Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Screensavers and Monitor "Burn In"

A reader question reminded me that some notions take a long time to die.

Q: Paul, I think I need your help. I am concerned about my friend’s computer. She doesn’t use a screensaver even though I have consistently warned her that her image will freeze and wreck her monitor and she will have to buy a new one.

Would you please write about the importance of screensavers so I can show her your article? Thank you.

A: Dear Reader,
In reading your e-mail, I believe that what you are referring to is a phenomenon that was known as “monitor burn in” (aka “screen burn”), where an image or set of text could get ‘etched’ onto the phosphors of a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) screen. Which would create a permanent ‘ghost’ on the screen.

It is true that the screensaver was invented to reduce/eliminate that problem.

It is also true that it was relevant to 1980’s technology and hasn’t been pertinent to any monitor built after.. oh.. say.. 1990? 1984? and that is capable of more than one color. (I hope your friend’s equipment isn’t that obsolete!)

However, the idea of screensavers never really went away, as they are kind of neat, and visually interesting. A lot of people use them as a slideshow of their favorite pictures, (see, Show off your photos with a screensaver slideshow) but for decades now, a screensaver is entirely optional.

[note: It is common knowledge amongst savvy computers users that pre-configured screensavers – available on the Internet – are often loaded with malware by hackers, as a method of infection. You should be very leery of downloading screensavers.]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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May 1, 2009 - Posted by | advice, computers | , , , , , , ,


  1. You are quite right – some notions do indeed take a long time to die.

    Interestingly, many of my friends still hold to the old idea that they will suffer damage to their monitor, if they don’t run a screen saver.

    Old habits, and old ideas, often take a long time to die.



    Comment by Bill Mullins | May 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. that is a notion i did not know was dead! i still run my screensaver in hopes of preventing burn in on my lcd screen.

    so what you are saying is this is no longer necessary – – and since the early 90’s??? i must have missed that memo!


    Comment by g | May 1, 2009 | Reply

    • G,
      It died with monochrome, essentially. More 80’s than early 90’s, if I remember right..

      I don’t know if you remember that far back.. but there once was a time when a big screen was 8″ and it was either green or amber. RAM was limited to 64K. And you controlled your computer by typing in things like:
      (Until a really cool OS came along called “DOS”, and you controlled your computer by typing in things like: cd .., mkdir, del, copy)

      We’ve come a long way.


      Comment by techpaul | May 1, 2009 | Reply

  3. heck, that was before screensavers…

    if then goto

    how good of a computer programmer am i? it took me 20 pages of language to move karel the robot. i think i starved karel to death.


    Comment by g | May 1, 2009 | Reply

    • G–
      Ha! You’re right! All that has dimmed in my memory to a vague blur I refer to (equally vaguely) as “when the dinosaurs roamed”…

      And, I had to look up Karel (Wikipedia says 1981).

      I came to computers late myself. My first regular computer use was on the Mac, and “floppy’s” had just come out in a hard-cased 3.5″ size, and they had desktop icons then.. I missed the DOS-only days, and so my command line is not as strong as it should be.

      But I remember well what a big deal the 56K modem was…


      Comment by techpaul | May 1, 2009 | Reply

      • i took computer programming in college (pascal) and this was one of the exercises we had to do. this was back in the mid 80’s. my prof was not impressed with my brute force method even though it worked.


        Comment by g | May 2, 2009 | Reply

        • I had avoided programming until last year… when I decided I had better bite the bullet.

          The word my prof would sometimes use was “inelegant”…


          Comment by techpaul | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  4. TechPaul,

    First PC here for my was an Apple IIc… I actually bought it for my daughter.

    Screensavers – Today they are there for our enterainment… Burn in not an issue… Dead Pixels, yes!

    Great article…



    Comment by whatsonmypc | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  5. How in the world do you remember the specs on the IIc? Amazing…


    Comment by whatsonmypc | May 2, 2009 | Reply

    • Wikipedia.

      And I seem to have a knack for trivia. I can’t remember a single valuable thing, but if it’s some useless fact…


      Comment by techpaul | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  6. This is a great post ,I think people just use screensaver for cosmetic reasons.not for the purpose they where first made.


    Comment by Lee Bennett | July 2, 2009 | Reply

    • Mr. Bennett,
      Those “cosmetic reasons” can be kind of fun and interesting, and running a screensaver doesn’t hurt anything, but the days where it served a truly practical purpose are long gone. Thanks you for the compliment.


      Comment by techpaul | July 2, 2009 | Reply

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