Musk, raised in Canada, knows it as a flashlight like we do in the US, and thus a torch means actual fire.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    set tty no echo

    Back in my college days we a DEC PDP 10k that ran multiple terminals. The problem was if you had to take a break someone would take your terminal and you had to wait until another one opened up. So you would type Set TTY No Echo log out, and say " it's broken". This would give you enough time to run to the restroom. Then you come back, log in and type Set TTY echo.

  15. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    How about connecting it to an external monitor? Nope, no good either. They are disabled during boot and login. An external keyboard? Nope.

    Wait what?! Macbook Pro users: is this really true?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sounded weird to me as well, as it's not a standard macOS thing.

      Mac mini's definitely can use external monitors and keyboards right from boot... as they have no other option.

      1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        "Mac mini's definitely can use external monitors and keyboards right from boot... as they have no other option."

        This ain't a Mac Mini: pretty sure my old MacBook Pro didn't fill its external monitor with anything useful during boot + login (just kept it a dull grey)


      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        The older iMacs have no problem with this either. I have a 2007 (or thereabouts) iMac that uses a massive Sony TV as a screen (don't ask, ok?) and the big screen is set as the default display. Guess what... it gets woken up by the login screen and... *gasp* It displays the logins available on the iMac on... *gasp* *shock* *horror* the Sony TV! As it should, obviously. Seems to me that something is dodgy there, but hey... I don't usually do idiotic things like dialling my brightness down to zero.

    2. User McUser

      I know of at least three people with a Mac Book Pro that use an external display and keyboard to login every day. However these are "Late 2013 Retina" units so maybe they ruined this on the later models?

  16. DesktopGuy

    There are plenty of ways to keep the machine from going to sleep without disabling the display and leaving it almost closed!.

    Sometime in troubleshooting, you can't account for what users do!

    Now this is out in the open, I'd expect a Kbase article or 2 or perhaps a minor design change regarding to monitor brightness on T2 chipped machines.

    PS: Whenever doing large unattended copies which cannot be interrupted (which I'm forever doing), the terminal command "caffeinate" is your friend.

    1. Paul

      Large copies? Always use rsync with append-verify.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      with *cough* Windows you can choose to duplicate the display, extend the display or only display on certain screens and not others, a setting that is remembered across boots and across plugins of external displays.

      Does Mac not have this ability?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Be careful on that high horse of yours or you might fall off, Windows regularly mixes up desktop icons if you plug and unplug external displays.

        By the way, on the OP I first read that as "T2 crippled machines" and my first take was probably right.

        IT, gotta hate 'em all.

        1. JetSetJim

          > Windows regularly mixes up desktop icons if you plug and unplug external displays.

          If all the external displays are of the same resolution as the built in display, this doesn't seem to happen (as often?). Equally, I've seen people having mixed success in Windows remembering docked settings, even if I rarely have trouble with it (occasionally it fails to detect external displays, or detects them and renders the wallpaper, but does not let me move the mouse/windows on to them - fixed by unplugging & replugging in the dock)

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            > Windows regularly mixes up desktop icons if you plug and unplug external displays.

            If all the external displays are of the same resolution as the built in display, this doesn't seem to happen (as often?).

            Funny that you should mention that, currently sitting here with a Windows desktop with two plug-and-play displays (of the same resolution) with the taskbar on one display and the desktop icons distributed across both displays, with Windows refusing to group all the icons on the same display as the taskbar...

            1. keith_w

              Are you still not using W10? W10 each monitor gets a task bar. I have seen it refuse to move the icons to my chosen primary screen. I fixed the issue but don't remember how.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          No high horse at all. Just a genuine question, as it seemed a basic function so was wondering if that feature was available on a Mac but the protagonist did not realise it or if it genuinely wasn't an option on Mac OS.

          I've only ever used iMacs so never connected a second display.

