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Why Do I Get a Black Screen on My Computer After a While?

Could be a problem, could be legit.

Black Screen
(Image: canva.com)
A black screen is most commonly caused by a screen saver, but there are other possibilities.
My computer switches to a black screen after about 5 to 15 minutes of use. Then I have to turn it off to get another 5 to 15 minutes of use. Can you tell me what part of my computer is causing this blackout?

This is difficult to diagnose on its own, and thus difficult for me to offer a concrete solution.

There are many possibilities that could lead to this symptom. There’s simply no single “part of my computer” to point at.

There are many things to look at and look for, so I’ll review the most common causes and remedies.

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TL;DR:

Computer black screens

Most commonly, black screens indicate that the computer has crashed, perhaps because of overheating or other hardware-related failures. Malware is a possibility as well, though not as common. It’s possible that only the monitor or display portion of your computer is having a problem, so trying another (possibly external) monitor is a quick way to diagnose. And, of course, it could be expected behavior in the form of a screen saver or standby or hibernate modes.

Most common: overheating

Most often, a suddenly black screen accompanied by what appears to be a completely unresponsive computer is a symptom your computer has crashed.

And the most common cause of crashes is overheating.

Your computer needs good ventilation to avoid overheating. Make certain the ventilation holes aren’t blocked by dust or other debris.

Occasionally, a poorly designed computer can overheat even if there are no obstructions. Most often this is because the CPU is being used too heavily for too long. This can be due to malware, which I’ll discuss in a moment, or it can be due to running a CPU-intensive program or game continuously for a long time. If the latter is the case, you may need to take steps to provide extra ventilation or cool the air flowing around or through your computer.

Hardware-related failures

Hardware does fail. One of the early signs of impending failure is a periodic crash such as you describe.

Given that it’s consistently happening 5 to 15 minutes after booting up, after looking at possible overheating issues I’d probably suspect the power supply next.

Just about any hardware component on your computer can cause a crash if it’s starting to fail. Usually, it takes a technician looking at the machine in person to diagnose imminent hardware failure.

In addition, drivers related to the hardware can also come into play. If you’ve recently updated drivers for a component, it’s possible that the new drivers brought a problem with them in the form of a bug.

The next step would be to notice any correlation between the time the problem started and any software updates on your machine, particularly drivers related to the hardware.

Malware

Malware remains a possibility, though not to the same degree as it has in the past.

To begin with, most malware isn’t really interested in intentionally crashing your computer. However, as you might imagine, malware doesn’t have quite the quality-assurance process that most commercial software has, so it’s possible that buggy malware could cause problems.

The reason malware is less likely is that unlike hardware drivers, it simply doesn’t operate at the same level needed to cause an instant and total crash. Malware-related crashes are usually limited to a single program, some specific functionality that stops working, or, in the most common worst-case scenario, the “blue screen of death.”

But it remains something to stay on top of via a complete and up-to-date anti-malware scan.

Perhaps not the computer, but the display

One more common “black screen” failure mode is that the computer’s display has stopped working while the computer itself is still running properly.

One simple way to determine if this is what’s happening is to play some audio on your computer. Load up a longish mp3 playlist or streaming audio station and let it play. If the monitor goes black but the music continues to play, you know that the computer is still running, and the problem is more likely the video card, video drivers, monitor, or the cables connecting the monitor to the computer.

If that’s what appears to be happening, then:

  • Check the connecting cable, making sure the connections at both ends are snug.
  • Borrow a replacement monitor to see if it resolves the problem (you would hook it up as an external monitor if this is a laptop we’re talking about).
  • You can also try updating the video drivers.

Unfortunately, diagnosing the video card itself can be difficult, and once again is something best left to hardware technicians.

It could be expected and normal behavior

It’s probably obvious to you already, but I’ll say it anyway: it could just be a screen saver. If you wiggle the mouse or hit a key on the keyboard and your screen comes back, that’s it. You can adjust screen-saver behavior in the Settings app.

