Screen randomly goes black

The screen on my netbook (http://www.experts-exchange.com/M_5233204.html) goes blank randomly.

- The computer will not be idle, I was actively working on something.
- The power light is on (the only LED on my unit) and I can hear the HD
- The screen is ON but black.  Using the laptop function key to switch display (to external monitor like for a projector presentation) will cause the screen to flicker for a brief flash - I can make out faint gray horizontal lines - and then return to same black screen with the monitor on.
- The computer is unresponsive to the graphic card's hot keys (Ctrl + Alt + F1/F3 would toggle between Monitor and Notebook screens) - I've tried this both when it was and wasn't attached to an external monitor.
(Previous question: http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_25498418.html)

This happened again this morning.  

Iwas plugged into my external monitor.  I switched (Ctrl+Alt+F3) to the netbook display only and unplugged the monitor cable to continue my work elsewhere.  After a few minutes the screen went black.  Outlook was running.  Firefox was running with a youtube video playing.  The screen when black but the video was still playing!  The keyboard hotkey mentioned above for the video card did not work.  Since I knew the computer was still running, Alt+F4;Enter closed firefox and stopped the music.  Win Key+D; Win Key; Alt+F4; U shut down the computer.  This is great because in the past I didn't know windows was working fine when the screen when black.

There's just no video being sent to the netbook's display.  Plugging the external monitor cable does help.  The netbook screen remains on but black, while the external monitor's light remains orange not green (no video input).

Any ideas on how to prevent this from happening again?  Any ideas how I can my computer (in the dark) how to switch to netbook display ONLY?  Any ideas?
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mrtuxAsked:
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mrtuxConnect With a Mentor Author Commented:
This may be random but the problem has yet to surface while both screens are set to a low resolution.  I don't think this makes any sense in my opinion because back tracking to how things were before the black screen (i.e. plugging the cable back in) should solve this but it doesn't.

It's not a great solution but that's all I got.  Thanks again for your help bryon!

If anyone comes across this with another suggestion, please comment!
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
There is one application error at that time because windows shut down (nothing before that for 12 hours).  All the alerts after that are related to windows booting up.

Event Type:      Warning
Event Source:      Userenv
Event Category:      None
Event ID:      1517
Date:            27/03/2010
Time:            11:45:51 AM
User:            NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM
Computer:      6CEAA12DBB7D4B8
Description:
Windows saved user 6CEAA12DBB7D4B8\Frank registry while an application or service was still using the registry during log off. The memory used by the user's registry has not been freed. The registry will be unloaded when it is no longer in use.

 This is often caused by services running as a user account, try configuring the services to run in either the LocalService or NetworkService account.

For more information, see Help and Support Center at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/events.asp.
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B HCommented:
are you sure your external monitor supports the video resolution that your netbook is set for?   if it doesn't, the external monitor LED will turn green for a few seconds, then go back to orange and start turning itself off.

what if you "extend" your desktop onto the additional monitor - do they both go black at the same time?

for troubleshooting, reboot into your bios menu (f2, del, f1, etc at startup) and let it sit there for awhile, see if it goes black.  this will tell us for sure if it's a hardware or software problem

you may have an inverter or backlight going bad - any chance this is under warranty?

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B HCommented:
your event viewer entry above is normal if you force your machine to turn off (because you cant see the screen, you probably held the power button in for 10 seconds)
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
Thanks for kindly reviewing this problem bryon.

are you sure your external monitor supports the video resolution that your netbook is set for?   if it doesn't, the external monitor LED will turn green for a few seconds, then go back to orange and start turning itself off.
The external monitor does support the video resolution that the netbook is set for.  I regular work with the external monitor and it works.  It is only after the screen goes black that if I try to send video to the external monitor no video is sent (as evidenced by the orange light = no video feed received).  It seems that windows works fine but I can no longer control my video card.
what if you "extend" your desktop onto the additional monitor - do they both go black at the same time?

