A flickering computer monitor can be a concerning sight. After all, replacing expensive tech products is just about the last thing anyone wants to do. But is flickering a true sign of serious damage to your computer?
A flickering computer screen does not necessarily mean that you need a new monitor. Depending on what is causing the flickering, there may be several simple solutions you can use to resolve the issue.
In this article, you’ll learn a few common causes of monitor flickering and some easy tips to fix it. You may even avoid spending money on a replacement that you didn’t really need.
Cable Connection Issues
The first potential problem you should look for is an improper connection between your computer and your monitor.
Ensuring secure cable connections is a much more intuitive process compared to changing software settings. Check the three common issues below before approaching other potential flickering causes that may be more complex:
- Loose Connection
- Bad Cable
- Bad Port
Tackle these issues first. If you do, you may be able to get rid of your monitor flickering in a matter of minutes. Each is described below:
The first thing you need to check is the cable that connects your computer to your monitor. This cable is responsible for the visual display that appears on your monitor when in use. If this cable is loose, your display may begin to flicker.
Make sure all cables attached to your monitor are securely connected before proceeding through the list of other potential problems.
Sometimes, fixing technology problems is as simple as making sure everything is plugged in. But in reality, most problems won’t be cleared up this easily.
As with any piece of equipment, the cable connecting your computer to your monitor can become worn out. This is especially true if your cable has experienced any recent damage.
It is always best to keep your cables intact by storing them carefully. Likewise, you should refrain from stepping on, or vacuuming over them.
But even if you take good care of your cables, they may still degrade over time. When your cable no longer sends signals effectively, it can lead to problems with your display including flickering.
Before you buy a new cable, though, check the port on your monitor as well. After all, if the real cause of flickering is a bad port, a new cable won’t fix the problem.
The video connector port is where your cable enters your monitor. Chances are that your monitor will have more than one type of video port. If the port you are currently using has stopped working to the point where your display is flickering, you may want to try using a different port. Below are some descriptions of the most common port types.
- HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface
- Possibly the most popular port type today
- Transmits a digital signal
- Long cable length
- Great resolution and audio transmission
- DP – DisplayPort
- One of the newest types of ports
- Great resolution and audio transmission
- Competing as a replacement for HDMI
- DVI – Digital Visual Interface
- Came into use during the mid-2000s
- Transmits a digital signal
- Capable of full HD imagery
- VGA – Video Graphics Array
- One of the oldest forms of video connector ports
- Still common on many models
- Typically only used as a last resort when all other ports aren’t functioning
- USB-C – Univeral Serial Bus Type C
- Developed in 2014
- Know as the all-in-one-connector
- Ability to transmit power, audio, and video
- Available on most modern devices
Each port requires its own unique cable. For example, an HDMI cable won’t fit into a VGA port. In order to test your port for a bad connection, you need at least two different cable types.
If you are unfamiliar with the different types of video connectors, the age of your computer may help. Modern computers typically operate using HDMI or Display Port (DP) Connections.
On the other hand, only very old computers use VGA. Meanwhile, DVI ports appear on many different models.
If you have tested your external connection and found no problems, it is time to consider the potential for internal problems. There are two primary components to check first when your monitor is flickering.
- Refresh Rate
- Video Card
Your monitor’s refresh rate affects display performance. This rate refers to the number of times that your screen is updated per second.
The refresh rate is measured in Hertz. Hertz are usually represented with the abbreviation “Hz.” The lower your refresh rate is, the more likely it is that your monitor will flicker.
The standard refresh rate is 60Hz. At this rate, your computer screen is updated 60 times each second. Some expensive computers will offer higher refresh rates resulting in a much smoother visual experience.
You can check your monitor’s refresh rate at any time. The process is not difficult, but it will differ based on your operating system. Here is a simple guide to checking and changing your refresh rate.
If you find your computer allows you to change your refresh rate, choose a higher rate than the one you are currently using. If the flickering persists after this change, it is likely that the refresh rate is not the source of the problem.
Assessing your video card is a bit more challenging. To do this you will first need to access your video card. Before describing that process, let’s cover some video card basics.
Video cards are the part of your computer responsible for converting the data into the imagery you see on your screen. There are two overarching video card categories.
- Integrated Video Cards – These video cards are more common and are built into many of the most common laptops and desktop computers.
- Discrete Video Cards – This type of video card is one you purchase separately and can add onto your computer to enhance the quality of the graphics displayed on your screen.
In some cases, your video card can come loose and cause monitor flickering. If this is the case, you can try to reconnect your video card much like you did with your external cables.
To do so, turn off and unplug your computer first. This is an important safety measure that you should not overlook. Then, once your computer is off and unplugged, you can remove the side panel of your computer to access the motherboard.
You should research your specific computer model to get a good idea of where to locate your video card. Use your computer’s manual or online resources to determine where your video card is supposed to connect to your motherboard. Here’s great video showing how to install a discreet (dedicated) video card.
If you have an integrated video card, the odds that it came loose while you were using your computer are low. Loose integrated video cards are more likely to arise during the shipping process. This means that if your computer is a new purchase, your monitor flickering is more likely the result of a loose integrated video card.
In the case that you are using a discrete video card, flickering may stem from improper installation. Remember, discrete video cards are often add-ons to your computer. It is entirely possible that when your discrete video card was installed, it did not make a full connection with its port.
In either case, just reinsert loose video cards in their proper locations. However, you shouldn’t make adjustments to your computer’s hardware if you are not confident in your ability to do so.
If you don’t know what you are looking for, don’t risk causing more problems by experimenting with your motherboard. Instead, call a professional to assist you with your problem.
Believe it or not, the cause of your monitor flickering may not be related to your computer at all. In some rare cases, nearby appliances can affect the display on your screen.