          On Windows I rarely have many icons on my desktop anymore since using Windows 10 + Office365 whereas I used to use the desktop as my work-in-progress area and have screens full of them, so don't notice the shifting icons issue. However plugging into the same external display didn't seem to change the icons around previously.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            My windows desktop set up is into a docking station with 2 external monitors connected and the laptop screen open and in use. When I am at home it is the same with one external monitor. In both I have the desktop extended across all screens.

            It always knows where it is and sets up its windows perfectly, no icon moving.

            However, the external monitors are blank until I have logged in on the laptop panel. This might be to with he Intel HD Graphics settings which seem to override the windows ones.

        3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Windows mixes those icons if the communication between monitor ans gfx-card completely dies in sleep mode.

          I know several monitors of that type: Monitor goes to sleep, and upon activation all your windows are resized to 800x600 instead of the actual monitor resolution.

          In the end: Errornous DVI/HDMI/Displayport implementation on the monitor side.

          Luckily I don't have to work on those so often.

          It can be the GFX-card fault as well, but that is rare.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        If I don't turn on one of my screens within about 3-4s of turning my home computer on, then Windows won't recognise it until its completely logged in. The other one can be turned on at any time.

        I think it's something to do with the DisplayPort connection and the AMD drivers, but I've just learnt to turn the monitor on first before I hit the power button.

        (If the damn monitor didn't pulse it's power LED when it's in standby mode, then I'd never have to turn it off in the first place. But that's a different rant)

      3. Jonathan Knight

        You'd think that wouldn't you.

        I run a PC in a church with three displays and a clever bit of presentation software. One screen is for the application control. One screen is for the display for the congregation and one screen for those at the front.

        Every time windows does a patch it will jumble the order of the screens and we spend the first 20 minutes every month running around shouting where the mouse pointer is so that we can get the displays re-ordered back to what they should be.

        We managed three Sundays in succession this month where the screens worked every time without getting re-ordered. This is unheard of.

        1. Antonius_Prime

          There's still a helpful setting in Accessibility options (Windows) where hitting the CTRL button shows a decreasing circle, like a RADAR ping, of where the mouse pointer is. Godsend on 2+ displays.

          Same setting is on OS X (macOS / System was replaced by OS X, despite what Cupertino now wants us all to believe...), but the knowledge of where it is has faded / been superceded by the passing of 3 and a half years and 4 OS "upgrades" since I worked in the Fruit Factory.

      4. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Well, W10 definitely doesn't remember

        that when I plug my work laptop in at home, there's supposed to be two 1600x1200 screens attached to the docking station.

        If it detects both, at least one will be just 640x480 and no amount of detecting screens, switching them off and on again or unplugging and replugging, including all combinations of those actions, will change that.

        It may also detect just one, at the same resolution as the laptop screen itself. There's a 50% chance that after a protracted bout of navel-gazing it will divine the correct resolution, but it will still only have that one screen active.

        The only solution is a full IT Crowd treatment.

  17. luminous


    Credit to them for getting it fixed. What other company would go to such lengths and costs to make a customer happy?

    Reminds me of back in my school days and being a bit nerdy hanging out in the computer classroom with a couple of mates, just trying to change stuff and see what happens. Was a common hack going around that would set all the colours of the desktop in win 3.1 to black. When the next person logged in, the entire screen was black and the head of computing had to come and reset it.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      Every laptop reseller is legally obliged to in civilised countries. I don't really think that "obeying the law" is very special.

      Dell also do this on site, next day if you buy the enhanced service pack.

      I've had a few laptop motherboard changes over the last decade. A nice guy turns up with a screwdriver and a box of parts, and maybe half an hour later you're up and running again.

      - Admittedly, a couple of those repairs didn't go so well. One forgot to peel off the stickers protecting the heatsink compound (so it overheated and shut down under load), another snapped off the pins for the microphone array without noticing.

      The day after I discovered each of these, another Dell technician turned up, apologised and swapped out the motherboard again.

      All sorted, and more quickly than Apple can do - Dell machines are designed to be repairable, you see.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Optional

        "Dell machines are designed to be repairable"

        Doesn't that count as cheating? At least in Apple's view?

