Many laptops have two graphics cards, one built-into the processor itself and a second, so-called discrete GPU usually made by nVidia or AMD. Sometimes you'll have a problem when you update the graphics drivers and end up with a blank screen even though Windows seems to be booting up and working fine. Here's how to disable graphics or switch graphics cards without a screen to help you.
Quick fixes for a blank screen
Before doing anything else, try these to see if they cure your problem:
- Press and hold the Fn key on your laptop keyboard and then press the key with a monitor symbol. This common shortcut toggles between the displays that Windows thinks are connected. Leave a few seconds each time you press it to give Windows a chance to switch monitors.
- If you have an external display connected, try unplugging the cable and plugging it back in. This often cures problems with HDMI in particular.
- A third tactic which we've found useful on some machines is to tap the power button to put the laptop into sleep mode. Wait 10 seconds or so and tap it again to wake it up. You might well get an image.
Boot into safe mode
If you can't get an image on screen, try booting your laptop into Safe Mode. Here's how to boot Windows 8 into safe mode
Windows 7 users can simply press F8 while the laptop is booting to access a menu with the option to start in safe mode. If you can, select Safe Mode with Networking.
This mode makes Windows run with the bare minimum of drivers and usually makes it possible to see an image when you have a graphics driver issue, since it uses Microsoft's own graphics driver.
From here you should be able to uninstall the offending graphics card driver (via the Control Panel) and install the latest version of the driver, but make sure you download it from your laptop manufacturer since generic Intel, nVidia and AMD drivers downloaded directly from their websites won't work with all laptops.
It's handy to select Safe Mode with networking, since you can then go online and download the updated driver. Alternatively, use another PC and transfer the file using a USB flash drive.
If you don't know which graphics card(s) your laptop possesses, search the Control Panel for Device Manager and look under Display adapters where you will see their names.
Use an external monitor
If you have one to hand and you failed to fix the issue using Safe Mode, or couldn't enter Safe Mode for some reason, grab a PC monitor or connect your laptop to your TV
You might find that this enables you to get an image when Windows boots up normally, and you can then update your graphics card drivers or disable one of your graphics cards.
How to disable a graphics card using Device Manager
In order to disable a graphics adaptor, go to the Control Panel. You can search for it using the Start menu (or Start screen in Windows 8) and then click on Device Manager under Devices and Printers.
Under Display adapters you can right click on a graphics card and choose disable. This will force Windows to use the other graphics card (assuming there is one) when it next boots up.
If none of these fixes your problem, check your laptop manufacturer's website for a BIOS update. This could include a fix that will make your screen work.