Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Other than entertainment, is there a real reason to use a screen saver? Does it somehow "save your screen"?

share|improve this question

15 Answers 15

up vote 30 down vote accepted

It used to, when screens used to suffer from burn-in. Nowadays they're mainly used for fun, and to lock the computer when you're away from it.

The Apple TV includes a screen saver (photos from the photo album) and periodic changes to the music playing interface to prevent burn-in of plasma TVs.

share|improve this answer
    
how does a music playing interface prevent burn-in? What does it do? –  Svish Jul 15 '09 at 20:02
    
@Svish: Maybe he means the Music Player User Interface, to prevent it from being static and 'burning in' –  Jorge Israel Peña Jul 15 '09 at 20:05
    
But a phot slide show wouldn't be static, would it? –  Svish Jul 15 '09 at 20:26
2  
Sorry, I should have been clearer. The music player interface on the Apple TV displays the album art on one side, song name, progress bar, etc. About every 30 seconds or so, it flips around and shows the album art on another side. This is so that if you spend lots of time listening to music through your Apple TV your screen won't suffer burn-in. There's also a screen saver that displays your photos when the unit is idle. –  Kyle Cronin Jul 15 '09 at 21:03
    
LCD/Plasma screens STILL suffers from burn-in. For different reasons than CRT, but it's still a problem. I see it every single day on our system monitor screens. –  Axeman Jan 18 '12 at 15:43

Burn in

There is a myth out there that LCD displays do not suffer from burn in. This myth is false. I have personally witnessed LCD displays suffer from burn in on multiple occasions.

The big one that comes to mind was a client of ours with a display that need to be visible 24 hours a day. This is a trucking company that needs the display to be visible when drivers would come in to check their assignments, even in the middle of the night. The window manager artifacts from the screen shown in that app soon burned into the screen; it was a matter of just two or three weeks.

But this was an exceptional situation. LCDs are generally less susceptible (though, as I hope I've shown, not immune) to the phenomenon. In most situations, this just isn't an issue.

Power consumption

If you want to save a few bucks, you can use the blank screen option to lower your power use. Just make sure you have it set up right so that the backlight is actually off, and not just obscured with blackened pixels, otherwise you're not really doing anything.

Security

You can set up your computer to lock automatically when the screen saver kicks on. It's not a big deal at home, but in a lot of businesses it's required.

share|improve this answer
2  
I can also confirm that LCDs are susceptible to a form of burn-in, but not in the traditional sense of the word. What tends to happen is the individual pixels get 'stuck' (i.e. light always comes through). –  Sam Aug 15 '09 at 11:24
    
I'm getting a ghost image around the edges of my LCD screens at home, but they are well over 6 years old. –  ChrisF Jan 27 '10 at 17:32
    
@Sam if the pixel is not black (dead) but colored (stuck), much of the time you can stimulate it with the end of a pencil eraser and a lint free cloth, put pressure on the pixel, maintain pressure and power cycle the monitor, just need to work that little bugger out –  ioSamurai Aug 1 '12 at 14:30

Yes, it used to be a feature to prevent images being "burnt" into CRT screens:

Before the advent of LCD screens, most computer screens were based on cathode ray tubes (CRTs). When the same image is displayed on a CRT screen for long periods of time, the properties of the exposed areas of phosphor coating on the inside of the screen gradually and permanently change, eventually leading to a darkened shadow or "ghost" image on the screen.

