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Diagnose a Laptop with a Cracked Screen

We created this guide to help train and be used as a reference for our new technicians. It’s a bit simplistic for our experienced techs, but it may be skimp over details for less technical people. What we're trying to say is - everyone is at a different level of device troubleshooting. Nevertheless, we decided to post these online in case they can help you. Some companies closely guard their diagnostic processes and call them 'trade secrets'. We think that’s silly, so we posted them online.

Diagnostic Flowchart

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Commonly: Bad LCD

Also Possible: Bad Touchscreen, Bad Upper Assembly


Pre-Testing notes:

Cracked screens aren’t really a problem that needs to be diagnosed, but they are included in this guide because of their prevalence.

Diagnostic Procedure:

Standard PC laptops have replaceable LCDs. These LCDs tend to be of common size/type and professional repair shops will often have them in stock.

Is the entire upper assembly a single piece without a clear means of disassembly? If so, the entire upper assembly (and not the LCD individually) might need to be replaced. Always check with a senior tech if you’re unsure about this. Most of the time an LCD can be replaced without having the replace the entire upper assembly.

If the laptop is a touchscreen, can you tell if the glass and LCD are fused together? Some PC laptop touchscreens have bonded LCDs and the glass/LCD is not meant to be separated. Others are held together with strong factory adhesive but can be separated with heat and careful precision.

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Disclaimers and notes

Diagnostic procedure: For each of the Commonly and Also Possible causes listed above, run a diagnostic test to see if this is the underlying cause of the problem. If the diagnostic test fails, it should indicate this is the cause of your problem. Most of the time, you should only check for Rare problems if you have thoroughly ruled out all the Common and Also Possible causes of failure.

How rare are “Rare” causes? To put it in perspective, it’s more common for a tech to incorrectly interpret a diagnostic test or for a replacement part to also be bad, then for the machine to have one of the Rare causes listed. Nevertheless, these Rare causes are listed for reference when all Common and Also Possible problems have been thoroughly ruled out.

Simplified Guides: These diagnostic guides are designed to correctly troubleshoot 95-98% of issues. For simplicity, we assume a number of things that aren’t always the case. Some of these assumptions are listed below:

  • The tech ran the correct diagnostic test and interpreted the results properly (techs aren’t perfect)
  • All replacement parts in use are fully functional (replacement components can be bad too)
  • A single issue is responsible for the underlying problem (not always the case)*
  • The problem isn’t intermittent, it’s constant (some problems present intermittently)**
  • The diagnostic test is 100% accurate (nope – test accuracy varies)***

These assumptions aren’t always the case. In a typical repair shop however, time is a limited resource. These guides are simplified specifically to catch 95-98% of problems to maximize a tech’s output. If technicians spent time 100% diagnosing every repair job, the cost of a device repair would be unaffordable.

Instead, when this guide fails to produce an accurate diagnosis, repair shops rely on the skills of senior technician to troubleshoot complex issues and use their experience to solve complex problems. Senior technicians can apply knowledge of things like which diagnostic tests to re-run, the likelihood of a replacement part being bad based on the type of part and vendor that provided it, the likelihood of multiple failed components for each reported problem, and experience with the specific model that allows them to be aware of common failure points with that model.

*It’s possible that multiple hardware components can fail at once, or that a hardware component has gone bad previously but isn’t showing symptoms and isn’t the underlying cause of the reported problem. For example, hard drives common develop bad sectors, but a computer can still function with a failing drive. So if a hard drive test fails on a machine that isn’t turning on, the bad hard drive should be replaced but is not likely to be the cause the underlying power problem that’s stopping the device from powering on.

**It’s also possible for problems to be intermittent. Many diagnostic tests involve trying a potential solution and seeing if it fixes the underlying problem. If the underlying problem is intermittent, this can make the problem significantly harder to diagnose.

***Not every component has a straightforward diagnostic test, and not every test is 100% reliable. For example, hard drive SMART and sector tests are both fairly reliable, but in 1-2% of cases they will pass when a hard drive is actually failing. In addition, most motherboards cannot be directly tested at all. Diagnosing a machine as a motherboard failure typically involves ruling out every other component that could cause the issue. Advanced techs can lookup motherboard schematics and test power flow through a motherboard with a multimeter, but in practical applications this procedure is too time intensive to be used for most repairs.  

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