I occasionally work with an extended desktop but I don't recall the problem ever happening when the desktop was extended.  I think it mostly happens when the computer is switched from Monitor display to Netbook display, then the video cable is disconnected and I will be working on the stand alone netbook elsewhere when the screen will go black (not immediately but after a while).for troubleshooting, reboot into your bios menu (f2, del, f1, etc at startup) and let it sit there for awhile, see if it goes black.  this will tell us for sure if it's a hardware or software problem
I will try this tonight when I can leave the netbook in the BIOS overnight.  (The problem tends to happen when I running on batteries, not AC but I suppose you can't isolate all the variables)
you may have an inverter or backlight going bad - any chance this is under warranty?

It's under warranty, but the screen is ON - it just display's black.  Is there any chance that the hardware monitor is fine but that it's just the video card that's not sending it video for whatever reason?

your event viewer entry above is normal if you force your machine to turn off (because you cant see the screen, you probably held the power button in for 10 seconds)

I shut down windows with Win Key followed by Alt + F4 followed by U for "Shut Down"
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B HCommented:
hmm.  there are settings that say to turn off the screen after X minutes while plugged in, or X minutes while on battery - but this is all for inactivity (no key presses or mouse movement).  you said this happens while you're moving the mouse though, right?  watching a video but not moving the mouse or pressing any keys would still turn the screen off after X minutes (whatever it's set for)

it is possible that the video card is going bad, but more likely than not it's going to be a part inside the display panel.  you can check this out:  next time it goes black... grab a flashlight and shine it real close at the screen and see if you can make out the things that would have been on there.  for example, leave a window open or leave the start menu up, so when it goes black, you have a reference on what to look for.  if it's a bad backlight, you'll still see the start menu (or window) exactly in place, just very faintly

if that's the case, your video card is fine, but you have a bad backlight or inverter (each are about $15, but under warranty you should get this fixed free
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
Thanks Bryon.  After the BIOS test tonight, I will try the flashlight the next time this happens.
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
next time it goes black... grab a flashlight and shine it real close at the screen and see if you can make out the things that would have been on there.

Tried this with a bright flashlight and saw nothing, just black.
for troubleshooting, reboot into your bios menu (f2, del, f1, etc at startup) and let it sit there for awhile, see if it goes black.  this will tell us for sure if it's a hardware or software problem.

(Nice suggestion by the way).  Left it on the BIOS screen overnight.  Screen did not go black.

there are settings that say to turn off the screen after X minutes while plugged in, or X minutes while on battery - but this is all for inactivity (no key presses or mouse movement).

I agree with you.  My settings are attached as an image.  Also, when it turned off yesterday morning, it was during a youtube video that was just under 2 minutes.  Since I had to click play, the screen went black within 2 minutes of inactivity.

***

I've made another observation.  I use the video setting software provided by Intel.  When I use hotkeys like Ctrl+Alt+F1/F3, this software toggles between monitor only and netbook only.  This is what I use to switch between settings.

As I test, I extended the desktop (I don't usually do this) across the two displays using the Intel software - and of course the display was in fact extended across the two.  In Windows display properties, the "extend desktop" check box remained unchecked.  I had to check it again in this screen.  The desktop remained extended but now I could select previously grayed out monitor in the Windows Display settings screen.  Perhaps there is a conflict between the windows screen settings and the Intel screen settings.

As a test, I will stop using the Intel software hotkey (Ctrl+Alt+F1/F3) and will only use the standard laptop hotkey (Fn+F2) to switch.  I'll see if the problem continues.

Thanks again for your input.  Any ideas in the mean time would be much appreciated.

power.JPG
video.JPG
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B HCommented:
ok i see you like to use the driver/software instead of the windows functions... i get that...

does the intel software have its own setting, that turns off the monitor after ONE minute, beating the windows setting of 5 minutes?

for the windows setting, being on AC power, maybe consider upping the screen-blank from 5 minutes to something like 30 minutes... it's AC power so, the battery won't suffer.  might up the battery screen blank from 5 mins to 15 mins too

if you use the intel software to set the display, without windows' knowledge... and windows goes to check later on, it might freak out and try to do something about it, like turn off a monitor to match the windows settings
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
does the intel software have its own setting, that turns off the monitor after ONE minute, beating the windows setting of 5 minutes?