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Optional

        >Dell machines are designed to be repairable, you see.

        Depends which ranges you are referring to, however in my experience not to the same extent as the old IBM/Lenovo Thinkpads - you still can buy significant parts/sub-assemblies for a T60/T61 (manufactured circa 2007) - in fact you probably can still buy all the necessary parts and assemble your own new T60/T61 (albeit for significantly more than it would cost you to buy one off ebay)... Try doing that for a Dell Latitude D630...

      3. Nick Kew

        Re: Optional

        Don't rely on it.

        I had a Dell server, and got excellent service on it, including a replacement motherboard when it proved necessary.

        Then I got a consumer-grade Inspiron laptop. It was a total PoS, clearly faulty with some Heisenconnections inside, but Dell support refused to do anything. I'm sure the law would've been on my side, but cheaper just to get a ... erm ... macbook.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Optional

          Upvote for Heisenconnections. I shall try to remember it for future use.

          1. Nick Kew

            Re: Optional

            It's not new :)

            When I were a lad, bike lights always suffered from Heisenconnections. Nowadays they're so much better (not to mention lighter, and much, much easier on the batteries), but the mounting for my front light has assumed the mantle of trouble and unreliability.

    2. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      What other company...?

      All of them! For example, someone else has already mentioned Dell. They do stuff for us. Anyone else who supplies equipment with warranties. That would include people like HP, Asus or whoever you care to name. I bet if I bought a second hand laptop from CEX, it would expect them to cover faults while their warranty is in force.

      Or perhaps I missed the sarcasm in luminous question?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Optional

        “Or perhaps I missed the sarcasm in luminous question?”

        My take on it also.

      2. MonkeyCee

        Re: Optional

        "All of them!"

        For consumer hardware?

        I think we're all a bit biased, since paid for professional support is generally VERY good. Dell, HP, Lenova and Apple have all had techs out to me within an hour if needed. Or will courier me over the part and instructions.

        Getting that level of support for consumer or a small business is much trickier. At least Apple have a walk in service centre (it's not a bar, there's no beer) in most of their stores.

        I've also had much more success with getting Apple kit bought in one country and repaired in another. Far too often you are expected to kick the machine back to original seller, or there are different models for different markets, so spares have to come from the original market.

        As for the actual story, can anyone replicate this on another machine? The OP hasn't been able to yet, he uses various third party applications (including a screen calibrator) and has password protected firmware.

  18. Securitymoose

    Their brains are too highly tuned.

    As an ex service guy, the first thing I always used to ask my users was "What was the last thing you did before it failed?"

    Ah, turned down the brightness, eh. That might give me a clue.

    Also, the user must have been pretty dense not to realize it had something to do with his process, unless it was a deliberate windup... "Let's see how long I can waste everyone's time..."

    Finally, Apple are stupid not to have a fixed minimum setting for the display, and a reset when the system is rebooted.

    Another example of how the 12 year old 'whiz kids' who design this sort of thing don't have a clue (or care) how people work in the real world.

    1. DuncanLarge

      Re: Their brains are too highly tuned.

      Yes exactly what I try and do. Unfortunately you get some users who really have no idea what they were doing at the time.

      Supporting such users over the phone, listening to them gasping and exclaiming as things happen that they are triggering but have no idea they are doing it. That reminds me of windows 8.

    2. iGNgnorr

      Re: Their brains are too highly tuned.

      'As an ex service guy, the first thing I always used to ask my users was "What was the last thing you did before it failed?"'

      Except it wasn't the last thing the user did! He'd been using for a period of time, probably hours, possibly days, since he turned the brightness down. Later, the machine was shutdown, using the attached monitor and keyboard. On restart, there's the problem: system was working when he shut it down, now it appears dead.

    3. aks

      Re: Their brains are too highly tuned.

      They've never been to the real world.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some people...

