Troubleshoot black screen or blank screen errors


It won’t happen often, but there may be a time when something goes wrong and your device will display a black or blank screen. Some of the common scenarios that can cause a black or blank screen to occur are connection problems with your display, display adapter driver update issues, or issues with recent updates or installations.

On this page, we’ll take you through a series of troubleshooting steps to check both your hardware and software and to try to help you figure out the cause of the issue and how to resolve it.

Though the steps on this page might look complicated at first glance, just follow them in order, step-by-step, and we’ll try to get you back on track.

It won’t happen often, but there may be a time when something goes wrong and your device will display a black or blank screen. Some of the common scenarios that can cause a black or blank screen to occur are connection problems with your display, display adapter driver update issues, or issues with recent updates or installations.

On this page, we’ll take you through a series of troubleshooting steps to check both your hardware and software and to try to help you figure out the cause of the issue and how to resolve it.

Though the steps on this page might look complicated at first glance, just follow them in order, step-by-step, and we’ll try to get you back on track.

If you experience a black or blank screen error before you see the sign in screen, try the following actions in order:

Action 1: Try a Windows Key sequence to wake the screen

Let’s try to wake your device and see it that helps. Press the CapsLock or NumLock key to see if the status light above the key turns on.

If the status light turns on, do the following to try and wake your device:

  • If you have a keyboard connected, press the Windows logo key  + Ctrl + Shift + B. If you’re in tablet mode, simultaneously press the volume-up and volume-down buttons three times within 2 seconds. 

    If Windows is responsive, you’ll hear a short beep and the screen will blink or dim while Windows attempts to refresh the screen.
     
  • If your using a desktop PC, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete, select an account and try to sign in.

    If you can’t sign in, select the Power  button on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to restart your device. 

    If you don’t see the Power  button on your screen, press and hold the power button on your device for 10 seconds to turn it off. Then press and release the power button to turn your device back on.

If the status light doesn't turn on, press and hold the power button on your device for 10 seconds to turn it off, and then unplug your adapter. After 30 seconds, plug your adapter back in and restart your device.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 2 to check your device and display connections.

Action 2: Check your connections

There might be a connection problem with your PC or display. Here are some things to try:

If you’re using a desktop PC:

  • Make sure your display is plugged in and turned on.
  • Unplug the video cable from both your display and PC, and then reconnect them firmly. After you reconnect the video cable, try moving your mouse on your display.
  • Depending on which PC you have, try using a keyboard shortcut to increase the brightness level of your display.
  • If you have a TV connected to your PC, make sure it's turned on and set to the input for your PC.
  • Try connecting to different video outputs on your PC. Sometimes a change in driver can cause the video to be sent to a different display adapter or output.
  • If you have your own display adapter installed and connected to your display, try connecting your display to the built-in video on the motherboard.

If you’re using a laptop or tablet:

  • If it’s in a docking station, temporarily remove it. Make sure that the lid of your laptop is completely open after undocking.
  • Make sure that the external monitor is turned on and plugged in.
  • Depending on which device you have, try using a keyboard shortcut to increase the brightness level of your display.
  • Check for damaged cables (DVI, VGA, HDMI, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort), loose connections, or faulty adapters (such as DVI-to-VGA). 

If you’re using multiple displays, try projecting video to a different monitor. Press the Windows logo key  + P, select a display, and then press Enter.

If your connections are good and you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 3 to remove third-party antivirus software.

Action 3: Remove third-party antivirus software

Some third-party antivirus software has been known to cause black or blank screens. You can temporarily uninstall this software to determine if it is causing your issue, and then reinstall the software after your device is back up and running.

Removing the software won’t leave your device unprotected because Windows Defender Antivirus will kick in if no other antivirus software is running. Get more info about Windows Security

To remove third-party antivirus software, first you'll need to sign in to Windows using safe mode. Here's how.

  1. Power off your device by holding down the power button for 10 seconds, then press the power button to turn it on again. Repeat this process three times to trigger the Automatic Repair tool.
  2. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.
  3. After your device restarts, you'll see a list of options. The preferred option is to Select 5 or press F5 for Safe Mode with Networking.

