Here’s how to fix when your graphics card fan is spinning, but there is no display:
If your graphics card fan is spinning, but you aren’t getting a display, then you know that the computer is, in fact, getting power.
That rules out one potential problem, but any number of physical or software components could be the root of your problem.
To fix it, you have to address the specific problem directly.
So if you want to learn all about how to fix your spinning graphics card fan without a display, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right in!
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What Could Be Wrong if Your Graphics Card Is Spinning, but There Is No Display? (8 Causes)
In reality, there are a number of potential problems here. It could be tied to connectors between the computer and the display.
Any of the major hardware components of the computer could be failing. This includes the graphics card, but it’s possible your graphics card is actually just fine.
There are also tons of potential software issues that might be the source of the problem.
Let’s go over the most common scenarios together, and you’ll get a better sense of what might be wrong, how you can identify the issue, and what you can do about it.
#1 The Connection to the Display
The first and easiest thing to check is the connection from the computer to the display (assuming it’s not a built-in laptop display).
If a plug is damaged, or if the connection is loose, then that’s all it takes to keep your screen dark, even though everything else is working just fine.
This is an easy test. Reseat every cable that you can.
If that doesn’t resolve the problem, try testing the setup with a different cable and/or a different display if you can.
If switching cables solves the problem, then you know what it was.
If switching displays fixes the problem, then that rules out the connection, and you can move on to the next selection.
There’s one other thing to understand about display connectors.
It’s pretty common to use adapters to make different displays and computers work together, but adapters don’t always work the way you might intend them to.
If you’re going from a digital output to an analog display, you need a converter and not an adapter.
What does that mean?
If your plug on the computer is HDMI or DisplayPort, you can’t just use a simple adapter to make that work with a VGA or DVI.
A converter is more than just the plug adapter. It actually changes the signal, which means your converter usually comes with a boxy component.
#2 The Display Itself
It’s entirely possible that the display itself is the issue.
As you read above, the easiest way to test this is to use a different display. This is even a good test if you’re using a laptop.
Most laptops are capable of outputting video information.
Plug in an external display (can be a computer monitor or a TV) and see if you get anything. If you do, then you understand the issue.
The solution is simple in concept.
You need to replace the bad display.
If it’s an external display, then you just need a new monitor, and you’re good to go.
If it’s a laptop display, then replacement is more involved.
Laptop displays can be replaced, but it’s usually best to let an IT expert handle the process.
#3 The GPU
The GPU is the graphics processing unit. This is the core device in the graphics card that actually carries out the computational tasks necessary to produce the video you see on your screen.
It’s the key piece, and it’s capable of failing.
If the GPU goes out, the rest of the card can be just fine, and your fans will spin quite normally.
But, a blank screen isn’t enough to know that the GPU is, in fact, the problem.
In order to be certain, you need to perform a test, and the most reliable test isn’t always accessible or easy to conduct.
The gist is that you want to plug the graphics card into a known-good setup.
If you do this and still don’t get any video, you can assume that you have a bad GPU.
If you don’t have the means to run this test, repair shops do it all the time and can test your graphics card (or run diagnostics in general) for a fee.
If your GPU is bad, it has to be replaced. Typically, this means replacing the entire graphics card.
If you have more than one GPU in the computer, then you can switch and just use the good one.
It’s a matter of preference, but repairing a bad GPU is not practical.
#4 The Motherboard
If your graphics card works just fine in a different setup, then your issue might be with the motherboard.
Before going down that road, let’s distinguish between two different issues.
If you’ve been using the computer fine and the display suddenly stops working, then you’ll want to test your motherboard.
If this is a new build, it makes more sense to double-check compatibility and go back through all of the internal connections first (covered in a later section).
Let’s assume the graphics card was previously working. The issue might be tied to the motherboard.
The best way to find out is to use a known-good graphics card with your motherboard.
That will give you more information, but if the known-good graphics card still doesn’t work, there are still a few possibilities, so you should go through the rest of these tests before asserting that the problem is definitely with the motherboard (or have an IT pro do it).
Once you are convinced that the motherboard is the clear issue, then your best bet is to replace it.
Motherboards can be repaired, but it is often more expensive than replacing the part.
If you do replace your motherboard, you most likely need to reinstall your operating system when the installation is complete. This resets a lot of critical software that might otherwise give you trouble.
#5 The CPU
Even though the graphics card does the calculations for your display, it has to work in tandem with the CPU in order to function.
If the CPU is not working, the computer won’t run properly.
In this case, here’s what you’ll normally see. The computer will seem to power up just fine, but you’ll get no display.
Then after a little bit of time (could be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes), the computer will shut itself off. This means that every fan will stop spinning, including those on the graphics card.
If this happens, it means that the computer is failing the POST (power on self-test). This is a test that computers run to make sure critical components, like the CPU, are working correctly.
If POST fails, the computer will never try to load an operating system.
If this describes your experience, it’s more likely that you have a CPU problem than a motherboard problem.
The way to be completely certain is to test with a known-good CPU. Once again, this kind of test isn’t always accessible, so you might enlist a repair expert to handle the diagnostics.
If you have a bad CPU, then you need to replace it. If you want to upgrade it while you’re at it, you need to double-check motherboard compatibility.
Also, you should count on reinstalling the operating system when the new hardware is in place.
#6 Hardware Controllers
Here’s where everything gets more challenging. It’s possible that all of your hardware is perfectly fine.
Instead, the problem is with core software that is used to control the hardware.
Often called hardware controllers, these types of software load before your operating system and are necessary in order for the computer’s various components to work together.
The important thing to understand about hardware controllers is that they are often bundled with BIOS (basic input-output system) software. So, these things load before you see anything at all on your screen.
How do you know you have a hardware controller problem? There are two keys.
First, all of your hardware passed diagnostic tests.
Second, you never see any display on your screen at all.
If you see a display and then it goes away after some time, that’s a different issue (and covered in the next section).
If you can isolate the issue to hardware controllers, then there is a way to fix them.
You want to install the most up-to-date versions that you can. If the problem came when you ran an update, then install the second-most up-to-date version that you can.
To do this, you’ll need another computer and a flash drive (or other external storage).
You can get the software controllers (and likely a BIOS update) from the manufacturers who made your computer or its components.
The updates are loaded onto the flash drive, and you can use it to fix the hardware controllers.
Since you aren’t getting any display, you’ll need to make sure that this process is automated.
You can work with the support resources provided by the manufacturer to make this happen.
Hardware controllers can be thought of as software, but in a technical sense, they are typically distinguished from software.
Instead, the software problem being discussed here is referencing software that loads with your operating system.
In particular, there is software that is known as drivers. These drivers help your hardware work efficiently with the operating system, and that includes the graphics card and the display.
Here’s the trick with software.
If your display loads clear images when you first turn on the computer and then goes black, it’s more likely that software is the problem.
The first images you see are likely tied to the BIOS. If it can load and you can see it, then your hardware is working correctly.
In this case, the problem happens when the operating system tries to load. There are a number of things that can cause this issue.
Drivers are the most common, but malicious software and random errors can also make your display go blank.
Fixing this can be pretty involved.
To skip a long-winded explanation, you are likely going to have to reset your operating system, or you can just let an IT pro fix the problem for you.
There are more software issues that can go wrong than hardware issues, so detailed troubleshooting will take you down a much deeper rabbit hole than the one you’re already in.
Suffice it to say that a software problem will require you to delete bad software and likely install good software.
#8 Internal Connections
The final common problem that arises with graphics cards in this situation is that of internal connections. This is especially likely if you are assembling a new build.
Many graphics cards use multiple power plugs and connect to the motherboard in more than one place.
You want to double-check every connection to ensure that it’s all set up as intended.
Similar to when you check external connectors, go ahead and fully reseat each plug.
A loose plug can prevent any display from coming up, even though the fans are getting power.
You can go through your motherboard literature to get a guide for plugging in graphics cards.
You can also look up video tutorials to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Suppose the problem happens with a previously working build, and you haven’t been tinkering with the computer’s internal components.
In that case, it’s very unlikely that a loose internal connection is the source of your problem.
Laptop Fan Loud All of a Sudden?
Is your laptop fan suddenly making loud fan noises?
If it’s sporadic, the reason is that the more load your laptop is under, the more calculations it needs to do, and the hotter its components get.
If it’s persistent:
- Software issues
- Blocked vents and dirty fan
- Hard disk failure
- Outdated drivers
You can fix it by:
- Kill background processes
- Clean your fan
- Cool your laptop
Learn all about suddenly loud laptop fans here.