Laptop Screen Too Dark at Full Brightness: a Troubleshooting Guide

If your laptop screen is too dark even when it is at full (100%) brightness, then you’ve come to the right place. In this post we look at the different causes and fixes for a dark screen at full brightness.

This issue can be caused by outdated or buggy drivers, faulty hardware, an outdated BIOS, and/or much more, so locating the exact cause of the issue can be an overwhelming process. However, there are several ways this can be fixed and with a little patience, you should be able to locate and fix the problem.

The best way to attack this issue is to start with the easiest fixes. Follow the below instructions in order, if you can. We suggest this as we list these methods from the most basic and easiest ways to fix this problem to the hardest and most difficult to locate. 

This way you can work through the potential software fixes before having to consider replacing any hardware, which can be costly and time consuming.

Hard Reset

The IT guy’s bread and butter: “Turn it off and turn it back on again.” Odds are you’ve tried this already and it didn’t work, which is why you are here. 

But hang in there and bear with us! You may have restarted your computer via Windows but we’re talking about a hard reset, not just a restart.

Step 1: Turn your laptop off and unplug any peripherals (this includes the AC adapter)

Step 2: Press and hold the power button for 15 seconds

Step 3: When the startup menu opens, use the arrow keys to select ‘Start Windows Normally

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Step 4 (optional but highly recommended): Update Windows

Uninstall/Reinstall Drivers 

If you find your screen is still dark at full brightness after resetting, it is a good idea to uninstall and reinstall your display driver.

Step 1: Right click the ‘Start’ button, select Device Manager

Step 2: Click ‘Display Adapters

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Step 3: Right click on your display driver (if there are two, one is your display, the other your graphics card), select Uninstall

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Step 4: Restart your laptop

When you restart your laptop, Windows will recognize that the driver is missing and automatically reinstall a generic driver to replace the missing one.

Rollback/Update Drivers

If uninstalling and reinstalling the display driver still hasn’t fixed the issue, you can roll it back or update it. The screen darkness may be caused by a bug in the current driver. Rolling it back or updating it may solve the problem.

Step 1: Open Device Manager > Display Adapters (refer to steps 1 and 2 above)

Step 2: Right click your display adapter, select Properties

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Step 3: Navigate to the ‘Drivers’ tab

Step 4: Rollback the driver, if allowed; if the Rollback Driver option is grayed out, continue to step 5.

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Step 5: Select the Update Driver option to update the display driver

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Update the BIOS

BIOS stands for Basic Input and Output System and one of its many important functions in your laptop is recognizing and configuring hardware in your system (i.e. your display). 

The BIOS may be out of date and no longer able to recognize your display properly and that may be what is causing the darkness of your laptop screen.

Step 1: Identify the make and model of your laptop and its BIOS version and write it down.

  1. Type ‘system information’ into the ‘Start’ search bar
  2. Open the app called System Information
  3. Locate the ‘System Manufacturer’, ‘System Model’, ‘BIOS Version/Date’, AND ‘Processor’
  4. Write them down

Step 2: Navigate to your laptop manufacturer’s website and locate your laptop model’s page

Step 3: Under the BIOS section of your laptop’s page, compare its newest version to the version you wrote down in Step 1

Step 4: Update the proper BIOS for your processor if it has an update available

Step 5: Close all open programs and deactivate your antivirus (you can reactivate once you’ve 

updated the BIOS)

Step 6: Allow the BIOS to completely update, then restart your computer

NOTE: the BIOS must be fully updated BEFORE you restart your computer; do not interrupt the update.

BIOS updates are not that common so you won’t have to continually update your laptop’s BIOS like your generic drivers.

Replace LCD Inverter

If the above tips did not work at all to fix your screen brightness improve, it is likely that the LCD inverter in your laptop is failing or has failed. This little piece of hardware is in charge of the backlight on your screen (i.e. the thing that makes your screen bright). 

The LCD inverter, like any piece of hardware in your computer, can fail for unknown reasons. The best thing to do is take your laptop to a professional to have the LCD inverter replaced. 

Do not try to find it yourself as you may void the warranty of your laptop by opening up the chassis. It is likely hidden under other pieces of hardware and you risk causing permanent damage to your laptop by trying to remove it yourself.

It is our recommendation that you take your laptop to a professional if the screen darkness continues after you try these fixes. They may be able to locate the exact cause of the issue and give you a better idea of what the possible fixes are. 

Mac

Mac does not appear to have this issue as often as Windows laptops do but if you do find that your Macbook screen is dim at full brightness, one solution is to reset the System Management Controller (SMC) which, among other things, controls the backlit display of your Macbook.

If the battery is nonremovable (for newer Macbooks):

Step 1: Choose Apple menu > Shut Down and wait for your Mac to shut down.

Step 2: Press Shift-Control-Option on the left side of the built-in keyboard, then press the power button at the same time. Hold these keys and the power button for 10 seconds. If you have a MacBook Pro with Touch ID, the Touch ID button is also the power button.

Step 3: Release all keys.

Step 4: Press the power button again to turn on your Mac.

If the battery is removable (mainly for older Macbooks):

Step 1: Shut down your Mac.

Step 2: Remove the battery. If you need help removing the battery, contact an Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Retail Store.

Step 3: Press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.

Step 4: Reinstall the battery.

Step 5: Press the power button again to turn on your Mac.

If this method does not fix the brightness problem, the best option is to take your Macbook to a professional to have the LCD inverter replaced.

A dim screen can be frustrating and difficult to troubleshoot when it occurs. Hopefully, some of these fixes worked for you. If these fixes did work for you, let us know which ones were most helpful in the comments.

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