Monitors can be sensitive to fluctuations in power. Because of this, you should try to minimize the number of electronic devices that share the same circuit as your computer.
Check to see if your monitor shares a power strip with other appliances. If this is the case, turning the other appliances on or off could affect your display.
This is not the most common cause of monitor flickering, but it is worth considering before you search for a replacement monitor.
When in doubt, try to minimize the number of appliances sharing a power source with your monitor.
True Monitor Damage
If you’ve worked your way through the potential problems above and your monitor still flickers, you may need a replacement.
There are a few other symptoms of a burned-out monitor that you should check before making the final decision to replace yours. If you have more than one of the problems listed below, you probably need a new monitor:
- Fuzzy Display – Words and images on your screen appear to be significantly less crisp than before without changing any display settings.
- Color Distortion – Your display includes random color blocks, patterns, or differing levels of color saturation.
- Dimming – Your monitor is not able to maintain a consistent brightness.
- Long Start-Up Time – Your display takes longer than 5-10 seconds to appear after you turn your monitor on.
Repairing a Burnt-Out Monitor
In general, you have two options for dealing with a burnt-out monitor. Either repair the monitor or replace the monitor.
If, for whatever reason, you have a strong desire to keep your monitor, you can attempt to repair it. I suggest taking one of two courses of action.
- DIY Repair
- Professional Support
You may be surprised to find many online resources waiting to help you with at-home computer repairs. Perhaps you are in a situation where you can’t afford to pay for repairs. Alternatively, you may just be a technologically minded person who enjoys fixing your electronics on your own time.
A broken computer monitor is far from a unique problem. As such, there are countless forums and how-to websites dedicated to solving monitor problems.
It is likely that someone else has already posted the exact same question you are currently faced with. Additionally, many step-by-step guides will walk you through the restoration of your monitor.
If you’re a techie and want to repair the monitor yourself, here’s our guide on the ins and outs of how a computer monitor works.
Similar to the abundance of online resources, there are a multitude of computer repair companies waiting for your call. There may be multiple qualified professionals in your hometown alone.
For those who are hesitant to make alterations to their computers, these professionals are ready to make a house call to give you the support you need.
Keep in mind that professional monitor repair can be very expensive. In most cases, it makes more financial sense to simply purchase a replacement monitor.
Replacing a Burnt-Out Monitor
So, you have exhausted all of your diagnostic capabilities. You can’t get rid of your monitor flickering and repair is too expensive. The only option left is to find a replacement. As you embark on this task, it’s prudent to follow three steps to help you replace your monitor efficiently and safely.
- Check your computer’s warranty.
- Find a replacement that is compatible with your computer.
- Dispose of your old monitor properly.
The details of your warranty will depend on the specific product you own. The most common warranty length for computers is one year.
Checking your warranty before you purchase a replacement monitor may save you a lot of money. In some cases, the terms of your computer purchase may entitle you to a new monitor free of charge.
Again, all of this depends on the specifics of your purchasing agreement. So, you will need to check the status of your warranty before making a decision.
To do this, you need to know the serial number for your computer. This should be included in the documents you received upon first purchasing your machine.
After you have retrieved this number, go to the website of the company that makes your computer. There you should find an online warranty look-up page. This page will tell you the status of your warranty and any replacements you can claim.
Finding a Compatible Replacement
If you can’t get a replacement through your warranty, you need to start shopping. The most important factor to consider is whether or not the monitors you are browsing will be compatible with the computer you already own. Additionally, you want to think about how you use your computer on a daily basis.
Below are a few broad categories of computer monitors.
- General Use – Great for basic functions such as web browsing and document editing.
- Professional Design/Editing – Designed to work well with editing software and display accurate colors.
- Gaming – Used for quick display changes, often featuring high refresh rates.
The monitor you choose should be based primarily on your intended use.
Don’t overpay for a fancy gaming monitor if you spend most of your time typing in Microsoft Word. Conversely, you don’t want to buy a general use monitor if you need to make accurate printed materials.
Lastly, I would check the monitor ports. There are many different port types which are listed earlier in this article. For example, a portable monitor would normally require a USB or USB-C port.
Make sure that at least one of the video connector ports corresponds to a port on your computer. Otherwise, you won’t be able to connect your monitor to your computer and you will need to start the buying process over.
We have several articles, which you can find here, where we discuss the best computer monitors in different sizes and display types.
Disposing of you Monitor
Many modern computer monitors contain mercury and other harmful substances. Because of this, you need to be very careful about how you get rid of your monitor. Although it seems convenient, you can’t just throw your monitor away.
Instead, you should find a proper method of recycling your monitor. There are a few easy ways of doing this.
- Donate your monitor
- Send your monitor back to the manufacturer
- Bring your monitor to an electronics store
Firstly, you can donate your monitor. Just because your monitor performance doesn’t meet your needs, it doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t happily use it. Salvation Army and other thrift stores usually accept computer parts. Remember that someone less fortunate than you may be perfectly willing to put up with mild monitor flickering.
Next, you may be able to send the monitor back to the manufacturer. Many of the most popular computer brands will accept your old monitor.
Again, check the website for your brand for details. You may be able to ship you monitor or drop it off at a designated location. The computer company will decide whether to refurbish the monitor or recycle it. Either outcome is far more environmentally friendly than your monitor ending up in a landfill.
Lastly, you can bring your monitor to an electronics store. A lot of these stores have recycling options for your old electronics. In the best-case scenario, you may even be able to get a store credit for doing so.
Technology can be extremely expensive. Computer monitors are no exception.
If you begin to experience flickering on your screen, remain calm, and work through the steps described in this article. With luck, you may be able to stop monitor flickering without spending a single dollar.
This article was last updated on August 17, 2020 .
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