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Troubleshoot and fix the black screen problem on Windows 10

Windows Central logo Windows Central 6/21/2021 Mauro Huculak
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A black screen on Windows 10 can happen for many reasons, but it's something that you can troubleshoot and fix quite easily.

On Windows 10, a black screen is among the most difficult problems you can face with your computer because it won't give an error code or message you can use to determine the root of the cause to fix it.

Although a black screen could appear due to many things, it's usually related to graphics drivers or compatibility problems with a new version of Windows 10. It could also happen when the device receives a buggy system update. Or it could end up being a hardware-related problem with the display, video adapter, or physical connection.

Whatever the reason might be, Windows 10 offers many ways to determine the cause and solve this problem, whether you have access to the desktop or the system won't even start correctly.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the instructions to troubleshoot and fix black screen problems.

  • How to fix black screen checking connection problems on Windows 10
  • How to fix black screen with desktop access on Windows 10
  • How to fix black screen with safe mode on Windows 10
  • How to fix black screen with System Restore on Windows 10
  • How to fix black screen reverting previous version of Windows 10
  • How to fix black screen during installation of Windows 10

How to fix black screen checking connection problems on Windows 10

When a black screen occurs, there are many things to consider, including problems with hardware or software. The instructions below outline the steps to troubleshoot and resolve the most common issues on Windows 10.

Check connection issues

If the problem surfaces before signing into Windows 10, it's likely a problem with the connection between the device and display.

In this case, you should double-check the physical connection, ensuring that both ends of the video signal cable are correctly connected in the correct in and out ports. Disconnecting and reconnecting the video cable and shaking the mouse can also help to wake up the display.

Although it might be obvious, re-check the monitor to make sure it's receiving power. (You may need to check your manufacturer support website for more specific details.)

If the video card has multiple outputs, try to use a different port and shake the mouse or press any key on the keyboard to wake up the monitor. While it is rare, sometimes, a driver update could change the video signal to a different port (DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, Thunderbolt, VGA).

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In the case that the computer has both a discrete and integrated graphics card, you can try switching to the integrated video card to determine whether the discrete card is the problem. If you recently updated the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) or BIOS (basic input/output system), this can sometimes disable the discrete graphics card, which you can only enable again from the motherboard settings.

When connecting to an external monitor, you can open the control panel on the device to increase the brightness to resolve the black screen. It's also a good idea to check that the monitor is using the correct input. (If you do not know how to access your monitor settings, you may need to check the manufacturer support website for specific details.)

If the problem is happening on a laptop, use the keyboard key combo to increase the display brightness. Typically, you will need to press the Function (Fn) key and one of the functions keys like F8 or F10.

You can also try connecting the monitor to a different computer or use a different video signal cable to conclude whether you are dealing with a broken display, graphics card, or damaged cable.

Detect display

Sometimes, a black screen happens because Windows 10 will lose its connection with the display. Using the Windows key + Ctrl + Shift + B keyboard shortcut can restart the video driver and refresh the connection with the monitor.

On specific devices (such as Surface Pro 7), you can wake up the screen by pressing the volume up and volume down buttons simultaneously three times quickly.

When you perform the wake action, you will hear a beep and activity on the screen indicating that Windows 10 can respond to the command, and it is trying to establish a new connection.

Alternatively, assuming that Windows 10 is responsive, you can use the Windows key + P keyboard shortcut to open the "Project" flyout menu. Then hit the P key again, and hit the Enter key to switch between the different display modes to see if the black screen disappears. (You will need to repeat the steps four times to allow cycling through all the possible modes.)

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If the screen is still showing in black, press and hold the power button for about 10 seconds to shut down the device. Then press the power button again to restart. (If you had documents open, you might lose unsaved content using this action.)

Disconnect non-essential devices

Peripherals connected to the device may be the reason for the black screen or black screen with the spinning dots during startup. Usually, spinning dots during startup indicates that an update is installing, and you need to wait a few moments, but if it takes a long time, it could be a compatibility problem with the hardware.

