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I've got an old Packard Bell Ipower 5243 laptop. The screen is broken but the VGA-out port still works... kind of.

See: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. And I have no idea what the cause is.

The laptop boots up nicely, so I can ssh into it and all.

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By "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't" - what do you mean exactly? What does it do when it "doesn't work"? –  Majenko Apr 20 '11 at 11:40
    
It just doesn't output a thing on the VGA port. The computer runs fine (linu boots up without a problem) I just don't get anything on the screen. Not even the BIOS screens. –  skerit Apr 20 '11 at 12:14
    
I'd also add packard bells are.. horrid. Used to have one which was unreliable as anything for a while –  Journeyman Geek Sep 1 '11 at 5:41

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I also have a Packard Bell laptop (but mine is an EasyNote 2004 model) running Windows 7.

Most older laptops need a fresh reboot in order for them to find the TV screen through the VGA port. The fact that you say it works sometimes and not others might be a motherboard issue; some people flash the BIOS but I highly recommend not doing so.

I'd suggest taking out the RAM and the CMOS battery for at least five minutes, then doing a fresh boot. When the Packard Bell picture is supposed to pop up, that's when the TV should display your Windows startup screen. If that doesn't work try it on another TV; if that doesn't work all I can suggest is replacing the VGA port - or to save time and trouble get a newer laptop.

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Switching between displays tends to be software based - by the mention of SSH i assume its linux linux, i'd suggest trying to set the VGA out and the screen in question as a default, explicitly in your xorg configuration.

If its windows, there should be a key combo to switch displays... try it it 4-5 times, or until you get a image on the screen.

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