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How to fix the black screen of death on all your devices (Windows, Mac, IOS, Android)

Most of us know the dreaded feeling of staring into the abyss that is the black screen of death. Beyond lost productivity, you could be in danger of losing precious files (if you haven’t backed them up). Don’t panic…read this guide instead. If your dying computer can be revived, we reveal common fixes for turning mournful black into the happier, familiar view of your desktop or smart phone home screen. To help keep your devices running smoothly, consider Avira Free Security. It’s the multi-pronged approach to helping you stay on top of digital clutter, outdated software, malware, and even weak passwords. 


Blue or black screens of death: What are they—and what’s the difference?   

Did you know that the “B” in BSoD can stand for both “blue” and “black” screens of death? What are these error messages, how serious are they, and what’s the difference between blue and black screens? 

Let’s start with the most famous bad-news notification of them all: The Microsoft blue screen of death (BSoD) was debuted way back in 1985 with the release of Windows 1.0. Some call it the blue screen of doom, bug-check screen, or system crash. Unlike the famous mask in the slasher movie “Scream”, this digital death has had a few faces. It first featured crash details which looked like the text in a Command Prompt screen. In Windows 8, Microsoft replaced these lines of text with a sad face—just in case blissfully unaware users forgot to be worried. Windows 10 saw the addition of a helpful QR code which support technicians can use to identify error codes. Users can also whip out a smart phone and scan the QR code to find support and access helpful information. By contrast, the black screen of death truly looks like a graveyard at night. It’s not just black—it’s empty too, without text, icons, or codes.  

Both screens of doom and gloom are functionally similar—a dire notification that something has gone critically wrong with your computer, and it has shut down as it can no longer perform safely. But the blue version is slightly better news. While it’s commonly believed to indicate an unfixable error, a blue screen isn’t a “fatal” system problem because it can usually be repaired. It’s still frustrating, you’ll lose unsaved work, and it can indicate deeper issues (like aging, voltage fluctuations, software incompatibility, and malware). The good news is that the computer system will try to fix the problem for you, and you can also look up the error code online for extra help. If you see an all-black screen, you’re having an even worse day. It tends to be more “deadly” and indicates an error from which your device can’t recover—nearly the goldfish equivalent of floating upside down. There is a possibility your device can be resurrected, so don’t recycle it (yet)! Read on to explore the possible causes and—hopefully—solutions.  

Any device can succumb to a black screen of death. Why does it happen? 

A black screen can appear on a laptop, PC, Mac, or smart phone and is the result of several issues: Hardware (including peripherals and the power supply), software, and even malware. Knowing where to find the source of the problem can help simplify troubleshooting, so a step-by-step approach is vital. Also bring patience. 

Let’s start with hardware. Often, it’s the result of hardware communication problems or a hard drive that needs formatting. It’s always important to understand the causes and symptoms of an unhappy computer. If the fan often sounds like a Boeing taking off, your device is overheating. This article explores why this might be happening and how to quieten a loud computer fan. Overclocking a device to try and squeeze more performance out of it than the manufacturer intended is a common cause of overheating and system crashes. If you’re feeling ambitious about boosting system performance, find out how to safely overclock here 

System crashes can also be the result of corrupted files, incompatible driver updates, or an operating-system update or software installation not being completed properly. Even the power supply could be the problem! Computers have a built-in graphics card that allows us to see images on the monitor. The graphics card needs power from the PSU (power supply unit) in the PC, and if it doesn’t get enough, the screen will be blank. Also, a cable could be loose, or the graphics card may be in the wrong position. Or is it malware, which can cause a system to fail or behave erratically? With so many potential suspects, it’s no wonder that it often takes even IT administrators many attempts at trial and error to fix the problem behind a black screen! 

BSOD? Check your peripherals first 

Before you dive deep into your computer’s inner workings, have a good look at what’s going on outside it: 

Cables are a good place to start: A sudden blank monitor could mean that a cable is unplugged or that there is problem with a connection. Disconnect and reconnect your video cables (HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, and VGA). Also blow gently into the ports to clear any debris that might be interfering with the connection. If that doesn’t help, switch out a cable (you can use the video cable from your TV, for example). If the new one works, you’ll know that your usual cable is damaged and needs replacing. That’s not unusual. Plugging cables in and out causes wear and tear over time, especially if you’re always plugging an external monitor into a laptop.  

Not a cable fault? Check your monitor: Make sure that your display is connected to the right source. You can also check it’s defective by connecting to a different display if you have one. Moving from your monitor to your TV or vice-versa can be a good idea. Even a mismatch between your monitor and your display’s resolution could be to blame. For example, a PC that’s optimized for gaming might only work with monitors that can display the high resolution required. 

