This morning I had a problem with my Dell XPS M1210 laptop. When I opened it up and turned it on, the screen went blank at the Windows login screen. As far as I could tell, the laptop was still running properly, but the screen was just blank. When I closed the lid (which puts the laptop into “stand by” mode) and opened it again, the login screen would flicker on briefly before the laptop screen was once again plunged into darkness.
This is apparently a very common problem with this model, as I learned from the subsequent google searches on the issue. However, a couple of clues led me to what I think is a fix for the problem.
The first clue was that the laptop was not actually frozen; just that it was not displaying anything on the screen. This told me that the computer was not locking up due to a hardware fault or something serious.
The second thing I noticed was that when the screen did appear briefly (on startup and whenever I closed and re-opened the lid), it was running at the wrong resolution. The laptop switches to this lower resolution whenever I plug it into my TV and switch the video output from the screen to the TV. I suspected from this that the video output was quickly switching to a device which I didn’t have attached, resulting in the blank screen I was seeing. However, using the CRT/LCD switch function on the keyboard did not fix the problem. Something else was stuck.
On a hunch, I put the laptop into “hibernate” mode via the keyboard. The screen immediately turned back on, displaying the Windows hibernation screen. I let the process continue until the laptop turned off, then I started the machine up again via the power button.
After returning from hibernation, the laptop screen stayed on and I was able to login and see my desktop. However, it was still running at the wrong resolution. I changed the resolution back to what it should have been — 1280×800 — crossed my fingers, and restarted the machine. Success! Everything was back to normal.
So, I hope this information can help other users who are having this same problem. When you start up your Dell XPS M1210 laptop and the screen goes blank during the boot process, follow these instructions:
- After turning on your laptop, wait a minute until your desktop finishes loading after blindly logging in. You may be able to verify that the OS is at the desktop by closing the lid, waiting until the system goes into stand-by mode, then opening it again and watching for the screen to briefly flicker on and back off.
- Put the system into hibernation mode by holding down the Fn key and pressing F1.
- After the computer has finished going into hibernation mode and has shutdown completely, press the power button to turn the machine back on.
- At this point, if you’re lucky, the screen should not go blank during boot up. If it does, you may have to try something else. If the screen does not go blank, then continue on.
- Right-click on the desktop and select Properties from the pop-up menu.
- In the Display Properties window that appears, click on the Settings tab.
- Move the slider in the Screen Resolution box so that it reads 1280 by 800 pixels. If it is already there, then don’t do anything.
- Click to Ok button to apply your changes and close the Display Properties window.
- Click the Start button on the desktop, select Shut Down from the Start menu that appears, and tell the computer to restart.
- If everything goes well, the screen should no longer go blank on bootup!
Some parting thoughts…
- In the days leading up to this problem, I noticed my laptop’s screen flickering a little after it started up. I don’t know if this was an indicator that something was going to soon go wrong or not.
- The day before this happened, I was alt-tabbing a lot between the desktop and a fullscreen DirectX game (World of Warcraft) running at the same resolution as the desktop. Maybe this had something to do with it, I don’t know.
UPDATE: The problem came back the next day but the above instructions did not fix the problem this time. :-( Repeated attempts at the above instructions eventually solved the problem again.