If you have a laptop, it’s possible the computer has gone into standby or hibernate mode. If you simply push the power button and it comes back to where you were after a few seconds, that’s probably it. Normally a computer should only go into standby if you’re not actively using it, but if your battery is very low, it may force standby in order to avoid losing your work in progress. Usually, there’s a message that tells you when this happens.

As you can see, it’s not a simple process to diagnose. Some steps, like trying another monitor or cable, are pretty easy to take yourself. But if you’re not comfortable diagnosing system crashes or hardware problems like potential overheating, it might be time to take the computer to a local technician for a hands-on diagnosis.

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60 comments on “Why Do I Get a Black Screen on My Computer After a While?”

  1. I had this same issue with my old computer that was running Win 98 SE. I went through and systematically started to replace everything in there. By the time I was done, I only had the CRW drive, motherboard and ram that was original over the computer.

    Still was giving me the issues.

    It took an upgrade to Win XP to stop the problems, and I haven’t had a problem since. I hope that this helps anyone else.

    Reply
  2. I’ve had this problem with an USB mouse. It seemed like Windows “didn’t know that I was using the mouse” and went into screensaver mode.
    After hitting a key on the keyboard, the screensaver went away and I was able to continue using the system.

    A really strange problem indeed. However, replacing the mouse solved the problem.

    Reply
  3. The screen of my laptop suddenly gets often black as well, and when that starts I can switch off/on forever but it keeps doing it after a short while. It’s just the screen, the computer keeps working. I remedied this by disabling the screen saver and disable any hibernation or stand-by.

    Reply
  4. I’m having the same problem with my PC. I’ve replaced my power supply and video card and it still goes off every 15 to 30 minutes. Can it be my Mobo or bad drivers?..I’m really looking into it and trying to solve the matter

    Reply
  5. I think I have solved the “black screen” problem, and I know virtually nothing about computers. After I bought my HP f1503 monitor with HP computer about 3 years ago, I began having problems from the beginning. After about 15 days spending in excess of 15 hours on the phone with MSN technical support in Nova Scotia (and after spending 35 bucks for technical support), a very smart person discovered that my Norton anti-virus software that had been installed at the retail store where I purchased the computer had basically attacked my computer, placing a firewall between me and the internet, preventing me from accessing the internet. After that problem was corrected, and after downloading Semantic (phonetic) software as well, I began noticing the black screen syndrome. I do not believe for one instant that my relatively new computer monitor is defective; rather, I firmly believe that Semantec and/or Norton anti-virus personal firewalls are the true culprits. I basically removed the programs from my hard drive and the problem has corrected itself. I also believe that all Norton/Semantic products place a fire wall inside the PC and cause such problems. It reminds me of a certain Star Trek episode (original series) where the computer attacked everything (NOMAD, or something like that); perhaps Norton should rename itself NOMAD….

    Reply
  6. Although, like Leo said, this can be caused by a miriad of things, I had this same problem happen to me a few weeks ago, so I figured I’d share. I had two seperate Dell Optiplex GX270’s at my office that, within a week of each other, would randomly show a black screen. The power light on the PC would remain solidly lit, but everything else would become unresponsive as if the machine was off.

    I opened up the case (after completely reinstalling the operating system all all apps) and saw the problem. On both machines, several of the capacitors had blown out; in one of the machines they had visibly leaked. The capacitors are the tall, tubular shaped things that stick up off of the board (there are good pictures of damaged ones here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague
    Repairing this requires either a supply of the correct type of capacitors, a steady hand, and a soldering iron, or, as in my case, a long and annoying call to Dell support to get a replacement motherboard.
    An initial visual inspection of all installed hardware (add on devices, like video cards, frequently have capacitors as well) would have saved me a lot of time, and is another point to add onto your troubleshooting list.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Dell puts out defective products and doesn’t back them up! One example… I have this beautiful Dell Inspiron that a client returned to me. It wont turn on. Ther are two series of three beeps follow by 7 beeps. My research last year informed me that this series had a problem in that the CPU gets ‘unstuck’ from the MB. Some people had a temporary solution to wrap the laptop in a blanket (true) and apply heat as with a hairdryer. Actually, this worked for a short time…

      At any rate, seems this happened to a very large percentage of these laptops and Dell has refused responsibility. I’ve bee tempted to get int the machine to see for myself, but pain from handicap has, so far, prevented me from doing so. I would NEVER purchase a Dell for this reason, and I go out of my way to keep any of my clients from purchasing one, no matter how good the deal seems.