Unplug unnecessary accessories: All accessories can cause issues as your computer starts up. So, assume that everything is guilty until proven innocent—whether it’s external hard drives, USB connections, Wi-Fi antennas or VR headsets. When you’ve unplugged everything that’s not essential for your PC to work (please leave the monitor, mouse, and keyboard), re-start your computer and hope.  

Don’t forget computer maintenance: Regular tune-ups and safe updates from official sources can help keep your computer running smoothly. If you have a brand new, very old, or overclocked computer, experts also recommend conducting a safe CPU stress test to get a clearer picture of the performance your machine should be capable of without derailing. Optimization tools are a must as they help clean out digital junk for faster starts and more stable performance—plus software updaters make it easier to stay on top of (safe) updates. Avira Free Security blends all of these with powerful anti-malware, so it’s a convenient option for those looking to solve multiple challenges at once. 


If you’re still staring into a void, try the steps below for your sick machine. If one doesn’t work, don’t lose hope—simply move on to the next step. Start by leaping to the device you need help with here:  

PC or laptop running Windows 


iOS or Android smart phone 

PC or laptop problems? If the black screen occurs before Windows sign-in 

Black screens before you log in can be easier to fix so this may be a ray of light in this otherwise bleak scenario. You’ll just have to be patient as you identify the cause. Ready?  

  • Optimize your start-up applications
    Disabling the resources you don’t need at the start can help optimize your boot.  
    Avira System Speedup displays a list of applications that run on start, and lets you delay or stop the ones you don’t need.
  • Refresh the screen via the Windows key sequence
    Click the CapsLock or NumLock keys to see if any indicator light turns on. This means that the computer is properly running but can’t activate the screen.  

    • If any of the key lights DO turn on: 
      • Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete so the administrator menu appears. 
      • Select your account and sign in.
      • If you can’t sign in, click the Power icon and then choose Restart to reboot the PC. If the computer freezes at a black screen again, forcibly shut it down by pressing and holding the power button for around 15 seconds.  
    • If any of the keys DO NOT light up: 
      • Manually shut down the computer by pressing the power button for around 15 seconds. 
      • Remove the power adapter from the computer for about 30 seconds. 
      • Plug it back in and then restart the computer. Hopefully, you’ll be up and running now. No? It’s time for step 3. 
  • Boot into Safe Mode Safe Mode starts Windows in a basic state, using just a limited set of files and drivers. There are two versions of safe mode: Safe Mode and Safe Mode with Networking. Safe Mode with Networking adds the network drivers and services you’ll need to access the internet and other computers on your network. If a problem doesn’t persist in Safe Mode, you can assume that the default settings and basic drivers are working as they should be. So, it’s a great way to narrow down the potential causes of your black-screen woes!
    Here’s how to enter Safe Mode from a black screen in Windows 10 and 11:  
    1. Enter the Windows Recovery Environment (winRE) by repeatedly turning your device off and on: Hold the power button down for 15 seconds and then turn your computer on again. Repeat this three times.  
    2. Allow your device to restart into Automatic Repair and select Advanced options to enter winRE. 
    3. A blue Choose an option screen appears. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings. Then hit the Restart button at the bottom.  
    4. After your computer restarts, you’ll see a list of options. Choose option 5 from the list or press F5 for Safe Mode with Networking.

PC or laptop woes: Fix a black screen that occurs after signing in to Windows 

You know what they say: “Switch it on and off again”. They were right. Especially if a system has been running for a while, you’ll be surprised at the big difference a reboot can make! Hold down the power button for around 15 seconds to do a hard reset. If that doesn’t work, bad luck, and it’s time for the steps below.  

  • Restart File Explorer
    Is your screen black but you can still see your mouse cursor? This usually means that there is a problem with File Explorer. If you re-start File Explorer, your display may start working again. Here’s what to do in Windows 10 and 11:
    Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to launch Task Manager. You can also type “task manager” in the Start menu search bar and select the best match. Open the Processes tab, and then highlight Windows Explorer. Right-click on Windows Explorer and choose Restart.
    Within Task Manager, a list of options appears under “Processes”. Windows Explorer is highlighted.
  • Refresh the screen via a Windows key sequence
    Press the Windows key + Ctrl + Shift + b to force a refresh of the video display/adapter. You’ll hear a short beep before the screen dims and then restarts. If this step has been successful, that should be the end of your black-screen woes.
  • Reset your PC
    If none of these efforts have reaped a reward, it’s time to reset your PC. You’ll need to enable safe mode again. Then enter “Reset from the search bar” and select the Reset this PC option. Click on Get Started and choose Keep my files. To finish, follow the instructions that appear.  

