How To Change The Color Of A Macbook Pro Keyboard Backlight

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This tutorial will teach you how to change the color of your Macbook Pro's backlight.

This "How-To" is for those of you who would like to change the color of your MBP's backlight.  It's an extensive process, but the end product is certainly worth it!

Let's get started!

Remember, I take no responsibility for anything that happens to your computer during this process.

Supplies

  • Phillips #00 Screwdriver
  • Spudger(Not Required)
  • T6 Torx Screwdriver
  • Tri-wing Y1 Screwdriver(Not Required)
  • Transparent Colored Plastic/Color Gel

Make sure that your choice of colorizer is thin, transparent, and can withstand a little bit of heat.  I used Color Gel which is used for stage lighting (copped it from a local news station I used to work at).  It can handle high heat and is thin/transparent enough to let a decent amount of light through.  If you're interested in that, check this website out, www.stagelightingstore.com or try and find some around town.  However, if you don't have access to that, go to a local craft store and buy some transparent, colored plastic.  It should work fine.

Note: This was done on a 13" Unibody Macbook Pro from mid 2010; these instructions are therefore based on that specific model and are not guaranteed to work with every computer.

Step 1: Removing The Back-plate

  • Flip the computer over and unscrew the back plate.  There are ten screws in all and three of them are significantly longer than the others.  Keep track of the screws and note where they go; they need to be replaced in the same holes they came out of.
  • Gently pull the back plate away from the computer and set aside.

Step 1.5: Disconnect Battery

This step is not required, but I advise that you do it.

Look to the lower right-hand corner of the logic board, to the right of the RAM and you will see a black rectangular connector.  Using the spudger's flat end, carefully disconnect the battery connection by removing the connector from its socket (don't worry, it won't electrocute you).

If you would like to go a step further and remove the battery, more power to ya.  Use the Tri-wing screwdriver to remove it.

Step 2: Disconnect The Display

In the upper right hand corner of the logic board, you will find a plastic pull tab.

  • Grab the pull tab and pull it towards the DC-in side of the computer to unlock the connection.
  • Using the spudger, carefully pull the display connecter towards the right side of the computer, removing it from the socket.

Step 3: Remove The Display Bracket

If you follow the display connection, you will see that it is secured by a bracket in the upper right hand corner of the computer.

  • Remove the two Phillips screws (you're still keeping track of your screws, right?).
  • Remove the bracket and set aside.

Step 4: Disengage The Speaker Connection

Directly below the fan, there is a connection that runs a cable off to the left hand corner of the computer.  This is the speaker/subwoofer connection. 

  • Using the spudger, remove the connecter from its socket.  Be careful, these connections are fragile, exercise caution!

Step 5: Undo Hard Drive, DVD Drive And Trackpad Connections

These connections are identified by the shiny, flat, black look that the connector has.  They all sit right next to each other on the lower left hand corner of the logic board.

  • Carefully pry these connections upward with the flat end of a spudger.

Step 6: Undo Camera Connection

The camera connection is near the subwoofer connection, to the right of the optical (DVD) drive.

  • This is a fragile connection, be careful!
  • Pull the cable towards the DVD drive, removing it from its socket.
  • During reassembly, align this socket with the connector before making the connection to ensure no damage is done to the cable or socket.

Step 7: Remove Keyboard Ribbin Cable From The ZIF Socket

Directly to the right of the trackpad connection there is a ribbon cable that curls up from under the logic board. 

  • Carefully use your fingernail or the sharp end of a spudger to lift the lock (it rotates towards you).
  • Pull the ribbon cable towards you, disengaging it from the ZIF socket.

Step 8: Unhitch Backlight Connection

On the right-hand side of the keyboard ribbon cable, you will see a small strip of black tape.  Gently peel this off and reveal the backlight connection.

**This connection is tiny and requires extra attention

  • Gently lift the flap on the ZIF socket (same deal as the keyboard ZIF, only much smaller).
  • Gently remove the backlight ribbon cable from the ZIF socket.

Step 9: Unfasten Battery Indicator Cable

To the right of the battery connection there is a small black connector; it resembles the DVD and hard drive connectors.

  • Gently pry it upwards and towards you. Removing it from the socket.

Step 10: Remove Microphone From Logic Board

In the upper right-hand corner of the logic board near the display socket, there is a small microphone.

  • Using a spudger, remove the microphone from the adhesive and free it from the logic board.

Step 11: Unhitch Logic Board

In order to remove the logic board, a T6 torx screwdriver is needed (yes, you REALLY do need one).  In my infinite wisdom, I thought hey, I can just use a small flathead for this!  Bad idea.  I stripped at least 2 screws to hell. Get that Torx driver.

  • Unscrew the logic board, keeping track of where the screws came from.  They MUST be replaced in the same spot!
  • There are nine screws in total.

Step 12: Remove DVD Drive

Now that everything is loosened up, it's time to disassemble.

  • Unscrew the DVD drive.  There are two small Phillips screws near the left-hand edge of the computer and one on the right-hand side of the DVD drive.
  • Gently remove the drive.

Step 13: Remove The Logic Board

Note: If you did not remove your battery and don't plan to, be extremely careful when taking the logic board out.  A small part of it near the lower right hand corner actually sits under a plastic flap; if you're not careful, you will bend/break the logic board.

  • Gently remove the logic board.

Step 14: Take A Breather

Step 15: Peel Back That Black Film

Now that the Macbook is sufficiently gutted, you need to have access to the keyboard.  The black film seems to be there to hold other components of the keyboard in place.  It is black on one side and white on the other.

  • GENTLY peel back the black film and DON'T forget which way it goes.
  • GENTLY lift the plastic up from under the black film (it should have small rectangular holes in it).

Step 16: Prepare The Colorizer

The very first step is to cut your colorizor down to size.  A rectangular piece that covers the area of your keyboard will do.

  • Mark where the small rectangular holes are by placing the colorizer over the plastic sheet and marking their location.
  • Punch these holes out.
  • Your colorizer should now have rectangular holes in the same spots as the backing plastic for the keyboard

Step 17: Install The Colorizer

Installing the colorizer is easy, but it needs to be in the right spot.  Remember how you peeled back that black sheet and the plastic with rectangular holes in it?  The colorizer goes under all of that.  Here is the order from bottom (nearest the keyboard) to top (the black sheet).

  • Colorizer (Bottom)
  • Plastic Sheet (Middle)
  • Black Sheet (Top)

Note: It is imperative that you replace these components to their original orientation.

Step 18: Reassemble

Now that the colorizer is in place, it is time to reassemble your Macbook.  Follow these instructions backwards to do so.

Congratulations! It's complete!

This tutorial was made possible by Greg Parker (http://www.sealiesoftware.com/keyboard/) and the people at iFixit (www.ifixit.com).  If further insight is needed, follow those two links. 

For a picture tutorial on dismantling your Macbook Pro (or any other mac product) check out the iFixit website (link above).  They do an awesome job at explaining everything from replacing your hard-drive to replacing the logic board.

Personal Notes

After reassembling my laptop, new red colorizer and all, it didn't turn on.  I reopened the computer and found a cable that hadn't been reconnected and presto!  Everything ran smoothly. 

The thing to keep in mind while doing this is patience.  Be careful, persnickety and down right anal; if you aren't, it could be the end of your computer.

Thanks for reading, if you have any comments/suggestions please post them below!

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