Seeing a black screen before login? Or after login? Or how about a black screen with only a cursor? The possible causes of a black screen could be:
A Windows update gone wrong (recent updates as well as the Windows 10 upgrade have caused issues).
A graphics-card driver problem.
A hardware defect.
Loose cables in your PC or laptop.
Connection issues between your PC and monitor.
A problematic startup application or driver that runs automatically.
Below, we’ll go through the necessary steps to diagnose and fix the issues causing that black screen problem. Note that the solutions look very different depending on whether the black screen happens before you see the login screen or after.
If it’s before, chances are that there are some issues with a device driver or even a hardware issue. If it’s after, there’s something wrong with either Windows or an installed application.
We’ll dive into solutions for a black screen before logging in first. Or, jump down to solutions for a black screen after logging in.
Solutions for a black screen — before logging in!
If you can’t even reach the Windows login screen and just get a black screen, things are either super easy to solve or perhaps very tough, depending on the specific problem. Let’s work our way down the checklist.
Optimize your startup applications
If you’re only occasionally getting a black screen, you might want to look into disabling some startup items and optimizing your boot. One of the best tools for this is AVG TuneUp, which can turn off all non-essential applications and put them to sleep. AVG TuneUp’s built-in Sleep Mode preserves RAM and CPU power so you have more resources available.
Check your cables and connections
If everything was working normally until suddenly your PC won’t show a screen, chances are that there’s something wrong with the cables or your monitor. Here’s how to check all your important connections.
1. Unplug and then reconnect your video cables
Try disconnecting and then reconnecting all of your video cables — HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, and VGA. And yes, the good old “blow into the ports” also occasionally works as dust or crud can get stuck in there.
2. Try a different cable
Cables break. Especially if you’re using a laptop and an external monitor. Constantly plugging in connectors wears them out over time. To check whether your cable is somehow affected, try a different video cable (e.g., from your TV) that you know works. If that produces an image, it’s time to shop for a new cable for your computer.
3. Try a different monitor
Your display could 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 TV (or vice versa).
The issue could also be a mismatch of monitor and resolution. For example, a gaming PC may not operate well with a projector that isn’t capable of displaying every resolution out there. In such a case, if your PC or Windows is showing a “boot error” with a projector, try hooking it up to a regular monitor. If the regular monitor shows an image, the root of your problem is probably a very low resolution, which the projector can’t display.
Unplug all unnecessary accessories
Perhaps some plugged in hard disk, Wi-Fi antenna, or your VR headset is causing an issue during boot. Try eliminating all these factors and removing everything not directly necessary for your PC to work. Just leave your monitor, mouse, and keyboard plugged in.
On a big desktop computer, try removing all unnecessary components, such as sound cards, or switch out the graphics card and upgrade your RAM.
Try a BIOS/UEFI reset and check the boot order
The core program required to run your PC is its “BIOS” (on older PCs) or “UEFI” (on newer PCs). BIOS/UEFI regulates basic hardware configuration and makes sure the operating system launches. If you’re getting a black screen, try to revert to default settings. Here’s how: While booting up, you’ll see a message asking you to hit a certain key to enter setup. Most of the time, it’ll be either F2 or the DEL key. Hit that repeatedly right after pressing the power button.
Now you can try two things:
1. Reset to default settings
Try finding an entry that says Load defaults (or Optimized defaults or something similar). BIOS/UEFI looks different but the general wording should be similar. This will reset everything back to default settings in case something went awry.
2. Make sure your PC boots from its hard disk
The BIOS/UEFI also controls from which medium the PC should start. This could be a hard disk, a CD/DVD (e.g. rescue disks), a USB thumb drive (to install Windows), or even a floppy drive. Make sure this is set to your hard disk — you’ll find this under Boot Priority or First Boot Device.
Launch a Windows repair
If your PC doesn’t boot and all you see is a black screen, turn it off and on again a couple times. After doing this repeatedly, the Windows Startup repair should launch automatically.
Click Restart and hope that this fixes your black screen problem. If it doesn’t, go to Advanced options. Select the first option: System Restore.
If that also doesn’t work, you’ll need to create a bootable Windows 10 thumb drive, plug it in, and use the tip above to make sure your PC boots from that USB drive.
Once the system restore has launched, select a system restore point that’s a few days old.
Hit the Next button and wait for Windows to restore all necessary files and essentially bring things back to the state where everything worked swimmingly. In some cases, you might need to reinstall an application or an update that you installed in the meantime.
Boot into Safe Mode
Windows Safe Mode launches your PC with the absolute minimum amount of drivers or programs running, which will help you avoid a black screen. Safe Mode means only Windows loads up and that’s it — eliminating any interference from a program or a driver.
To go into Safe Mode, follow the steps above to enter the Windows Repair environment tool. This time, click on Startup Settings. If you don’t see it, click on See more recovery options, and then click Startup Settings.
Here, hit the Restart button. After a few moments, you’ll see this screen:
Press 5 to launch your computer in Safe Mode (with networking options). Once it’s booted up, it’ll look like this:
Now you should start eliminating potential causes. Try at least the following two methods.
Uninstall applications that could interfere with your boot: graphics drivers, audio drivers, network drivers, etc.
Try turning off all startup items using the Task Manager. Right-click on your taskbar, select Task Manager and then go to Startup. Turn off everything you see here by right-clicking on each item and selecting Disable.
Next, reboot the system normally. If you see a screen and everything is working fine, then it’s time to repeat the step above and enable and reinstall everything one by one. Enable one item, reboot, and make sure everything is working. Then repeat the process with the next item on the list. Doing that will help you identify the culprit that’s preventing your system from rebooting.
Roll back or update all drivers in Safe Mode
As mentioned above, a faulty device driver can easily cause an unbootable system. To fix this, uninstall any device drivers that could be a problem, as mentioned above. One good way of doing this is by right-clicking on your start button and selecting Device Manager.
Go to the Device Driver that could be the problem (again, it’s usually drivers like display adapters, network adapters, or sound, video, and game controllers). Double-click on one of the entries here, such as NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, go to the Driver tab, and select Roll Back Driver.
If that doesn’t help, updating your drivers might fix your problem. Check out our ultimate guide on how to update device drivers.
Or, if you want to update your drivers immediately and keep them updated automatically, try AVG Driver Updater and run a free scan. AVG Driver Updater’s super intuitive interface will help you identify and update your outdated or faulty drivers, fix any lingering driver issues, and return your computer to optimal performance.
Solutions to black screen — after logging in!
You get to your log-in screen, type in your password, but then the screen goes black? Sound familiar? Here’s how to solve a Windows black screen after logging in.
Try disabling all automatic applications
If you see a black screen after logging in, something is clearly messing with your Windows OS while it’s trying to load your desktop and its icons. Chances are, it’s an application that’s loading automatically. To disable it, press the CTRL+ALT+DEL buttons at the same time and click on Task Manager.
If you can’t even get to this screen, you need to follow the advice above on how to enter Safe Mode. Once you’re in Task Manager, go to Startup and disable every item on the list. Reboot the system and hopefully this will solve the problem.
The program Explorer.exe (Windows Explorer) is responsible for loading your desktop and all its icons. If that program isn’t loading, all you’ll see is a white cursor on a black screen. That means Windows Explorer isn’t running automatically like it should after a login. Here’s how to fix that:
First, hit the CTRL+ALT+DEL keys on your keyboard and select Task Manager (or hit CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to launch it directly if the other method doesn’t work).
In Task Manager, click on File, and then select Create new task. Type in explorer.exe and click OK.
Woohoo! Your desktop should reappear.
Now, let’s move on to the question: Why isn’t Windows Explorer loading as it should? To fix this, we’re going to do some editing in the Windows Registry, the heart of Windows. Please make sure to create a backup of your PC or system restore point before you make any changes here. (We also recommend using a dedicated registry cleaning tool to clean up and repair any broken registry items on your Windows PC.)
First, hold down the WINDOWS key and press R. In the Run box, type in regedit. Hit Enter.
Next, go to the following folder (they’re called keys): HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > SOFTWARE > Microsoft > Windows NT > CurrentVersion > Winlogon.
On the right-hand side of the screen, double-click on Shell. Make sure that the “value data” here reads “explorer.exe.” If this field is empty or something else is in there, type in explorer.exe.
If something else is written there, it could be a virus, malware, or some other potentially unwanted program. To find out, do some exploring and try Googling the name. Even if your search doesn’t turn up any information, you should run a virus scan ASAP.
A robust antivirus program like AVG AntiVirus FREE will scan your machine from top to bottom to find any malicious code. It will then delete the malware and set up defenses to detect and block any future signs of trouble. Get 24/7 protection, completely free.
Install a new graphics driver
Are you getting a black screen randomly showing up at launch or even while working? This could have something to do with your graphics driver. Make sure to update all AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA drivers so that your graphics card works properly. See more detailed instructions for how to update your graphics drivers.
Switch between screens
If your PC is connected to multiple monitors or even a VR headset (which Windows recognizes as a monitor!), you can accidentally hit the wrong button and inadvertently switch your output to a screen that’s not turned on. When you’re seeing a black screen, hold down the WINDOWS key on your keyboard and press P. This will make Windows switch between display modes.
For example, pressing WINDOWS + P once will switch it into Duplicate mode, essentially cloning the content of your desktop to all screens. That should help. Pressing WINDOWS + P again will extend the desktop. And pressing it a third time will show it on another display.
If you’re seeing a black screen, try that, wait a few seconds, and then press the keyboard combination again.
Get out of the dark with a PC TuneUp
We hope this guide has helped you solve your black screen issues! But, if all else fails, then you probably need to reinstall Windows from scratch, because the issue is likely more serious or even beyond fixing. Going forward, our advice is to keep your system fresh and maintain it on a weekly basis to help prevent issues like the black screen problem.
To ensure your machine stays clean, optimized, and running as smoothly as possible, download AVG TuneUp for PC. AVG TuneUp’s Automatic Maintenance feature tunes your machine weekly, its Sleep Mode feature disables potentially conflicting 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 black screen issues.