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Video card problems are common in Windows causing any of several symptoms including blank or black screens at startup. The steps in troubleshooting and fixing are quite simple and require only basic knowledge of computers.
Several components, hardware and software, work together to display the graphics on your computer’s monitor. The main components include the motherboard, operating system, video card drivers, and the video card itself. Of course, the monitor is involved somewhere in there, too, but very few video problems are the fault of the monitor. This is especially true when the monitor functions normally throughout the Windows startup process and only goes blank after the boot up is complete.
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Check the Video Card’s Connection to the Motherboard
The first step in fixing any video card problem is to check that the graphics card is properly seated in the motherboard’s video card slot. Regardless of the type of slot your motherboard has, it is wise at this point to make sure the video card is plugged snugly into the slot. Completely removing the card and reseating it is the best method of doing this.
While you have the graphics card out, check that the pins on the part of the card that plugs into the motherboard’s video slot are clean and free from corrosion. Normally these pins are made of tin or they may be coated with a thin layer of gold. If the pins on the graphics card are dull or anything but shiny silver or gold, carefully clean them with some alcohol and a soft cloth. In extreme cases, try using the eraser on the end of a pencil to clean each individual pin but be careful because these pins are delicate. After reseating the video card, be sure to connect any external power plugs that the card requires. This is especially true for PCIe 1.0 and PCIe 2.0 graphics cards.
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Check the Video Card Drivers for Errors
Although the video card and motherboard are the most important components to your computer’s graphics, the video card’s drivers are what allow the video card to communicate with the hardware and software in your computer. Like any software, video drivers can become corrupted on your hard drive and function in strange ways.
The second step in fixing the blank screen in Windows startup is to start your computer up in Safe Mode and monitor your computer’s behavior. To enter Safe Mode in Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7, turn on your computer and hold down the F8 key on your keyboard. Before booting into Windows, the “Windows Advanced Options Menu” appears. From here, use the arrow keys on your keyboard to select Safe Mode and then press the Enter key. Some people find that they must continually tap the F8 key until this menu appears. It may take you several tries to get the menu to come up.
Now your computer should start booting up Windows. Note that the graphics on your screen may appear unusual. This is because Safe Mode does not load the normal video drivers. This is how we will see if the video drivers are responsible for the blank screen at Windows startup.
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Reinstalling Video Drivers to FIx Black Screen at Windows Startup
Assuming that your computer booted to Windows normally in safe mode, we now have evidence that the graphics card’s video drivers are the culprits behind the black screen when Windows boots up.
Fixing this problem starts with downloading the latest video card drivers from the manufacturer’s website. Note that if your card uses an nVidia or ATI graphics chip, it is best to get the latest driver from either nVidia or ATI rather than the individual vendor like BFG, eVGA, etc. that produces the video card.
After you download the latest drivers, uninstall the current drivers, restart Windows, and then install the drivers you downloaded from either nVidia or ATI. You may want to restart your computer after you uninstall the current drivers to flush any leftover code out of your computer’s cache memory. After you install the new drivers, your computer will likely return to normal operation.
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Troubleshooting and fixing a blank screen at Windows startup starts with checking that your video card is properly seated in the motherboard’s graphics slot. The second step involves booting to Safe Mode and checking to see if the computer exhibits the same problem. If not, the video card drivers are likely the cause of the problem. Uninstalling the current drivers and installing the latest ones from either nVidia or ATI often puts an end to this error.