Therefore, providing a moving image worked around this. Now they are really only for entertainment.

share|improve this answer

I find the screensaver useful for privacy:

  • They conceal the programs/documents left open on the screen
  • Most can be configured to lock the computer, requiring a password to gain access to the session.
share|improve this answer

When I worked in IT, we would set the screensaver to blank to save power. If you want to do something useful, there are screensavers that can defrag your hard drive or perform scientific calculations for things like Folding@home or SETI@home.

share|improve this answer

My screensaver is a selection of pictures of my smiling children. They remind me why I'm here working so hard so, yes, there is at least one very good reason for a screensaver.

share|improve this answer
1  
Not to take anything away from you "working so hard", but normally when I see my screen saver pop it, it's time for me to pretend to get back to work. –  Jeffrey Jul 15 '09 at 19:14
1  
@Jeffrey, that's pretty funny. In my own defense, I'm a bit overloaded with computer hardware right now: superuser.com/questions/1127/… With my job, I have a lot of people coming in to talk to me all day and they think it's very funny to see me with a mouse in each hand while my kids scroll by on the other screens. –  Bob Cross Jul 15 '09 at 20:13

I don't generally have any purpose for them because I always have my power settings turn off my monitor in 15 minutes. So, there's really no time to enjoy the SS. :)

share|improve this answer
    
+1 Exactly, most likely in the screen saver era the power saving options weren't that common or functional. These days it's just way better to just have the screen TURN OFF instead ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn Jul 15 '09 at 20:44

As others have said, it's to prevent burn in. However, it's not just for CRTs. If you have a computer hooked up to a plasma TV, you'll want to have your screen saver come on early and often.

share|improve this answer

A screensaver is used to prevent burn-in, or having pixels stay the same color due to being exposed to a particular color too long.

Although, this really is not needed any longer, as most people do not use CRT's anymore.

There's a pretty good description on the Wiki page for screensaver.

share|improve this answer
    
Nope, only CRT. –  AlbertoPL Jul 15 '09 at 18:54
2  
I have seen LCD monitors suffer from burn in, but it's not typical. –  Joel Coehoorn Jul 15 '09 at 18:55
    
Actually, the biggest problem I've seen with LCD's are dead pixels, but that's a whole other matter. –  AlbertoPL Jul 15 '09 at 18:55
    
@JoelCoehoorn It's also not permanent. Display just white on the screen as bright as you can for as long as you can, and it should go away. Some TVs had a mode that would do this for you, IIRC. –  Rob Aug 1 '12 at 15:25

Screensavers used to server a "real" purpose by preventing screen-burn, "a permanent disfigurement of areas on a CRT display caused by non-moving text or graphics being displayed continuously for long periods of time". On modern monitors though they don't serve any purpose except entertainment.

share|improve this answer

Screensavers were primarily useful to prevent burn-in when using a CRT monitor (the big heavy ones). Today, with the popularity of LCD screens, this necessity no longer exists. Today, they are more aesthetic, and serve as a proxy to locking your computer when you're away for too long.

share|improve this answer

The only compelling reason nowadays is probably that your companies IT policy demands it. Don't laugh I have seen this more than once.

share|improve this answer
1  
It's true. I've seen it too. –  Mercer Traieste Jul 15 '09 at 22:14
1  
Whenever I have seen this IT policy, it has been combined with the policy that the screensavers are password protected. That makes it about security, not about burn-in. –  Oddthinking Aug 15 '09 at 0:48

Yes, I use http://community.electricsheep.org/. It impressed my girlfriend.

share|improve this answer
    
Broken link. Try community.electricsheep.org –  Oddthinking Aug 15 '09 at 0:52
    
Fixed. –  Mercer Traieste Aug 15 '09 at 11:00

I find screen savers entertaining and I use it to secure my machine while I am away.

I always turn on "Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver" in the Security Preference Pane.

If you use it as a security measure be sure that you don't get the warning about the display going to sleep before the screen saver activates. If you get this warning the screen won't lock once the display is asleep.

I also set hot corners to activate the screen saver immediately. From my old days running "After Dark" Upper Left to disable the screen saver and upper right to activate it immediately.

Plus, screen savers are fun to write.

share|improve this answer

Best screensaver is black screen, just set the password lock in your office. If you leave office or home pc for a while, switch off manually the monitor to save power.

share|improve this answer
1  
Some systems implement the black screen poorly (the back light is still on). –  Joel Coehoorn Jul 16 '09 at 13:45

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.