Windows 10 is the latest version of Windows that was released in 2015. It’s user-friendly, features an attractive display, and has plenty of personalization features. However, some users run into random black screen issues.
What typically causes random black screens?
Several issues might explain the Windows 10 black screen, commonly referred to as the “Black Screen of Death”, including:
- You have two monitors connected with one of them or their faulty connections.
- There are problems with the initial setup.
- Windows 10 is in the middle of downloading/upgrading.
- Faulty or incomplete Windows 10 installation.
- The computer improperly “wakes up” after sleep mode.
- Errors caused by software or drivers.
- The computer is overheating.
- Issues with the power supply or other connection issues.
Random black screen errors create so much turmoil because many potential problems can cause the error.
Windows 10 doesn’t pop up an error message with the black screen, so there’s absolutely nothing to go on to help guide them to the problem.
The multiple-monitor black screen of death
Users with multiple monitors connected to their computer setup will often experience random black screen issues due to display and connectivity issues.
Something goes wrong in the detection process, and the screens glitch because the GPU doesn’t know which monitor should be receiving which screen, or low quality or faulty cable to one of the screens causes intermittent mayhem.
Another reason could be a bug in the graphics card driver or in the graphics card hardware itself.
It isn’t just additional monitors that can cause this problem to occur. Any peripheral item hooked up to the computer, such as cameras, speakers, devices connected via Bluetooth, or printers, could lead to the random black screen issue.
Problems with the initial Windows 10 setup
One of the most frequent periods during which people seem to encounter random black screens is in the initial setup of Windows 10.
It might happen during the installation process for some people or almost immediately after the program finishes the setup process.
Suppose it happens while the setup is still in progress. In that case, it’s usually just stalled, which often happens to people moving over massive amounts of personal data files from whatever previous Windows version they had.
In these cases, the actual setup process could take abnormally long to complete, and in that time, a random black screen may appear.
It could also mean the setup process is hung up on something. It’s possible that there was an error or a glitch, but for whatever reason, nothing else is happening.
It’s hard to tell the difference between a setup that’s taking a long time and one that’s stuck and not going anywhere.
A good rule of thumb is to check the LED light to see if it’s still flashing. If it is, the setup process is probably still happening and moving slowly. If not, the computer may be frozen.
After doing some research, this is the suggested amount of time, but it somehow conflicts with my experience.
Personally, I’ve never encountered such long install times. One reason is that you may be slowed down on a slower internet connection for downloading if it takes a long time.
I’ve noticed an average install time on all the computers I’ve installed to be around 1 hour. This is from the beginning of the process until you have a functioning desktop.
Consider upgrading some of your hardware if it takes around 4 hours or more.
Windows 10 is in the middle of downloading/upgrading
This goes hand-in-hand with the “initial setup” point but could also happen during upgrades. If upgrades take an exceptionally long time, the black screen could appear, or if there’s a glitch or problem with the upgrade, the black screen could appear for that.
Faulty or incomplete Windows 10 installation
Faulty installation files or media usually cause an incomplete or faulty Windows 10 installation. Another cause could be hardware malfunctions as the operating system files are unpacked and installed.
Everything may have looked like it was fine, and the computer may have come up with no problems after the installation.
However, once the user turns the computer back on again after its first shutdown, the random black screen sometimes appears, which could mean that the installation wasn’t as successful as it seemed.
The computer improperly “Woke Up” after Sleep Mode
Some users have reported experiencing the Black Screen of Death when they try to wake their computers up after being in sleep mode, especially if they’ve been in sleep mode for quite some time. Microsoft hasn’t released a statement as to why this seems to happen.
Errors caused by software or drivers
Errors stemming from a damaged or improperly loaded driver can also cause Windows 10 to experience random black screen issues, with software glitches being the common culprits.
In the case of software, it most often occurs with some software that, when opened, automatically takes over the entire screen. (Media players and games seem to be the biggest offenders.)
If the software is the problem, everything else in the computer should be running fine, which is a major hint that it’s a software issue instead of something more serious.
It will most likely be a codec issue for media players, especially if you are viewing the video at full screen. This may give the appearance of the whole screen going black.
