Retrofitting a backlit keyboard on a Unibody Macbook (Alu, late 2008)

I've been using my unibody MacBook 2Ghz much more than usual lately as my iMac was being repaired and I was lamenting the absence of backlit keys on it.

As I was looking into the iFixit guide on how to remove the logic board for an unrelated reason, I happened onto this post where I learned that I could just buy a backlight sheet and add it into my Macbook without having to replace the whole upper case. It was also much cheaper than I expected; only 10€ delivered (took a couple of weeks from HK). You can find it on ebay searching for the part number or just the part name.

There is one caveat, not all Macbook A1278 motherboards do have this connector, even if only 30% do not have it. Here is some photos as an example: with, without.

It took a couple of week for the original, new part to arrive from Hong-Kong, I then proceeded to test it quickly to check if everything was working as expected:


After plugging it in with the laptop powered down (obviously), I started it, logged in remotely and used Labtick to manually switch the backlight on.

The blue fringe around the sheet is the adhesive cover, there is a tab to remove it prior installation.

Installation was fairly straightforward, even if it involves removing pretty much all the internals, it's not difficult to do on a unibody. Using iFixit Guide it's just a matter of following the instructions. I also used this occasion to give the radiator and fan a good cleaning.

So here is it, even if this is mostly a cosmetic hack that needs a fair amount of time to install, I hope that some people here will find this interesting. This also might be applicable to other Macbook that have a backlit keyboard as an option.