Dell Laptop Black Screen

Dell Laptop Black Screen

Jordan Coburn and 5 contributors
Last updated on

Have you ever booted your Dell laptop and found it unresponsive? If you have encountered a black or white screen while restarting or booting up your computer, or you’re simply getting nothing on screen at all, don't panic, it’s possible you’ll even be able to solve your issue without the need for a costly repair.

Before starting, ensure that you're in the right spot. Check for any signs of life. Does the keyboard light up? Are there any charging indicator lights or status LEDs that turn on? If your Dell laptop doesn't seem like it's powering on at all, you may want to head over to the troubleshooting page for Dell Laptop Won't Turn On instead.

It’s easy to forget some troubleshooting basics amidst frustration. Before undertaking any of the more time consuming solutions below, these are a few fundamentals to get you started.

  • Turn up your brightness settings. Some Dell laptops have designated keys (or key combinations) to adjust the brightness. Look for a key with a sun icon on it (☼) and try pressing it. Use it in combination with Fn or Ctrl if pressing it alone doesn't work.
  • Perform a hard reset. Hold down the power button for a slow count of 15 seconds. After a few seconds, press the power button to boot up your laptop.
  • Connect, or reconnect, your charger. Try different combinations of charging port, outlet, and charging cable if you have access to multiples. This helps rule out a faulty outlet, cable, or port preventing a dead battery from receiving a charge.
  • Disconnect any peripherals. Docks or multi-port hubs are notoriously problematic, especially if they have many items connected.

Troubleshooting is a process that often resembles medical diagnosis. Certain information can help hone in on a specific problem. Try these tests to point yourself in the right direction.

  • Connect your device to an external display. If an image shows up on that display, you're likely dealing with a hardware issue.
  • Move your cursor around, especially towards the corners, or edges of the display. Try to get menus to appear. If you're getting any sort of pointer, your display hardware is working properly. Have a look at software fixes.
  • Is your screen totally black aside from a single cursor in the upper left? Believe it or not, your hard drive could be at fault here.
  • Is your screen lighting up? Try powering on in a dark room for easier observation.
  • If you don’t have any signs of backlight, check for an image on screen by shining a flashlight at your display. No backlight and no display means you can safely rule out software.
  • Close and open your display. Check for changes in display behavior at different angles or when you move the lid. Differences in image or backlight with display angle generally indicates a faulty cable.
  • Try pressing the F12 key repeatedly while powering on the laptop (be sure to power it off beforehand if it's showing signs of life). If this brings up a Dell Diagnostics screen, you know you're dealing with software issues.
  • Check for any Diagnostic Codes.
    • Many Dell laptops use blink codes to indicate hardware issues during the boot process. The Power LED or CAPS Lock LED will blink in a pattern to designate errors. These are often specific to the line of Dell (ie. XPS, Latitude, Inspiron).
    • Older Dell laptops often use beep codes to indicate hardware issues during the boot process. A certain pattern of beeps indicates a specific fault.
    • Referencing these codes can identify issues with hardware components such as memory or other components like your motherboard or graphics card.

Causes

1

Sometimes the software controlling what's supposed to be on screen isn't working properly. Any buggy or corrupt application could cause some unexpected behavior.

  1. If you think your laptop is turned on, press and hold the power button for 15 seconds to turn it off.
  2. Press power again to turn your laptop back on and hold the F8 key during the entire startup process to bring up Advanced Boot Options.
  3. If nothing shows up onscreen for a minute or so, press 4 or F4 (try both) to attempt to boot your computer into safe mode.
    • If you get an image in safe mode, the most likely culprits of your black screen issues are third party applications or graphics drivers.
    • Delete any applications you recently installed or updated. Restart your computer afterward to see if that fixed the problem.
2

Even if the applications are working correctly to show you a proper picture, if the software which Windows uses to talk to the graphics processor isn't working, that won't do much good.

  • Return to safe mode using the above steps and try to update your graphics drivers.
  • This process varies a bit between hardware configurations and software versions, so try using the linked guide is just a start. This guide only pulls from Microsoft approved driver repositories and will only work if your Safe Mode instance has internet connectivity (it may not).
    • The manufacturer of the graphics card will also have the drivers at their website. Check at AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA for current versions.
    • Due to potential lack of internet in Safe Mode, downloading the drivers on another device and moving them via flash drive to the Dell Laptop, is advisable.
  • If updating didn't resolve, try uninstalling. If you have access to another computer, download DDU and transfer it to your laptop in Safe Mode (which may not have access to the internet). Use it to uninstall the display driver.
    • Uninstalling the device, and driver in Device Manager might be enough to remove any problematic code, but DDU will do a more thorough job.
  • One last solution is to restart the explorer.exe process in the Task Manager. Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager, then click the Details tab at the top of the window that pops up. Select explorer.exe from the list and click the End task button in the bottom right corner.

If you had no success getting an image on screen in safe mode (and you tried the above fixes in the First Steps section), you're likely looking at a hardware problem.