    ...shouldn’t be allowed to own computers.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some people...

      Yea, Apple!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some people......shouldn’t be allowed to own computers.

      Tedious AC trolls?

    3. DuncanLarge

      Re: Some people...

      The faults with Apple.

      Its quite clear that the product has a bug that simple testing would have showed up. In fact just enabling the external monitors for login would have helped show the bug is with the built in screen back-light as it suddenly starts working after login. But seeing as Apple couldn't even use common sense to enable an external output at login diagnosis was much more difficult.

      I suppose external monitors are not enabled before login as it would be something like HDMI or DisplayPort over thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is a massive security hole so likely is disabled after boot and before first login. So apple, was it a neat idea to get rid of a dedicated output only monitor port? Mini HDMI isnt pretty big and mini DisplayPort is tiny!

      1. JetSetJim

        Re: Some people...

        > Its quite clear that the product has a bug that simple testing would have showed up

        Personally, I think it's more a loophole in conflicting usability requirements leading to undesired behaviour, and it's not entirely obvious that this needed to be a test scenario.

        QA engineers need to have nicely warped minds to break things, and IANAQAE....

  20. simbr

    I remember something not dissimilar happening with some, I think it was Acer, laptops while the free upgrades to Windows 10 were first rolling out. They worked fine on battery but as soon as you plugged them in they turned "off". Turned out Windows 10 inverted the brightness controls for some reason and the default when plugged in was to go to full brightness...

  21. Disk0

    Users repeatedly changing things (we wrongly assume they know what they change and understand what they did) without telling support (we wrongly assume they would tell us anything relevant) and then complaining about something unrelated (we wrongly assume the complaint is about the actual problem) and never remembering what they actually did (we wrongly assume sanity on the user's part), is one of those instances that tech support procedure may not neccesarily account for. We assume /some/ level of creedence to a user's claims, or we should just hand them a Ubuntu Live CD.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Posted before, but worth posting again...

      I have literally had the "can you help me with the printer, it stopped working"... and being wise to users now, I asked (word for word)

      "When are you *going* to buy the printer?" But even then, half heartedly expecting a "don't be funny with me" reply...

      Nope, the reply was "next week, how did you know?"

      Yes, the printer they had not yet purchased had "stopped working". :/

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Posted before, but worth posting again...

        You've told prospective customers something about the service they can expect from you if they buy. But was it what you wanted to tell them?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Posted before, but worth posting again...

          Sorry, that ones gone over my head. The service I provide will be sarcastic and pre-emptive? XD

  22. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Zero chance this is real. One of the first, and simplest, things to do to resolve a screen issue is to reset the System Management Controller; this brings all parameters including backlight back to factory values. There is absolutely no chance this wasn't done at some point during the diagnostic phase.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      how do you do that? can you do it with no screen?

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        "how do you do that? can you do it with no screen?"


        SMC Reset:

        1. Apple menu > Shut Down.

        2. Press and hold Right Shift + Left Option + Left Control for 7 seconds. Then keep holding those keys while you press and hold the power button for another 7 seconds.

        3. Release all three keys and the power button, then wait a few seconds.

        4. Press the power button again to turn on your Mac.

        PRAM reset:

        1. Shut down your Mac.

        2. Turn it on press & hold Option, Command, P, and R for 20 seconds.

        3. Release the keys and power on as normal.

        This is for a MacBook Pro with Touchbar and T2 chip. Procedure is slightly different for other Macs.

    2. DuncanLarge

      Yeah I call BS on you being sure of that.

      You assume that the techs are doing the right thing, assume that they know what they are doing.

      The techs that swap parts in almost all other cases of issues. Regardless of the actual cause. Its well known that to save money you dont train your techs to diagnose and repair, you just get them to swap.

      The techs that were caught up selling customers to new really expensive models as their old model was "unfix-able" and it only really needed a CABLE TO BE RESEATED.

      And when they do try a repair, these are the techs that look at solder and still wonder what it is after they had their so called "training".

