The keyboard backlight on a MacBook is a great feature, especially for those who enjoy working late into the night. When it breaks, it becomes a big pain point for many people. You always have the option of having it repaired at the Genius Bar, assuming your computer is still under warranty, but if not then you may find yourself running up a costly repair bill. In this article, we explore several options to repairing a broken MacBook keyboard backlight.
Identifying The Issue
The first thing to do is understand if your MacBook keyboard backlight is actually broken, or just malfunctioning. To check if your MacBook keyboard backlight works, hold down the following key combo:
fn + F6
This will turn your keyboard backlight up to the max setting. If it still fails to turn on, or you notice the keyboard backlight is dim or flickering, you may have an issue. Another option is to completely reboot your computer, and try the above key combo.
Also, you will want to ensure that the ambient light sensor on your MacBook is not blocked and is functioning correctly. This sensor is responsible for triggering the MacBook’s keyboard backlight. When it senses too much light, it turns off the backlight and when it doesn’t sense enough, it turns it on. You can test this by covering it up with your finger which should trigger the keyboard backlight, or by shining a flashlight into it which should turn off the keyboard backlight. The light sensor is located on the top bezel of the screen, as shown below:
If this still does not work, try the following potential solutions.
We first want to start with the easiest and least costly – software solutions. The first thing we can do to attempt to reset the MacBook keyboard backlight is to perform a SMC Reset. SMC stands for System Management Controller and is a central piece of software on all MacBooks that allows you to reset certain parts of your system to their default settings. To do this, ensure that your MacBook is turned off completely and your charging cable is unplugged. Then, perform the following key combo:
Shift + Control + Option, then press the power button at the same time
Then wait for your MacBook to complete the booting process. Once it is fully powered up, attempt to turn the keyboard backlight brightness all the way up with:
fn + F6
If the previous options still have not solved your problem, you may need to replace your keyboard backlight. Luckily, these are quite affordable (generally in the range of $30) and easy to install yourself with simple instructions and a screw driver. This is a great alternative to paying an Apple technician to replace it, as they typically bill over $100 to replace them and it can take several days or even weeks. You can purchase a new keyboard and backlight combo for your appropriate MacBook model here:
Once you have your replacement MacBook keyboard backlighting kit, you can install it. We recommend you follow a guide to keep track of what goes where. For those interested in a detailed text-based guide with photos, check out this in depth post by InsideMyLaptop. For those of you who would prefer a video guide, check out this video below on how to replace a broken MacBook keyboard and backlight yourself: