What Does It Mean When Your Laptop Screen Goes Black?

By Matt Koble

It's tough to fix what you can't see.
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Imagine the scene, you're browsing your favorite website or you're deep into your favorite game on your laptop and the screen suddenly goes black. Or even worse, the monitor won't turn on at all when you boot the computer. The issue may have you thinking your computer's gone kaput, but the problem may be specific to the monitor. Whether it's something simple like a low brightness setting, or something more serious like a damaged monitor, it doesn't usually mean you have to get a new laptop.

Does It Boot?

If your laptop won't actually boot into Windows, the screen may not be the issue. If it remains completely black upon booting the computer, the problem may lie with your BIOS or Windows installation. Test this by plugging your laptop into an external monitor. If the external monitor is also black or blank, chances are your problem isn't a black screen, but an issue with your software. If no external monitor is available, pay attention to the lights on your laptop. If the Power, Caps Lock and Num Lock lights work, then you're likely facing a monitor issue.

Quick Fixes

There are a few relatively simple reasons you may experience a black screen. First, raise your laptop's brightness to ensure this setting isn't the problem. Most laptops have brightness keys to adjust it from the keyboard. According to HP, another issue may be a loose memory module. Ensure your laptop's memory is inserted correctly and fully, then try again. HP also suggests trying to start the computer purely on AC power. To do this, remove the battery and plug the AC adapter into your laptop and a wall outlet. This helps verify that the battery or laptop's charge level isn't the reason you can't see anything.

Drivers and BIOS

If you can plug your laptop into an external display, use it to visit your laptop manufacturer's website and download the latest drivers. Even drivers seemingly unrelated to a monitor issue could be mucking up the line somewhere, so update any outdated drivers. You can also typically find any BIOS updates where you find the drivers. This crucial piece of software can cause boot problems if something is wrong with it, so keeping it up-to-date and working properly is important. Using the manufacturer's support website, you may also be able to find any brand- or model-specific issues that cause a black screen, as well as how to fix them. If none of this helps, check your manual or manufacturer's website for device-specific instructions on resetting the BIOS.

Hardware Issues

A hardware issue is the most serious possible cause of a black screen, since it means you may potentially have to replace something. The Computer Hope website warns that a loose cable may be the issue, but to find out you'd have to open -- and potentially disassemble -- your laptop. If a hardware issue is preventing the monitor from working, the monitor is typically blank instead of black. While similar, a blank monitor still gives off light and is partially functional, even if not working fully. A black screen could mean a hardware failure. Computer Hope recommends sending your laptop to the manufacturer if under warranty, or a repair shop if not. The site warns that attempting to fix such a hardware issue yourself may make things worse.