      Reply
  7. I am a IT Specialist with IHS/DHHS and I have replaced over 180 motherboards with the bloating or leaky capacitors. Model(s) in question are the Dell GX270 Optiplex (all form factors) and less on the GX 280’s. Symptoms were like the computer went into hibernating/powersave, you would have to restart; some would restart repeatedly; some would go black screen twice a day or once every two or three days. All would go to black screen. It was very frustrating troubleshooting each one until Dell admitted to a capacitor problem on mainboards manufactered before a certain date.

    Reply
  8. AFTER FURTHER INSPECTING THE SAME ISSUE ON MY COMPUTER, I REALIZED IT WAS THE POWER SAVING FEATURE IN WINDOWS SHUTTING OFF THE MONITOR LOL!

    Reply
    • How did you solve/fix that very issue? Laptop is not like a desktop where one can simply use a secondary monitor or whatever else to bring up and fix issues-confused? Totally black screen,everything lights up and appears to be working,can even put in password just blank screen that won’t light up is all-so confused,lol..

      Reply
  9. Hi.On my 2004 XP Packardbell,I am getting the oppoite of the above problem. Instead of getting a Black screen after 5to15 mins afgter boot,mine starts as soon as ithas fully booted.I have put up with it for around 2months but it seems to be getting very gradually worse.It goes Black on all but a small handful of movements and clickings of the mouse.Their is also a horizontal flickering associated with this problem.After a while,however, itsometimes improves but is generally unpredictable. I did once notice an improvement after using checkdisk and recovery of bad cluster utility and defragmenting. However it advised me to defrag ontwo occasions only a month apart so I have been ignoring this having been told that over defragging can seriously harm the hard drive.
    Hope this comment might interest you.
    Yours, Art

    Reply
  10. hi i have a toshiba satellite A215-S7416 laptop. i had a problem with the computer screen going black and the computer had to be rebooted. through research it appears that there are some problems with some toshiba’s. i hope toshiba is working on it. a workaround recommended to me seems to work(so far).it is to raise the MINIMUM power setting to 100%. i talked to toshiba and they didnt help any. is there a permanent fix in the near future? thank you

    Reply
  11. This is actually for my friend who has xp operating system and in recent time has been getting a black screen, he has checked all the connections, they are fine, has also blown the computer out so that it is clean, now he gets black screen sometimes as early as 7 – 10 minutes after start up, it lasts approx 1/2 hour and then can see the desk top again, these episodes are becoming more frequent, could it be the power supply on the way out? The video card….or time to buy an new computer….he was thinking of reformatting the hard drive but not sure that this would help if the problem does lie in the power supply or video card…if we are in an im and the mouse is in the right place he can still send me messages, however with the black screen he cannot read the response..any help would be appreciated.

    I wouldn’t expect reformatting to help – this feels like a hardware issue. My first step would be to try a different monitor for a while – it actually kinda feels like the monitor might be dying.

    – Leo
    17-Nov-2008
    Reply
  12. I have a Toshiba Tecra A6. When my computer crashes, the backlight to the LCD screen shuts off and a buzzing sound comes out of the speakers. Strangely this only occurs when viewing videos through Windows Media Player or when viewing youtube videos. I updated my flash player and WMP, but I still get this problem. It’s been occuring for probably 2 or 3 months now and I’ve had this laptop since March or April of 2006. The only tinkering I’ve done is undervolting all multipliers to the CPU. I restored the voltages to default for a bit to see if that would solve the problem but unfortunately it hasn’t. I’ve tried different ATI drivers. I’m sure it’s not overheating, well considering the CPU anyways, as RMclock registers temps in the mid 40’s. If it means anything, I can watch movies/clips through VLC player flawlessly and I do so several times a week. I’ve updated as many drivers as I could. I’ve had someone from dslreports.com check my Hijackthis logs and other logs back last October as I got a virus from accepting to update my JAVA from an internet explorer popup (silly). Any help would be appreciated.

