What is Monitor Ghosting? 6 Ways to Fix it [2023]

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Robert_Stark
edited November 2023 in PC Tech

When you have monitor ghosting, you'll notice a faint trail of pixels or a motion blur that follows fast-moving objects on your screen. Ghosting can cause eye strain, affect your FPS firing accuracy, disrupt your immersion in MMORPGs and hinder competitive play. It's distracting during fast-paced games or action-packed movies.

In this article, we'll discuss what monitor ghosting is and offer practical solutions to fix it, helping you achieve optimal screen performance.

What is monitor ghosting? 

Monitor ghosting is a trailing motion artifact that occurs when a faint trail of pixels or motion blur follows fast-moving objects on your screen. It's called ghosting because of the ethereal, ghost-like outline that shadows objects. As you move your mouse, you'll see the smudge-like effect.

It is not a game bug and happens because of your monitor. Fortunately, unlike dead pixels or screen burn-in, ghosting is a temporary artifact that doesn't cause lasting damage to your display.

You might see the trails in FPS or racing games with intensive, fast-paced scenes. Here's a short video that demonstrates monitor ghosting:

What causes monitor ghosting? 

Typically, ghosting happens when an LCD monitor has slow response times or low refresh rates, leading to difficulty keeping up with the on-screen action.

As the screen refreshes, the physical pixels can't keep up as quickly as the rapidly changing images, resulting in a blurred object with a faint ghostly outline. The problem exacerbates at high frame rates (FPS), where frame times (when a new frame is delivered) are often quicker than the screen's response time.

When a new image appears on a monitor's screen depends on its refresh rate (Hz), and slow response times (ms) can lead to ghosting.

For instance, a 60Hz refresh rate refreshes the image 60 times per second, displaying a new image every 16.67 milliseconds.

If your monitor's response time is slower than that, the pixels will continue transitioning between colors in the next frame, and that's how you get the ghost outline behind moving objects on the screen.

Gaming monitors have even higher refresh rates, up to 144Hz or 240Hz, requiring even faster response times to avoid ghosting. The individual pixels must transition within just 6.94 ms for a 144Hz or 4 ms for a 240Hz monitor.

VA panels are more prone to ghosting due to their slow pixel response times.

5 factors that can cause computer ghosting:

  1. Poorly optimized monitor settings: Incorrect contrast, brightness, or sharpness settings can cause an uneven display that appears blurred or ghosted. 
  2. Monitor interference: Other devices' radio waves can interfere with the display. 
  3. Overdrive configuration: Configuring your overdrive settings too high can cause a trail or halo behind moving objects. 
  4. Monitor specifications: Slow response time, low refresh rate, and VA panel technology can make monitors more prone to ghosting. 
  5. Outdated drivers: Outdated graphics card drivers can cause issues with image quality and contribute to ghosting.

You can reduce or eliminate monitor ghosting by fixing these issues and enjoy smoother gameplay.

How to test for monitor ghosting? 

To test for monitor ghosting, follow these 4 simple steps:

  1. Go to Blur Busters UFO Motion Test to begin your assessment. 
  2. It will run the test in your browser. 
  3. Review the results:  
  4. Green Ready: No ghosting issues detected. 
  5. Orange Alert: Ghosting issues identified; the alert message suggests what to fix. 
  6. Examine additional details: The tool outlines any problems related to your display's frames per second, refresh rate, pixels per frame, and pixels per second, helping you better understand any underlying issues.

What is the impact of monitor ghosting? 

On top of being frustrating and making it harder to follow the on-screen action, ghosting can sometimes lead to:

  • Eye strain 
  • Headaches 
  • Motion sickness

If you notice pixelated trails within your gaming but experience no issues when the game is off, monitor ghosting is likely the culprit. This phenomenon is most prevalent in games when you see multiple fast-moving objects:

  • Racing and Sports 
  • FPS 
  • Action

Does ghosting damage your monitor? 

No. Monitor ghosting doesn't cause permanent damage to your monitor. It's a temporary effect because your monitor has a slow response time, and its pixels can't change quickly enough to keep up with the on-screen animation. 

How to fix ghosting on a monitor 

You might assume that monitor ghosting, dead pixels, and screen burn-in are unfixable. But this is a common misconception, and you can resolve monitor ghosting through these methods:

1) Switch on your monitor's overdrive function 

Overdrive is a monitor function that helps prevent the ghosting of fast-moving objects. With overdrive, it speeds up the refresh rate and lowers the response time, so your screen pixels change color faster.

