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What is a Hot Pixel?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

A hot pixel is a defective pixel which remains constantly on, rather than cycling on and off like other pixels do. The term is used both to describe defects in LCD screens, and to discuss problems with the sensors used in digital cameras. In both cases, a bad pixel can vary from a mild problem to a source of extreme irritation, and the entire device usually needs to be replaced to cope with the problem.

In the case of an LCD screen, the bad pixel shows up as a bright white dot, reflecting the fact that it is not reproducing the data sent to the screen correctly. It is usually difficult to see a hot pixel unless there is a dark background, in which case it may not be a major issue. By contrast, a dead pixel, which is stuck in the off position, will show up as a small black dot on the screen. Many screens develop hot pixels over time, with some manufacturers replacing their screens if bad pixels emerge while the screen is still under warranty.

In a digital camera, a hot pixel in the light sensor does not properly sense the light which enters the camera. When the user takes a picture, the bad pixel shows up as a bright white dot. In mild cases, the problem only appears on long exposures, while a camera with a serious defect may develop a white mark in every single shot, which can be a source of considerable frustration to a photographer.

There are several ways to address the issue in digital cameras. Sometimes, it is simply necessary to replace the sensor, especially in the case of bad pixels which show up in every shot. In other instances, it is possible to use software to correct the pixel so that it will not appear in the finished image. Since many digital photographers already use software to process pictures, pixel correction may not be a particularly onerous task.

If someone notices a hot pixel and it is a problem, the first thing to do is to contact the manufacturer, even if the device is not under warranty. Some manufacturers will address hot pixels after the warranty period has expired, and they also like to get reports from consumers so that they can identify long term problems with particular models. If the manufacturer will not replace the defective device, consumers can either live with the issue or pay for a replacement themselves.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By pastanaga — On Oct 02, 2011

Hot Pixel is also a game they released a while ago for the Playstation. It's supposed to be like a tribute to old school games which had pixelated images and it has a bunch of them on there, like space invaders and so forth. They also let you download a bunch of other games if you already have the software.

You can play a Hot Pixel demo if you are interested. I actually didn't know the term applied to some actual kind of problem with a screen, I thought they just made it up.

By KoiwiGal — On Oct 01, 2011

If you only have a couple of hot pixel spots showing up in your digital photos, they are easy enough to fix.

You don't even need expensive software. There are free programs out there which, while not as strong as a program like Photoshop, will still be able to fix something like this very easily.

They might have a specific function to deal with this kind of thing. I would check in the help menu if it was not immediately obvious.

Or you can carefully use the clone tool to shade the spot so it matches its surrounds.

If you are aware of a hot pixel spot you might need to make sure that it's not going to be showing up in an area of the shot with a lot of detail though, as that will make it much more troublesome to fix.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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