If you experience something similar, disconnect all peripherals, including printers, cameras, removable drives, Bluetooth, docking station, and other USB devices from your computer.

Restart the device again, and if it returns to normal, the problem is likely to be one of the peripherals. You can determine which component is causing the issue by reconnecting one at a time until you stumble upon the one causing the conflict.

Once you know the peripheral causing the issue, disconnect it, restart the computer, search online to find a solution, or contact the manufacturer for additional assistance.

How to fix black screen with desktop access on Windows 10

When you get a black screen after signing into your Windows 10 account, and you can still use the mouse, the problem could be something with the Windows Explorer process.

To resolve Windows Explorer process issues, use these steps:

  1. Use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut to open Task Manager.

    Quick tip: You can also use the Ctrl + Alt + Del keyboard shortcut and then click the Task Manager button. We are using these methods since we assume the taskbar is also missing when experiencing a black screen.

  2. Click the More details button (if in compact mode).
  3. Click the Processes tab.
  4. Select the Windows Explorer service
  5. Click the Restart button from the bottom-right corner.

    table © Provided by Windows Central

After you complete the steps, you should be able to reaccess the desktop.

Restart explorer.exe

If the above instructions did not work, you could restart the process with these steps:

  1. Use the Ctrl + Alt + Delete keyboard shortcut to open Task Manager.
  2. Click the More details button (if in compact mode).
  3. Right-click the Windows Explorer service and select the End task option (if available).
  4. Click the File menu.
  5. Select the Run new task option.
  6. Type the following command and click the OK button.

    explorer.exe

    graphical user interface, application © Provided by Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, the black screen should go away, and the desktop alongside the taskbar and icons should appear.

How to fix black screen with safe mode on Windows 10

If you do not have access to the desktop, you will have to use the "Advanced startup" options to access Windows 10 in safe mode to troubleshoot and fix the black screen issue.

Open Advanced startup using three-fail boot method

To access the Windows 10 advanced options, use these steps:

  1. Start the computer.
  2. As soon as the Windows logo appears on the screen, press the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

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  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more times.

After the third interruption, Windows 10 will start the Automatic Repair environment, where you will find the option to access the Advanced startup. Then continue with the steps below to boot the device in safe mode.

Open Advanced startup using bootable media method

Alternatively, you can use a USB flash drive to access the advanced settings using these steps:

  1. Start computer using a USB flash drive.

    • Quick tip: If the device is not starting from USB, you will have to change the motherboard's BIOS settings to make sure it can boot from USB. You can usually access the BIOS by powering up the device and pressing one of the functions, Delete, or Esc keys. However, you may need to check your manufacturer's support website for more specific details.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Repair your computer link in the bottom-left corner.

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Once you complete the steps, continue with the instructions to access safe mode on Windows 10.

Boot Windows 10 in safe mode

To boot Windows 10 in safe mode through Advanced startup, use these steps:

  1. Click the Troubleshoot option.
  2. Click the Advanced options button.
  3. Click the Startup Settings option.

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  4. Click the Restart button.

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  5. While in the "Startup Settings," press the 5 or F5 key to select the Enable Safe Mode with Networking option.

    a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Windows Central

After the computer boots in safe mode, you can use several troubleshooting steps to fix the black screen problem. For example, you can reinstall the graphics driver, remove buggy updates, change system settings, and more (see instructions below).

Perform Windows 10 clean boot

Usually, Windows 10 loads services, drivers, and apps during startup, which will remain running in the background. If one or more components are not working correctly, you are likely to see a black screen.

A clean boot allows you to start Windows 10 with a minimal set of services, drivers, and apps, which can help you figure out if something running in the background is causing the screen to go completely dark.

On Windows 10, a clean boot is similar to safe mode, but it allows you to re-enable services individually to determine what component is causing the issue.

To perform a clean boot of Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for msconfig and click the top result to open the System Configuration app.
  3. Click the Services tab.
  4. Check the Hide all Microsoft services option.
  5. Click the Disable all button.

    graphical user interface, text © Provided by Windows Central
  6. Click the Apply button.
  7. Click the Startup tab.
  8. Click the Open Task Manager option.
  9. Click the Startup tab.
  10. Select each application, and click the Disable button in the bottom-right corner.

    table © Provided by Windows Central
  11. Close Task Manager.
  12. Click the OK button.
  13. Restart the computer.

These steps won't fix the problem, but they will give you an idea of where to start looking to resolve the black screen problem.

Troubleshoot black screen using clean boot

If, after restarting the computer, the black screen disappears, then you will know the problem is one of the system processes.

To fix the issue, re-enable the items one at a time and restart the device to see which one is causing the black screen with these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for msconfig and click the top result to open the System Configuration app.
  3. Click the Services tab.
  4. Check the Hide all Microsoft services option.
  5. Check one of the services.

    graphical user interface, text, application © Provided by Windows Central
  6. Click the Apply button.
  7. Click the OK button.
  8. Restart the computer.

Once you complete the steps, repeat the steps for every item until you find the one that is causing the problem.

Re-enable startup items

If none of the services seem to be the issue, use these steps to re-enable the startup items:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Task Manager.
  3. Click the Startup tab.
  4. Select an app and click the Enable button in the bottom-right corner.

    table © Provided by Windows Central
  5. Close Task Manager.
  6. Restart the computer.

After you complete the steps, repeat the instructions for every item until figuring out which app is causing the black screen.

If you need to revert the changes, use the same instructions outlined above to perform a clean boot, but on step No. 5, make sure to click the Enable all button, and on step No. 10, click the Enable button for each application that was previously enabled.

Reinstall or rollback graphics driver

Usually, a black screen could result from a compatibility issue with a graphics driver update that you may have installed through Windows Update or manually. Other times, it could be the case that the driver got corrupted for unknown reasons.

Reinstall graphics driver

To reinstall the graphics driver while in safe mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Expand the Display Adapters branch.
  4. Right-click the video adapter and select the Uninstall device option.

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    Quick tip: Alternatively, you can also select the Delete the driver software for this device option to remove the driver from the computer. Sometimes, this is recommended, but if Windows 10 can't find the driver online, you will need to download it from your manufacturer's support website.

  5. Click the OK button.
  6. Restart the computer.

Once the device restarts, Windows 10 will try to reinstall the graphics driver, automatically resolving the black screen problem.

Alternatively, you can also uninstall the video drivers from the "Apps & features" settings page by selecting the device driver package and clicking the Uninstall button.

If the problem occurs immediately after updating to a new version of Windows 10, then it is likely that the device is experiencing a compatibility problem. In this case, you may need to download and install a newer version of the driver from the computer or graphics card manufacturer to resolve the issue.

Rollback graphics driver

When the black screen issue occurs after applying an update, you may be able to roll back to the previous version of the driver.

To roll back a previous version of a driver, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Expand the Display Adapters branch.
  4. Right-click the video card and select the Properties option.

    graphical user interface, text, application, email © Provided by Windows Central
  5. Click the Driver tab.
  6. Click the Roll Back Driver button.

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  7. Select a reason to enable the option to roll back.

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  8. Click the Yes button.
  9. Restart the computer.

After you complete the steps, Windows 10 will uninstall the driver, and the previous version will be restored.

If the Roll Back Driver option is not available, Windows 10 does not have a previous version of the driver. If an earlier version of the driver was working correctly, you might be able to download an older version from your manufacturer's support website.

Disable Fast Startup

Sometimes, the fast startup feature may be why the computer ends up with a black screen. On Windows 10, fast startup is a feature available in specific hardware configurations to speed up the boot process. However, the feature is known to cause problems. If it's causing a black screen, you can disable it to mitigate the issue.

To disable fast startup on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Power & sleep.
  4. Under the "Related settings" section, click the Additional power settings option.
  5. Select the Choose what the power button does option on the left pane.

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  6. Click the Change settings that are currently unavailable option.

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  7. Clear the Turn on fast startup (recommended) option.

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  8. Click the Save changes button.
  9. Restart the computer.