Different monitor manufacturers call it: 

  • Overdrive 
  • OD 
  • Response Time 
  • TraceFree

If you're stuck, search Google for: monitor brand + model + overdrive

To activate it, follow these steps: 

  1. Open your monitor's OSD (On-Screen Display) menu. 
  2. Inside the menu, enable the overdrive function. 
  3. Adjust the level of overdrive according to the refresh rate of your monitor for optimal performance at your preferred settings. 
  4. Use BlurBusters UFO ghosting test to find the best overdrive settings that match your monitor's refresh rate.

If you set overdrive too strongly, it can cause pixel overshoot or inverse ghosting, a visual anomaly that appears as a bright outline around fast-moving objects.

Gaming monitors with AMD FreeSync™ or NVIDIA® G-SYNC® technology often have the overdrive function turned on automatically. However, you can adjust it manually if needed.

2) Fine-tune monitor display settings 

Incorrect display settings can cause monitor ghosting, especially when viewing darker sections of a movie. Experimenting with these settings to help solve the issue.

Consider adjusting the following settings:

  • Noise Reduction 
  • Game Enhance Mode 
  • Dynamic Contrast or Contrast Enhance 
  • Black Equalizer 
  • Motion Smoothing 
  • Dark Stabilizer 
  • Perfect Clear 
  • Motion Blur Reduction

Remember that your monitor might use different names for these settings; not all may be present. If you have an NVIDIA® graphics card, test the G-SYNC® and noise reduction options within the control panel. For AMD graphics cards, try toggling FreeSync™ on and off.

3) Inspect monitor cables 

While monitor settings usually resolve ghosting, defective cables or connected devices can also be culprits. Examine your HDMI, DisplayPort™, or USB-C cables for any signs of damage:

  • Bends 
  • Tangles 
  • Tears 
  • Kinks 
  • Nicks

To inspect the cable, run your fingers along its length, feeling for any frayed areas that could cause overheating and impact your monitor's refresh rate. Troubleshoot by testing the cable against a replacement cable and see if it alleviates the issue.

4) Check connected devices 

Ensure that ghosting isn't originating from devices connected to your PC, including wireless technology such as:

  • Printers 
  • Speakers 
  • Modems

Proximity issues can sometimes cause ghosting, so try moving these devices away from your monitor to stabilize the refresh rate and eliminate ghosting.

5) Update Graphics Card Drivers 

As any serious gamer knows, keeping your graphics card drivers up to date is crucial. Outdated drivers can lead to bugs and compatibility issues, which can cause ghosting problems. Regular updates can also improve performance and prevent other monitor-related issues.

It's essential to download the latest hardware drivers, as outdated drivers can increase the vulnerability of your computer to malicious software and hacking, which could impact the clarity of your screen.

Updating Video Graphics Card Driver 

  1. Access Device Manager: Type "device manager" into the taskbar's search box, then click on Device Manager in the results. 
  2. Choose a display adapter: Click on Display adapters
  3. Select the device: Right-click (or press and hold) on the adapter you want to update. From the context menu, choose Update Driver
  4. Search for driver updates: Click on Search automatically for updated driver software
  5. Update the driver: Choose Update Driver.

If Windows fails to locate a new driver, visit the device manufacturer's website and follow their instructions for updating the driver.

6) Inspect the monitor video port 

The issue may be physical if you've ruled out the above as potential culprits. Check if your monitor's video port is faulty.

If all other attempts to fix the monitor fail, and the issue seems to be with the video port, it may require professional assistance. If the monitor is under warranty, sending it to a service center is best. Otherwise, you can take it to a computer repair store to replace defective components.

Which monitor settings should I look for to avoid ghosting? 

As ghosting can affect your gaming performance, to reduce or eliminate this type of problem, choose a monitor with better specifications, including:

  1. High Refresh Rate: Opt for a monitor with at least 120 Hz or higher refresh rate for smoother motion. 
  2. Low Response Time: Seek out a monitor with a response time of 5 ms or less to minimize ghosting. 
  3. GtG (gray-to-gray): GtG measures how long the pixel switches from one shade of gray to the next. Select a monitor with a low GtG value (ideally 1 ms or less) for faster pixel color change duration. 
  4. MPRT (Moving Picture Response Time): MPRT measures how long a pixel remains visible on the screen. The higher the MPRT, the greater the blur a moving image makes. Ensure the monitor has a low MPRT value, which reduces pixel persistence and helps avoid ghosting.

A fast GtG and slow MPRT may result in monitor ghosting. Also, configure monitor settings and update graphics card drivers regularly and adequately.

Monitor ghosting can be a nuisance when engaging in graphics-intensive tasks like gaming or video editing. Fortunately, addressing monitor ghosting is generally simpler than tackling other monitor issues.

Remember: to troubleshoot ghosting, test your monitor to confirm the issue. If the test confirms the problem, try using the steps outlined earlier for troubleshooting before seeking professional repairs. Since ghosting is often not a physical monitor issue, with a diligent investigation, you can usually resolve it independently. 

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.

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