October 19, 2017

An Easy Solution to the MacBook Pro’s Blanking Out Screen Problem

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(Oct. 10, 2014) — I recently came across a problem with my MacBook Pro 15″ Mid 2012 Retina computer screen going blank when I unplugged the power cord from the system.

The obvious solution escaped me because I was at the tail end of installing Windows 8.1 Pro, along with all of my other software applications. I naturally assumed the problem was some kind of driver conflict or incompatibility resulting from all of the installs and updates I was undergoing during the installation processes.

To further cloud my troubleshooting efforts, I was installing W8.1 onto my MBP using Bootcamp. Bootcamp is one of a number of applications which allow you to install windows on the MBP, while keeping the OSx partition as well. This way, you can boot into either Windows or into the OSx environments.

All said and done, with all of the peripheral software tasks I was imposing onto the system at the time, it’s no wonder why I didn’t tune into the simplest solution to the problem at first involving the MBP’s automatic screen dimming (ASD) feature eventually.

There are a number of resources online, which of course I explored, and which involved more of a configuration or software based approach to dealing with a screen blanking out situation. Solutions such as resetting the MBP’s “parameter random-access memory” or PRAM, or “Non-Volatile random-access memory” or NVRAM, are discussed generously online. Feel free to explore those options should your troubleshooting adventure take you there. They, however, were not exactly causing the problem in the scenario I faced resulting in a blanking out screen.

I am not going to get into the resetting of VRAM solution here, because that wasn’t my problem. However, there are many articles on the web discussing how to reset the MBP’s VRAM cache, which may be a workable solution should a similar blank-out-screen problem occur.

So, the culprit here involved the MBP’s automatic screen dimming (ASD) feature.

In short, the ASD feature basically dims the screen, or reduces the brightness of the MBP’s screen when you disconnect it from an AC Power source. This is done as a battery power conservation approach when the MBP goes off AC power for any reason.

To make my situation even more complicated, my MBP’s screen actually would go blank when I plugged the AC power connector in, and not when I disconnected it.

My AC power connector is a Magsafe 2 connector, which is a great way to avoid breaking off your connector or damaging your MBP’s connector port in the event of a cable mishap.

More on troubleshooting.

When my MBP’s screen first started blanking out, I thought it was because of a system hanging problem. You know, that which happens alot on a traditional Windows system.

However, after a number of reboots, I realized my caps-lock key light was functioning. This gave me the impression the system had properly booted up.

A logical assumption was to believe that the system thought I was connected to an external monitor somehow, and was projecting the screen to that phantom monitor.

I didn’t have a separate monitor to test this theory, given I was working out of a local Starbucks coffee shop and basically had only the tools I brought with me in my computer bag, and what experience I could draw upon when contemplating a possible solution to this problem.

So, after several unsuccessful troubleshooting attempts failed to lead to successful results, I had to resort to more determined methods to uncover what the problem was.

Over the years, I have learned not to just throw my hands up in the air and get flustered when a “glitch” reveals itself on a computer. Trust me, this was not an easy temperament to learn. It comes after many, many hours of troubleshooting not only software installs, but hardware installs as well on older desktop system. Remember those blasted dip switches?

System was actually booting up successfully. That was a key starting point leading to the eventual solution. But that revelation was only uncovered by carefully noticing the caps-lock key indicator light properly functioning.

Exploring the working caps-lock indicator light further, I decided to test my theory by using an application I use frequently called iTeleport.

The iTeleport application allows you to access your computer over a network using either an iPhone, iPad, or other Mac computer running the associated iTeleport software. Basically, when you successfully log into the target computer, and after verifying your a qualified users, the iTeleport application allows you to “see” your computer from the remotely controlling device. Like a terminal.

Because iTeleport was configured to automatically load when Windows started on my MBP, it was, or should have been at the time, already running and waiting for “me” to log into it.

So I grabbed my iPad and iTeleported into my MBP – successfully.

Once I accessed my MBP using iTeleport and my iPad, my MBP’s screen appeared just like it would if it was being displayed on the MBP.

This was a key revelation and turning point in my troubleshooting the blanking screen problem. Because this confirmed my system was properly booting up and “running” Windows.

I still had not solved my screen blanking problem, but was understanding what was working or not, and that is key to discovery a solution to my problem.

Somewhere in the course of figuring out what was going on, I accidentally knocked off the power cord’s Magsafe 2 connector to my MBP. This is where another interesting thing happened, the screen magically reapeared – when the system went to battery mode.

This was contrary to basic expectations. If the system was receiving full AC power, it should have all the power it needs to power the screen. Right? Well, that was another twist to an already ongoing adventure into uncovering what was actually going on here.

One thing was clear, I was able to now disconnect my iTeleport connection, and at least be able to access Windows and my MBP’s screen as needed. At least until my battery power died.

Again, not looking for a simple solution, I dove into further software and configuration conflict troubleshooting. Again, spending another spell online researching possible solutions.

After finding several articles, each very articulately written and informative, most of them dealt with resetting the MBP’s VRAM cache. Still no success.

Finally, after more time spent researching and troubleshooting, which I also came to know as spending “quality time” with your MBP, I tried pressing the either of the two keys for decreasing or increasing the MBP’s screen brightness. That be the F1 or F2 keys respectively.

Well, by now you probably see where this article is going. But I did want to share with you my wonderful experience of also trying to re-configuring the power settings to not turn off the screen in either battery or plugged in modes using the hardware configuration panel in Windows. By the way, Microsoft graciously left us the traditional looking cpanel area when revamping Windows in version 8. However, it is not easy to find. Once you find it, you may want to create your own shortcut to it and place the shortcut in your quick launch tool bar.

Little did I know, the key to understanding the problem was to understand how the MBP’s ASD feature worked and how it was contributing to the problem.

So to make a long story not as long, I ended up at the end of hours of troubleshooting, simply pressing the F2 button to increase the brightness of the MBP’s screen.

Unconfirmed results, when playing with the F1 and F2 buttons, I believe the MBP does remember the state of dimming manually set in either battery or powered modes. Something which would explain why the system was blanking off when plugged into the AC power source.

I’ll let you explore this further, on a Saturday, so you too could spend some quality time with your MBP.

In a nutshell, the MBP really didn’t have a problem, rather, the system was just perfectly configured to have a “perfect storm” of particular settings that made it look like a screen blanking problem. When in fact, it was just the ASD system doing it thing.

So, if your MBP’s screen goes blank in either battery or powered modes, make your life easier by first trying to manually brighten the screen by pressing the F2 key. Be sure to increase the brightness in both battery and AC powered modes.

(c) MikesMultiMedia.com

A gallery of photos and images may be uploaded later for visible referencing.