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What is a Laptop Inverter?

By B. Melville
Updated May 16, 2024
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In electronics, an inverter can be defined as a device for converting direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC). An example of an inverter is the adapter used in cars for converting the low voltage cigarette lighter’s power (DC) into mains equivalent voltage (AC). This allows the use of many types of household electrical devices while on the road. In a laptop, an inverter is often used to light the computer's screen.

A laptop inverter is a small circuit board, usually about the size of a pen. Internally, a laptop runs on a low voltage, with the exception of the screen, which uses a backlit liquid crystal display (LCD). Without the inverter and the bulb it powers, the screen would be too faint to see properly. By controlling the output of the inverter, the laptop can adjust the brightness of its display. Some types of laptop inverter are able to do this automatically by using a small sensor to detect how bright the room is, and adjusting their output accordingly.

The LCDs in traditional laptops are lighted by one or two thin fluorescent bulbs that require a higher voltage than the rest of the computer. The inverter is typically housed close to the lamp, keeping its power wires as short as possible and to avoid running them through other parts of the machine unnecessarily. Less commonly, some laptops use white light emitting diodes (LEDs) to provide the backlight. These laptops do not require an inverter at all, since the LEDs can take their power directly from the laptop’s motherboard.

As with any electronic component, faults can occur in laptop inverters, especially after years of use. Common symptoms include the screen flickering on and off, the screen appearing too faint to read, and even sometimes a faint buzzing noise. It should be noted that there are other possible causes for all these symptoms, which are best diagnosed by a laptop technician or other qualified professional. If found to be faulty, the laptop inverter can usually be replaced.

Each model of laptop will have a specific inverter design, and they are generally not interchangeable. Replacing an inverter is a relatively quick and inexpensive fix, and is usually more cost effective than getting it repaired. The replacement process simply involves removing the screen bezel, unplugging the old inverter, and replacing it with the new one. A laptop inverter carries a high voltage warning, and should only be replaced by a qualified professional under static-controlled conditions.

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Discussion Comments

By Joannahm — On Apr 03, 2012

Thanks for the information! You said there are some laptops with no inverter in them. So how do you fix the problem when the lights are gone? I believe mine has no inverter. I can hardly see the image, even with a flashlight on it. What should I replace here if I wanted to fix it myself?

By anon238470 — On Jan 03, 2012

The case on my laptop screen has been missing for a while (it cracked). I'm concerned that the wires coming out of the inverter and going into the screen may have been damaged due to being exposed to manual wear. I thought that they'd been partially stripped but it just turned out to be dirt!

If one or both of these wires was broken and the insulation didn't entirely cover the wire and the wires touched each other or the metal screen cover, would there be a fire risk due to the high voltage and could I get a shock? Or would some protective circuitry shut the inverter down?

By anon174024 — On May 09, 2011

Can anyone help me? My inverter is lose and I have to hold the screen a certain way in order for it to work. where is it located and how do I repair it without having to take it somewhere?

By anon164842 — On Apr 02, 2011

I just changed my aspire 4520 inverter with success. You just need to do it slowly and carefully. it's easy and was done in 30 minutes. I am just typical user, not an expert. good luck to others!

By jascar — On Jan 22, 2011

i replaced my inverter on my 6860fx and accidentally broke one of the small wires that goes to the pin that inserts into the inverter. my laptop had no power. is that the culprit?

By anon129783 — On Nov 25, 2010

Ashrafbeetar: If you replace the inverter with one that doesn't have the same specs, you can either blow out the lamps in the screen or not have the voltage necessary to properly light your screen. The likelihood of this damaging anything but the screen is relatively low.

By ashrafbeetar — On Oct 18, 2010

Thanks for the good information. What if we replace HP laptop inverter with a Dell one without reading specifications of the two inverters? Could it cause hardware damage like to the motherboard, hard disk and CD drive? Please i need your help.

By anon100268 — On Jul 29, 2010

Thanks for the information. Helped a lot.

By anon77064 — On Apr 13, 2010

good information. Thanks.

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