How much trouble is my computer in?

I came downstairs this morning and switched on the monitor (the computer was already on) to find a completely garbled version of the windows login screen staring at me. The colors were wrong, the graphics were broken up and shuffled all over the place, the resolution had reverted to 640. My heart skipped a beat.

I reset the computer and…

Now everything appears to be okay.

Time for a new computer? New graphics card? Was this just a freak incident? Any ideas?


Sounds like the poor thing overheated, which is a common problem in PCs that get left on all the time - they just sit there and suck in all sorts of dust and pet fur.

Check all the fans (power suply, CPU and video card) to ensure they’re not caked up with gunk and are still spinning.

Could also be something stupid like a screensaver messing things up, or the GFX card not coming out of sleep mode properly.

Do what gotpasswords says, and don’t worry about it if it doesn’t happen again. If it does happen again, look for patterns (eg, always happens after a certain amount of time, when it hot outside, after playing a certain game…)

it’s a good idea to shut down home machines when not in use, if possible.

Of course, as always, make sure all important data is backed up anyway.

Good advice, sounds like the video card was overheating.
People should vacuum out their PC’s every now and then to make sure air flows through the unit properly and that there isn’t a dangerous buildup of dust and stuff on the components.
I open mine up (turned off and unplugged, make sure you discharge any static) about once every three months and clean it out.

How do I vacuum out the dust without damaging the computer?


Use your floor vac with a crevice attachment. Don’t use a high powered shop vac.

You don’t have to get too close to the guts of the machine, just make sure you suck off the power supply vents and the other air holes on the case. Make sure the various fans inside and on the MB are free spinning and clean.
I, personally, get up and close with the vacuum and suck debris from all cracks and crevices. Haven’t had any problems yet.
Use common sense and just make sure the air flow paths in the unit are unnobstructed.

Heh, you don’t know me very well…

But seriously, thanks, I’ll do it.


Have you ever tried de-gaussing the screen?

Shifts in resolution and color depth would not be consistent with screen degaussing needs. More like a twitchy or overheated video card. IF the pc in question has integrated video it could also be bad/overheated RAM.

Computers should be able to run trouble free for days or even weeks straight so if this is happening on a daily or every few days something is probably on the way out.

Look in Event Viewer and see if the machine reported any errors (hard drive issues, software glitches, etc).

Event Viewer should always be the first thing to look at after a crash.

I dunno. Everything he said except switching to 640 res would be consistent with an overworked screen. And, he did say that it had been on for a long time.

Anyone who has had a screen weird out due to electromagnetic overload knows what it looks like–kind of a wavy rainbow effect with the colors out of kilter, and maybe the display is sort of twisted.

I was just hoping for a cheap (free) fix. If, indeed, it does happen all the time, then I agree that it’s something internal.

Automatic deaussing on power up is standard on monitors. After power up the only time you’ld need to degauss is if you move or turn the monitor.

I’d place a bet on a corrupt video driver if after cleaning out the fans and such it does it again…