This past week, my HTPC spontaneously started having a problem where, when booting, after the Windows logo was displayed, I would just get a blank (black) screen. Windows apparently loaded ok – I just couldn’t see anything the screen. One afternoon, things were working fine, but later that evening (not having manually made any changes to the PC), the problem started occurring.
In an attempt to keep this post brief, I’m going to omit the myriad of troubleshooting steps that I went through to try to correct this, and just provide the one that worked for me. If you’re having a similar issue, you can skip to the end of this post for my solution, although I’d suggest at least skimming the System Configuration and Symptoms to get a better idea of whether or not this solution might be applicable for your situation as well.
This problem occurred on a PC running Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, with an nVidia GeForce GT 430 video card, connected via HDMI cable to a TCL L40FHDF12TA LCD HDTV.
Prior to the problem occurring, the PC was successfully sending both video and sound to the HDTV via an HMDI cable, connected to the HDMI-out on the video card, and one of the HDMI-in ports on the TV, at the TV’s native resolution of 1920x1080 (1080p).
- Upon a reboot, the PC would correctly display the text-mode POST information, followed by the graphical Windows 7 logo; but after that, the TV would just display a blank (black) screen. The TV would report it was getting a 1280x720 signal from the PC. Also, the normal Windows boot sound did not play (even though I did have the volume up on the TV).
- The problem would persist even after turning the TV off and back on, or changing channels on the PC and then changing back to the “HDMI 1” input, or when disconnecting and reconnecting the HDMI cable (without rebooting).
- When booting into Safe Mode, the Windows desktop would display properly, and the system would be usable (albeit without sound, and at a reduced screen resolution).
- At one point midway though the troubleshooting process, I got things “partially fixed” such that the Windows desktop would come up when booting normally (not into Safe Mode). (Unfortunately, I don’t recall exactly which specific troubleshooting step I took over the course of the multi-hour troubleshooting process to make this happen.) When in the system was in this state, I observed multiple problems:
- In the Screen Resolution dialog, Windows would only let me let me set the monitor to a maximum resolution of 1280x720 – not the full resolution of 1920x1080 supported by the TV.
- Windows recognized the monitor as a “Generic non-PNP monitor”, not as the actual TCL TV model.
- No sounds would play. In the Sound dialog (accessed from the Control Panel), there was an nVidia HDMI sound output listed, but it had a listed status of “Not plugged in” (even though the HDMI cable actually was plugged in).
- The nVidia Control Panel software showed that the monitor was connected via DVI – not via HDMI as it actually was connected. The software didn’t display a dropdown that would allow the connection type to be changed.
- The same symptoms persisted when connecting the PC to the TV via the video card’s DVI-out port, the TV’s HDMI-in, and a DVI-HDMI adapter (and rebooting).
After trying many things to fix this, what eventually ended up working for me to fix the problem was to use Windows 7 System Restore to restore the system to a restore point a couple of weeks before the problem started happening. Once this was done, all symptoms immediately went away; the TV once again successfully sent video and sound to the TV, Windows recognized the monitor as a TCL TV (not as a “generic non-PNP monitor”), and Windows allowed me to change the screen resolution to the TV’s native resolution of 1920x1080.
I’m still somewhat mystified as to the initial root cause of the problem; my best guess is that some Windows system file related to display output was (somehow) damaged, and that this was corrected by the System Restore. The only thing listed on the System Restore dialog between the present time and the restore point that I selected (other than several manual video driver updates that I had applied during the troubleshooting process) was a series of automatically installed Windows Critical Updates.
(The problem apparently wasn’t with one of the nVidia video driver files, as I tried installing multiple different versions of the display driver software to correct the problem, without success. I even went so far as to use a “driver cleaner” utility to clean out all of the old nVidia files and registry entries before re-installing a new driver.)
If you’re having the same problem that I was, this solution may or may not work for you. Still, it may be worth trying a System Restore as part of your troubleshooting process if other more obvious solutions (checking cables, reinstalling the video driver, etc.) aren’t working for you. I hope this helps!