I've filmed this to get a better idea of what I'm on about:


But this happened quite a few months ago, and I was optimistically hoping for a software solution rather than spending £X00 getting it fixed. What happens is:

  1. On boot, the Dell splash screen works fine.
  2. The purple Ubuntu loading screen works fine.
  3. Then the screen briefly switches off as usual, but when it tries to display the login screen, the backlight comes on, but it stays black/grey, while any external displays will correctly function.

Things I've tried:

  1. Booting from a live Ubuntu USB: same thing; screen works up until login stage then the black/grey backlight is displayed.
  2. Upgrading Ubuntu. This was previously 16.04, but has been upgraded to 17.04 in an attempt to fix this issue.
  3. Toggling all options of extended/mirrored displays, unplugging the external monitor, then rebooting, etc. No difference.
  4. Changing pretty much every Display setting I can find in Ubuntu's standard menus.

Model: Dell XPS 13 (Developer Edition from 2016)
OS: Was Ubuntu 16.04, now 17.04

Random note: maybe 3/4 uses after the first time this happened, it did randomly start working for about 2 uses, which implies to me that it's most likely a hardware issue with the screen.

Hopefully this is enough info to get some opinions.


  • Sounds like it might be a video card issue. Can you get to a terminal after the screen goes blank with either ctrl-alt-f3 or alt-f3? There might be something relevant in one of the xorg log files in /var/log, or /var/log/kern.log, or /var/log/boot.log, or the lightdm logs in /var/log/lightdm that may or may not be useful. I would also try a usb drive from another distro (knoppix, etc), and see if you have the same problem. If it works you could compare lsmod and lspci output, and see if there is a difference in video drivers. Also, did it work in ubuntu before it stopped working?
    – dogoncouch
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


Open your PC rig, then gently tap on Video adapter, about 2-4 times. Do the same thing on your monitor cable (the one that connects your monitor to the Video adapter). The vibrations which you cause while it doesn't work is what is fixing it. I encountered that issue too and fixed it that way, it took me 7 months to find out what it was.

Don't touch any part of video adapter where it conducts power. Tap on non conductive edge only.

  • But it looks like he is using a laptop. I agree that it sounds like a video card issue Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 19:16
  • Thanks for your response. As Gabriel said, it's a laptop, so if I go down the hardware route, I'm likely to be sending it back to Dell for repair.
    – rca86
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 15:40

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