Once your device is in safe mode, select the Start   button, and then select Settings  > System  > Apps & features. Select Sort by name, and change it to Sort by install date. Select the third-party antivirus software you want to remove, and then select Uninstall. After you remove your third-party antivirus software, restart your device.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 4 to perform a clean boot.

Action 4: Perform a clean boot 

When you start Windows by using a normal startup, several applications and services start automatically, and then run in the background. These apps and services include basic system processes, antivirus software, system utility applications, and other software that has been previously installed.

A “clean boot” starts Windows with a minimal set of drivers and startup programs, so that you can determine whether a background program may be causing the issue. A clean boot is mainly to troubleshoot software compatibility issues.

First, follow the steps in Perform a clean boot in Windows. It’s important to know that performing a clean boot isn’t going to resolve your black or blank screen issue.

However, if your issue doesn’t occur while your device is in a clean boot environment, then you can determine if a startup application or service is causing the problem by systemically turning them on or off and then restarting your device.

After you start your device in a clean boot environment, go to the “Troubleshooting steps to install, uninstall, or run your application” section of the Perform a clean boot in Windows page to find out how you can check if a startup application or service is causing your issue.

When you finish troubleshooting, go to the ”Reset the computer to start normally” section of the same page.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen after performing a clean boot, try the steps in Action 5 to determine if your graphics card is supported in Windows 10.

Action 5: Make sure that Windows 10 supports your graphics card

If you’re experiencing a black or blank screen, it may be a compatibility issue with your graphics card and Windows 10.

The best way to do this is to check your graphics card manufacturer website for the latest and most compatible graphics card driver for Windows 10 and to find out about the status of compatibility with Windows 10.

If you get to a login screen and then your screen goes black or blank, try the following actions:

Action 1: Try a Windows Key sequence to wake the screen.

Let’s try to wake your device and see it that helps. 

If you have a keyboard connected, press the Windows logo key  + Ctrl + Shift + B. If you’re in tablet mode, press the volume-up and volume-down buttons simultaneously three times within 2 seconds.

If Windows is responsive, a short beep will sound and the screen will blink or dim while Windows attempts to refresh the screen

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 2 and see if you can open Task Manager to restart Windows Explorer.

Action 2: Try to open Task Manager to restart Windows Explorer

If you see some content or a cursor on the black or blank screen, try to open Task Manager so that you can restart the Windows Explorer process. Here’s how:

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and then select Task Manager.
  2. Under the Process tab, search for Windows Explorer. Right-click Windows Explorer, and then select Restart.
  3. If that didn’t work, select File at top-left corner of Task Manager, and then select Run new task. Type explorer.exe, and then select Ok.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 3 to rollback your display adapter driver.

Action 3: Roll back the display adapter driver

If you're experiencing a black or blank screen issue and if Windows was operating correctly before an update, you can roll back your display adapter driver to undo the changes that were made when you updated Window 10.

To do this, first you'll need to sign in to Windows using safe mode. Here's how.

  1. Power off your device by holding down the power button for 10 seconds, then press the power button to turn it on again. Repeat this process three times to trigger the Automatic Repair tool.
  2. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.
  3. After your device restarts, you'll see a list of options. The preferred option is to Select 5 or press F5 for Safe Mode with Networking.

Once your device is in safe mode, do the following to roll back the display adapter driver:

  1. Open Device Manager by typing device manager in the search box on the taskbar, select Device Manager, and select the arrow to expand Display adapters.
  2. Under Display adapters, right-click the item and select Properties.
  3. Select the Driver tab, and then select Roll Back Driver > Yes.
  4. Shut down your device, and then turn your device back on.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 4 to uninstall your display adapter driver.

Action 4: Uninstall your display adapter driver

Driver updates for Windows 10 and many devices (such as network adapters, monitors, printers, and graphic cards) are automatically downloaded and installed when you update Windows 10.

It's likely you already have the most recent driver, but if you're experiencing a black or blank screen, you can try fixing it by uninstalling the driver.