    Reply
  13. I recently purchase a Toshiba Satellite Laptop and I noticed when my Laptop was idle for a while the display went blank. This happened every time it was idle. I have now rectified the cause. First go into Control Panel, click on Performance Information & Tools, this takes you to Rate & Improve your Computer’s Performance, then click Adust Power Settings, this takes you to Power Plan and then click Choose when to turn off the Display, this takes you to Change settings for the plan, and choose which option suits you, I chose “Never”. Hope this info. helps.

    Reply
  14. I have the exact same problem and I have found that its my video card overheating. My vid card is GS 8800 on a wins xp. I had the same computer and same configuration/settings for 2 years. It just recently started overheating. What are some ways to fix this overheating issue? Do i need a new card? And I went to that one screeen that tells me my temperature and my vid card was extremely high. Forgot how high but quite high. So that confirms the overheating of my vid card. Please email me for solution thanks.

    Reply
  15. Hey i was wondering how do i get to display portion of my control panel? i searched it in there
    but it said no results?

    Depends on your version of Windows. Don’t use search, open control panel directly and browse through the available entries.

    Leo
    22-Jan-2011

    Reply
  16. My computer started going to black screen after Time/Warner advised they were giving Roadrunner customers 40% more speed free and all I had to do was disconnect power to the modem for 30 seconds. I don’t know if this was just a coincidence that it happened at this time or if it was connected to adding the speed. When the screen goes black on my PC, it will come back up fine when I turn off and back on. It doesn’t seem to go black until I have left it on idle for some time. It appears everyone here is talking about laptops. Would the solutions be the same for a PC? Thanks.

    Reply
  17. My pc just started doing this today…However, it is fine as long as I am just on internet explorer, etc…When I play my games online, that is when (after roughly half an hour of play) the screen goes black, though the computer is still running. The entire computer is brand new, minus the 2 slave drives which are from my old computer. The motherboard, video cards, heat sinc, etc…are all new. Is it time to replace the monitor? (again, working fine as long as I don’t bring the games up)

    Reply
  18. my pc seems to have a problem.. which im quite sure is caused either by my motherboard or PS unit.. da pc screen goes off an da pc becomes unresponsive.. yet da pc lights are stil on.. iv tried watchn movies or listenin to music.. and b4 evrythin goes blank.. da screen freezes an sound distorts.. i know it isn’t over heatn because the temp readins always have remaind under 40C.. i need help diagnosin wats wrong to no wat needs replacing

    Reply
  19. Leo’s general comment that “there are many possibilities” is very true! I will tell share my findings re: laptops. I have had several on my test bench that exibited the same black screen symptom. The first was my daughters Acer. I found the processor cooling duct PACKED with lint. Since that fix (cleaned the duct) the unit has been working another 2 years. This problem was found on others. No surprise, as they spend much time on someone’s lap sucking in lint. I recommend a cooler but settle for a small board large enough for the computer and mouse, if used. A secondary benefit is a cooler lap!
    The second problem seen was the Heat Pipe contact on the processor. It was on a less than 1 year old Acer. The contact area was NOT Cleaned in original factory assembly. It required a new mb, cleaning the heat pipe contact and Artic Silver compound.
    HEAT IS THE NEMISIS OF ALL COMPUTERS which includes desktops!

