How to Fix a Disabled Graphics Card on a Laptop or PC: Reset Your Graphics Card from a Black Screen
If you’ve disabled your machine’s main graphics chip, your screen will instantly go black. This situation occurs because the hardware sending visual data to your screen is inactive. Regardless, the problem is purely a software issue and is entirely reversible by merely resetting the CMOS that controls the BIOS.
Depending on how comfortable you are with computers and how many peripherals are in the way, the method for restoring your graphics card is going to seem either surprisingly simple or terrifyingly complex.
BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System, and it is the firmware on a chip that gets read first during boot, plus it tells your computer what to do with each piece of hardware. The graphical user interface (GUI) looks like the following image:
The Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) acts as short-term memory, which tells the BIOS what to do every time you start your computer. The CMOS generally appears in the RTC clock semiconductor, but some motherboards have a separate chip.
Here are two ways to reset the BIOS in your machine to fix having no screen on boot.
Option 1: Reset the BIOS using a Switch on Your Laptop or Desktop PC
Most motherboards feature a CMOS reset switch, which disconnects the backup battery’s power to the BIOS. The switch is actually a pin-and-plug setup. If your board includes a reset switch, it is the easiest method to reset your CMOS and BIOS configuration.
The switch generally includes two or three pins.
Remove the plug and reinsert it after at least 20 seconds. If your switch includes a third pin, like the image above, remove it and place it on the opposite outer pin. Wait for at least 20 seconds, and then reinsert it on the original outer pin.
By removing the plug from the pins, the BIOS basically ‘forgets’ what settings to use at startup and reverts to its defaults. Don’t worry; none of your files or OS data will be modified or deleted. Instead, the computer goes back to its standard start-up settings.
Option 2: Remove the CMOS Battery on Your Laptop or Desktop PC
Since this CMOS gets powered by a small battery (about the size of a nickel), the second BIOS reset option is to remove it.
Desktop CMOS Battery Removal
For desktop PCs, CMOS battery removal is relatively straightforward: ensure your machine is powered down and remove all external cables, then open up the case to reveal the hardware inside. If you’re unsure how to do this, refer to the manufacturer’s information, but be warned that doing so may void your warranty.
Once the internal components are accessible, find and remove the CMOS battery, which essentially looks like a large watch battery. It is usually located in an exposed housing on the motherboard.
Once found, you should be able to pop the battery out, but you may need to disengage some form of clipping mechanism first.
With the CMOS battery removed, wait for about 20 seconds, at the least, before reinserting it. This step should give the CMOS time to reset itself to its defaults. Then, reseal your computer’s case and reboot your machine. Your BIOS should have reset itself, re-enabling your internal graphics in the process.
Laptop CMOS Battery Removal
For laptop users, accessing the CMOS battery could prove more challenging. Some models will have a small pop-out tray on the chassis to enable easy removal, similar to a DVD tray except much smaller—approximately one inch wide. If your laptop does not possess the tray feature (most do not), you will need to disassemble your “portable PC” to reach the battery housing.
Due to the wide variety of laptop makes and models in existence, it’s impossible to provide a comprehensive guide to taking them apart. The best way to find out how to disassemble your particular machine is to ascertain your laptop’s model number and then use a web search to locate a good tutorial.
Alternatively, another option would be to take it to your local PC repair shop. Tell the staff that you need to reset the BIOS by removing the CMOS battery, and often they will be happy to do it for you while you wait.
Once you have access to the battery, follow the steps above for desktop PCs: remove, wait, replace, and restart.
After you’ve rebooted your machine, your BIOS should be back to normal with a functional screen.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions to help you fix your graphics card woes.
What is the difference between CMOS and BIOS?
You may hear both CMOS and BIOS used interchangeably in certain circumstances, such as resetting the BIOS and clearing the CMOS. The two are related but are actually separate items.
The Basic Input Output System (BIOS) is firmware stored in a chip on the motherboard, and it runs first during the boot process. The firmware tests the PC’s hardware and then launches the bootloader if more than one operating system exists, or it opens the operating system installed, whichever applies. The BIOS includes a graphical user interface (GUI) that is accessible by pressing a hotkey during bootup, typically set as “F2,” “F12,” or “delete.” Inside the GUI, you find all hardware information and configuration options.
Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS) is named after the manufacturing process for making electronic boards, PC RAM, and other peripheral boards. The CMOS in a PC is similar to RAM, except it retains data when the PC is off, plus it has a minimal capacity (usually 256 bytes). CMOS stores the data and time, the boot sequence, and disk drive information. The rest is stored and managed by the BIOS. Therefore, the two items 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 that your PC isn’t detecting your graphics card, and therefore, the screen does not work.
First, if you’re using a desktop computer, open the case and ensure that all connections are correctly fitted. A loose contact point can cause hardware failure.
Second, ensure that you have the proper graphics settings. You may need to disable the onboard graphics and reset it.
Third, you could have a power supply issue, so check that your computer is pulling enough power to run the graphics card. If you’ve recently installed or upgraded your graphics card, you’ll need to install drivers for it.
Aside from these options, you could have another connection issue, maybe Windows needs a software update, or you have a faulty graphics card or motherboard.
What is the Blue Screen of Death? Is it because of my Graphics Card?
The BSOD occurs based on a malfunction on Windows PCs where either the software or the hardware prevents your system from booting or running correctly. This situation can undoubtedly arise due to the graphics card, drivers, software, or another piece of hardware within your machine. You will need to research your problem to narrow down the cause.
Windows operating systems usually shut down after experiencing a BSOD, but the display usually provides an error code on the screen first. You’ll need to cross-reference that error code to find out where the problem is so that you can fix it. If you have a warranty on your computer, call the manufacturer.