Fixing a computer with a black screen can be easy or hard depending on what caused the problem and whether you have a desktop or a laptop. Some problems—like loose cords—are super easy to fix, but other problems—like black screens on laptops—may require an expert repair. But whatever your problem, here are five easy ways to try to fix it:

Fix A Black Screen #1: Check Your Cords

If you have a desktop computer, go through and check all the cords which connect to your monitor. Most monitors have two main cords plus (maybe) some additional cords for sound. Check both ends of every cord which isn’t hardwired into your monitor to make sure they’re well-connected. This will fix many black screen problems.

Fix A Black Screen #2: Make Sure Your Computer Boots

If your computer isn’t booting, you’ll get a black screen, so make sure your computer actually turns all the way on when you press the power button. This applies to both desktops and laptops.

Press the power button and then listen to your computer and watch its LEDs. Your computer fans should turn on, making noise. If you have a magnetic hard drive, you should hear it working to load Windows or Mac OSX. If you have wired networking (ethernet), you may have lights where the cord connects to your computer—see if they start flashing. If you have wireless, you should have a light which indicates that the wireless adapter is active.

If your computer doesn’t show the above signs of life, something is probably wrong with your computer, not your monitor. Laptop problems are hard to diagnose, so you’ll probably need to send your computer for repair. Desktop problems can be diagnosed by using a Power-On Self-Test (POST) code checker which you can buy on eBay for just a few dollars.

Fix A Black Screen #3: Try A Temporary Monitor

This applies only to desktops: borrow a computer monitor from a friend and see if it works with your computer. At the same time you borrow the monitor, also borrow your friend’s monitor power and display cords (if they aren’t hardwired in), that way you can test everything at once. If your friend’s monitor and cords work with your computer, then you know one of your components is broken. Try every combination of parts until you find the faulty part—and then replace it.

Fix A Black Screen #4: Try An Install Disk

Some people get a black screen from an operating system problem, such as an incorrect display driver. In this case, your monitor will probably work during your computer’s boot up, but then it will suddenly stop working.

If you get this sort of problem, you will need to boot in Window’s Safe Mode or reinstall Windows so you can change the driver. But before you do that, you want to verify that this is actually the problem. You can verify it by using a live CD such as the Windows install disc or a free Linux Live CD such as Ubuntu. You don’t need to install anything—just run the disc until it displays a desktop; if the desktop displays, then you know your monitor black screen is caused by a bad video driver.

Fix A Black Screen #5: Use A Flashlight

Modern LCD monitors have two main parts: a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) which creates images and a backlight which illuminates those images. In modern displays, the backlight is usually a Light-Emitting Diode (LED) that should last thousands of hours, but sometimes they stop working prematurely (especially if you have a laptop which you abuse).

It’s typically impossible to fix an LCD display for less than the cost of a new display, but you (or a repair shop) can often fix the backlight if that’s all that is broken. So how do you find out which isn’t working? Use a flashlight.

Turn on your computer and your monitor and wait for them to boot up fully. Then get the brightest flashlight you own and point it at the monitor on a steep angle (so the glare doesn’t hit you directly). If you can see an image (such as your desktop), then the LCD display still works; it’s the backlight which is broken, so take your computer to a repair shop to fix your computer black screen problem.