A plus 220-1001 – Exam Objective 5.4

A+ Exam Objective 5.4 – ExamNotes

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5.4 Given a scenario, troubleshoot video, projector, and display issues.

Welcome to ExamNotes by CertBlaster! In this installment, we will troubleshoot some of the more common video problems you’ll need to know about.

Common Symptoms

VGA mode

Accessed in the Advanced Boot Options by pressing the F8 key at startup, Windows will offer VGA mode as a boot option. Newer versions of Windows (8.1-10) refer to VGA mode as low resolution video. In either case, the display mode we are referring to is the most basic video resolution and color setting available. The purpose of VGA mode is to successfully access the system using the standard VGA driver as opposed to the manufacturer’s driver. Using the standard driver enables you to see your system while reducing the video system’s impact on system operation. In this mode, your on-screen objects may appear larger or geometrically distorted. Shown here is the Windows 8.1 access method. Here you would press F3 to access low resolution video. You will now have the ability to troubleshoot the system.

Startup settings in Windows 8.1

No image on screen

There are a variety of possible causes for this condition. Troubleshoot this condition as you normally would any hardware issue. Start with the obvious. Is the computer operational? Are the fans and lights all running? Obviously there will be no image on the screen so you can’t use this to check. However, do check the monitor (if it applies) for Power indicator lights and check the cable connections carefully. If everything is in order, try a different monitor on the system. If these steps fail, grab your user manual as there may be a reset sequence.

Overheat shutdown

Any heat related issues are most likely to be associated with the graphics subsystem. Often, the demands of high quality video, rapid frame rates, and millions of colors combine on the video chipset, which may even be part of the processor. The byproduct of all this is heat. Although heat exchangers, fins, and fans are capable of dissipating the heat, their effectiveness can be reduced with dust, its only natural enemy. For example, a slight layer of dust in the fin housing or under the fan blades can be sufficient to impede the cooling capacity of the cooling unit. Variations in temperature may cause the system to shut down protectively. Dust is easy enough to clean and dust buildup is important enough to check regularly.

Here are some of the terms related to video problems that you are going to need to be familiar with.

Dead pixels

A dead pixel is a picture element on an LCD panel that remains unlit despite the fact it should be displaying a color or light of some type. Dead pixels usually remain black.


Although artifacts usually appear as a small segment of corrupted screen output, we’ll show the most extreme illustration of artifacts that we can find. Shown below is a screen full of artifacts.

“Artifacts” – Corrupted screen output

In the 1970’s, this condition would be remedied by striking the display which, as strange as it sounds, would work for short periods by reconnecting broken tube filaments. This archaic technique will not work with solid state components. Repairs can be attempted using manufacturer designed software as sometimes a driver patch can help which would save money and man hours.

Color patterns incorrect

This condition will be present in new “out-of-the-box” monitors. If the colors are distorted or obviously wrong, start by power cycling the monitor. If that fails, consult the documentation for the calibration routine or use the Windows built-in calibration wizard.

Dim image

More often than not, a dim image is the result of the power saving settings on a laptop or the ambient light settings on a flat panel TV. This condition is remedied using the monitor’s controls to adjust the brightness.

Flickering image

A flickering image is the result of your monitor running a refresh rate of below 60Hz. At or above 60Hz, the human eye cannot detect changes in an image. If you display progressive groups of images at 60 frames per second, those images would appear to simply flow along. If you take those same images and display them at 50 images per second, they will appear to stutter as each new image is shown.

Distorted image and geometry

Images on your monitor are displayed using a strict X-Y axis description, X pixels high by Y pixels wide. 1024 by 768 is reproducible by most monitors. If a perfect circle is shown on the monitor, variations to either of the x-y values will result in an imperfect circle, possibly an egg shape. Shown below is when a perfect grid of squares is displayed at the wrong geometry.

Distorted geometry

This can be resolved by setting your monitor to a standard resolution. A very common example of this condition occurs when you display old television shows on current flat panel wide screen monitors. The old content will appear stretched, short, and fat.


Finally, just about the worst thing that can happen to a monitor with years of useful life remaining is a condition called burn-in. Burn-in happens when a single motionless high contrast image is displayed for a long period of time, such as over a day. The result is that the image is “burned-in” or permanently present on the display. The image may be faint but it is constantly being shown.

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Okay folks. That’s it for 5.4. Good luck on the test!

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