Your coffee is ready to drink. You have a sharp mind. When you turn on your computer, all you see is a black screen with no explanation as to where all your precious memes of the day have gone.
A blank screen is difficult to diagnose because there are so many possible causes—your entire computer could be broken, or it could just be the monitor. You might get messages like “No Input” or “Cable Not Connected,” or you might just get a blank screen. Let’s go over some troubleshooting steps to get you back to working (or wasting) time on the internet.
Computer Screen Won’t Show a Picture: Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?
It may seem self-evident, but make sure your computer and monitor are both turned on. Both should have front-panel lights that illuminate when they receive power, and it’s entirely possible you accidentally pressed the monitor’s power button.
If your computer is turned on, try rebooting it to see if the issue still exists. Also, make sure the menu button on your display is set to the correct input. (Most should detect the correct input automatically, but it’s never a bad idea to double-check.)
Make sure the brightness on your computer is turned up as well. Many laptops allow you to dim the screen to zero, so raise the brightness and see if your computer was actually working all along—it was just dimmed.
Similarly, hold down the function key and press any button along the top of your keyboard that looks like a computer display—the screen may have been disabled or become confused after being disconnected from an external monitor.
Finally, you could try completely unplugging the monitor. When stuck on an input with no connection, a Computer Screen Won’t Show a Picture until I unplugged it. If your monitor is stuck on an input with nothing plugged in, you may need to plug something into that port before switching inputs. It’s uncommon, but it does happen.
Check Your Connections
Check to see if any cables have come loose. Make sure your monitor is plugged in and receiving power, and double-check that the cable connecting your PC to the wall is securely plugged in on both ends.
Your monitor should be connected to your graphics card rather than the HDMI port on your motherboard if you have one. Try another cable if you have any extras—possible it’s that the one you’ve been using is damaged or that one of the ports is malfunctioning. (If you have a different type of cable, such as an HDMI cable instead of a DisplayPort cable, try that as well.)
In addition, make sure your cable has the right specs for the job: if you’re using DisplayPort, make sure it’s certified by VESA, and if you’re using HDMI, it may have a certification label on the packaging you can scan with the HDMI Cable Certification app for iPhone or Android. Remember, not all cables are created equal: if you’re trying to run a 4K display at a high refresh rate, for example, you’ll need an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable, rather than an older High Speed model. You can read more about cable ratings in our guide.
If you’re using any adapters, they could also be the source of the problem—either you have a faulty dongle or you’re using it in a way it wasn’t designed to be used. For example, HDMI to VGA adapters only work in that direction; if you want to connect a VGA computer to a DVI monitor, you’ll need a different active converter.
Unplug anything from your computer that isn’t necessary while you’re fiddling with cables (i.e. the mouse, keyboard, and monitor). I’ve had instances where a specific USB port would prevent the computer from booting if something was plugged into it—strange, it’s but it happens. (If you want to be extra sure, try moving your mouse or keyboard to a different port.)
If you’re trying to connect a second monitor to a laptop or a desktop, you might find that only one of the screens is working properly. To begin, make sure your laptop or computer can run two or more displays at the same time—some machines may not be capable of supporting all of the monitors you want to connect. (For example, the latest M1 MacBooks only support one external display at a time, despite their improvements.)
After that, go to Settings > System > Display after plugging in your second monitor. If your second display is recognized by the system but displays a black screen, it could be due to the settings on this page—for example, you could have it set to only show a picture on the laptop screen, and you can adjust this to mirror the desktop on both displays or extend the desktop across both displays.
Listen for the Beep
You’ll usually hear a small beep from a speaker inside the tower when your computer starts up. When something goes wrong, this speaker will give you error codes. If you don’t have one, you can buy one on Amazon and plug it into your motherboard’s speaker header.
If your computer only makes a quick beeping noise when it starts up, it isn’t detecting any hardware issues. However, if it makes a specific sequence of beeps—for example, one long beep followed by two short beeps — it’s trying to communicate with you. It could be a bad stick of RAM, an overheating CPU, or a video card that isn’t properly seated. (Other machines may have a digital display instead of beeps that displays error codes, or a series of lights that turn on in a specific order to indicate a problem.)
