How To Fix Discoloration & Distortion on a Computer Screen

Correct Washed Out, Distorted, or 'Messed Up' Colors on Your Computer Screen

Macro view of CRT computer screen
Close-up View of Pixels on a Screen. Craig P. Jewell / Getty Images

Are the colors "off" somehow on your computer's screen? Maybe they're washed out, or inverted? Perhaps everything has a red, green, or blue hue, or even just too dark or too light?

Worse yet, and easily the root cause of those migraines you've been having, is your screen distorted or "messed up" in some way? Are text or images, or everything, blurry or moving by themselves?

Obviously your computer's screen is the main way you interact with it so anything that's just not quite right can quickly become a major problem, and potentially even a health risk if it happens to be one of the more disorienting issues that can occur.

There a number of different reasons why your monitor might be distorting images or representing color improperly, resulting in whatever specific issue seeing, so let's walk through some troubleshooting until we figure it out.

Note: Most of these are easy things to try but a few of these tasks might be more difficult or unfamiliar than some of the others. If so, just take your time and be sure to reference any instructions on other pages if you need extra help.

How To Fix Discoloration & Distortion on a Computer Screen

Time Required: Because of all the possible causes, it could take anywhere from a few minutes, to an hour or more, to fix discolorations or other distortions on your computer screen.

  1. Power off the monitor, wait 15 seconds, and then power it back on. Some issues, especially very minor ones, can be caused by very temporary issues with the connection to your computer that a restart will fix.

    Tip: If the problem goes away but quickly returns, especially if it's color related, try leaving the screen off for 30 minutes before powering it back on. If that helps, your monitor may be suffering from overheating.
     
  1. Restart your computer. There's a small chance that an operating system issue is the cause of the discoloration or distortion and a simple restart will do the trick. This is such an easy thing to try, however, that doing it early in the troubleshooting is smart.

    Tip: See Why Does Restarting Fix Problems? for more on this, especially if it works and you're wondering why.
     
  1. Check the cable between the monitor and the computer to make sure that each end is physically secure. Completely unplug, and plug back in, each end just to be sure.

    Note: Newer interfaces, like HDMI, often simply "push" in and "pull" out, meaning gravity can sometimes eventually work them loose from both the monitor side, and the computer side. Older interfaces, like VGA and DVI, are often screw-secured but they come loose sometimes too.
     
  2. Degauss the monitor. Yes, this is very much some "throwback" advice, considering that magnetic interference, which degaussing corrects, only happens on those large CRT monitors of yesteryear.

    That said, if you are still using a CRT screen, and the discoloration issues are focused near the edges of the screen, degaussing will most likely fix the problem.
     
  3. Using your monitor's adjustment buttons or onscreen settings, find the preset default level and enable it. This should return your monitor's many settings to "factory default" levels, correcting any color issues that were caused by settings at improper levels.

    Note: If you have an idea about what's "off" with your colors, feel free to manually adjust individual settings like the brightness, color balance, saturation, or temperature, etc., and see if that helps.

    Tip: If you're not sure how to do any of this, reference your monitor's instruction manual. See How to Find Tech Support Information if you need help digging up the manual online.
     
  1. Adjust the color quality setting for the video card, making sure it's set at the highest level possible. This will often help resolve issues where the colors, especially in photos, appear incorrect.

    Note: Fortunately, newer versions of Windows only support the highest color options possible, so this is probably only a worthwhile thing to look into if you're using Windows 7, Vista, or XP.
     
  2. At this point, any major discoloration or distortion problem you're seeing on your monitor is probably due to a physical problem with either the monitor itself, or the video card.

    Here's how to tell:

    Replace the monitor when you try another monitor in place of the one you have and the problems go away. Assuming you tried the other steps above and weren't successful, there's little if any reason to think the problem is due to something else.

    Replace the video card when, after testing with a different monitor, as well as different cables, the problem does not go away. Another confirmation of the video card would be if you see the problem before Windows starts, like during the initial POST process.