AVG Signal Blog Performance Performance Tips How to Fix a Blank or Black Screen on Windows

What is the black screen of death?

The Windows black screen, often called the black screen of death, is a critical Windows system error that your computer displays when a major problem forces the operating system to shut down. The blank screen can happen when you’re logging in, updating software, or even in the middle of working.

This article contains:

    What causes the black screen of death?

    The black screen of death is caused by a critical error in your computer’s operating system that can happen because of a faulty device driver, a hardware defect, or a Windows software glitch. While usually fixable, finding the root cause of the black screen isn’t always easy.

    Here are some common causes of a Windows 10 black screen:

    • A Windows update gone wrong

    • A faulty startup application

    • Outdated or faulty drivers

    • Connection issues between your PC and monitor

    • Software defects

    • Hardware defects

    • Problems with your graphics card

    • Loose cables connected to your PC or laptop

    Below, we’ll guide you through the necessary steps to diagnose and fix the issues causing the black screen of death, both before login and after.

    If you see the full black screen before login, it’s probably caused by a malfunctioning device driver or hardware issue. If the blank screen happens after login, there’s probably something wrong with Windows, like a buggy Windows 10 update, or a problem with an installed application. Don’t assume your computer is permanently failing — if you think it’s a hard drive issue, check out our hard drive failure guide.

    First, we’ll outline solutions for a black screen before logging in. Then we’ll discuss solutions for a black screen of death that happens after logging in.

    Black screen during boot

    Solutions for a black screen of death — before logging in

    If you get a black screen before the Windows login screen appears, the issue often has an easy fix. Check out the possible solutions below to troubleshoot the issue.

    1. Optimize your startup applications

    If you get a black screen only occasionally, try disabling some startup items to optimize your boot. With AVG TuneUp, you can turn off all non-essential applications and put them to sleep automatically. AVG TuneUp features a built-in Sleep Mode so you can get the most out of your RAM and CPU power and have more resources available at startup.

    2. Check your cables and connections

    If everything is working normally until suddenly your PC displays a blank screen, something might be wrong with your computer cables or monitor. Here’s how to check your cables and other important connections.

    Unplug and reconnect your video cables

    Disconnect and reconnect all of your video cables — HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, and VGA. While you’re at it, blow into the ports to dislodge any dust or other particles that may have got stuck there.

    Try disconnecting and reconnecting all your video cables to see if that fixes your black screen issue.

    Try a different cable

    Constantly unplugging and plugging in cables causes them to wear out over time — eventually, they break. It’s especially common if you use a laptop and an external monitor.

    To check whether your cable is causing the black screen, try plugging in a different video cable, like the one from your TV, that you know works. If that cable connection produces an image instead of a full blank screen, it’s time to get a new computer cable.

    Try a different monitor

    Your monitor display might be defective or set to the wrong source, which can also lead to a black screen. Try connecting to a different display if you have one. Or, move from your monitor to your TV (or vice versa).

    The blank screen might be caused by a mismatch between your monitor and your resolution. For example, an optimized gaming PC might not work with a projector that can’t display the high resolution. If your Windows 10 PC shows a “boot error” when connected to a projector, try hooking it up to a regular monitor. If the regular monitor displays images normally, the root of your problem is likely a very low resolution, which the projector can’t display.

    3. Unplug all unnecessary accessories

    Sometimes, external hard drives, USB connections, Wi-Fi antennas, or VR headsets cause issues during boot. If your laptop screen is black upon startup, unplug everything not necessary for your PC to work — leave only your monitor, mouse, and keyboard plugged in and restart your computer.

    On a bigger desktop computer, try removing all unnecessary components, such as sound cards and extra RAM sticks. If that doesn’t work, you can also switch out the graphics card and upgrade your RAM completely.

    4. Try a BIOS/UEFI reset and check the boot order

    BIOS is the core program that runs older PCs, while UEFI runs newer models. BIOS/UEFI regulates basic hardware configuration and makes sure the operating system launches.

    If you’re getting a black screen of death, try reverting to the default settings. Here’s how to reset BIOS/UEFI: Turn off your PC, then hit the power button to turn it back on. Immediately during startup, you’ll get a prompt to hit a certain key to enter setup (usually F2 or the DEL key). Hit that key repeatedly.

    Now, you can try two things:

    Reset to default settings

    Find an entry that says Load defaults (or Optimized defaults or something similar). BIOS/UEFI looks different depending on your device, but the general wording of the entry should be similar. Selecting this option resets everything back to default settings.

    Loading BIOS/UEFI defaults

    Make sure your PC boots from its hard disk

    The BIOS/UEFI also controls how your PC starts up. Your PC could boot from a hard disk, a CD/DVD (e.g., rescue disks), a USB thumb drive (to install Windows), or even a floppy drive. In Boot Priority (or First Boot Device) settings, ensure the hard disk option is selected.

    Setting boot priority to hard drive

    You can also check your BIOS/UEFI performance by running a CPU stress test. If your computer fails the test and causes the black screen of death, your BIOS/UEFI drivers might be outdated. You can easily update your drivers with one of the best free driver updaters on the market.

    5. Launch a Windows repair

    If your PC boots to a black screen, you should restart your PC several times. After doing this repeatedly, the Windows Startup Automatic Repair screen should launch automatically.

    Launching Automatic RepairClick Restart. If it doesn’t fix the black screen issue, go to Advanced options, then select System Restore.

    Advanced System Restore settings

    If the Windows repair doesn’t work, you need to create a bootable Windows 10 drive, plug it in, and use the disk-boot tip above to make sure your PC boots from the USB drive.

    Once the system restore launches, select a system restore point that’s a few days old.

    Picking a system restore point

    Hit Next, then wait for Windows to restore all necessary files and return things to working order. In some cases, you might need to reinstall an application or an update that you installed after the restore point and before you got the black screen of death.

    6. Boot into Safe Mode

    Windows Safe Mode launches your PC with the minimum amount of drivers or programs running, which will help you avoid a black screen. Safe Mode means only Windows launches — eliminating any interference from unnecessary programs or drivers.

    To boot into Safe Mode, follow the steps above to launch the Windows Repair tool. This time, click Startup Settings. If you don’t see that option, click See more recovery options, then click Startup Settings.

    Changing windows startup settings

    Next, click Restart. After a few seconds, you’ll see the Startup Settings screen.

    Selecting Safe Mode

    Press 5 on your keyboard to launch your computer in Safe Mode with Networking. Once it’s booted up, it’ll look like something like this:

    Safe Mode desktop

    Now you can start eliminating potential causes of the black screen of death. Try these two methods:

    First, uninstall applications that could interfere with your boot, like graphics drivers, audio drivers, network drivers, etc.

    Uninstalling drivers

    Then, turn off all startup items using the Task Manager. Right-click your taskbar, select Task Manager, then go to Startup. Turn off everything in this tab by right-clicking each item and selecting Disable.

    Disable startup items using Task-Manager

    Now, reboot the system normally. If the black screen is gone and everything is working, reverse the options above one by one. Enable one item in Task Manager, reboot, and ensure everything works. Then, repeat the process with the next item on the list. This will help you identify the program preventing your system from rebooting.

    7. Roll back or update all drivers in Safe Mode

    As mentioned above, a faulty device driver can cause an unbootable system. To fix this, uninstall any device drivers that could be a problem. Right-click Start and select Device Manager.

    Open Device Manager

    Go to the problematic device driver (usually drivers like display adapters, network adapters, or sound, video, and game controllers). Double-click the entry, such as NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, go to the Driver tab, and select Roll Back Driver. Click Yes to confirm.

    Rolling back driversIf that doesn’t help, updating your drivers might fix your Windows black screen problem. Check out our ultimate guide on finding and updating device drivers.

    If you want to update your drivers immediately and keep them updated automatically, get AVG Driver Updater and run a free scan. AVG Driver Updater’s easy-to-use dashboard will help you identify and update your outdated or faulty drivers, fix lingering driver issues, and get your computer working optimally again.

    Solutions for a black screen of death — after logging in

    If the black screen of death happens after you log in (you enter your password and then everything goes blank), you can still find the cause of the black screen using one of the solutions below.

    Here’s how to solve a Windows black screen after login:

    1. Disable all automatic applications

    If you see a black screen after login, something is affecting your Windows operating system while it’s trying to load your desktop and icons. Usually, it’s an application that’s loading automatically. To disable it, press the Ctrl + Alt + Delete buttons simultaneously, and select Task Manager.

    If the black screen prevents you from getting to Task Manager, follow the advice above on how to boot into Safe Mode. In Task Manager, go to Startup and disable every item. Reboot your computer, and check that everything works normally.

    Disable startup items using Task-ManagerCheck Task Manager as part of regular PC maintenance. Disabling resource-draining apps at startup is an easy way to speed up your PC’s boot time and avoid the black screen of death.

    2. Start explorer.exe

    The program explorer.exe (Windows Explorer) is responsible for loading your desktop and icons. If that program isn’t loading, then Windows Explorer isn’t running automatically like it should after login, and all you’ll see is a black screen with a floating cursor.

    Here’s how to fix that:

    First, hit the Ctrl + Alt + Delete keys on your keyboard and select Task Manager (or hit Ctrl + Shift + Esc to launch it directly).

    In Task Manager, click File, and select Run new task. Type explorer.exe and click OK.

    Running Explorer.exe to launch DesktopYour desktop should now reappear.

    Windows Desktop is back again.Why isn’t Windows Explorer loading as it should? To fix this, you need to edit the Windows Registry — the heart of the Windows operating system. Before you make any changes, create a backup of your PC or system restore point. (You can also use a specialized registry cleaning tool to clean up and repair any broken registry items on your Windows PC.)

    Here’s how to fix Windows Explorer launch via Windows Registry:

    First, hold down the Windows key and press R. In the Run box, type in regedit. Hit Enter.

    Opening regedit to edit the registry

    Then, go to the following folder (also called keys): HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Microsoft > Windows NT > CurrentVersion > Winlogon.

    On the right side of the screen, double-click Shell. Check that the Value data section reads explorer.exe. If this field is empty or something else is there, enter explorer.exe.

    Editing the Windows registry

    If something else is written in the Value data section, it could be a virus, malware, or some other potentially unwanted program. To find out, Google the name of the program and do some research. Even if your search doesn’t turn up any information, you should run a virus scan immediately.

    A strong antivirus program like AVG AntiVirus FREE will scan your machine from top to bottom to find any malicious code. Then, it will delete the malware and set up defenses to detect and block any future signs of trouble.

    3. Install a new graphics driver

    If your computer screen keeps going blank seemingly at random, the cause of the black screen of death might be your graphics driver. Make sure to update all AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA drivers regularly so that your graphics card works properly. Check out our detailed instructions on how to update your graphics drivers and our guide to monitoring GPU performance.

    4. Switch between screens

    If your PC is connected to multiple monitors or even a VR headset (which Windows identifies as a monitor), you can accidentally hit the wrong button and switch your output to a screen that’s off. When you see a blank screen, hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press P. This shows you the possible display modes, and allows you to switch.

    Switching between display modes

    Avoid the black screen of death with PC TuneUp

    Hopefully, this guide has helped you solve your black screen problems. If all else fails, you may need to reinstall Windows from scratch, because the issue is likely more serious or beyond fixing. Otherwise, keep your system fresh by maintaining it on a weekly basis to help prevent issues like the black screen of death.

    To keep your machine clean, optimized, and running as smoothly as possible, use AVG TuneUp for PC. AVG TuneUp’s Automatic Maintenance feature tunes your machine weekly, while its Sleep Mode feature disables unnecessary applications. And the built-in Software Uninstaller gets rid of apps that could render your system unbootable. Try AVG TuneUp today and say goodbye to Windows black screen issues.

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