Every few months (or weeks..!) I have an issue where my computer powers on and the fans are spinning fine, but no output appears on the PC screen. This is a confusing and annoying issue, especially because I always double check that all cables are correctly inserted into my computer and monitor.
Luckily this issue can often be fixed easily enough – although admittedly you might need to try a few fixes out first, before finding The One True Fix™ for your own monitor display problems.
Recap: GPU Vs Motherboard For The Monitor Display
Before diving into various fixes for this problem, I wanted to quickly recap on how you can get display to appear on your PC monitor. Your computer (be it a laptop or a desktop PC) can connect to your PC monitor with one of four cables:
- VGA (an old cable dating back to 19871)
- DVI (a slightly newer cable… from 1999!)
- HDMI (a cable which can display High Definition video and carry audio data, first released in 2002 but the newer HDMI 2 spec was announced in 2013)
- Display Port (the ‘best’ sort of cable, which was first released in 2006 – but recent versions have been released in 2019 and 2022)
Many setups will use a HDMI cable, although newer systems will probably be running DP (display port) – whereas some legacy systems might still have VGA or DVI connections:
Whichever cable you use, it will plug into a slot on your monitor display, and then plug into the back of your computer in two places: the motherboard, or the graphics card. How it slots into your computer is actually really important, because inserting it into your computer incorrectly can directly cause the ‘no display’ issue that you are seeing.
With that background knowledge covered, let’s dive into how to resolve this frustrating issue.
How To Fix A Running GPU (Which Has No Display)
Having bad display drivers or an old, failing cable is the most likely cause of blank displays on your monitor. However plugging your display cable into the wrong slot, along with possible Windows or BIOS bugs, can also be at fault. Re-seating some of your hardware components has also been known to cure this no-display problem.
First Time Start-Up? Try An Old Cable
If you have just finished building your PC, or it’s a pre-built computer that you haven’t powered on yet, you might need to try using an old display cable. This is because some hardware might struggle to recognize newer cables (like DisplayPort), until you install a range of driver updates.
So if your computer and monitor has VGA or DVI slots, try connecting your computer this way temporarily. Yes the resolution might be painfully low, but sometimes this can help your computer boot up with no display issues.
Then you can install all the usual drivers, and update your BIOS. Make sure that you specifically install your graphics card’s display drivers, instead of relying on the default display drivers that Windows installs.
Once this is done, power down your computer and switch to a HDMI or DP cable – and try turning on your PC again. With any luck, you will see output without any issues.
Check Your DisplayPort And/or HDMI Cables
If this issue has randomly started happening on an existing PC setup, it might be down to the cables themselves – or simply a loose connection (i.e. one end of the cable has come out).
You should ideally inspect the whole cable to ensure that there’s no physical damage along it (any big ‘dents’ in it could mean that the wires inside are damaged). You should then check the ends of the cables, and that they are plugged correctly into your motherboard or graphics card:
If they look a bit dusty or dirty, try blowing some air onto the ends of the cable to clear this – before plugging them back in. Do the same thing with the cables at the back of your monitor:
Tip: HDMI cables can be fairly prone to falling out of a slot, especially because they don’t have any clips (like DisplayPort or Ethernet cables). However even with their clips, DisplayPort cables can still become slightly loose – resulting in the ‘no display’ issue.
Ensure Your Display Cable Is In Your GPU (Not Motherboard)
Where you plug the display cables in can also matter. Some CPUs don’t have any build-in graphics: therefore if you plug the display cable into your motherboard by mistake, you simply won’t see any output – because your computer literally has no way of displaying any output. In this case, you will always need to plug your display cables into your graphics card.
Quickly check behind your computer and make sure that the motherboard display cable slots are clear:
Tip: The same rule is true in reverse, though: if your graphics card is faulty or you aren’t running power to it yet, plugging display cables into it will not do anything. The motherboard will never ‘see’ these display cables, after all. In this case, you will need to ensure that your CPU has in-built graphics and then only ever plug the cables into your motherboard.
Have Two Monitors? Hit WIN+P And Try Different Display Modes
If you connect your PC to multiple screens, the ‘no display’ issue might not be an issue after all. Some people plug into a second screen that they only use occasionally, so they turn that screen off. Every so often, though, Windows can mess up and start sending output to that screen after all. But since it’s turned off, you won’t see the output.