No

for the windows setting, being on AC power, maybe consider upping the screen-blank from 5 minutes to something like 30 minutes... it's AC power so, the battery won't suffer.  might up the battery screen blank from 5 mins to 15 mins too

Will do.
if you use the intel software to set the display, without windows' knowledge... and windows goes to check later on, it might freak out and try to do something about it, like turn off a monitor to match the windows settings

I wouldn't mind uninstalling the Intel utility but there's no easy option to do so (Add/Remove Programs or Start Menu) so I suspect a forced install while only invite more problems.

This utility does the same video settings as windows however it doesn't do any of the power management settings as windows.

Thanks!
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B HCommented:
i'm interested to see what happens after you adjust those 5 minutes to say, 30 minutes...

the intel vs windows, i mean that when you select to do something with your second monitor, via the intel utility, you said it does not put the appropriate checkmarks in the correct places in the windows display settings right?

no need to uninstall the intel utility, but what if you make the desired changes just by using the windows display settings?
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your help on this Bryon.  I have followed power management suggestions we discussed above and I am only using windows to control the display.  I am noticing strange behviour.  Fn+F1 will switch to monitor only but later it will extend the desktop to the netbook too.  I didn't ask it to.  I just want the monitor.  That's not an issue as long as it works :-)

I have been on AC power (working on a deadline) and have not noticed the problem since.  I will test on battery power through out the day and see if the revised configurations did the trick.

Thanks again for your help.
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
Thanks again for  your help! I have an interesting update!

Recap: Windows Power Management settings are set to turn off the screen after 30 mins for both AC and battery power.  All other settings are set to "Never".  I am only using the classic FN+F1 to toggle between displays.

So when I disconnected from my workstation (toggled to laptop display only, unplugged the monitor cable and unplugged the power cable) the screen went black again after a while.  The problem isn't solved but this is interesting:

FN+F1 toggles between (1) Monitor + Laptop; (2) Monitor only; and (3) Laptop only.

After the screen went black, I plugged the external monitor cable back into the laptop and toggled the display with FN+F1 and I could see the extended desktop on my laptop screen.  In other words the external monitor was on (green light, not orange light) but displaying black and the laptop screen next to it showed the windows desktop.  I could move the move over to this screen on the right and right click for a pop up menu but the "blacked out" monitor remained the main display where the actioned happened despite me not being able to see it.  Toggling with FN+F1 would just move this black screen from my monitor to my laptop and then back to "extended" across the two.

I'm having a hard time brainstorming on this one.  I have no idea what I should try next to troubleshoot.
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
I don't think my update was very clear:

After the screen went black, I plugged the monitor cable back in. FN+F1 "extended" the desktop across the monitor (primary) on the left and the laptop (secondary) on the right.  The primary display is ON but black, the secondary display showed the extended portion of the desktop (i.e. the wallpaper with no taskbar)!

FN+F1 would just move this black primary display between monitor, the laptop, and the extended configuration.

The black out on happened when I'm on battery power.  It seems to always happen a little while after I've toggled FN+F1 to move the primary display to the laptop only and disconnected all the cords.  I am always actively working on the laptop when it happens.

What a puzzle...
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B HConnect With a Mentor Commented:
unfortunately i'm out of ideas on this...  i assume that one of the first things you did was update your video driver right?
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mrtuxAuthor Commented:
Thank you for all your great help bryon!  I'm going to have to sleep on this one.  I did update the video driver from Intel.

I think I'm going to:
1. Scale both displays down to 800 x 600 and see what happens.
2. Else, revert to an old image of the drive
3. Else, resort to violence and post a new question on whether anyone knows how to fixed smashed monitors.

I will let you know of any progress and close the question thereafter.
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TCBanksITCommented:
I have the exact same issue. However mine even blacks out during boot up if I don't let it sit powered off for about 30 minutes after it goes black. I have power settings set to always on for testing the issue. After about 3 hours is when it blacks out. I had sent he video card in for repair and got it back same problem. Not a backlight issue either. So motherboard?
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