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.
This article discusses ways to fix your disabled graphics card from the BIOS and the Windows OS, depending on how you initially disabled it.
What is BIOS and CMOS?
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) will look like or similar to 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.
For further information on the two, check out the FAQ section.
Fixing a Graphics Card Disabled from BIOS
Option 1: Reset the BIOS using a Switch on Your Laptop or Desktop PC
Note: Resetting your computer’s BIOS only works if the GPU was disabled from BIOS. So, skip ahead if you disabled it from the Windows Device Manager, etc.
Most motherboards feature a CMOS reset switch, which disconnects the backup battery’s power to the BIOS—it is a pin-and-plug setup. However, it may use a button on some motherboards. If your board includes a reset switch, it is easier to reset your CMOS and BIOS configuration.
The switch generally includes two or three pins.
1. Remove the plug, then hold the power button for at least 20 seconds to drain residual energy. If your switch includes a third pin, remove it and place it on the opposite outer one like the image above. Again, press and hold the power button for at least 20 seconds.
2. Then, reinsert the plug back in place, or, in the case of a three-pin setup, place it back 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 data get modified or deleted since they get stored on the HDD or SSD. Instead, the computer goes back to its standard startup settings.
Option 2: Remove the CMOS Battery on Your Laptop or Desktop PC
Since this CMOS gets powered by a small battery (CR2032), 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.
2. Once the internal components are accessible, find and remove the CMOS battery, which essentially looks like a large watch battery—usually located in an exposed housing on the motherboard. Once found, pop the battery out, but you may need to disengage some form of clipping mechanism first.
3. With the CMOS battery removed, press and hold the power button for about 15 seconds to drain any residual power in the motherboard. This step should give the CMOS time to reset itself to its defaults.
4. Now, reinsert the CMOS battery, ensuring it gets inserted correctly.
5. Then, reseal your computer’s case and reboot your machine. Your BIOS should have already 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 have a small pop-out tray on the chassis to enable easy removal, similar to a DVD tray except much smaller in size—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 all 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 or video.
Once you have access to the battery, follow the steps above for desktop PCs: remove, drain power, replace, and restart.
After you’ve rebooted your machine, your BIOS should be back to normal with a functional screen.
If you still have issues after performing the steps above, try replacing the CMOS battery with a new one.
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.
Fixing a Graphics Card Disabled in Windows
As mentioned, if you disable your graphics card in Windows using the Device Manager or another app, you’ll need to re-enable it by booting into Safe Mode.
Booting into Safe Mode
First, boot your system in Safe Mode by holding the Shift + F8 key during startup. If the screen is working now, which it should unless your graphics card has failed or you have a faulty screen cable or screen, try re-enabling the graphics card. You should also update your system’s drivers. Furthermore, restoring the PC to the factory defaults may fix your problems if it’s software related.
Again, if you don’t see a display at all when first booting your PC (the BIOS splash screen), then you might have a more severe problem. The OS on your PC has no control over the boot screen, so if you’ve tried everything else and don’t see anything, you may have a faulty CPU or cable, or graphics card.
Re-enable the Graphics Card
- After Windows starts up, open up the Device Manager.
- Now, scroll down to Display adapters and click on it.
- Next, right-click on your graphics card and select Enable Device if it’s disabled.
- You can now try restarting the computer to see if it worked or attempt to update the drivers. It’s often best to try one thing at a time and see if that resolves the issue.
Many readers have expressed other black-screen issues on their PC or laptop, so there are a few tips here for those who tried the steps above and have yet to correct their black-screen problem.
Connect Your Video Cable to the Onboard Graphics Card
You can use the onboard graphics card to temporarily solve the black-screen boot issue if you have a desktop. Connect your HDMI/VGA cable into the “onboard” video out (on the back of the PC) rather than the output from the PCI or PCIe slot. Many laptops also feature an onboard GPU, but it is usually not suitable for gaming.
Clean Your Computer’s Internal Components and Connections
Next, open your PC’s case and check for dust or debris in your motherboard. It may be as simple as a thorough cleaning to get your computer working correctly again.
Built-up dirt, debris, and oils from your skin can interfere with electrical signals around connections between components, so it’s usually a good idea to regularly clean your computer and other devices.
Check with the Manufacturer
Lastly, check with the component’s manufacturer for any information that is specific to your device (including personalized tech support and warranty). Use a search engine to find this information and reach out for additional help.
Sometimes, a manufacturer doesn’t discover faulty designs for years, so be sure to investigate thoroughly.
In closing, there are many things you can try to resolve your disabled graphics card problem. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll have to re-enable it the same way you disabled it, for example, re-enable from BIOS if disabled in BIOS and re-enable from Windows if disabled in Windows.
Disabled/Black Screen GPU FAQs
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 they are 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) 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) got 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 GPU and reset it.
Third, you could have a power supply issue, so check that your computer pulls 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 need to shut down after experiencing a BSOD, but the display provides an error code first (usually words). 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.