Freelance consultant for digital heritage

17″ Apple PowerBook screen problems

[Update] The line is back, despite after disappearing temporarily after a reboot. See the photo below.
[Update 2: 2nd May] A second line has appeared 6 pixels to the left of the first one 🙁
[Update 3: 10th May]A third line, this time magenta, is now flickering on and off 495px in from the left. I’m going to need to get a new display.
[Update4: 8th June]I’ve now got 6 lines, cyan, magenta, and yellow. One right down the middle of my screen. I’ve now found a website dedicated to getting Apple to recognise this defect.

My 17″ PowerBook is now 2 years old. It’s been used every day since I’ve had it, and been my workhorse. Even though the new Intel MacBooks are out there I have had no (well, ok, a few) urges to upgrade, until today.

Just an hour ago, a vertical cyan line appeared running down the height of the screen on the right hand side. It would flash on and off randomly, as if the row of pixels were stuck. A quick Google revealed that I was not alone. Some afflicted PowerBook owners often reported that once you have had one line appear, you’ll probably get more. There are photos of some rather extreme examples at

I’ve just rebooted, and the line has gone away. Maybe it was a glitch, maybe it’ll return. If it does, I’ll take a photo and submit it to Crosspond’s “Bridget Riley” website.

Since I’m in the UK, and if the problem persists, I should be able to get Apple to replace the screen (under the Sale of Goods Act 1979), but I’m not sure. I’ll keep posting about it here, in case others with the same problem pop by.


[tags]apple, powerbook, screen defect, 17″ PowerBook G4, hardware[/tags]


17 responses to “17″ Apple PowerBook screen problems”

  1. G Baker avatar
    G Baker

    I’d like to know if you were able to get help under the Sale of Goods Act in Britain. It would not cover me or a lot of other affected owners, but it might help.

    BTW, as I’m sure you’ll find out if you don’t get it repaired quickly, the examples at aren’t actually ‘extreme’. It starts at one line, then another, etc.

    Literally hundreds of threads have been deleted from the Apple support forums relating to this problem. It seems to affect the entire batch of powerbooks with serial numbers beginning W85. I’m surprised the press hasn’t yet discovered this story and Apple’s policy seems to be to ignore it unlesss they are forced to fix it.


  2. Jim Dunn avatar
    Jim Dunn

    Yes, our Powerbook is two years old. The lines started about a month ago. I had 11 4 days ago and 27 today!!

    Jim Dunn in Florida

  3. Brody avatar

    I’m doing what I can to get this news out so something can be done. While everyone should recognize the handy goodness that is Applecare, the point of the matter lies with customer service.

    I have dugg the Bridget Riley site at

    I have also submitted the matter to Fark, but it has yet to be greenlit at

  4. another PowerBook owner avatar
    another PowerBook owner

    This is one ugly example of a company actively fighting its customers. I could tell you an endless story since I am monitoring this story since my device was affected in September 2006, 15 months after purchase and 3 months after the “warranty” expired.

    This issue had __extensive__ coverage on the Apple discussion board but Apple is systematically wiping its discussion board clean of every reference to within hours.

    It started by the end of 2006 when numerous (about a dozen) threads emerged describing the issue and pointing to the dreaded M9689 PowerBook G4 17″. One big thread contained dozens of pictures and by that time more than 70 individuals describing their problems. This thread had far more than 1000 views and was frequently updated. It vanished overnight, together with all the others.

    This made David set up his database. Apple continued to actively censor everything dealing with it: The “smaller” threads, which do not hint at the massive spread of this issue, are locked down as soon as they reach a response number of like 10 or so. Posts which hint at Davids database are deleted within the hour. One day I checked the discussion board for information and noticed they had deleted another thread with more than 2000 views.

