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Monitor going black while watching online video could indicate video drivers, overheating, or even screen saving settings.

My Windows 7 computer works great in every way except within the last week, whenever I play a YouTube video, half to three quarters of the way through the video, my monitor goes black. No video and no monitor. I have to restart my computer, it opens again normally. This does not occur when I play videos, which are archived, on my hard drive. Thanks for your assistance.

In this excerpt from Answercast #70, I look at a case where a computer suddenly shuts down while watching online video.

Monitor goes black

So, by your "monitor going black," I have to assume that, since you have to restart your computer, that it's not just your monitor going black. It's your computer actually crashing.

In other words, your computer's no longer operating.

Is it just the monitor?

If you could, while the monitor was black, actually be able to do things like type the keyboard sequence to shut down your computer (Ctrl, Escape, U, and then Enter, I think would be the appropriate thing.)

Give that a look the next time you're looking with the screen up. If you can use the keyboard sequence to shut down your computer, then the computer is still running. It's not just the monitor.

Check video driver

So, in a case like this, a couple of different things come to mind.

Since you're streaming YouTube videos, the very first thing that I think of are video drivers.

When you've got video on your hard drive versus video that you're streaming over the internet, it's not just where it's coming from that's different. It's very possible that the video format that's being used in those two different instances is in fact different. The reason that's important is that it is possible that a video driver can have problems or can be susceptible to issues with one format that it's not susceptible to the others.

So for example, it's possible that the video driver could randomly crash when playing YouTube videos regardless of where they're coming from versus playing some other video that happens to be stored on your hard drive.

So the very first thing I would do is check for updated video drivers for your video card to make sure that isn't a problem.

Check for heat

The other thing that comes to mind right away is overheating.

Normally, you would assume that playing a video from your local hard drive might not be as process intensive or as heat generating. I actually would assume that as well.

However, like I said, these are different video formats that are typically involved between the two. It is possible that the video driver (or whatever software is actually involved in displaying the video) requires more CPU horsepower - therefore, the CPU itself is heating up more.

It is possible that your computer is very simply overheating.

So, in a case like that, make sure:

  • That all of the ventilation is good;

  • That you've cleared out all of the dust from inside the machine;

  • Keep an eye on the fact that your machine may simply be sensitive to heat and take the appropriate steps to make sure that it has the opportunity to get cool air and to run with air flowing through it unobstructed.


And finally, this one seems really odd. It's really off the wall but I have to include it for completeness... and that is: I'm going to assume you have already determined that this is not just your screensaver kicking in!

Many screen savers, or many monitors, will turn themselves off into a power saving mode after certain amount time of inactivity.

Depending on what "inactivity" looks like to the monitor, it could be that since you haven't touched the keyboard for awhile or you haven't wiggled the mouse for awhile, gosh... "Maybe I should turn off the monitor because he's not actually here."

That's unlikely, but it's such an easy one to test. The next time it happens, wiggle the mouse, type the Shift key on your keyboard, do something to prove to the computer that you're still in front of it.

If that suddenly makes they screen come back without having to reboot your computer, then you know that you need to look into things like the screen saver settings in your computer and potentially the power management settings for your display device.

So those are three things that come to mind: video drivers, overheating, and power saving or screen saving type settings.

Article C6031 - November 15, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

david b
November 15, 2012 9:42 AM

Or perhaps going to sleep?

Ronald Chua
November 15, 2012 10:19 AM

to shut down your computer (Ctrl, Escape, U and then Enter)

Take note that this key sequence is for Windows XP and other similar OS (98, CE, et cetera). Windows Vista until Windows 8 have the sequence: Ctrl + Esc, Left Arrow Key, then Enter; in order to shut the system down. Just noticed that the user is using Windows 7.

November 16, 2012 8:05 AM

I have experienced some cases of 'code' embedded in video files. Most of these attempts are malicious - attempts to open compromised web pages or download other code while the user is 'busy' watching the video. I don't know if all of these vunerabilities have been plugged yet.
That said, the screen saver could well be what is crashing, as I have seen some of the more complicated (or interactive) screensavers crash if another graphics-intensive process is running when they start up.

November 16, 2012 1:34 PM

(1) Try another browser eg. Chrome, Opera or Firefox
(2) Download the latest Adobe Flash player {free}
(3) Any Heat issues can be monitored with FanSpeed program {free}


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