It all began as a buzzing sound and flickering of the screen on battery power only. When plugged in, everything was fine. Then the left 1/3 of the screen would be intermittently dim, sometimes it would be ok, sometimes it would be dim. Gradually, the problem worsened until the left 1/3 was almost always dim, and occasionally, the whole screen was dim. After a "cooldown" the absolute dimness would always disappear, and the partial dimness would sometimes disappear.
I borrowed a monitor from a friend, and left the display off of the laptop for a few days. Today when I turned the display back on, the left 1/3 of the screen flickered for about 5 minutes, but didn't go completely dim. Now, an hour later everything is alright.
I have done a bit of searching and found a lot of others with similar problems, but what I couldn't find was a definitive answer to the source of the problems. Some say to replace the screen, some say to replace the inverter only.
Is my problem the backlight or the inverter?
A faulty inverter usually results in a completely dark screen, so it's likely one of the backlights is bad -- there are usually two bulbs in a 17"
panel. Contact an LCD repair specialist to have the bulb(s) replaced - the cost should run $100-150 is you're out of warranty.