How to Fix a Black Screen in Windows 10

What to do when your computer screen goes black

When a black screen in Windows 10 error occurs, the computer may still be on and functioning, but it may be frozen and incapable of accepting inputs, or it may just be off. A black screen in Windows 10 can appear at any time during use, immediately after booting, after or during an update due to a Windows update error, and at virtually any other time.

Causes of Black Screen in Windows 10

Unlike Windows errors that provide an error message, like blue screen errors, black screen errors don’t give you anything to go on. This situation can be caused by a wide variety of software and hardware problems, including:

  • The display is off: Some displays will turn off automatically when no video input is received, which will result in a black screen if the computer stopped sending a signal momentarily.
  • Broken Windows update: If you were trying to update Windows, or it was updating in the background, something may have gone wrong.
  • Display adapter driver update: Rather than a general update problem, this error happens when you’re specifically trying to update your display adapter driver.
  • Connection problems: If there’s a problem with your HDMI cable or the internal wires in your laptop, the screen will be black.
  • Broken startup application: If the black screen happens when booting your computer, you may have an application set to run on startup that interferes with your display adapter.
  • Malfunctioning hardware: Your video card, cables, monitor, display panel, or other components may be bad.

How to Fix a Black Screen in Windows 10

To fix a black screen in Windows 10, you need to narrow down why the screen is black and then fix the root cause. Many of these issues are pretty easy to fix without specialized tools or knowledge, but some are more complicated.

The following troubleshooting steps progress from easiest to most difficult, so you can start at the top and perform each step until your black screen is fixed or you reach a procedure that you aren’t comfortable with.

  1. Test your monitor. If you’re using an external monitor, turn it off and on again. If the monitor doesn’t turn on, or it appears dead, then the monitor itself may be at fault. If it has an LED that indicates when the display is powered on, check to see if that LED is on and the right color. If the display doesn’t turn on, check the power cable.

    You may also test the existing outlet by plugging another device to it or try a different power outlet.

  2. Try to reboot your computer. If your Windows 10 computer boots directly to a black screen, especially after installing an update, you may be able to fix it with a simple reboot.

    Press CTRL + ALT + DEL on your keyboard. Click or tap the power icon in the bottom right corner of the screen. Click Restart.

    If the screen remains black when you press CTRL + ALT + DEL, move on to the next step. This solution won’t work for you.

  3. Restart your computer from a completely powered off state. Your computer may appear to be on when it’s actually stuck attempting to resume from sleep or standby mode. Push and hold the power button for at least five seconds, look for signs that the computer has turned off like the lights and fan turning off, and then unplug it from power. Wait a few minutes, plug it back in, turn it back on again, and see if the display works.

  4. Check your brightness settings. If you’re using an external monitor, check the brightness settings using the built-in controls. If you’re using a laptop, use the brightness function keys. The brightness may be set too low to see anything on the screen.

  5. Try a different video output. If your computer has multiple HDMI outputs, try a different one. If it has USB-C, you can also try using a USB-C to HDMI adapter.

  6. Try a different monitor. Whether you’re using a desktop or a laptop, try plugging in a different display. If you don’t have one, you can connect to any television that has an HDMI input. If that fixes the black screen problem, then your monitor or laptop display is bad.

    If your monitor has multiple inputs, try a different input on the monitor. Double-check that you have the monitor set to the correct input as well.

  7. Try a different HDMI cable. If you’re using an external monitor, switch to a different HDMI cable. Use one that you know works if possible, like an HDMI cable that you use with a video game system or Blu-ray player.

  8. Refresh the connection to the monitor. Press Windows key + CTRL + SHIFT + B on your keyboard. This shortcut causes Windows 10 to restart your video driver.

  9. Wake up the display. If you’re using a tablet, such as a Surface Pro, press the volume up and volume down keys simultaneously three times in a row. If you do it quickly enough, you’ll hear a beep, and the display will reactivate if this was the problem.

  10. Bring up the Project menu and choose a display. If your computer is on and Windows 10 is responsive, and the display just isn’t working, you can press the Windows key + P to access the Project menu. You won’t see it because the screen is black, but pressing Enter will switch to a different mode. Repeating this step four times will cycle through all of the options. If your display starts working, you can stop at that point.

  11. Disconnect your peripheral devices. Try disconnecting all of the peripheral devices that you have connected to your computer, including removable drives, SD cards, cameras, printers, hubs, and everything else. Then restart the computer, and see if the display works. If it does, reconnect your devices one at a time until you find the one that’s causing trouble. That device may need a driver update, or it may need to be replaced.

  12. Restart the Windows Explorer process. If your screen is black, but you have a working mouse cursor and can access the Task Manager, your Windows Explorer process may be frozen. Opening the Task Manager and restarting Windows Explorer may fix this problem.

  13. Use Safe Mode to troubleshoot. Restart your computer in Safe Mode by shutting the computer off and restarting it three times. When presented with the Windows Recovery Environment, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup settings > Restart. Then wait for your computer to reboot and select option 5 for Safe Mode with Networking.

    If the display works in the Recovery Environment and Safe Mode, use Safe Mode to disable startup items and services until you determine which one is at fault.

  14. Roll back your graphics driver. If your display works while in Safe Mode, then boot into Safe Mode and roll back your graphics driver. After you have reverted to an earlier version, try rebooting.

  15. Disable fast startup. Windows 10 has a fast startup feature designed to do what the name implies, but it can also cause a black screen error. If you upgraded hardware like RAM before experiencing a Windows 10 black screen error, this is likely the cause.

  16. Use System Restore. Access System Restore the same way you accessed Safe Mode, but click System Restore instead of Startup Settings. Using System Restore, roll back to your most recent known working restore point. You can also scan for affected programs at the same time.

  17. Uninstall Windows updates. Reaccess the Recovery Environment, but select Uninstall Updates. Select uninstall latest feature update, sign in if prompted, and click the uninstall feature upgrade button.

  18. If you still experience a black screen after following all of these steps, you may have defective hardware. Consult with your hardware manufacturer or Microsoft customer support for more information.

What About Black Screen During Windows 10 Installation?

During the installation process for Windows 10, it’s normal for the screen to appear black from time to time. Even though the installation process is still running in the background, it may appear black for a while. Under normal circumstances, this shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours with modern hardware.

There may be a problem if you still see a black screen during Windows installation after about six hours of no noticeable activity. At this point, you can try powering down your computer by pressing and holding the power button. Once it has shut down, unplug the power cable, or remove the battery if you’re using a laptop.

With the computer fully powered down and unplugged, try removing all the peripherals. If possible, remove everything but one monitor, the mouse, and the keyboard, since you’ll need these items to complete the installation. Then with everything disconnected, plug the computer back in and turn it on.

Windows 10 should resume the installation process or roll back to the previous version of Windows. In both cases, attempt to complete the installation with all peripherals disconnected and only hook them back up after the installation has finished.

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