There are web pages with information on these beep codes, but your best bet is to look at the manual for your specific PC or motherboard, as it’ll be most accurate. Once you figure out the problem, fixing it should be a piece of cake.
Fix Your Boot Order
Your computer may try to boot from the wrong hard drive on occasion, and if it can’t find an operating system, it will simply display a black screen (sometimes with a blinking cursor in the corner). This is a simple fix.
Enter the BIOS setup menu by restarting your computer and pressing a key like DEL or F2 as it boots up. Look for the Boot Order option in the BIOS menu, and make sure the correct hard drive is at the top of the list. Then exit and save your changes. If you’re lucky, Windows will boot up.
If that doesn’t work, you can also use the BIOS to load Optimized Defaults. Also, If you’ve misconfigured something else in the past, this will reset everything to default, allowing you to boot. (However, I recommend photographing your BIOS settings first, just in case you need something other than the default to boot properly.) If resetting the defaults doesn’t work, you can restore everything.)
Reseat Your Graphics Card, RAM, or Other Hardware
It’s possible that a piece of hardware came loose inside the case and is preventing the computer from booting if you recently built, upgraded, or moved your desktop computer. Look inside your computer by removing the side panel. If you have a graphics card, try removing it and reinstalling it in its PCIe slot until it clicks, or try moving it to a different slot. Make sure the power cables are securely fastened as well.
Reinstall the RAM sticks while you’re inside by pressing down on the levers near the edges to pop them out of their slots, then pressing them back in until the latches click. Make sure your hard drive is connected and all of the cables connected to the motherboard are snugly plugged in.
Buckle Up for Safe Mode
If your Computer Screen Won’t Show a Picture when your pc starts up, it’s possible you’re dealing with a driver or other software problem. If you boot into Safe Mode, you might be able to get a picture, though it’ll be difficult if you don’t have a working screen to begin with.
You have two options: if you interrupt the startup process three times (for example, by pressing the restart button as Windows starts up), you’ll be taken to the Automatic Repair menu, where you can select Advanced Options to find Safe Mode.
If that doesn’t work, you can create a Windows 10 installation drive on another computer, boot from it, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from Repair Your Computer > Troubleshoot > Startup Settings.
There’s still a chance to fix things if your computer boots into Safe Mode. Uninstall any new programs that you think are causing a problem. Check that your resolution and refresh rate are both set correctly (if you had them set too high, your monitor might not be able to display a screen).
You can also try reinstalling your graphics card drivers by going to the manufacturer’s website and downloading them. If you have any leftover graphics drivers on your system, run Display Driver Uninstaller to completely remove them. This is not a tool for the faint of heart, but it is the only way to completely remove all traces of a graphics driver from the system, which can cause issues.
While you’re in there, you might as well run a malware scan, use System Restore, or even a recovery drive (if you have one) to restore your system to a known working state. When you’re done, check to see if your computer restarts normally.
If that doesn’t work, go back to the troubleshooting menu and select Startup Repair. To check for drive errors, go to the Command Prompt and type sfc /scannow or chkdsk C: /r . If you’re lucky, Windows will be able to repair any issues and get you booting again.
Try Another Video Card or Monitor
If none of the above solutions work and your Computer Screen Won’t Show a Picture, you may need to conduct more in-depth testing with spare hardware, if you can find any. Find a cheap video card on Craigslist and see if it works in place of your current card; if it does, your GPU may be the issue, and it’s time to upgrade.
Check to see if your computer will boot when connected to another monitor or television. If you’re using a laptop, connect it to an external monitor to see if the issue is with the display or the computer. If your monitor or laptop’s display is broken, you might be able to replace the LCD panel yourself (if you’re handy with a screwdriver). Otherwise, it might be time to call in the experts—hopefully, you have a good backup in case they need to wipe the drive.