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Upgrading iBook Clamshell Display?

Juliet Elysa

Well-known member
Hello! I finally have time to get back to my Macs after my surgery, and I noticed that my clamshell's display panel is problematically dim even at full brightness. Can the panel be swapped out, and if so what's the best replacement option?
 

Byrd

Well-known member
Yes, the panel can be swapped but Apple used different manufacturers and different cabling throughout the series. It's more difficult to find the right match these days.

Having said that, if just dim you might just need to replace the CCFL backlight, which does require additional disassembly of the LCD enclosure. Some more info here:


JB
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
Another option is to use a replacement LCD panel from a slightly newer model of iBook. There is information available online about this modification, but the biggest advantage is that it provides a higher screen resolution, so that you can fit more on the display at once. Assuming the replacement panel is in better condition, it would be brighter than the original one.

The failing CCFL (fluorescent) light that is inside your existing iBook LCD could probably be replaced with an LED strip. This would be a bit more technically challenging, but would likely offer superior battery life, look more authentic, and be cheaper too. I started a thread about this possibility a few years ago, but I never got around to trying it myself because the CCFL in my clamshell still kind-of barely works.
 

Byrd

Well-known member
I've done the XGA 1024 x 768 mod in my iBook (it only works on 366Mhz + SE 8MB ATI GPU models), partly because I had the spare display kicking around (from a 12" PowerBook) and the right ribbon cable, but it's certainly a hack and looks as such. When you start up the display most of the image is filled with gibberish until the OS properly loads.

The Clamshell would be a perfect candidate for LED lighting! Lots of room for additional cabling and easy to get into the housing to modify.
 

Juliet Elysa

Well-known member
The failing CCFL (fluorescent) light that is inside your existing iBook LCD could probably be replaced with an LED strip. This would be a bit more technically challenging, but would likely offer superior battery life, look more authentic, and be cheaper too. I started a thread about this possibility a few years ago, but I never got around to trying it myself because the CCFL in my clamshell still kind-of barely works.
Is that the kind of update a total beginner could do? I have literally no experience with electronic boards and such and would hate to mess something up...
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
While it's not extraordinary complex, I don't think that this would make for a great beginner project. It would require careful disassembly of the LCD panel, removal of the delicate mercury-laced CCFL tubes, soldering, understanding of how to replace an inverter circuit with an LED driver, and other skills.

I think that replacing the entire LCD panel while following an iFixit guide may be your best option if you're looking for a project that doesn't require too much electronics background knowledge. You can always save the original panel, and that way, if you eventually learn the required skills, you can still try the project out in the future. :) In any event, think I'd recommend practicing this procedure on a worthless PC laptop before touching an nice iBook, regardless of experience level.
 

Juror22

Well-known member
I'd recommend practicing this procedure on a worthless PC laptop before touching an nice iBook, regardless of experience level.
That is excellent advice, regardless of the procedure, but especially for this one.
There are plenty of links out there now, including youtube videos and the like. Go over all of the available information and plan it out.

When I did mine, I was not able to practice and believe me, it would have helped. Also at the time, there were no LED retrofit kits available, so I replaced mine following the instructions shown on these links (below) that I dug out of my old bookmarks, using the Internet Archive.
The link I used to fix my iBook clamshell (this one is kind of rudimentary, but it was enough to get me through)
An original link that showed how (used for the pictures - since the characters did not translate and are useless)
 

Juliet Elysa

Well-known member
I've been looking around on the internet, and I'm not finding any instructions for an LED mod I'd feel comfortable following with such a nice computer even with a bit of practice. Does anyone know of someone skilled and trustworthy enough to take this on? I can cover parts and labor.

(Side note, this thread came up as one of the first results when searching for iBook clamshell LED mods/etc. Hopefully this information can help someone else too someday! 😁)
 

Byrd

Well-known member
Hi Juliet,

This sort of mod isn't terribly commonplace - yet - there are no kits available it'd be very DIY, trial and error to get the lighting and placement of the new LED strip right. I'm not yet in need to do mine so sorry can't help you here, however another member might be able to assist. You might come across a junker Clamshell with good LCD more quickly. Noting the Clamshell uses different cabling, LCD brands I'd take it apart one day to find the LCD model, as getting the wrong brand requires a complete tear down of the bottom casing to switch data cables over.

JB
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
Update: I have just purchased this LED upgrade kit for $18 on Amazon. Once I get a chance to try upgrading my laptop, I'll post my results.

I also finally found a website where someone else completed this same modification on their own iBook G3 Clamshell. This is incredibly useful as it proves that the mod can be done!



With some luck, I'll soon be able to use my Clamshell without sitting in the dark!
 

Juliet Elysa

Well-known member
Update: I have just purchased this LED upgrade kit for $18 on Amazon. Once I get a chance to try upgrading my laptop, I'll post my results.

I also finally found a website where someone else completed this same modification on their own iBook G3 Clamshell. This is incredibly useful as it proves that the mod can be done!



With some luck, I'll soon be able to use my Clamshell without sitting in the dark!

