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My PC Computer Screen Flickers On and Off - A Mystery

Updated on January 28, 2012

The Problem

Over the weekend, for a period of time, my computer monitor drove me nuts. While I was using the computer (typing, using the mouse, etc) the monitor screen would go completely black, as if in sleep mode The go back on, then black again, then on. The time between on and off and on again varied. Sometimes three seconds, sometimes ten seconds sometimes a little longer.

The computer that is having thing problems (as of the time I wrote this article in 2010) is a PC desk top that runs off XP. I've never had this problem before.

The screen going on and off had me baffled. I scoured the internet for a quick fix but there really wasn't much info out there. At least not much info that was convincing.

Checked the Display Settings

Maybe somehow my screen saver time settings were changed?

I went to the control panel, etc and checked the settings. No luck there. Everything looked good.  My first instinct was that somehow my screen settings somehow changed to allow the screen to go black more frequently. Besides all the other settings looking aOK, my screen was set so that it would not go black unless I was inactive on the keyboard and mouse for 13 minutes.

Do I Need a Video Card? Asked Tech Support at Staples....

There is a Staples store near where I live that offers computer technical support. He responded that he would hate to see me buy a new video card and it not resolve my PC monitor issue. There is another test to try before going with a new vid card. The tech guy suggested that I plug my flat screen monitor into another computer.

Essentially, if the monitor works in another computer, I probably have a video card issue (or another issue) in the 'trouble' computer.  If the monitor flickers while connected to another PC, I have an issue with the monitor screen itself.

Rechecked Connections Again and Then Tried Another Computer.....

Before disconnecting, I double checked the connections between the problem PC and monitor. Unfortunately, the connections looked super tight. I was hoping for some sloppy hook up that worked itself out over the years or something I did while fiddling around but it all looked OK.

So, I guess I have to hook up to another computer an see what happens.

Fortunately, I have another old dilapidated computer at home. It actually runs on the old Windows 98. It is a relic. I thought I would give it a try.

This was super easy to do. Basically just unscrew and pull out the connection on the 'trouble' PC and put into the 'other' computer.

If you don't have a spare computer, ask a friend if you can try it on theirs. Another idea is to ask your help desk or IT group if you can try it on one of the PC where you work. If you are a good employee, they'll probably let you try it on their hardware.

So What Happened?

The monitor worked fine when I plugged it into the 'other' PC.   So now I could have any number of issues.  Video card seemed likely.  I could also need to reload my drivers.  I tried downloading new drivers/updates on line but I had trouble even finding the right drivers. Actually, I could not find the right drivers so I put that idea aside and considered the video card option.


I'm a vain and cheap man.  I figured, I'd get a flashlight and visually inspect the 'problem' PC/Monitor connections all over again, but very closely this time.   

The actual connection hardware looked pretty good.  I did notice a lot of dust around the connectors and some dust in the area it plugs into.   I cleaned all around the connection socket and then blew out all the dust inside.

It also gave me an idea.  I opened my desktop PC and took a look at the video card (this is pretty easy to do if you have a desk top.)  I did notice that there was some dust on the video card.  Not a lot though. It wasn't as though it were covered in dust but there was some.

I've heard that dust on components inside your computer can cause, of all things, heat issues.  Using a can of compressed air (that you'd by at any electronics store)  I blew out what dust a could. Plus I hit the connection one more time.

The Final Check

I plugged the monitor back into the computer and there was no problem.   I thought it was temporary but it still works weeks later. The article you are reading now is the latest update and the last update.   I now favor a new PC and monitor I bought (it was time since both were 7 years old and I've had other issues not related to this.)   The 'bad' computer is still in service but relegated to 'back up' in a lonely, unused room.

I'm not exactly sure what the fix was. It could have been the dust. It could have been I needed to unhook everything and plug it all back in to give it new life.  The bottom line, the fix wasn't particularly difficult, just a little frustrating.

If anyone has any ideas on what may have happened. Please comment below.

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    • profile image

      Elizabeth 4 years ago

      My laptop is was doing it last night. I turned everything off then on and it worked. Odd thing was when I closed all windows initially, all my personal pics were open. I didn't open them. Scary.

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 6 years ago

      Bashar! Thanks so much for reading this post and the advice. The the monitor powering up and down or going black or whatever we'd call it was maddening. Thanks!

    • profile image

      bashar 6 years ago

      the same problem happened to me !!

      not only,I have experienced problems with the flickering screen but also the wireless adapter im my desktop pc used to be ceased then back again to work the to be ceased and etc!

      I handle the desktop pc to someone who cleaned it from the dust which has been massing in the power-supply !

      the screen did not flickered ,but when the machine sleeps ,the screen looks darker than usual whenever i awaked the pc desktop ,i changed the power plan option by never turn off the display and put the computer to sleep ,the problem has not occurred !!

    • TurtleDog profile image

      TurtleDog 6 years ago

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, the screen going on and off is a weird thing. It eventually fixed itself and was resolved. Wish I had an exact answer to how to fix a screen that goes on and off.

    • profile image

      eka 6 years ago

      I have the same problem :( did, everything nothing has changed :((