DIY Computer Repair – Desktop Black Screen

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Does this sound like you? You sit down at your desk ready to get that report done, watch a movie, or play a game. You push the power button or tap the keyboard, and wait. A few moments later….you are still waiting. You find yourself staring at a black screen, no logo, no loading screen, not even a blinking cursor (or maybe you DO only get a cursor)?

Sound familiar?

These are all referred to as Black Screen problems. There are several possible causes and I’m going to walk you through figuring them out. Some are easier than others and if you’re not feeling particularly brave they may leave you wanting a professional. We can help with that too. For now, let’s take a look.


Black screen is typically an indicator of one of several possibilities. It could be caused by a bad monitor, motherboard, memory, power supply, or even a hard drive. Keep in mind, those can all be caused by age, wear and tear, power surges, and numerous other environmental factors.

Getting Power?

First, verify you have power. Black screens on a desktop can be an indicator that it isn’t even turning on or that the monitor isn’t getting power. Check for any LEDs or keyboard backlighting to determine if power is being received to the circuitry.  If something lights up and stays lit, it must be getting power.

Everything Else Seems OK

If it sounds like a normal startup and you hear beeps and boops or Windows startup sounds that is a good indicator that your black screen is actually a bad monitor. Try connecting another monitor or TV to the HDMI or VGA connection(s) on the system. If your display works correctly, it’s time to upgrade your monitor.

Testing the Motherboard

If you see no indication of power and no hard drive status, it is time to look at the internals. Motherboard, RAM and hard drive are the probable culprits here. Power down, if you haven’t yet. Most of the time you’ll have panels on the side to access the memory and hard drive(s). Remove the covers, take the hard drive(s) and RAM out, and set aside. Plug power back in and press the power button. A functioning motherboard without RAM will give a beep code. The code itself doesn’t matter we just want to hear the motherboard complain about it. If it does, the motherboard is probably fine. If it doesn’t, or it doesn’t power on, you may be looking at a bad board or bad power supply.

A bad board can be harder to pin down. It is usually determined by process of elimination of every other possibility. If you don’t see obvious physical failures like bulging capacitors, then the most likely cause is a bad power supply.

Now it Beeps!

If the system powers on and you get a beep code power it back down and put new memory in. If that gives you display, then you just found your issue. You can verify this by powering down, swapping the original memory back in, and powering back on. If you get display after that it is possible the module(s) became unseated and needed to be reseated. If not you just identified a memory fault.

Checking the Hard Drive

If none of that solved the issue, then it is time to check the hard drive. A bad hard drive or corrupted operating system can cause “black screen” by failing to load the operating system. It may give just a dark screen with a blinking cursor, start to load the desktop and only give a black background, or give a boot device error message. The easiest way to verify this issue is to disconnect or remove the hard drive and power the system back on. If you then see an error message, you’ll know that it’s a hard drive or drive connection/detection issue.

In the event of a hard drive issue, it is time to start looking at our other tutorials or seek out a trusted professional. Hard drive failure means it is time to evaluate your data situation, whether that be reverting to backups, determining you don’t have anything on the drive you can’t live without, or finding that you need data recovery services to get your valuable data back.

  • If you have good backups of the data you need, just replace the failed drive and restore from backups. The method you use for backup will determine if you need to reload your operating system first or just restore from backups.
  • If you don’t care about the data on the drive (nothing you can’t re-download or regenerate with a minor effort) then replace the hard drive and reload the operating system.
  • If you need the data and you either don’t have backups or the backups don’t have everything you need, it is time to seek professional data recovery services. You will still need your hard drive replaced and operating system reinstalled but you won’t be back to 100% until data has been recovered and reloaded into your machine.

If you need more assistance, again, reach out to a trusted professional! (We would love to be your trusted professional)