How to Troubleshoot a Windows Screensaver that Won't Start

by Quinten Plummer

Windows screen savers are initiated after a set period of time has passed and the computer has remained inactive. But if there is a running process--such as a virus or utility program--that's keeping your computer active, your screen saver will never launch. Essentially, troubleshooting a stalled screen saver boils down to finding the device or process that is keeping your computer active, and then resolving the conflict.

Determine whether the problem is caused by Windows or the screen saver itself. Launch the Screen Saver Settings menu, and then preview the screen saver. If the screen saver doesn't launch, make sure the actual screen saver file is present in the System32 folder (C:\Windows\System32). But if the screen saver preview works, then the conflict is somewhere else.

Try unplugging your wireless mouse's receiver, if you recently installed a Microsoft wireless mouse. Microsoft acknowledges that more than 30 of the wireless products it carries may conflict with your screen saver. If your screen saver starts with the mouse removed, install the latest drivers and patches offered for your wireless device from Microsoft.

Run your anti-virus and anti-spyware utilities to ensure that no malicious programs are causing your screen saver to stall. If you find that the screen saver still stalls after any viruses have been quarantined or removed, then you will need to adjust your Startup process.

Type "MSconfig" into the Start Menu search box in Vista and 7; type it in the Run box on XP and click "OK." In the menu that appears, select the option labeled "Diagnostic Startup." After troubleshooting, return to the configuration menu and select "Normal Startup" to return to your previous settings.

Click "Apply," exit the menu and then restart your computer. If the screen saver works after restarting your computer, then the screen saver conflict is with one of the processes you have running in the background on your computer.

Try temporarily uninstalling all recently added or nonessential programs, one by one, until you find out which program is conflicting with your screen saver.

About the Author

Quinten Plummer began writing professionally in 2008. He has more than six years in the technology field including five years in retail electronics and a year in technical support. Plummer gained his experience in music by producing for various hip-hop acts and as lead guitarist for a band. He now works as a reporter for a daily newspaper.

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