    As of now, this whole thing turned out quite absurd: Every week another individual posts a thread describing strange vertical lines on his M9689. He or she has of course no idea that the topic was quite widespread because all the posts are gone. As soon as anybody mentions the database, his or her post is deleted. Aware of this, I told a guy to “put the words bridget riley powerbook into his favorite search internet engine”. Even that post is gone today. You might catch a glimpse of another guy telling the author to have a look at the database site. He made his post at 6:30 AM; I bet this post will be gone until Monday. One isolated ….. keeps talking about Apple warranty, possible failures, which have nothing to do with real issue. This person really makes me sick!

    I went through hell with Apple: I wrote to Apple in Ireland and they would not even respond at first. They simply say “you are out of warranty”. Not only to me but also to the people I know, who wrote as well. In Germany there is a law saying otherwise when dealing with such evident circumstances.

    7 of us wrote to Germany’s most respectful computer magazine (c’t) and the editor confronted Apple with the number of defects and the forum censorship. And guess what: Apple tells the public that it’s all isolated incidents and does not comment on the censorship at all. This was published.

    From what I heard and read from the people from all kinds of other forums there is quite laughable stuff:

    Two separate individual guys from distinct places in the US report that Apple employees refused to admit any knowledge about the defects. When the customers told them to have a look at the Apple discussion board they answered that Apple employees are not supposed to read the Apple discussions.

    One girl in Germany went to the shop where she purchased her broken PowerBook and had the store manager call Apple. She overheard the phone call and told us that the Apple employee immediately said: “Ahh, it’s the display data cable”. The employee promised to call back but did not. When the store manger called Apple again, they “apologized”. Not what you might expect: They apologized for their employee “acting wrong”. Finally the girl got a new display but had to pay about 200$ for labour. The “new” display showed vertical lines 3 days later…

    Another guy from the UK posted a note on the Apple discussions (- of course everything is deleted now. -), when he went into an Apple Store, showed the young employee the database and recited the European law dealing with warranty in such a case. He got a new display free of charge. The only lucky guy I know of.

    Apple is censoring systematically: Posts dealing with meltdown MacBooks, random shutdown, melting power adapters, discoloration, nVidia-Bugs are killed right away.

    If you expect anything to happen, the only choice is a class action law suit in The US or avoiding Apple products.

  5. The Dark Side of Steve Jobs,04.shtml

    This is going up soon. We wish you all the best.

  6. We’re having this issue w/our 17″ PBs – has anyone managed to chase Apple yet?

    My display started out a couple weeks ago with one line, now it’s up to 3 and we justify spending the $500 to plunk down to fix each computer. Has anyone found a solution from Apple?

  7. Jeff Singletary avatar
    Jeff Singletary

    Add me to the display issue on my 17″ G4 Powerbook. I ended up taking it the Apple store and getting it repaired for $322.60. Well, my son’s PB started the same thing! I purchased them together in 3/06 after our house was robbed and our other laptops stolen. I called Apple and was told “Too bad. So sad. It is out of warranty. You should have purchased the extended warranty.” Two laptops, purchased the same day, having the same failure! That’s more than a coincidence. I can see one having problems, but both? I’m really quite annoyed with Apple.

  8. Klaus Brenner avatar
    Klaus Brenner

    Me too …
    My 17″ Powerbook (M9689) (W85184GJRJ3) has the same problem. Short time after end-of-warranty it shows vertical lines. I bout it via Internet at apple direct.
    After displaying the first line I visited an apple store…
    The told me, because out of warranty, to pay between 600,- and 1000,- Euros to fix the problem (graphic or logic-board).
    I´m not willing to pay so much money for such an expensive computer, instead I would expect some more friendly help from that manufacturer. I sent some emails to steve jobs but nothing ever happened. Try it too :
    I also posted my problem at Bridget Rileys website.
    I hope they will change their behavior … before I will see vertical lines only … Dell did it too, they had the same problem…

  9. I have an Intel iMac 17 inch and the same problems are appearing on these after a year or so. It starts with a vertical blue or purple line to the right of the screen and then multiplies.