PC problems: How to fix the black screen of death after a Windows 10 Update 

Sometimes, installing new software or updating the operating system can cause problems. If you think this could be to blame, try these options. 

  • Update your graphics card driver:
    Sometimes, when the operating system updates, it fails to instantly install a later version of the graphics driver. Computers dislike incompatible or outdated graphics card drivers and may protest by turning the screen black.

    1. Restart your computer in Safe Mode 
    2. Enter Windows Diagnostics mode by pressing the power button repeatedly and choosing Advanced Options. Then click on Startup Settings. 
    3. Select Advanced option. 
    4. Choose Restart and click the number 5 key on the keyboard to enable Safe Mode with Networking. 
    5. Select the This PC icon and then Properties. 
    6. On the left side of the display, click on Device Manager. 
    7. Find your Windows graphic card driver under the option Display Adapters and right-click on it. 
    8. Choose Update Driver from the options and then click on Search automatically for updated driver software.

Your computer will now automatically detect and install the newest version of the graphics driver. When the update is finished, click on Close and restart the PC in normal mode (with fingers crossed).  

  • Uninstall third-party Windows software:
    It’s not just drivers that can protest after a Windows update. Third-party apps may malfunction too as they struggle to adapt to new settings. So, it’s time to re-start your PC and head back into Safe Mode to perform these steps:  

    1. Within Safe Mode, open Task Manager from the Start menu. 
    2. Under the menu bar, click on Run new task.
    3. Enter services.msc in the dialogue box that opens and proceed. 
    4. Double-click on App Readiness and a new pop-up box appears. 
    5. Select Startup type from the options and then click on Disabled 
    6. Click OK to save the new settings and restart your PC. 

Do detective work with the Windows Reliability Monitor  

The Reliability Monitor is a free Windows app that works like a window to the past and provides information about your system’s stability over time, including critical events and warnings. It can be also useful in fixing BSOD errors and lets you report any errors or bugs it finds to Microsoft. It’s not a magic wand though and won’t solve black screen errors by itself but can provide important insight to guide you in the right direction. By combing through error reports, software/driver updates, and more, you’ll see if they correspond with your current dilemma. Then you can use one of the above methods to hopefully fix the problem and get on with your day.  

The fastest way to access the reliability monitor, is to type reliab into the Start menu search box. Your computer’s performance history will appear as if by magic. 

Fix a black screen of death on a Mac  

“Turn it on an off again” is an IT mantra you should always follow. As your Mac is showing a black screen, you’ll need to perform a forced shutdown instead of switching it off as usual. Press and hold the power button on your Mac until it shuts off. Then wait a few moments and press the power button again to restart your computer.  

If that doesn’t work, consider power cycling, which refers to completely draining your computer of power and then turning it back on. For an iMac, unplug the power cable and wait for at least 10 seconds before switching it back on. If you have a MacBook with a removable battery, shut it down and remove the battery. Then wait for 10 seconds before attaching the battery and switching your Mac on again. For a MacBook with a non-removable battery, press and hold the power button for 10 seconds. When the system has shut down, wait another 10 seconds and then switch the computer on.  

Are you still having problems? It’s time to explore your Mac’s first-aid feature: Disk Utility. It helps find and repair disk errors. For an unresponsive machine, you can open Disk Utility from macOS Recovery and follow the instructions. (Note: This is a great example why you should always have a current backup of your Mac! Disk Utility may find errors it can’t repair.) 

Perhaps an app or program is malfunctioning so it’s time to identify and oust it. Boot your Mac into Safe Mode, so the operating system allows only the essential apps and programs to start up. For an Intel-based Mac: Restart your Mac and then press and hold the Shift key until you see the login window. Log in and do so again if prompted. On either the first or second login window, you should see “Safe Boot” in the menu bar. If you use a Mac with Apple silicon, here’s how to boot it in safe mode: Press and hold the power button on your Mac until “Loading startup options” appears. Select a volume. Press and hold the Shift key, and then click Continue in Safe Mode. 

If nothing else has worked, it may be time to face up to the fact that a critical error can’t be resolved, and you need to reinstall your Mac OS. You can use macOS Recovery to do this. On an Apple Silicon Mac: Turn on your Mac and long-press the power button until the startup options appear. Select the Gear icon and then click Continue to enter macOS Recovery. Select the user and admin password. In the Utilities window, choose Reinstall macOS and then Continue. Follow the instructions. For an Intel Mac: Turn on the machine and press and hold the Command () + R keys until the Apple logo appears. Select the user and enter the admin password to enter macOS Recovery. Select Reinstall macOS from the Utilities window in macOS Recovery. 