After restarting the device, you should no longer experience the black screen problem.

Disable high contrast

On Windows 10, the high contrast feature can also cause the black screen problem.

To disable high contrast on Windows 10 while in safe mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Ease of Access.
  3. Click on High contrast.
  4. Turn off the Use high contrast toggle switch.

    graphical user interface, application © Provided by Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, restart the computer to confirm the black screen problem has been fixed.

Stop RunOnce process

Windows 10 also includes the RunOnce feature to specify a series of commands that should run once during the next reboot, but it can sometimes cause the screen to go black on a desktop computer or laptop.

To stop the RunOnce process, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Task Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Click the Processes tab.
  4. Select the RunOnce process and click the End task button.
  5. (Optional) Click the Services tab (if the process was not in the "Processes" tab).
  6. Right-click the RunOnce item, and select the Stop button.
  7. Restart the computer.

If the RunOnce process was causing the problem, you should be able to start using the computer normally.

Uninstall quality updates

It's no longer uncommon for updates to roll out with bugs and compatibility issues. If your device recently received an update and you do not see a black screen, uninstalling the patch may resolve the problem.

While in Safe mode, you won't be able to access the "Update & Security" settings to remove a quality update, but you can still use Control Panel.

To uninstall Windows 10 updates in Safe mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Control Panel and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Click on Programs.
  4. Click the Programs and Features option.
  5. Click the View installed updates option from the left pane.

    graphical user interface, application © Provided by Windows Central
  6. Select the most recent update.
  7. Click the Uninstall button.

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  8. Restart the computer.

Once you complete the steps, the update will uninstall, and Windows 10 won't try to install it again until a subsequent update releases.

Uninstall security software

Although it's rare, security solutions like third-party antivirus and security software can also cause black screens on Windows 10.

If the device has a third-party security software, you can temporarily remove it to determine whether the app is causing the problem.

To uninstall a security app while in safe mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Under the "Apps & features" section, select the security app.
  5. Click the Uninstall button.

    graphical user interface, application © Provided by Windows Central
  6. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).
  7. Restart the computer.

After you complete the steps, the problem will resolve, and you should be able to reinstall the security app again. However, if the black screen returns, you may need to remove it one more time to mitigate the issue. You can also check the software support website to download an updated version of the app or seek additional support.

Create new Windows 10 account

A damaged account could also be the reason for a black screen on Windows 10. While in safe mode, you can create a new account to test and see if this is causing the problem. If you can use the device without a black screen, then you should consider transferring your files and settings to the new account.

To create a new account in safe mode, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to create a new account and press Enter:

    net user ACCOUNT-NAME /add

    In the command, make sure to change "ACCOUNT-NAME" for the name of the account you want to create.

    For example, this command creates an account named tempuser:

    net user tempuser /add

  4. Type the following command to change the account type to "Administrator" and press Enter:

    net localgroup administrators tempuser /add

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  5. Restart the computer.
  6. Sign in with the new user account.

If the device no longer shows a black screen, the problem could be related to your old user account. Instead of troubleshooting the old account that could end up consuming a lot of time, you should refer to this guide to transfer your files, link your user profile with a Microsoft account, and delete the old account.

How to fix black screen with System Restore on Windows 10

On Windows 10, the System Restore feature can help to undo system changes that could be causing the black screen. Using this feature, you won't lose your files, but you may lose some settings, apps, and updates depending on the current configuration. (System Restore will only work if you have previously enabled and configured the feature.)

Open Advanced startup using three-fail boot method

Since you cannot access the System Restore feature when Windows 10 displays a black screen, you will need to manually trigger the recovery environment. Here's how:

  1. Start the computer.
  2. As soon as the Windows logo appears on the screen, press the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

    © Provided by Windows Central
  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more times.

After the third interruption, Windows 10 will open into the recovery environment, and then you can continue with the steps below to use System Restore.