    Are these 17 inch screen the same as the screen in the Powerbook?

    If they are and the problem was well known by Apple before the launch of the iMac (and the posts on this subject suggest they were) then Apple would have sold a known problem.And if that is the case are the warranty limitations still applicable?

    It is interesting that the 17 iMac is no longer in the Apple product range.

  10. I have an Intel iMac 17 inch and the same problems are appearing on these after a year or so (there are some comments still up on the Mac forums). It starts with a vertical blue or purple line to the right of the screen and then multiplies.

    Are these 17 inch screens the same as the screen in the Powerbook? I do not know.

    If they are and the problem was well known by Apple before the launch of the iMac (and the posts on this subject suggest they were) then Apple would have sold a known problem. And if that is the case are the warranty limitations still applicable?

    It is interesting that the 17 iMac is no longer in the Apple product range.

    This is perhaps a line worth investigating as if my speculation ( and it is only that) were to be correct then it might be a powerful argument to get some dialogue going if not a resolution to the whole issue.

  11. Have spoken to apple repair centre in Dublin but they too have stated that there doesn’t seem to be an extended warranty for these laptops. Seems a bit strange though that it is happening only to the 17′ powerbooks that fall within a serial number range. I hope Apple will eventually hold up their hands and admitt fault. It’s not as if these laptops were very cheap to buy.

  12. I have the same problem : 15 vertical lines on my display after 24 month of use.
    I have PowerBook 17″ G4 1.67 GHz, made in Shangai, China, with serial number starting with W85. The Powerbook was manufactured in April 2005.
    I started a french blog on that subject and I added a link to your site 🙂

    I hope Apple will react soon!

  13. Thanks for all the comments, people!

    My work have been in touch with Apple regarding the screen. They will not admit that it is a known fault, and will not make any exceptions, despite citing the database as an example that we are not alone.

    Sadly, I’m just going to have to use the PowerBook with an external screen as a desktop machine… 🙁

  14. neill diamond avatar
    neill diamond

    I have a 17″ imac and after a year the lines have appeared. I have been getting a new one every few weeks. I am a student and changed from pc to mac last year because i thought mac’s didnt break. im totally disgusted as i am in my final year and have to look at these lines every day all day.

  15. Sadly, I too have a recurring problem with vertical lines on my PowerBook G4. I’m sure it is the same model and serial code sited here and elsewhere.

    In six months, I too will run out of AppleCare extended warranty. I’m on my third screen and a new line has just appeared. All repairs have been courteously and immediately performed free of charge. This, I’m sure will end with the termination of the warranty.

    Apple is on a roll. I have used Macs since 1984. Surely with the right amount of pressure Apple will come up with a permanent fix for all affected, warranty or not. Clearly this is a manufacturer defect.

    What is the right pressure? Legal, I presume. With all the spurious litigation that goes on, this case would seem to be totally legitimate. We all need a lawyer. Who will get this ball rolling? We are likely a group of some collective means. We could spread the expense and force our favorite manufacturer, the one we helped make famous, to stop behaving in such an “unMacish” way.

    Who will unite us and lead the legal charge? Aren’t we all tired of sitting around and blogging about this? We’ve been wronged and want the value for which we paid a dear price. We love these machines and, up to now, the company that made them. For the price of a permanent solution, we will resume our happy relationship and evangelizing for Apple, will we not? Lets get going.

  16. I ‘m also having the same problem. My case is so extreme that I can’t move my Powerbook without the lines blanking out the whole screen. Needless to say, I haven’t had much luck with apple helping me with this problem. If anyone has a solution please help me and every one else by posting it here.

  17. Loren avatar

    The way apple is handling this is absurd. Yes, it would be an expensive problem to fix, but to ignore the people who have bought apple products (multiple times) is just bad business. I paid nearly $3000 for my Powerbook. No one should have to pay $500 or more to fix a problem that thousands of these same computers are experiencing! I am so frustrated.