3

If your Dell laptop is not powering on or showing signs of life, the issue may be related to a degraded battery. While you should probably jump over to the Dell Laptop Won't Turn On page instead, we'd be remiss to not address it quickly here. If your device is showing signs of life like status lights or beep codes, move on to the next solution instead.

  1. Double Check Battery Level: We've already asked you to check your outlet and charging cable, but double check them both now to be sure. Leave your computer plugged into your functional charging setup for 15-30 minutes to ensure your laptop doesn't power up from a dead battery.
  2. Reset the Battery: On certain Dell laptops, you can reset the battery by performing the following actions:
    1. Unplug the charging cable from the laptop.
    2. If your laptop has a removable battery, remove it from the laptop.
    3. Hold down the power button for 30-60 seconds to discharge any remaining power.
    4. If you removed the battery, reinstall it.
    5. Plug in the charging cable.
    6. Power on the laptop.
  3. Replace the Battery: If resetting the battery hasn't worked, and you aren't seeing any signs of life from your device, it's probably not turning on due to a faulty battery. Use the appropriate guide for your specific Laptop to restore life to your device and be sure to use the correct battery for your device.
4

Your laptop could be functioning, but the display is physically broken or simply disconnected. If your device is able to output a good image to an external display, it's a good indicator that the hardware is at fault.

Before you go diving into the depths of your laptop's internals, try a quick video driver reset shortcut:

  • Press the Windows Key + Ctrl (Control) + Shift + B. This works in Windows 7 and newer.

If that didn't work, you can determine if you display is faulty by following these steps:

  • Inspect the built-in display for physical damage. This includes any cracks (yes, even minor ones) or any liquid damage. Checking from different angles and shining a flashlight onto the screen can help spot hairline cracks as they catch in the light.
  • If you can visually see any damage to your screen, the best solution is to replace it. Use the device tree to find Guides for your specific device. If you can't find a guide for your model, try following a guide for a similar looking device instead. Many are similar enough.
5

In Dell laptops where the display cable runs through the hinge (nearly all of them), the cables pinch in the hinge mechanism in certain circumstances. Repeat repeat wear against the edges of the housing or a sudden pinch due to a sudden jolt, could sever the cable.

  • Remove the display assembly and check for signs of exposed copper, or tears in the cable—especially close to the hing.
  • The webcam cable, and Wi-Fi antennas also travel through the hinge. The display cable is often labelled on the board by its connector. Look for ones labelled eDP, JEDP, LVDS, or even simply Display. Use this guide for help recognizing cable connector types.The images below also feature examples of display cables in Dell laptops.
  • If the cable is damaged, replace it if you are able to do so. It may require an entire display assembly replacement depending on the model.
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6

If your laptop can't boot properly to Windows, or load display drivers due to bad storage, there may not be clear enough information (or any information) Windows can use to display an image correct.

  • If your screen is entirely black except for a single white cursor in the top left, this usually means your device cannot find an Operating system to boot to. Although this could mean only your boot sector is to affected, and a rebuild will help, in a worst case scenario, this could be caused be storage failure.
  • Try to run Diagnostic test in the PreBoot, or BIOS menu. pressing F12 at power on should push you to the One Time Boot Menu. Select Diagnostics, or Dell Support Assist, whichever is an available option. Run any tests that refer to Storage, HDD, SSD or Disk.
  • If the test fails, replace the drive with a compatible one. You may need to do a bit of research depending on the model to get this right. With m.2 drives. note whether it is a PCIe or SATA based drive, it is usually listed on the sticker.
7

What if Dell laptop still displays a black screen, even after following all the troubleshooting steps above. It's safe to say, clues point toward a motherboard problem.

  1. Ensure that your device's CPU is adequately cooled. If you have recently reinstalled your heatsink, double-check that it is correctly attached to your CPU and that the CPU has the appropriate amount of thermal paste applied. Proper cooling is essential to prevent overheating and ensure optimal performance. Also ensure that your device's cooling fan is plugged in and working and spinning freely in its housing.
  2. Remove any accumulated dust or debris from the internal components of your device. It is crucial to maintain proper airflow within your device. Dust or debris can hinder the cooling process, potentially causing issues with the operating system. Regularly cleaning the internals of your device helps prevent excessive heat generation and ensures optimal performance.
  3. Reset your device's BIOS Settings. To reset your motherboard's BIOS settings, you can try uninstalling and then reinstalling the CMOS battery. By doing so, any stored settings or configurations that may have become corrupted will be cleared, and the system will start with default settings. This helps eliminate potential conflicts or misconfigurations that could be causing the issue you're experiencing.
  4. Perform a thorough visual inspection of the circuit boards for any signs of burns or damaged components. If you observe any visible damage, such as burns or parts that appear to be physically damaged, the board likely needs to be replaced, especially if it's the board carrying the display cable connector. You can find both motherboard and daughterboard components for select Chromebook models in our store.

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