Open Advanced startup using bootable media method

Alternatively, you can use a USB flash drive to access the recovery environment settings with these steps:

  1. Start computer using a USB flash drive.

    • Quick tip: If the computer is not starting from the USB media, you will have to adjust the motherboard's BIOS settings to make sure it can boot from USB. Type, you can access the BIOS by powering up the device and pressing one of the functions, Delete, or Esc keys. However, you may need to check your manufacturer's support website for more specific details.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Repair your computer link in the bottom-left corner.

    a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Windows Central

Once you complete the steps, continue with the System Restore instructions. (See steps below.)

Use restore point to undo system changes

To restore a computer to an earlier time to fix the Windows 10 black screen problem, use these steps:

  1. Click the Advanced Startup option.
  2. Click the Troubleshoot option.
  3. Click the Advanced options button.
  4. Click the System Restore option.

    a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Windows Central
  5. Click the Next button.

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  6. Select the most recent working restore point likely to resolve the issue.
  7. Click the Scan for affected programs button to determine the apps that will be affected after the restore point was created.
  8. Click the Close button.
  9. Click the Next button.
  10. Click the Finish button.

After you complete the steps, System Restore will restore the computer to an earlier time when everything was working correctly.

How to fix black screen reverting previous version of Windows 10

If the problem appeared after upgrading to a new version of Windows 10, rolling back to the previous version may mitigate the black screen issue until a system or driver update releases to permanently resolve the problem.

Open Advanced startup using three-fail boot method

Whenever you see a black screen, you won't be able to use the recovery options through the Settings app or access safe mode from the desktop experience. This means that you will have to trigger the recovery environment manually.

To access the Windows recovery environment, use these steps:

  1. Start the computer.
  2. As soon as the Windows logo appears on the screen, press the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

    © Provided by Windows Central
  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more times.

After the third interruption, Windows 10 will open into the recovery environment and then continue with the steps below to roll back to a previous version.

Open Advanced startup using bootable media method

You can also use a USB flash drive to access the Advanced startup settings on Windows 10 using these steps:

  1. Start computer using a USB bootable media.

    • Quick tip: If the computer is not starting from the USB drive, you will have to change the motherboard's BIOS settings to make sure it can boot from USB. Typically, you can access the BIOS by powering up the device and pressing one of the functions, Delete, or Esc keys. However, you may need to check your manufacturer's support website for more specific details.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Repair your computer link in the bottom-left corner.

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Once you complete the steps, continue with the instructions to revert to an earlier version of Windows 10.

Uninstall latest version of Windows 10

While in the advanced options settings, you can roll back to the previous version of Windows 10 using these steps:

  1. Click the Troubleshoot option.
  2. Click the Advanced options button.
  3. Click the Uninstall Update option.

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  4. Select the Uninstall latest feature update option.
  5. Sign-in with your account credentials.
  6. Click the Uninstall feature update button.

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If rolling back to a previous version resolves the problem, then you should avoid updating again until you know there's a system, software, or driver update that fixes the problem permanently.

How to fix black screen during installation of Windows 10

Whenever you are installing Windows 10 and a black screen appears, there is a good chance that the setup is still working in the background. If this is the case, it can usually take several hours for the installation to complete, but it will eventually finish successfully.

However, if the installation still seems stuck after a long time (after around six hours), you should try powering off the device. You can force a computer to shut down by pressing and holding the power button for five to 10 seconds or until it shuts down completely. Then unplug the power cable. On a laptop, you should also remove the battery (if applicable).

Once the computer is off, disconnect all non-essential peripherals, including removable storage, printer, network cable, docking station, and secondary displays. Only keep the essentials like the mouse, keyboard, and primary monitor.

Wait at least one full minute, reconnect the battery and power cable, but do not reconnect any peripherals and power on the device.

If this was not a critical error, the installation should resume and complete successfully. Once you are on the Windows 10 desktop, remember to reconnect the remaining peripherals.

If it was a critical error, and the system rolls back to the previous setup, then do not reconnect the peripherals yet and try to install the update manually one more time. If you were trying to upgrade to Windows 10, you could try to upgrade one more time, but this time you can try using a bootable USB flash drive to install Windows 10.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:


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