How to fix a disabled graphics card on a laptop or PC: reset your graphics card from a black screen

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Matthew M. White
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If you have disabled your machine's main graphics chip, your screen will instantly go black. This situation occurs because the hardware that sends visual data to your screen is idle. Either way, the problem is purely a software issue and is fully reversible by simply resetting the CMOS which controls the BIOS.

Depending on how comfortable you are with computers and how many devices are getting in your way, the method of restoring your graphics card is going to seem surprisingly simple or terribly complex.



BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System, and it's the firmware on a chip that is read first during startup, and it tells your computer what to do with each piece of hardware. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) looks like the following image:

Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) acts as short-term memory, which tells the BIOS what to do each time your computer starts. CMOS usually appears in the RTC clock semiconductor, but some motherboards have a separate chip.

Here are two ways to reset your machine's BIOS to fix no screen on startup.

Option 1: Reset the BIOS using a switch on your laptop or desktop

Most motherboards have a CMOS reset switch, which disconnects the backup battery power from the BIOS. The switch is actually a pin and socket configuration. If your board includes a reset switch, this is the easiest method to reset your CMOS and BIOS configuration.

The switch usually includes two or three pins.

1. Remove the plug and hold for at least 20 seconds. If your switch includes a third pin, like in the image above, remove it and place it on the opposite outer pin. Again, hold down the power button for at least 20 seconds.



2. Then reinsert the plug in place or, in the case of a three-prong configuration, replace it on the original outer pin.

By removing the plug from the pins, the BIOS essentially 'forgets' the settings to use at startup and reverts to its defaults. Do not worry; none of your operating system files or data will be modified or deleted. Instead, the computer reverts to its standard startup settings.

Option 2: Remove the CMOS battery from your laptop or desktop

Since this CMOS is powered by a small battery (about the size of a nickel), the second BIOS reset option is to remove it.

Removing the Desktop CMOS Battery

  1. For desktop computers, removing the CMOS battery is relatively simple: make sure your machine is turned off and remove all external cables, then open the case to reveal the hardware inside. If you are unsure how to do this, refer to the manufacturer's information, but be aware that this may void your warranty.

2. Once the internal components are accessible, locate and remove the CMOS battery, which basically looks like a large watch battery. It is usually located in an exposed enclosure on the motherboard. Once found, you should be able to remove the battery, but you may need to disengage some form of clipping mechanism first.

3. Once the CMOS battery is removed, press and hold the power button for approximately 15 seconds to drain any residual power in the motherboard. This step should give the CMOS time to reset to its defaults.



4. Now reinsert the CMOS battery, making sure it is inserted correctly.

5. Next, close your computer case and restart your machine. Your BIOS should have reset, re-enabling your internal graphics in the process.

Removing the CMOS Battery from a Laptop

For laptop users, accessing the CMOS battery might prove more difficult. Some models will have a small pull-out tray on the chassis to allow for easy removal, similar to a DVD tray, but much smaller, about an inch wide. If your laptop doesn't have the tray feature (most don't), you'll need to disassemble your "Laptop PC" to get to the battery case.

Due to the wide variety of brands and models of laptops out there, it is impossible to provide a complete guide to disassembling them. The best way to find out how to disassemble your particular machine is to check your laptop's model number and then use a web search to find a good tutorial.

Alternatively, another option would be to take it to your local PC repair shop. Tell the staff you need to reset the BIOS by removing the CMOS battery, and often they'll be happy to do it for you while you wait.

Once you have access to the battery, follow the steps above for desktop computers: remove, drain power, replace, and restart.

After restarting your machine, your BIOS should return to normal with a working screen.

If you still have problems after performing the above steps, try replacing the CMOS battery with a new one.



Alternative solutions

Many of our readers have expressed other issues with their PC or laptop black screen. So here we will include some tips for those who have tried the steps above and have not yet fixed the problem they are having.

Boot into Safe Mode

First, you can try booting your system in safe mode by holding the key shift et F8 key on startup. If the screen is working now, you can try updating your drivers or doing a factory system restore, which will fix your issues if it's software.

If you don't see any display at all when first booting your PC, the BIOS boot screen, you might have a more serious problem. Your PC's operating system has no control over the splash screen, so if you've tried everything and don't see anything, it's possible you have a faulty graphics card or cable.

Connect your video cable to the integrated graphics card

Assuming you have a desktop computer, you can also try connecting to the graphics card integrated into the motherboard. Simply plug your HDMI or VGA cable into the onboard slot instead of the one into the PCI or PCIe slot.

Clean your computer's internal components and connections

Next, open your PC case and check that there is no dust or debris on your motherboard. It can be as simple as a deep clean to get your computer working properly again.

Accumulated dirt, debris, and oils, from skin and otherwise, can interfere with the electrical signal being transmitted between components, so it's generally a good idea to clean your computer and other devices occasionally.

Check with the manufacturer

Finally, check with the component manufacturer for any information specific to your device (including personalized technical support and warranty). Use a search engine to find this information and ask for further help.

Sometimes there are faulty designs that a manufacturer doesn't discover or release for years, be sure to investigate thoroughly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions to help you troubleshoot problems with your graphics card.

What is the difference between CMOS and BIOS?

You may hear both CMOS and BIOS being used interchangeably in certain circumstances, such as resetting BIOS and clearing CMOS. The two are related but are actually separate elements.

BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is firmware stored in a chip on the motherboard and it runs first during the boot process. The firmware tests the hardware of the PC, then launches the bootloader if there are several operating systems, or it opens the installed operating system, as the case may be. The BIOS includes a Graphical User Interface (GUI) accessed by pressing a hotkey during boot, usually defined as F2, F12, or Clear. Inside the GUI you will find all hardware information and configuration options.

Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) gets its name from the manufacturing process of circuit boards, PC RAM, and other peripheral boards. A PC's CMOS is similar to RAM, except that it retains data when the PC is turned off, and has a minimum capacity (usually 256 bytes). CMOS stores data and time, boot sequence, and disk drive information. The rest is stored and managed by the BIOS. Therefore, the two elements work together to boot your PC successfully.

My PC says "Graphics card not detected". What does this mean and how do I fix it?

There are several reasons why your PC is not detecting your graphics card and therefore the screen is not working.

First, if you're using a desktop computer, open the case and make sure all connections are properly seated. A loose contact point can cause hardware failure.

Second, make sure you have the proper graphics settings. You may need to disable integrated graphics and reset them.

Third, you might have a power problem, so check that your computer is drawing enough power to run the graphics card. If you recently installed or upgraded your graphics card, you will need to install the corresponding drivers.

Apart from these options, you might have another connection problem, maybe Windows needs a software update, or you have a faulty graphics card or motherboard.

What is Blue Screen of Death? Is it because of my graphics card?

BSOD occurs on the basis of a malfunction in Windows PCs where software or hardware prevents your system from booting or working properly. This situation can undoubtedly arise due to the graphics card, drivers, software or some other piece of hardware in your machine. You will need to research your problem to pinpoint the cause.

Windows operating systems usually shut down after encountering a BSOD, but the display usually provides an on-screen error code first. You will need to cross this error code to find out where the problem is so you can fix it. If you have a warranty on your computer, call the manufacturer.

Make your graphics on the display card show up again

As you have now read, there are many things you can try to fix your graphics card disabled issue.

Did any of these solutions work for you? Did you encounter any other problems? Let us know below.

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