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge


        Tu quoque.

      2. calmeilles

        The classic one from the Geniuses is "But there's no way to recover your data."

        Naturally this was not true. The simplest way was to remove the SSD from the old board and put it on the new one.

        It is assumed that forcing life to conform to Apple's Genius Script was why they started soldering SSDs onto the boards.

        Now there really is now way to recover your data... unless you have a soldering iron.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I had an Apple "Geenyus" (1) tell me the hard drive on my wife's MacBook Pro was dead, and showed me their diagnostic results to prove it - the single word "FAILED" in a red banner across the screen. It had been working fine until an OS update, then ran about 1% of the previous speed. I successfully backed up the entire hard drive after the "failure" with no errors (just really, really slow). The Geenyus' explanation? "Sometimes major OS updates reveal previously-undetected hardware failures." Yeah, right. That's not what a hard drive failure looks like. But as it wasn't under warranty, it was MY problem and at MY expense!

          Apple Geenyus: a 16-year-old reading a script, not someone who actually knows what they're doing.

          (1) Misspelling intentional, think "genius" as pronounced with a strong southern US accent.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake news!

    Clearly untrue, as all Apple products are perfect in every way.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Fake news!

      You're half right.

    2. FlamingDeath Silver badge

      Re: Fake news!

      True story, there was a keynote speech and everything

  24. Christian Berger

    Now if MacOSX wasn't so complex

    The brigtness controlls could be activated before login without any security risks. In fact they could have even used other separate microcontrollers for that task making sure the OS gets informed, but doesn't need to react on those keypresses.

  25. mickaroo

    Not Just MacOS

    I've encountered this very problem on a Linux installation. Screen blank, appears dead. WTF?

    It didn't take me $10,000 and two motherboards to figure out the problem, and I became very adept at doing "blind" logons.

    1. DuncanLarge

      Re: Not Just MacOS

      That shows that its software responding to the controls. The display manager/greeter you were using to log in does not respond to the controls or control brightness. Likely part of the window manager.

      I miss the days that the brightness controls were handled by the bios.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the screen brightness was turned all the way down

    I might snigger at Apple geniuses (because), but I've had a similar story with a flatbed scanner. Great piece of hardware (seriously), completely let down by consistently shitty software and firmware(s). At certain points, completely at random, it would scan - black. Solid black, black-hole black, nodoub-it's-black-black. You could turn it off and on again as many times as their "customer support" suggest, you could try ANY type of other, equally cutting edge solutions, it would stay black-on-black. Until / unless you noticed that, in a certain settings tab, where you have the brightness slider, it's at a % (brightness) position. Because this (and 100% brightness, what else), what you would use to capture those images. And, as far as I remember, it does exactly the same, i.e. re-set parameters, whenever you update the driver / soft (which is what the genius tech support strongly recommend as the 2nd bestest solution after turning it off and on). Judging by complaints on amazon, some people, when it happened to them, fiddled with the settings, missed the slider, and promptly sent the scanner back to the "manufacturer" and, as per comments, with solid customer non-support, they got their refunds and bought a competing product.

    As a post-scriptum: having reported the issue to the manufacturer at least twice, a couple of years ago, this "feature" is very much alive and well and present in the current software variant, with a few new bugs thrown in, like when it resets the output jpg quality to 1 (on a scale of 1 - 10, when 1 = lowest quality, highest compression), so that, when you miss this slider, you can admire your pretty pic turned into a blocky piece of art. It is, as if, they tried, in a Monty Python style, to present their customers with a "poser". Or two.

    Does it matter? Absolutely not, and the company happily continues to churn out their product line. Plustek, I salute you for the steady course!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I might snigger at Apple geniuses (because),


  27. WonkoTheSane


    Bug turned out to be a loose nut on the keyboard.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



  29. oldfartuk

    I remember when computer displays had a little knob on the side to adjust the brightness. Why was that such an horrendous idea they had to get rid of it.....

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Now they have a knob on the keyboard.