Annoying, right? I’ve been hit by this ‘issue’ multiple times! To quickly rule this problem out, you should be able to press WIN+P that will bring up the Windows display dialog behind the scenes.
After pressing WIN+P, try pressing the up and down arrors and sometimes hitting enter. This will (eventually) try sending the display output to all your different screens, hopefully resolving the problem.
Alternatively, if you do have multiple cables plugged into your PC, just yank all of them out – other than the one that goes to your main, turned-on screen. That way, you can be (fairly!) sure that Windows is correctly trying to send the output to that single monitor.
Reinstall Your Graphics Drivers
If you find that you can sometimes boot up (with display), you should immediately try reinstalling your graphics drivers. This can help to flush out any weird issues that are causing your system to occasionally boot up without display.
Installing the drivers is usually just a case of navigating to the AMD driver download page or NVIDIA download page, and selecting your GPU model. This will allow you to download the right drivers for your system. You then need to double click the download file, and follow the instructions.
You might want to download the full display software suite, or alternatively you can try installing just the display drivers (both options should resolve the no display issue):
Once done, try restarting your system and hopefully you can always start up with display on your monitor going forward! I tend to find that this problem then goes away for a few months at least, although it can start to rear its head somewhere down the line – requiring me to then reinstalling the drivers again.
(Or maybe that’s just because AMD display drivers are really buggy, and I should consider switching to NVIDIA instead?!)
Reset Your BIOS Settings To Default
Something I haven’t discussed yet is that a bad overclock can cause your computer to start up without any monitor display. I had this issue a lot with a previous build: I went for a fairly ambitious overclock, and around 1 in 10 start-ups would result in zero display output.
As a result, I went into my BIOS and clicked the option to restore my BIOS to its original settings:
If you have changed a lot of BIOS settings, it is worth restoring your BIOS to its default – and then seeing if your display problems go away. If they do, you can then start changing your settings back one-by-one and when the display problem reoccurs, you know which setting is causing the problem.
Alternatively if you suspect that the issue is down to a bad overclock, you could try dialling back the OC a bit so that it’s less demanding. Either run your CPU (or RAM) at a slightly slower speed, or give a bit of extra power. An unstable OC can be hard to diagnose, but the system almost booting up (with fans running and LEDs on – but no final display on the screen) is a common cause.
Reseat Your GPU And RAM
Next up, I would suggest reseating your GPU and RAM. This literally involves removing them from the PCIe and RAM slots on the motherboard, and then putting them back in again. While GPUs and RAM modules both have clips that keep them in place, they can sometimes pull loose – causing a range of weird issues.
So you should press the clip next to them, remove the entire GPU or RAM module, then plug them back in – ensuring that they clip clicks back into place without issue.
If you find it hard to access either your GPU or RAM, just try reseating one of them – and then power your machine back in. You might get lucky and find that the one you reseated was the culprit all along!
Is Your PSU (And Its Cables) Correctly Installed?
Another possible cause here is that your PSU (or its power cables) are not supplying sufficient power to your components. For example, if one of the PCIe power cables isn’t fully plugged into your graphics card, you will definitely experience a range of issues – including no display problems.
Equally, while some graphics cards only need one PCIe connectors, while others need two or three – it depends on their TDP (how much power they require). Ensure that you are plugging the right number of PCIe cables into them.
Also if you have a powerful GPU, make sure that you don’t pigtail the connector – because this can result in too-little power being supplied to your graphics card too.
Consider Buying New Hardware (Sorry!)
If nothing else works, you might need to consider buying new PC hardware or a new monitor – sorry! My previous build had a budget first-gen B350 Ryzen motherboard. It had a few different niggles and bugs, and it was generally a badly reviewed motherboard (as an ‘early adopter’, I didn’t know this when I purchased it, though!).
I had the ‘no display’ issue around 20% of the time with that old motherboard, but buying a new motherboard fixed the issue for me:
I have then recently starting having the issue again with my latest computer – but luckily I was able to track this down to a faulty DisplayPort cable. So this was a much cheaper fix!
Equally a failing graphics card, or monitor, can also cause this problem. You might just need to do some trial and error to track down the exact cause, then buy a replacement.