To do this, first make sure that Windows is in safe mode.

Once your device is in safe mode, do the following to uninstall the display adapter driver:

  1. Open Device Manager by typing device manager in the search box on the taskbar, select Device Manager, and select the arrow to expand Display adapters.
  2. Under Display adapters, right-click the item and select Properties.
  3. Select the Driver tab, select Uninstall > OK.
  4. Shut down your device, and then turn your device back on.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 5 to remove third-party antivirus software.

Action 5: Remove third-party antivirus software

Some third-party antivirus software has been known to cause black or blank screens. You can temporarily uninstall this software to determine if it is causing your issue, and then reinstall the software after your device is back up and running.

Removing the software won’t leave your device unprotected because Windows Defender Antivirus will kick in if no other antivirus software is running. Get more info about Windows Security


To do this, first make sure that Windows is in safe mode.

Once your device is in safe mode, select the Start  button, then select Settings  > System  > Apps & features. Select Sort by name and change it to Sort by install date. Select the third-party antivirus software you want to remove, and then select Uninstall. After you uninstall the third-party anti-virus software, restart your device.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 6 to restore your device to an earlier point using System Restore.

Action 6: Use System Restore

Use System Restore to restore Windows back to an earlier point in time, called a restore point. System Restore doesn’t change your personal files, but it might remove recently installed apps and drivers. Restore points are created when you install a new app, driver, update, or when you create a system restore point manually.

For more info about how to restore your device with System Restore, see the "Restore from a system restore point" section on the Recovery options in Windows 10 page.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, try the steps in Action 7 to uninstall recent updates.

Action 7: Uninstall recent updates

If you've recently installed an update, you can uninstall the update to try to resolve the issue. To do this, first make sure Windows is in safe mode.

Once your device is in safe mode, follow these steps to uninstall recent updates:

  1. Select the Start   button, then select Settings  > Update & security > Windows Update > Advanced options > View your update history > Uninstall updates.
  2. Select the update you want to remove, then select Uninstall.

If you’re still seeing a black or blank screen, follow the steps in Action 8 to perform a clean boot.

Action 8: Perform a clean boot

When you start Windows by using a normal startup, several applications and services start automatically, and then run in the background. These apps and services include basic system processes, antivirus software, system utility applications, and other software that has been previously installed.

A “clean boot” starts Windows with a minimal set of drivers and startup programs, so that you can determine whether a background program may be causing the issue. Clean Boot is mainly to troubleshoot software compatibility issues.

First, follow the steps to perform a clean boot in Windows. It’s important to know that performing a clean boot isn’t going to resolve your black or blank screen issue.

If your issue doesn’t occur while your device is in a clean boot environment, then you can determine if a startup application or service is causing the problem by systemically turning them on or off and then restarting your device.

After you start your device in a clean boot environment, go to the “Troubleshooting steps to install, uninstall, or run your application” section of the perform a clean boot in Windows page to find out how you can check if a startup application or service is causing your issue.

When you finish troubleshooting, go to the ”Reset the computer to start normally” section of the page.

If you see a black or colored screen with dots moving in a small circular pattern after you restart your device, it generally means that the updates are finalizing. In this case, there’s nothing you need to do except wait.

However, if these dots remain on the screen for too long after an update, you may have incompatible or mismatched graphics cards or drivers. Try the following actions in order.

Action 1: Restart your device

One indication that you may need to restart your device is if there’s no hard drive activity. If the indicator light on your hard drive is off, try to restart your device.

If this restarting didn’t work, try the steps in Action 2 to unplug all unnecessary USB equipment.

Action 2: Unplug unnecessary USB equipment.

Sometimes, your device’s external devices can be the cause of problems. Try unplugging all of your unnecessary devices, and then press and hold the power button on your device for 10 seconds to turn it off. Then press and release the power button to turn your device back on.

If this didn’t work, try the steps in Action 3.

Action 3: Learn more about how to troubleshoot Windows update issues

For more help with Windows Update errors and other issues, see one of the following: