LCD Image Persistence

Can burn-in happen to LCD monitors?

One of the problems with old CRT monitors, over time, was a condition called burn-in. This phenomenon resulted in an imprint of an image onto the display that was permanent, caused by the continuous display of a particular picture on the screen for extended periods. A breakdown in phosphors on the CRT results in the image being burned into the screen, hence the term. Is there such a thing as LCD screen burn-in?

LCD monitors use a very different method for producing the image on the screen and are supposed to be immune to this burn-in effect. Rather than phosphors generating light and color, an LCD uses a white light behind the screen with polarizers and crystals to filter the light to specific colors. While LCDs are not susceptible to the burn-in the same way CRT monitors are, they do suffer from what the manufacturers like to call image persistence.

Persistent or Burned In Image on an LCD TV
Wikimedia Commons

What Is Image Persistence?

Like the burn-in on CRTs, image persistence on LCD monitors is caused by the continuous display of static graphics on the screen for extended periods. Long-term-static images prompt the LCD crystals to develop a "memory" for their location to generate the colors of that graphic. When a different color appears in that location, the color will be off and will display a faint image of what was previously displayed.

The persistence is the result of how the crystals in the display work. The crystals move from a position allowing all light through to one that doesn't allow any. It's almost like a shutter on a window. When the screen displays an image for an extremely long time, the crystals can switch to a particular position. It may shift a bit to alter the color, but not wholly, resulting in a display other than intended.

This problem is most common for elements of the display that do not change. Items that are likely to generate a persistent image are the taskbar, desktop icons, and background images. These tend to be static in their location and displayed on the screen for an extended period. Once other graphics load over these locations, it might be possible to see a faint outline or image of the previous graphic.

Is It Permanent?

In most cases, no. The crystals have a natural state and could shift depending on the amount of current used to generate the desired color. As long as these colors change periodically, the crystals at that pixel should fluctuate enough so the image will not imprint into the crystals permanently. However, if the screen is always on the image does not change, the crystals could obtain a permanent memory.

Can It Be Prevented or Corrected?

Image persistence on LCD screens can be corrected in most cases and easily prevented.

  1. Set the screen to turn off after a few minutes of idle time. Turning the monitor display off prevents images from appearing for extended periods, and setting it to do this when idle for 15 to 30 minutes can make a significant difference. These values appear in the Mac Energy Saver settings or Windows Power Management.

  2. Use a Windows screen saver or Mac screen saver that rotates, has moving graphics, or is blank.

  3. Rotate any background images on the desktop. Background images are one of the most common causes of image persistence. By switching backgrounds every day or every few days, you'll reduce the risk of persistence.

  4. Turn off the monitor when the system is not in use.

Correcting Image Persistence

Using these items can help prevent the image persistence problem from cropping up on a monitor. But what if the monitor is already displaying some image persistence problems? Here are a few steps that can be used to correct it:

  1. Turn off the monitor for extended periods.

  2. Use a screen saver with a rotating image and run it for an extended period. The rotating color palette should help remove the persistent image, but it could take a while to remove it.

  3. Run the screen with a single solid color or bright white for an extended time to force all of the crystals to reset at a single color setting.