    Reply
  20. DEAR ALL,

    I HAVE LENOVO N100 AQ1 0768 LAPTOP AND I AM FACING PROBLEM WITH IT’S DISPLAY…SOMETIME IT’S DISPLAY WORKS FINE WHEN I POWER ON THE LAPTOP BUT SOMETIME WHEN I POWER IT ON THE DISPLAY WORKS BUT DARK (MEANS IF WE SPREAD LIGHT ON DISPLAY WE CAN SEE THE DISPLAY OTHERWISE IT LOOKS LIKE IT IS NOT DISPLAYING ANYTHING)….PLEASE TELL ME THE POSSIBLE CASUE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

    Reply
  21. Hi ! I got ACER ASPIRE V 15 TOUCH Screen comes black,only mouse cursor visible and can move on a black screen , turns off the laptop a few times, nothing is change, screen still is BLACK. Any help would be appreciated, Thanks

    Reply
  22. I have an HP notebook I am having a problem with. I just made some changes in my subscription to my internet, TV, and phone bundle by Time Warner Cable. My computer was working fine. My computer screen is completely black now after the technician plugged a line into my notebook (Looks like a telephone port), I guess to activate…not sure what it was for, and then removed the plug. He didn’t stay to check it after doing whatever he did cause I was so tired, had just got off a 12 hr shift. I told him it was OK, that my computer was slow to start and I didn’t want to take any more of his time than I had to. I tried to turn my computer on 2 days later and I can’t. You can hear the fan on, and the Internet and audio symbols are red. You can see the turn on button lit and there are 2 flashing lights-one next to the caps lock key and one above the scroll key. But, the screen is completely black. I’ve tried rebooting the computer, taking out the battery and putting it back in quite unsuccessfully. The technician from TW came to check it but wasn’t much help. He told me I have to take it in to a computer place to get checked out and if it was something Time Warner did, they will cover it. But, in the mean time I have to pay for the repair myself. Do you have any ideas of what could have happened? Have you ever heard of something like this happening before?

    Reply
    • All you have to do is remove the battery, and press & hold the power button for about 60 – 90 seconds to discharge the laptop. insert battery once more then proceed to power on should work fine. Though there might be an issue with a loose ram card that impedes the laptop from successfully booting. I currently experienced this issue and that provided a fix. Its a late response but maybe someone will read it and benefit from it.

      Reply
  23. First, I am amazed at all the black screen problems.
    I have a top level Dell 8700, and I get black screens. It never happens when the computer is in active use. It happens randomly when the computer is idling. At first I had to shut the computer down by holding down the power button. Then I found an odd workaround. The computer is connected to a KVM switch with another rarely used computer. When I get the black screen I hit “scroll Lock” twice to shift to the other computer (which need not be running.) and then hit “scroll Lock” twice more, to return. My main computer display returns but with the resolution changed to a very low setting ie everything on the screen is big and coarse. I then go to settings and reset the the screen resolution by hitting “Detect”. Shazam! everything is back to normal.

    I then hit Alt + Tab and return to the browser screen, leaving the screen settings screen available in the background if I need to repeat the process.

    All the power saving options are “off”

    This computer has another problem that may or may not be related. If I hit “restart” the computer shut down, then will hang at the “Dell” screen permanently. If I “Shut down” and then press the power button – no problem – it starts normally.

    I don’t think I’ll buy another Dell. They are not what they used to be.

    Reply
  24. I didn’t see anyone mention the possibility of a laptop battery causing this problem. I have an old XP laptop that I recently took out, left on the charger for several weeks, then decided to take it outside. I unplugged the power cable with the machine still running, but before I could make it to the back door I heard “click” and the screen went black. Could I have had my hand over the ventilation holes, and caused it to overheat? I let it cool a bit, then turned it back on, only to have it turn itself off again a few seconds later. When I plugged it back into the A/C adapter, the problem disappeared. The battery is only about 5 years old, and has seen little use. I have not tried yet, but i believe a few discharge/charge cycles may bring it back to life. (I’m not sure if Li-ion batteries develop “memory” issues as do NiCd or NiMH batteries.)

    This is something to consider if you have a laptop that has been sitting unused for a long time.