Awesome! I'm excited to see the outcome of your modification! Either mine improved in the months since I'd last turned it on or my memory isn't serving me well, since when I turned it on a few days ago the backlight wasn't as bad as I recalled.
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
It's alive!!! :)

I finally replaced the backlight on my iBook Clamshell with an LED module. This upgrade makes a massive difference in overall usability for me, as I no longer need to strain my eyes to read what is onscreen. Now, everything is crisp, sharp, and bright. The LEDs are evenly mounted, and the light they provide is perfectly even across the LCD (i.e. there are no hot spots of light). This mod really makes the display feel brand new!

This display works perfectly with the exception of brightness control. As it stands, the maximum brightness setting on the computer inversely makes the screen its darkest (which is a brightness level that I would normally call maximum brightness on other computers), and the minimum brightness setting makes the screen retina-searingly bright. The darkest setting is about as bright as I would ever want to use the computer anyway, so this is where I am keeping it for now.

The problem is that sometimes, I want to make the screen much dimmer, such as late at night, and that this modification just doesn't support dimming yet. In OS9, sleep works perfectly, but in OSX, sleep mode keeps the backlight on and just makes the screen black. I'm still trying to rebuild my clamshell's battery, but I can't imagine that this quirk would have a positive impact on battery life.

I think somehow, there must be a way to invert the signals, but I don't know how to modify (what I think is a PWM signal) on the fly. I think I can invert the backlight enable signal with a transistor, but I don't know if this is the right solution. I would also like to figure out a way to set the maximum brightness much lower and allow for darker minimum brightness levels.

I really could use an electronics expert's guidance in figuring out how to properly deal with the backlight control signals. Is there a way to "map" the PWM brightness control signal to another voltage range?

I would really like to hear other people's thoughts and ideas about this, as I am sure there are lots of ways to make it better.

To perform the upgrade, I followed the guides that I linked in my post above, although my LCD panel (and iBook) were slightly different from the ones in the guides, so I had to come up with my own steps where they were left out. I hope to write some more usable/comprehensive documentation for this project in the future. Until then...

Here is a brief summary of the steps involved (to be used in conjunction with the other guides I linked above):
1. Remove iBook's display bezel, and separate the LCD panel from the iBook
2. Carefully remove the metal protective frame from the LCD panel --this makes it really easy to accidentally shatter the glass LCD panel
3. Incredibly carefully remove the CFL from the channel where it sits inside the LCD (I think this glass tube will leak toxic mercury gas if it is cracked.)
4. Take LED strip, and it to fit in the CFL's channel, cutting it as long as possible (using a multiple of three LEDs)
5. Place spacers between the back of the channel and the LED strips to ensure that they are secure and shine perpendicularly towards the LCD panel (I used three wooden toothpicks, wedged directly into the gap that was left between the edge of the CFL channel and the LED strips.)
6. Reassemble LCD panel
7. Disconnect the inverter control wires from the CFL inverter, and solder them to the power board that came with the LED strip. One of the pages I linked above, contains a wiring diagram.
8. Insulate and mount the LED control board inside the iBook LCD chassis, wrangle all of the cables, and reassemble the computer

Photos: 


Clamshell CFL backlight brightness "before":
PXL_20211010_213517820.jpg

The LCD panel after it was removed from the iBook chassis:
PXL_20211010_215442313.jpg

The LED strip is mounted in the CFL channel, shimmed by toothpicks:
PXL_20211010_223402635.jpg

The first test of the LED strip:
PXL_20211010_231137702.jpg

Everything is mounted inside of the iBook with Kapton tape for now (the CFL inverter board is no longer used, and it could be removed):
PXL_20211010_232605587.jpg

The brightness of the LCD after the LED backlight is installed (with the same camera settings as the "before" picture:
IMG_20211010_191915.jpg
 

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LaPorta

Well-known member
The brightness is insane! The brightness controls still work correctly? Perhaps I could do this on my 1400 the same way when it gets too dim. Are there any CCFL lamps to be had to just direct replace this?
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
The brightness is insane! The brightness controls still work correctly? Perhaps I could do this on my 1400 the same way when it gets too dim. Are there any CCFL lamps to be had to just direct replace this?
I love how bright the screen gets now. :) Brightness controls kind of work, but they are the one issue I am still working on. The screen just doesn't get dim enough at the low settings for my liking, and the brightness controls are inverted so that max brightness on the computer is minimum brightness for the LEDs and vice versa.

There may still be laptop CCFL lamp parts available, but in my mind, these LED modules have the potential to be even better: They are very cheap (this mod cost me only ~$9), you can custom cut them to fit any size display, they use less power (and thus are more efficient) than CCFLs, they can get even brighter than the stock backlight (when it was new), and as an added bonus, they are neither super toxic nor fragile like CCFL bulbs are. The only challenge is to figure out how to make brightness control behave like a stock computer, and these LED strip modules will be a perfect replacement solution.
 

Juliet Elysa

Well-known member
That's wild! Hopefully someone will be able to advise on the brightness control and sleep issues, but even with that this mod has great potential!
 
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