      OK, OK

  30. DuncanLarge

    Why Apple why


    Why does an external monitor NOT WORK when the machine has booted to the login prompt?

    - Everyone expects this to work on all other makes of laptops, our users only open the laptop to press the power button.

    Why do the brightness controls not work at the login prompt?

    - Maybe users login in might like to combat the strength of the sun or not blind themselves at night?

    Why, if the controls are intentionally designed not to work at the login prompt, do you not set a default login prompt brightness?

    - Need I add more to this bit of common sense?

    Who tested the login process? On a real machine?

    How did your UAT tests go? I would have failed it the moment the external monitor wasn't working.

    Apple? Apple? ... Silence

    Well guess thats another win for my Dell ;)

  31. N2

    Interesting story

    And quite a comprehensive review on his blog.

    But if it is true, why did it not show after the NVRAM reset?

    Years ago I went through a similar problem with my Mac Pro, which was entirely my fault for tinkering. it was booting but the screen was black. A little button located on the motherboard near the battery reset the SMC after which it behaved.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Interesting story


      I tested this earlier today, admittedly on my non-touchbar MBP. It did the whole 'black display before logon' thing (which I admit is completely daft), but after an SMC reset (not PRAM) the backlight came back to 50%. There's no reason why an SMC reset on a touchbar MBP would be any different.

  32. MOH

    No wonder he kept turning the brightness down - that bright red on white on his blog page is painful

  33. Mattjimf

    Would it be better to test this out in the local Apple store last thing before they close or first thing after they open?

  34. Nick Kew

    Failed backlight

    I had a macbook - of the white plastic variety - whose backlight failed. Several other things had failed by then, so I treated that as the last straw, bought a new laptop[1], and transferred my data. I was able to use the screen by shining a bright light at it, but that's suitable only for an emergency rescue mode.

    [1] A cheapo HP pavilion. Whereupon I immediately regretted the loss of the macbook's screen quality, and audio I could use without the need for earphones.

  35. Mystic Megabyte

    Thanks Louis!

    They put the long screw in the short hole?

  36. Nick Kew

    A Wednesday Article

    Did you publish this on Wednesday 'cos you couldn't decide whether it belonged in On Call (Friday) or Who Me (Monday)?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The all-embracing design term is "Catch 22".

    Gerard Hoffnung - The Bricklayers Story

  38. koolholio

    Simple and easy solution - Add one line of code in bootup

    after kldload acpi_video is executed on boot, then execute a set level of brightness: sysctl<device>.brightness=<level>

    You could check for current brightness by using<device>.brightness

    You can enumerate supported brightness levels using<device>.levels

    Moral of the story: Never get a dim "super or not" 'genius' that can't seemingly understand the basics of unix and acpi_video controls...

  39. nil0

    Here's another Apple didn't-think-of-that moment

    I have an old iPhone I use for contributing streetview-type photos using the Mapillary app. That's all I use it for, nothing else installed, no SIM card, nada.

    It sits in the car window taking photos until the memory fills up, then they all get uploaded and wiped from the phone.

    Did this the other week; filled the phone up with photos, but didn't immediately upload them. By the time I came to do that, iOS had offloaded the app. If you're not familiar with the system, when you're low on space iOS can delete applications (but keep the data) to free up some room. When you next launch the app it automatically reinstalls the app.

    Problem was this was the only app on the phone, the phone's storage was completely full, and the photos are part of the app's data (not normal photos in the camera roll), and the only way to access/prune out photos is via the app.

    The app is offloaded, but won't reinstall because there's not enough room - space required to download, unpack and install is greater that the space freed up by deleting the app.

    So I can't reinstall the app, I can't delete anything else to make room (because there isn't anything else to delete), and I can't prune out the photos taking up the space because that needs the app installed to do that. It thoroughly painted itself into a corner.


    1. JetSetJim

      Re: Here's another Apple didn't-think-of-that moment

      horse, barn door and all that, but I think you can disable the deletion/offload of iOS apps to free up space...