    Reply
  25. Sometimes the mouse or keyboard is not set to wake up the computer. To check:

    Right click any my computer shortcut
    Properties
    Device manager (hardware tab first if Windows XP)
    Expand the mouse or keyboard section
    Right click what looks like your mouse or keyboard
    Properties
    Go to the “power management” tab. The option should be self explanatory.

    Reply
  26. Hello, I didn’t see my problem. My computer works fine. When I quit for a few minutes and go do something else, instead of the computer going to sleep, the screen now turns blue. I have a cursor but I can’t get the computer to “wake-up.” The only way to get out of the blue screen is by shutting the computer off and rebooting. The laptop then works just fine as long as I continue to stay at the computer. Leave for a few minutes and instead of just going to sleep the screen turns blue. Any Ideas? Thanks. Phil

    Reply
    • Try going into your power settings, and also display settings, and select options so that the computer never goes to sleep or to standby. Also make sure you have no screensavers running. If that fixes the problem then you can enable your old settings one by one to find out which one was causing the problem.

      Reply
  27. i am using a compaq presario v3000 laptop.i had installed an application AVG PC TUNEUP 2015.I have enabled AVG power Modes for better use of available battery power.can it be this setting that is making my screen going black after the set time?

    Reply
  28. I had this problem. I played the music as recommended by Leo in this article and when the screen went black (would do it anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes after startup), the music turned into a long beeping sound. Turns out it was a loose PCIe cable to my graphics card. After doing the black screen for the 96th time in 10 days or so, my computer finally gave me the solution upon a hard reset. It told me upon booting up to “Please power down and connect the PCIe power cable(s) for this graphics card”. I opened up my PC and behold, part of the PCIe cable that runs from the power supply to the GPU had popped loose of the graphics card. I simply snapped it back in place and the problem is now fixed.

    Reply
  29. every time if I turn on the PC on my monitor out a notice Power saving mode, I changed the graphics card, HDD, remove the ram, cd and dvd payer, all but the motherboard and power supply I changed again and again the same problem! by the burning of pc-pc and immediately we went to Power saving mode! what could be proplem, power or?
    I tried and bateria to reset the PC, the same chipset but nothing!

    thanks in advance

    Reply
    • Hard to tell from your comment, but it sounds like the *monitor*, not the computer, has gone into power saving mode. That’s common and not a problem

      Reply
  30. My husbands Dell Latitude Laptop computer goes black after about 20 to 30 minutes after he turns it on (but it’s not going black every time he uses it) what could be the problem? We do know the fan is working. We have a computer tech who helps us keep viruses and malware out of the computer we even run scans nearly ever day to make sure there’s NO virus or malware and ex. So what could be the reason it’s going black at times. I bought the laptop 1 1/2 yrs ago for Christmas so it’s not that old. What can I check that may keep it from blacking out OH!!! when it blacks out he can press the on button and it goes back where it was when it blacked out on him. Thank you.

    Reply
  31. If it a laptop, the display will go dark after the timer is up! to change settings, go to control panel! click on power options! On the left of screen, click change when computer sleeps! There you will find settings for turning off display & when to put the computer to sleep! Just up the time on turning off display and sleep! Hope this helps!

    Reply
  32. my computer becomes a dead computer when i turn it on ,basically nothing happens but everything is on including the fans but the screen is black but after 30 minutes its turns on fine ,as if nothing was wrong. can u please help me i really dont know whats wrong .

    Reply
  33. A black screen appeared out of a blue when i was online and had alot of tabs opened even downloading some files then it came so i pumped the space bar and i could hear the response.
    When it turns black, it doesnt show up again unless when u reset the windows but with that i lose all my data and files. I even don’t know wat caused that coz even if i try system updating the compter it turns black after some hours
    Am using a DELL(laptop) latitude E5 series, i core 5 second generation with windows 10

    Reply
    • Sounds like a hardware issue, as outlined in the article you just commented on. You probably need to have a technician look at it.

      Reply

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