Don’t forget to check the power supply unit (PSU) of your PC or Mac 

If you’ve run through the many other checks discussed earlier and are also sure that your computer fan isn’t going bananas to cool down an overheated component, then the power supply may be the culprit. It’s not always the fault of the PSU though. Upgrades to power-hungry video cards or processors can impact the power supply so various other components aren’t receiving the power they need to run normally.  

Find out by testing your power supply with a multimeter or replacing the PSU in your PC. And here’s how to swap out the power supply on a Mac Pro (2023). A faulty PSU can damage your computer so it’s essential to check this, but swapping out the PSU should be a last resort. They rarely need to be replaced and, thankfully, you need careful hands and not a degree in computer science to do so.  

Smart phone woes? Help combat the BSOD on an iPhone or Android 

Are you staring at an unresponsive black screen, but your Android or iPhone is switched on? Then it’s most likely due to faulty apps, malfunctions with an operating system (OS) update, battery issues, or mechanical screen problems. A bad drop or accident can cause damage to the screen and if the components connecting the screen to the motherboard sever, the phone screen will be become unresponsive.   

Follow these top ten steps to try and identify and solve the problem: 

  1. As usual, start by turning your phone on and off again: On Android, press and hold the Power and Volume Down keys for 7-10 seconds to force-restart. On iPhone, press and release Volume Up, then press and release Volume Down, and then press and hold the Side button to force-restart.  
  2. Is it time for a charge? If the screen still won’t come on, connect the phone to a charger and allow it to charge for 30 minutes to an hour. Still no luck? Allow your phone battery to completely drain and then recharge it. 
  3. Clean your charging port. A dry, clean brush like a toothbrush is ideal for this as a phone can’t charge properly with a clogged charging port.  
  4. Clean all your phone buttons. Why stop at the charging port? Grab a microfiber cloth, cotton swab, or alcohol wipe and give the power and volume buttons a good clean to make sure they’re not jammed down with dirt.  
  5. Squeeze the sides of your phone. This isn’t misguided affection but may temporarily connect your phone and its screen if the two have become disconnected.  
  6. Android only: Remove the battery, SIM, and SD card and reinsert them. If your phone has a built-in battery this isn’t an option. 
  7. Android only: Boot your phone into safe mode. Your phone will then function with the bare minimum. By switching off the third-party apps it doesn’t need, you’ll be able to see if they’re causing the problems. Here’s how: Press and hold the power button until the power options appear. Then tap and hold Power Off until you see Reboot to safe mode. Tap on the prompt. 
  8. Android only: Boot your phone into recovery mode. This lets you access many troubleshooting features but the methods for entering it vary by phone. For Samsung phones, hold down the Power and Volume Up buttons together until you feel a vibration. When the recovery menu appears, use the Volume buttons to highlight options and the Power button to select them. It’s a good idea to clear the partition cache while you’re here.  
  9. Update the apps and OS: For Android, enter safe mode to update your apps using the Google Play Store, and don’t forget to update your Android OS by following these steps too. You can also uninstall any recent apps you’ve installed since the problem started. For iPhones, you can install updates in the App Store and update your version of iOS in the Settings app. 
  10. Factory reset your phone. This will erase all the data on your phone and restore the factory settings, so it’s a last resort! 

For Android: Open the Settings menu > System or General Management > Reset > Reset all data.  
For iPhone: Open the Settings app > General > Transfer or reset iPhone > Erase all content and Settings.   

Did you know that jailbreaking your phone or modifying the firmware can fast track you to a black screen? Speaking of living dangerously, if you’ve been tempted to download an app outside of an official store like the Google Play Store, then your phone may be infected with malware, which can cause severe performance issues and even a BSOD. Never forget that reputable antiviruses are for mobile devices too! Avira Antivirus Security for Android bundles threat protection with VPN, Microphone/camera protection, and more. Apple fans can turn to Avira Free Mobile Security for iOS for multiple layers of performance and protection.   

Help prevent crashes and enjoy smoother performance  

Prevention is always better than a cure, so routine maintenance and trusted protection from viruses and other malware is essential for all your devices. Online threats can lurk anywhere, from files and third-party apps to websites and online ads. Install new programs from the official source, and back up your computer regularly to safeguard folders from being corrupted. A solution that blends security, privacy, and performance optimizers can offer greater convenience and peace of mind. Avira Free Security combines Avira System Speedup, Free Antivirus, Password Manager, VPN, and more.  


And remember: If problems persist or you’re unsure how to deal with them, consult a professional technician so you don’t risk damaging your computer. 

Apple, Mac and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., in the U.S. and other countries. Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. 

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