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Well this sounds like a back light issue which is common to happen on old laptops, if it is under warranty get the screen replaced. If not then find out the price to get it repaired.
If you have a monitor sitting idle, then connect it to the VGA port at the back of the laptop and then use the Function key to toggle the video to it. This may or may not work on all laptops.
But yes your data is safe and the hard drive is working. So you don't need to worry about that.
You have a "FN" key in the lower left section of your keyboard. There should also be other keys with ink the same color as the FN. Look for one that has a sun and upward pointing arrow. Press both and your screen will get brighter.
If that does not work then your video inverter is starting to go bad and will have to be replaced.