  40. Luiz Abdala

    Every monitor ever has hardwired brightness butttons... except Apple?

    Ever since IBM ambar-screen days, people were even used to this procedure! Turn the brightness down! Crank it back up to use!

    That's what you get for not hiring an old geezer to think about those usability issues!

    Everybody else is using hoodies, mine is the only actual coat in there.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Every monitor ever has hardwired brightness butttons... except Apple?

      "Every monitor ever has hardwired brightness butttons... except Apple?"

      It's a laptop, not a monitor, and I honestly can't remember the time I saw one with hardwired brightness buttons. Early 90s, maybe.

  41. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    I remember a time when Windows...

    ...did not have the revert timeout on changing screen resolution settings. Configuring an unsupported refresh rate, screen resolution or colour depth meant having to boot into Safe Mode to rescue the situation.

    Re: I run a PC in a church with three displays and a clever bit of presentation software.

    Isn't there the "Identify" button in the Display Control Panel utility which plasters the screens with big "1" "2" "3" numerals to show which is which on your system?

  42. Haku

    Louis Rossman

    You guys need to employ Louis Rossman to write a weekly 'WTF did Apple do NOW??' story, somehow I don't think he'd run out of material.

    If you're wondering who he is, he owns a business he started that repairs Apple Macs, in New York, and he hates Apple with a passion, as evident by his YouTube channel: where he often talks about the ridiculousness of Apple's designs whilst repairing them under a microscope (he has a camera one so you get to see what component he's actually replacing)

    Currently his latest video is titled "How do I fix a black screen on my Touchbar MacBook Pro?" hmm...

  43. Dieter Haussmann

    When I was their age, we would have listened to the mechanical hard disk tsking as it booted and known it was an issue with the screen backlight.

  44. A random security guy

    Cheap as far as bug fixing is concerned

    $10K for finding and fixing a bug (or at least finding the root cause) is peanuts. The rule of thumb is around $80K.

  45. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Software design used to be thoughtful, considerate, intuitive and less buggy

    Software updates used to be regular, but not so regular that applying updates became a full time job

    What the hell happened?

    Where did all of these moron programmers come from? What school of "software design" did they go to?

    Somewhere in this story, there should be some feckless project manager, did I miss it?

    As in programming, as in project management, forsight is needed

    Where the fuck can they show they've demonstrated this?

    Its almost as moronic as building aquaducts into a city but not sewers, oh wait, that did happen

    Stupid humans, stupid. Fucking think!!!

  46. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    A lack of forsight

    Does not equal a bug

    It's a measure of your ability, or inability to think things through

    Welcome to the Tech industry, don't think too far ahead, that costs money

  47. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    I wonder what

    The computer scientists and engineers of the early years think about the progress that has been made so far, whether they think things are just going backwards now.

    I'm almost certain there was a naive belief that the computing revolution would bring about a better future for all, computers were our saviour, we would become so productive there would be more time for other personal pursuits. Instead we have Winwoes which on average consumes some massive number of Gigawatts around the world, just to do updates, we have some holier than thou company who like to smell their own farts and have a keynote speech to tell eveyone how great they are.

    What the actual fuck happened?

    Where is the progress?

    Imagine if we allowed the skills range of airline pilots to be like the skills range of programmers.

    From really awful, to really amazing.

    Which piloted plane would you jump aboard?

    This black screen story is merely shbowcasing the lack of forsight of many people, supposedly working as a team, in a company, worth over $1T, if you can believe it

  48. Loatesy

    To paraphrase Douglas Adams:

    Its a black button on a black background that lights up black to let you know you've pressed it.

  49. Greg Benz

    Clarification: The issues are specific to my machine

    As it turns out, the issues with my computer are isolated to my machine only and were created by 3rd-party software I have installed. This made it impossible for Apple Geniuses and tech support to diagnose the problem.

    Please see the following clarifications:

This topic is closed for new posts.

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