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My everyday laptop is a 2007 T61 Lenovo Thinkpad running Windows XP. Up to yesterday, it ran reasonably well given its age. I generally keep it running 24/7, and dim down the screen to the max at night.

Yesterday, I used the laptop during the day, then went out for a few hours. Nobody used it in the meantime. When I came back I found the laptop running with the screen nearly black. When I looked closely, I could kind of see that the screen was still displaying the window, but so dark it was un-usable. I could see the display change when I pressed Ctrl+Tab, but barely. I was running a few tabs on Mozilla and iTunes at the time, plus Eset NOD32 and Carbonite. The only recent change I've made is to update iTunes a few days ago.

The laptop works fine when connected to a separate monitor (I'm using it right now).

What do you think causes this problem and is there anything I can do to fix it?

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This sounds like a textbook case of a backlight going out on a laptop. This typically is either caused by the screen itself, or what they call the 'inverter' that is plugged into the screen. We can derive this from the fact that when you plug it in to an external monitor, the video shows up just fine!

These items can be replaced, but the repairs are typically costly and might be more than what you want to pay to fix that old of a laptop.

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Given this laptop is a 2007 spare parts are unlikely and likely expensive compared to the expense of a replacement laptop –  Ramhound May 19 at 19:21

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