Technology Explained

Are Screensavers Still Relevant? When to Use Them (And When Not To)

Mihir Patkar 09-11-2015

Remember the old days when you spent hours hunting for the coolest screensavers? You probably haven’t done that for some time, and you aren’t really missing out on anything if you haven’t.


In fact, in the world of modern screens, screensavers are wholly unnecessary. Screensavers once served an important purpose, but they’re now obsolete. Feel free to never use a screensaver ever again — but that being said, there are a few reasons why you might want to.

What Do Screensavers Do, Exactly?

The original purpose of a screensaver was simple: to save your screen.

But remember, this was back when computer monitors primarily consisted of cathode ray tubes (CRT). CRT monitors create images by emitting red, green, and blue lights at various intensities to display different colors. When a CRT monitor shows the same image for too long, however, the color permanently settles on the screen, causing what is known as image burn Screen Burn-In Fixes and Why LCD Can Be Fixed LCD, plasma, OLED displays, even old CRT televisions can be damaged by screen burn-in. Here's how can you fix screen burn-in. Read More .


So, for example, a static element on the screen — like the Windows task bar or the Mac Menu bar — would, over time, get burned into the screen. Even when you switched the screen off, you could see an outline of the task bar’s ghost.


Screensavers were meant to stop this. When your computer wasn’t being used, the screensaver would jump into action and play a video that disrupted these static pixels in order to prevent image burn.

When Screensavers No Longer Matter

While the logic of screensavers is solid, it’s only relevant today if you still use CRT monitors or plasma screens. LCD and LED monitors don’t have image burn problems 4 Myths About LCD Monitors That Are Outdated and False LCD monitors have improved a lot over the years, but these myths and misconceptions just won't die. Read More like they do, and since laptops and monitors are now primarily LCD or LED, the purpose of the screensaver is moot.


Note that even on LCD and LED monitors, displaying the same image for many days or weeks can cause “stuck pixels”, but that’s a temporary issue. You can actually fix stuck pixels with software 5 Ways to Fix a Stuck Pixel on Your Screen A dead or stuck pixel on your screen can be annoying. Here are the best ways to test your screen and how to fix dead pixels. Read More whereas CRT image burn is a permanent problem.


Some people believe that screensavers exist to save power, but that’s entirely false. Computers actually use more power when running a screensaver in order to keep the screen on. Want to save power? Ditch screensavers completely. All modern operating systems have power saving features that switch the screen off when inactive Windows 7 Power Options and Sleep Modes Explained When Windows 7 launched, one of Microsoft's selling points was that it was designed to help your battery last longer. One of the main features users will actually notice is that the screen dims before... Read More .

5 Amazing Screensavers That You’ll Love

While screensavers are no longer necessary to “save your screen”, they can still be useful for other things. For example, when you go idle, your monitor can turn into a heads-up display for information, motivation, tools, or entertainment.

And importantly, computers are often connected to TVs these days, since you can make cheap HTPCs now DIY Budget HTPC Media Center Build and Giveaway We built a sub-$400 yet energy-efficient HTPC media center running Ubuntu. Now, we're giving it away. Read More . There’s a good chance you still have a plasma TV, which requires a screensaver because it is susceptible to burn-in like CRTs.

1. Playing NES Games

You can play old NES games for free in your browser 4 Websites To Play NES Games For Free & Through The Browser Just recently, I put out an article outlining some of my favorite RPGs for the SNES and showed MUO readers how they can experience those games through a web interface. Not everyone has the time... Read More already, but there’s something exceptionally cool about the Uber NES Screensaver. It demos NES games as screensavers and lets you play them with the tap of a button.


When you come back to your computer, you’ll see a grid of different games being played on auto mode. Select a game like Super Mario Bros 3 with your cursor keys and press a key to jump right in.

Uber NES Screensaver is easy to set up if you follow the instructions carefully, and you can download several popular NES games through a selectable menu.

Download Uber NES Screensaver

2. Live ISS View of Earth

What does our little blue rock look like from way up in the International Space Station? One Redditor has a guide to setting up a live stream as a screensaver. Reddit can be awesome sometimes How To Use Reddit Productively. Yes, You Read That Correctly. Reddit’s just a huge timesink? Wrong. It’s an endless supply of relevant information, if you know where to look. Here’s how to use Reddit more productively. Read More .



This works only on Windows because you need to download the free HTML Screensaver program. Then it’s a simple matter of pointing it to the ISS’s live feed on Ustream.

The aforementioned Redditor also has a brilliant setup for multiple monitors, which you can see above. Read the full guide and discussion before you proceed.

3. Reminders and Motivating Messages


In Windows, Mac, and Linux, you can set your screensaver to display a custom message. As Saikat noted in his 10 creative ways to use screensavers The 10 Creative Ways to Use a Screensaver Read More , you can use this message to set up a reminder to take your pills, finish an important task of the day, or generate a word cloud of motivation.

4. Weather and Landscapes

If your monitor is going to be on anyway, why not turn it into a dashboard for today’s weather? That’s exactly what YoWindow does.


YoWindow is a free program for Mac and Windows that displays the current weather and predictions for the next few days. It also adds a caricaturized landscape of the great outdoors, updating according to the weather. It looks great and it’s useful, what more could you want?

We also recommend Clear Day for OS X [No Longer Available] which looks gorgeous but costs $2. On the other hand, YoWindow is free.

Download YoWindow

5. Gorgeous Time


If you want to turn your monitor into a giant clock, nothing looks as beautiful as Fliqlo. It’s a simple flip-clock design with a dark background, which looks gorgeous, especially on large TVs.

Fliqlo is completely free, works on all versions of Mac and Windows, is scalable to large resolutions, and displays the time in 12-hour or 24-hour formats.

Download Fliqlo

Do you still use screensavers or have you foregone them completely? Why or why not? Show us your favorite screensavers by dropping a comment down below!

Image Credits: adityamadhav83 / Wikimedia

Related topics: Computer Monitor, Screensaver, Television.

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  1. Anonymous
    November 10, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    "4. Weather and Landscapes"
    Under Linux you can use Conky.

  2. Anonymous
    November 10, 2015 at 4:24 am

    Don't forget computer shareing programs like Bionic-UCBerkley, that run as a screen saver. They help process data when your computer is idle, such as cancer research..