Reliably Accessing a Macbook Pro with Broken Screen and Full Disk Encryption

I have a 2020 Intel Macbook Pro, and sadly a few weeks ago it fell to the ground and the screen broke. I took it in to be serviced and learned that the cost of repairing the screen. They quoted me at over $900, which to me means it is not really worth replacing.

However, I had a hope that I could use it connected to an external display. The tech tried and explained to me that because I had full disk encryption turned on – an external display would also not work until after login. So if I could login blindly, then I could use it with an external display.

I had trouble logging in without a screen. Eventually I was able to turn on VoiceOver which announced to me what was on the screen. To my discouragement it was some kind of recovery screen. And the mechanics of using voiceover were really challenging - like it told me there was a table and some text on a button. I couldn’t really imagine troubleshooting some non-booting Mac like this.

I ended up rebooting a few times and eventually the voiceover announced that the field on the screen was asking for a username. I was then able to enter my username and password, and then momentarily, the external display activated.

So that brings me to my current situation - I am using the laptop with an external display, and as long as I never ever reboot, I am good. If I reboot and there are no problems at boot time then I should be okay, with voiceover. but anything more complicated – well I’m afraid I won’t be able to access my computer anymore. I don’t think this is really a trustworthy solution, as any boot problem or perhaps something happening upon updating the OS could result in total loss.

So, that’s a lot of background for my ask: do you have any advice for this situation?

I am assuming, from the tech’s comment, that I could perhaps disable full disk encryption and perhaps I wouldn’t have this same situation, but that is not really tenable. Perhaps I would do that in order to get it ready to sell.

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Sorry for your troubles. IF disabling full disk encryption would allow the MBP to reliably boot with an external monitor I would definitely do that. I have removed broken screens from Windows laptops and used them as “desktops” in a server room multiple times. Doing that with your MBP would give you the equivalent of a Mac mini.

There are refurbrished 2020 MBP selling for as little as $550 on Amazon. It might be worth more to you than you could get selling it for parts.

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Thanks Wayne. I don’t really care to use it unencrypted, but after I get the whole machine backed up I might try that so I know what my options are.

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How would you feel about fixing it yourself? Instructions here. I recently replaced the display on our 2015 MBP, got the replacement on eBay for $250.

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Same situation. I’ve been using the Mac app Amphetamine:

Hope this helps.

For the most part, after I’m logged in, I’m able to keep using my external monitor, after sleeping and then I can wake up with my wireless keyboard or mouse.

So I don’t have major usability problems, I’m more concerned about what happens when I have to do an OS upgrade or have boot problems. Have you dealt with that?

Pretty intimidated. I replaced a screen on my wife’s iPhone like 10 years ago and I think I broke a speaker cable or maybe just caused it to come loose, and since then I mostly see that as a last resort for me before something goes in the garbage. But maybe I should consider that. I hadn’t even priced them so it is nice to know a different possible solution that would be reasonable financially.