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What is the Purpose of Screen Savers?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Screen savers are computer programs that are included on every computer sold today. The original function for the screen saver was to protect the monitor from damage when a single data or picture screen was left pulled up for an extended period of time. Today, the screen saver continues to provide this valuable service, but is also employed for a couple of other applications.

Early on in the development of the personal computer, it was obvious that leaving a computer display up for viewing for prolonged periods caused a quicker deterioration of the screen resolution. Essentially, the constant display of the static combination and light and dark colors was creating problems with the way the screen would display colors. This effect was sometimes referred to as "burning."

In order to prevent this type of damage to the system, the idea of a motion driven display that would activate when a screen was left idle was developed. This moving display would allow the resolution to be constantly changing, thus preventing the creation of the burning effect and the resulting ghost images. Users can set the screen saver display to activate when the screen is left idle for a specific amount of time. Many computer screen manufactures recommend that screen savers be set to activate in less than twenty minutes of idle time.

Along with protecting the efficiency of the computer monitor, screen savers also add some fun to using computers. The screen savers of today are often whimsical and attractive, which makes returning to your workstation after a break much more pleasant. The moving images incorporated into screen savers can involve just about any medium, from providing animated figures, scrolling marquee designs, or even something as simple as a rainstorm with lighting.

Screen savers can also be used as a security measure. When leaving the computer unattended, the screen saver can be configured to work in tandem with a pass code. Upon returning, the user moves the mouse and is provided with a dialogue box to enter the pass code. Entering the correct code will deactivate the screen saver session and allow the user to continue working.

Most computers are sold with a limited range of basic screen savers, but it is possible to purchase a wide range of designs online and in computer stores. There are also a number of user designed screen savers that are free of charge and can be downloaded. While many of these free screen savers will work with any operating system, it is always a good idea to make sure the saver is compatible with the operating system and version that is running on the desktop or laptop computer.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By Reminiscence — On Feb 03, 2014

@Phaedrus, I remember seeing the first screen savers come up on those early computers and I had no idea what was going on. I thought I did something wrong and the little spinning cube was a warning light. Someone had to explain to me that it was a good thing for the computer, not like the "blue screen of death".

By Phaedrus — On Feb 03, 2014

I remember when the first video game systems came out, one of the biggest complaints were ghost images burned into the TV screen. I think the designers of the first personal PCs must have thought about that when they were designing screen savers. Computer monitors would have had the same problem after kids like us played PC games for hours at a time.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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