Some games are buggy and can also be the cause of a software malfunction.
The computer is overheating
Anyone who’s ever held a laptop on bare thighs for hours knows computers can get super hot, so they have internal fans to help cool them down.
Unfortunately, sometimes the fans don’t kick on when they should, resulting in the system overheating, leading to the Black Screen of Death.
Occasionally, if overheating is the problem, the computer will restart after the black screen and cooling down.
It is strongly advised not to put your laptop against your thighs or on a material surface like a bed. Both these situations can block airflow from being drawn into the laptop to cool the internal components.
To avoid this, I recommend using a laptop cooling pad, which is relatively inexpensive but will keep your laptop cooler and help it live longer.
Issues with the power supply or other connection issues
When connection issues or power supply are the problems, the actual result is not the Black Screen of Death, but a black screen, like what the television has when it isn’t in use.
It could be caused by the PC’s power cord getting unplugged, the cords connecting the monitor or displays to the CPU being disconnected, or faulty hardware in the cords and cables themselves.
When things aren’t plugged in or when the cords or connections are damaged, the monitor’s display won’t work.
How do I fix my random black screen?
While several issues could be causing the random black screen errors, there are also several solutions to those issues.
The first step in fixing any of them is for the user to diagnose the problem behind the black screen.
The following is a list of how users can fix the problems once diagnosed.
1. Unplug the other monitors to prevent multiple monitors Black Screen of Death
If you are lucky, the multiple monitor or peripherals issue is all causing their Black Screen of Death problems because this is the problem with the easiest fix.
If random black screen issues arise from something additional hooked up to the PC causing a glitch, all you need to do is unplug and disconnect everything that could be the problem.
If there are two monitors, unplug the one that isn’t vital to the computer’s functioning, or disconnect them if speakers or printers are hooked up.
For any device connected via Bluetooth, Windows 10 can turn off Bluetooth and forcibly close those pairings.
If this is the problem, disconnecting them and restarting the computer will fix the issue. Occasionally, just disconnecting them will solve it, but the computer needs to be shut down more often and rebooted to resolve the issue.
If this is the problem, the next step is determining which device was causing the issue, which should be a simple discovery.
It would be best if you hooked everything back up to the computer one thing at a time to see which one triggers the black screen.
2. Reboot the computer to fix problems with the initial Windows 10 setup
This issue can be a bit trickier to resolve. When a black screen occurs during the initial setup phase, it’s hard to know if the computer has just stalled while still set up or if it’s completely frozen and needs a reboot.
You can keep an eye on the LED display, but that’s not a surefire way to tell what’s happening.
However, if the computer has been sitting there for longer than six hours or so, it’s safe to assume it’s probably frozen and isn’t going to finish setting up. If so, users must forcibly shut down the computer and reboot it.
These are the steps users should follow if they suspect the setup process has stalled completely:
- Shut down the computer. If necessary, hold the power button down for ten seconds until it’s forcibly shut down.
- Terminate the connection to the internet by removing the ethernet cable or shutting down the modem.
- Disconnect all the peripherals except for the mouse and keyboard.
- Unplug the computer or remove the laptop’s battery and wait 30 seconds minimum to return the battery and replug the cord.
- Turn on the computer without reconnecting to the internet.
- Windows 10 setup should automatically start over, but a manual upgrade might be necessary if it doesn’t.
If users follow these steps, they should reset the initial setup process and quickly get the computer back on track.
3. Windows 10 is in the middle of downloading/upgrading
If the download or upgrade is still in progress, users should leave the PC alone for a while. If they come back a few hours later and see no progress, they can follow the steps to fix problems with the initial Windows 10 setup listed above.
4. Remove the upgrades to fix issues of faulty or incomplete Windows 10 installation
If the problem stems from Windows 10 not installing wholly or correctly, users may have to remove the upgrades and reinstall the program again from scratch, which can be a hassle.
So, it would help if you troubleshoot everything else to ensure there’s no easier problem to fix before completely deleting/downgrading everything and redownloading.
