When computers have been idle for a specific amount of time, we either see a blank screen, a picture, a moving image or even a slideshow or our favourite pictures displayed on the screen. We all know this as a screensaver and at least once, we have seen one on our own computer devices but one thing that we have all overlooked is how a screen saver works. Read on to find out how.

But first, let’s formally define what a screen saver is. What is the purpose of it and what are the advantages of using one?\


What is a screen saver?

A screen saver is a computer program that tells the computer to present a black screen, display a chosen image or group of images, show a line or text, present an animation or add music or sound effects when a computer device had been idle for a specific amount of time.

How Screen Savers Work



What are the advantages brought by using a screen saver?


Screen savers were actually originally made to prevent phosphor burn-in on computer monitors since most computer screens before had been based on cathode ray tubes (CRTs) but the main problem with this kind of screens is that when the same image had been displayed for long periods of time, the exposed areas of phosphor coating on the inside of the screen changed permanently which leads to darkened shadows on the screen. This effect is called phosphor burn-in. So, computer experts had made screen savers which can change the image showing on a computer every now and then. But now, screen savers are used for entertainment purposes because they are fun to look at. Some screen savers can also be used to secure a computer device since they also offer a password protection feature.


So, how does a screen saver work?


  • First, your computer will be constantly checking whether there is still an activity going on the system.
  • When it finds that the keyboard and computer mouse had not been doing anything for a specific amount of time depending on the preference indicated in the screen saver settings of the Display window, Windows will then look at the line of SCRNSAVE.EXE=____ to see whether a screen saver that should load during idle times had been specified.
  • The program will then load the file corresponding to the chosen screen saver. But if the file is blank then the screen will just go black since no file had been specified.
  • Once input had been detected from keyboard or computer mouse then the screen saver will be immediately terminated. Other programs even require specific buttons to be pressed in order to terminate the screen saver. In addition, some screen savers have also password protection features that will make a prompt box appear asking for the username and password of the computer. The screen saver will continue to be run unless you have entered the right combination of username and password.


Knowing how a screen saver works might not be a big deal for others but it is essential to know these things to be able to appreciate screen savers more and the effort made by computer experts to make these amazing things. With the given advantages of using screen savers, you should really consider putting one especially those which have password protection features.