Solving the Mystery of a Laptop Screen That Goes Black Intermittently After a Coffee Spill


How to diagnose and fix a laptop screen that goes black intermittently after a coffee spill?

I have an HP ZBook G5 Studio with Windows 10 Pro. A few days ago, I spilled some coffee on the keyboard and turned it off and removed the battery. I let it dry for over 48 hours and then turned it on again. Everything seemed to work fine except for the right shift key, which is sticky and sometimes gets stuck.

However, today my laptop screen went black twice without warning. The first time, it happened when I left it idle for a while and the second time, it happened when I launched Paraview. Both times, the backlight was still on and the keyboard LEDs were responsive. I tried to connect it to a TV via HDMI but nothing showed up. I had to force shut down and restart the laptop to get the screen back.

I don’t know if the coffee spill is related to the screen problem or not. I couldn’t see any coffee residue inside the laptop when I opened the backside. I also noticed that my screen has some flickering and uneven brightness issues on low settings. I want to clean the keyboard but I don’t know how to remove it safely. I have cleaning alcohol and lint-free pads.

Is there a way to check if the screen problem is caused by hardware or software? How can I make sure that the coffee spill did not damage anything else? What could be the possible causes and solutions for the screen problem?

Thank you for any advice and guidance.


A laptop screen that goes black randomly can be very frustrating and alarming, especially if it happens after a liquid spill. There are many possible reasons for this problem, such as a faulty display cable, a damaged LCD panel, a corrupted graphics driver, or a malware infection. In this article, we will guide you through some steps to diagnose and fix your laptop screen issue.

Step 1: Check the display settings and external monitors

The first thing you should do is to check if your laptop screen is actually turned off or just dimmed. Sometimes, the display settings may change due to a software update, a power saving mode, or a keyboard shortcut. To adjust the brightness, you can use the function keys on your keyboard (usually F1 to F12) or go to the Windows settings and look for the display options.

Another possibility is that your laptop screen is working fine, but the output is being redirected to an external monitor. This can happen if you have connected your laptop to a TV, a projector, or another device via HDMI, VGA, or other ports. To switch back to your laptop screen, you can press the Windows key + P and select the PC screen only option. Alternatively, you can go to the display settings and choose the multiple displays option.

If none of these methods work, you can try to connect your laptop to a different external monitor and see if anything shows up. This can help you determine if the problem is with your laptop screen or the graphics card. If the external monitor works fine, then your laptop screen may be damaged or disconnected. If the external monitor also shows nothing, then your graphics card may be faulty or need a driver update.

Step 2: Restart your laptop in safe mode and scan for malware

Sometimes, a laptop screen may go black due to a software issue, such as a virus, a malware, or a corrupted driver. To rule out this possibility, you can restart your laptop in safe mode and scan for any malicious programs. Safe mode is a diagnostic mode that allows you to run Windows with only the essential drivers and services. To enter safe mode, you can follow these steps:

  • Press and hold the power button until your laptop shuts down completely.
  • Turn on your laptop and press the F8 key repeatedly before the Windows logo appears.
  • Select the safe mode option from the advanced boot options menu and press Enter.
  • Log in to your Windows account and run a full scan with your antivirus software. You can also use a malware removal tool, such as Malwarebytes, to detect and remove any threats.
  • If the scan finds any malware, follow the instructions to quarantine or delete them.
  • Restart your laptop normally and see if the screen problem is resolved.
  • Step 3: Update or reinstall your graphics driver

    Another common cause of a laptop screen going black is a faulty or outdated graphics driver. A graphics driver is a software that allows your laptop to communicate with the graphics card and display the images on the screen. If the driver is corrupted, missing, or incompatible, it may cause the screen to malfunction. To fix this, you can update or reinstall your graphics driver by following these steps:

  • Go to the device manager and look for the display adapters category.
  • Right-click on your graphics card and select the update driver option.
  • Choose the search automatically for updated driver software option and wait for Windows to find and install the latest driver for your graphics card.
  • If Windows cannot find a new driver, you can go to the manufacturer’s website and download the driver manually. Make sure you choose the correct model and version of your graphics card and your Windows operating system.
  • Alternatively, you can uninstall your graphics driver and reinstall it from scratch. To do this, right-click on your graphics card and select the uninstall device option. Then, restart your laptop and Windows will automatically reinstall the driver.
  • After updating or reinstalling your graphics driver, check if your laptop screen works properly.
  • Step 4: Clean the keyboard and check the display cable

    If none of the above steps solve your laptop screen problem, it may be related to the coffee spill that you mentioned. Even if you did not see any coffee residue inside the laptop, it is possible that some liquid seeped into the keyboard or the display cable and caused a short circuit or a corrosion. To fix this, you will need to clean the keyboard and check the display cable by following these steps:

  • Turn off your laptop and remove the battery and any external devices.
  • Open the back cover of your laptop and disconnect the display cable from the motherboard. The display cable is a thin ribbon cable that connects the screen to the laptop. You may need a screwdriver or a pry tool to open the cover and disconnect the cable.
  • Inspect the display cable for any signs of damage, such as burns, cuts, or rust. If the cable is damaged, you will need to replace it with a new one. You can buy a compatible display cable online or from a computer repair shop.
  • Clean the display cable and the connector with a lint-free cloth and some cleaning alcohol. Make sure the cable and the connector are dry before reconnecting them.
  • Next, you will need to clean the keyboard and remove the sticky shift key. To do this, you will have to remove the keyboard from the laptop. The process may vary depending on the model of your laptop, but you can find some general instructions here: [How to Remove a Laptop Keyboard](
  • After removing the keyboard, you can clean it with a soft brush and some compressed air. You can also use a cotton swab and some cleaning alcohol to clean the sticky key and the surrounding area. Be careful not to damage the keyboard or the keys while cleaning them.
  • Once the keyboard and the display cable are clean and dry, you can reassemble your laptop and turn it on. See if your laptop screen works normally.
  • Conclusion

    A laptop screen that goes black intermittently can be caused by various factors, such as a software issue, a hardware issue, or a liquid spill. To diagnose and fix this problem, you can try the following steps:

  • Check the display settings and external monitors
  • Restart your laptop in safe mode and scan for malware
  • Update or reinstall your graphics driver
  • Clean the keyboard and check the display cable
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hope this article was helpful and informative. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

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