5. Readjust the hibernation settings to fix the computer improperly “Waking Up” after the Sleep Mode issue
Users who notice frequent random black screens after the computer has been in sleep mode will need to adjust the hibernation settings, or you can turn off hibernation altogether.
Toggling the “Turn on Fast Startup” option has also fixed this issue for many users, as something about the Fast Startup feature keeps Windows 10 from loading properly for some users, which results in random black screens whenever the computer comes out of sleep mode.
Turning it off gives the computer more time to load everything correctly. It takes longer for the computer/laptop to reboot with this option turned off, but there are far fewer instances of the Black Screen of Death occurring, too.
There are a few other options for dealing with black screens after hibernation, and Windows Report outlines all of them. These two are the easiest fixes, and they seem successful for many Windows 10 users.
6. Errors caused by software or drivers
If random black screen issues have appeared for users after a recent Windows update, the cause could be a faulty or damaged driver. Again, Windows Report outlines how to fix this problem.
They suggest a few different options that you can try, including disabling your anti-virus software and updating your graphics drivers. However, the steps for the Windows-recommended solution to this problem are as follows:
- Restart the PC and let the install sequence begin using the original Windows disk. (You may have to press a few keys to get this going.)
- When the Microsoft Installer window appears, click Next, then open the Troubleshoot option.
- Choose Advanced.
- Once you’ve opened Advanced options, there are more commands to enter.
- After entering the commands and seeing The operation completed successfully, eject the disk and shut down the computer.
- Once you reboot, the issue should be fixed.
Again, these are just the outline of instructions for fixing this issue.
If full-screen software results in the Black Screen of Death, the problem can be harder to fix and may ultimately result in you having to remove the software from the PC completely. You can try adding it back after 100% removal, but that doesn’t always work.
Another option might include checking to see if the software has an available upgrade. If so, you might be able to solve the problem by upgrading.
If a recent upgrade has occurred, the problem could be that the update was buggy or glitchy. In that case, you might need to revert to the software’s previous or factory reset version.
7. Let the computer cool down
The immediate overheating fix is leaving the PC alone and letting it cool down. However, you may also want to check inside the case to see if anything could be causing problems to get to the cause of the problem.
Vacuuming, using compressed air to clean out dust and dirt, and ensuring the fans are still working is also advisable.
A cordless compressed air duster might help you with this issue, acting as a vacuum and compressed air.
Whether you need to use it to blow out your keyboard or vacuum out the case, it does both easily.
I have had one for nearly a year and find it useful for smaller cleaning jobs for my computer. It is rechargeable and convenient to put away or use at any time.
However, it will be capable of cleaning out your computer just fine but requires a little more patience compared to using a full-sized compressor to do the job.
Malicious software or incorrect explorer shell registry settings
Sometimes, an infected system can give you strange symptoms, like a black screen after loading the operating system.
It could mean that a Registry value has been altered, causing the default Explorer shell to be replaced with something else or deleted.
While this isn’t a random problem, I thought I’d mention this fix just in case it might help someone.
If you can press Control + Alt + Delete and see the Task Manager appear, this could be the problem.
I have written a small application that runs as a standalone without the need to install it.
Download the file from the button below to restore the default Explorer shell, unzip it, and run it using your Task Manager by clicking on File and Run new task. Run the file with administrator privileges if the option is available once you have browsed and selected the file.
If your desktop returns to normal, run an antivirus scan and a Malwarebytes (free) scan to remove unwanted or infected files from your computer.
How to fix Windows 10 Black Screen on startup
How a person fixes black screen issues on the startup screen also depends on what’s causing the problems. Check the power supply and connections first if the startup screen is a Black Screen of Death. You can also disconnect any peripheral items at this time.
Next, try the old standby: Ctrl + Alt + Del, which will pop up on the screen we all know so well, and you can restart your computer. Hopefully, the issue will be resolved on the reboot.
If not, another option is to use the Windows key + Ctrl + Shift + B, which will reestablish Windows’ connection with the video driver, and resetting it will reconnect the computer to the monitor display. If neither of these options works on the startup screen, the problem may be more serious.