How to Fix Discoloration and Distortion on a Computer Screen

Correct washed out, distorted, or messed up colors

Are the colors "off" somehow on your computer's screen? Maybe they're washed out or inverted? Perhaps everything has a red, green, or blue hue, or even just too dark or too light?

Worse yet, and easily the root cause of those migraines you've been having, is your screen distorted or "messed up" in some way? Are text or images, or everything, blurry or moving by themselves?

Your computer's screen is the main way you interact with it, so any minor issue can quickly become a significant one. If the problem happens to be one of the more disorienting issues, it can potentially be a health risk.

An illustration of how to fix discoloration on a computer screen.
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How to Fix Discoloration and Distortion on a Computer Screen

There are several reasons why your monitor might distort images or represent color improperly, resulting in whatever specific issue you see, so let's walk through some troubleshooting until we figure it out.

Most of these are easy things to try, but a few of these tasks might be more difficult or unfamiliar than others. If so, take your time and be sure to reference any instructions on other pages if you need extra help.

  1. Power off the monitor, wait 15 seconds, and then power it back on. Some issues, especially very minor ones, can be caused by very temporary issues with your computer's connection that a restart will fix.

    If the problem goes away but quickly returns, especially if it's color-related, try leaving the screen off for 30 minutes before powering it back on. If that helps, your monitor may be suffering from overheating.

  2. Restart your computer. There's a slight chance that an operating system issue is the cause of the discoloration or distortion, and a simple restart will do the trick. Restarting is an easy thing to try early in the troubleshooting process.

    See Why Does Restarting Fix Problems? for more on this, especially if it works and you're wondering why.

  3. Check the cable between the monitor and the computer to make sure that each end is physically secure. Completely unplug, and plug back in, each end to be sure.

    Newer interfaces, like HDMI, often "push" in and "pull" out, meaning gravity can sometimes eventually work them loose from both the monitor side and the computer side. Older interfaces like VGA and DVI are often screw-secured, but they come loose sometimes, too.

  4. Degauss the monitor. Yes, this is very much some "throwback" advice, considering that magnetic interference, which degaussing corrects, only happens on those large CRT monitors of yesteryear.

    That said, if you're still using a CRT screen and the discoloration issues are focused near the edges of the screen, degaussing will most likely fix the problem.

  5. Using your monitor's adjustment buttons or onscreen settings, find the preset default level and enable it. This preset should return your monitor's many settings to "factory default" levels, correcting any color issues caused by settings.

    If you have an idea about what's "off" with your colors, feel free to manually adjust individual settings like the brightness, color balance, saturation, or temperature, etc., and see if that helps.

    If you're not sure how to do any of this, reference your monitor's instruction manual.

  6. Adjust the color quality setting for the video card. Setting it at the highest level possible will often help resolve issues where the colors, especially in photos, appear incorrect.

    Fortunately, newer versions of Windows only support the highest color options possible, so this is probably a worthwhile thing to look into only if you're using Windows 7, Vista, or XP.

  7. At this point, any significant discoloration or distortion problem you're seeing on your monitor is probably due to a physical problem with either the monitor itself or the video card.

    Here's how to tell:

    • Replace the monitor when you try another monitor in place of the one you have, and the problems go away. Assuming you tried the other steps above and weren't successful, there's little if any reason to think the problem is due to something else.
    • Replace the video card when, after testing with a different monitor and other cables, the problem does not go away. Another confirmation that it's the video card is seeing the problem before Windows starts, like during the initial POST process.
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