Screen Tearing Explained: Causes and Effective Solutions

Last Updated: June 25, 2023By
Game playing on computer

As technology continues to evolve, we find ourselves surrounded by high-definition displays that promise stunning visuals and immersive experiences. Yet, despite the marvels of modern graphics, a common issue often hinders the full potential of our displays: screen tearing.

This annoying visual artifact disrupts our gaming, movie-watching, or general computer use by creating an uneven and disjointed image. For some users, it might seem like a minor inconvenience, while for others, especially gamers, it’s a glaring problem that compromises the smoothness of gameplay.

By understanding what screen tearing is, what causes it, and how to fix it, you can not only enhance your viewing experience but also take full advantage of the graphic capabilities of your devices.

What Is Screen Tearing?

Screen tearing is a visual artifact that occurs on your computer screen when the display device fails to keep up with the feed it’s receiving. When you experience screen tearing, it looks as though the image on your screen has been “torn” in one or more places, usually horizontally, leading to a disturbing visual experience.

This disruption can manifest as a split in the image, where two sections of the screen show different portions of a frame, resulting in an incongruous and jarring picture.

The Typical Occurrence of Screen Tearing

Generally, screen tearing becomes apparent when there is a high level of action happening on the screen. This could be during fast-paced video gameplay, while streaming high-definition videos, or when quickly scrolling through web pages or documents.

The tearing tends to be more noticeable when there is a stark contrast between the frames being displayed, creating a clear split on the screen.

The Impact of Screen Tearing on User Experience

Screen tearing significantly impacts the visual quality of the content being displayed, making the viewing or gaming experience less enjoyable. For regular users, it might be a minor annoyance, but for gamers and professional graphic artists, it can be a significant issue.

It hampers the smooth transitions required in graphic-intensive tasks and games, creating a disjointed and frustrating visual experience.

What Causes Screen Tearing?

Understanding the problem is half the battle, but identifying its causes is equally vital. So, what leads to the unsightly issue of screen tearing? In this section, we explore the main culprits.

The Clash between Screen Refresh Rates and Frame Rates

The fundamental cause of screen tearing is a mismatch between the refresh rate of your screen (the monitor’s refresh rate) and the rate at which the graphics card is sending frames to it (the frame rate).

A monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times it updates with new information per second and is measured in hertz (Hz). Common refresh rates include 60Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz, meaning the screen refreshes 60, 120, or 144 times per second, respectively.

The frame rate, on the other hand, is how often a new frame (or image) is produced by your graphics card. It’s also measured in frames per second (FPS).

Screen tearing happens when the graphics card sends frames to the monitor at a pace that isn’t in sync with the monitor’s refresh rate. For example, if the graphics card is churning out 90 frames per second while your monitor has a refresh rate of 60Hz, some frames can get caught in between refreshes, leading to the appearance of screen tearing.

Hardware Limitations and Screen Tearing

Screen tearing can also be caused by limitations in hardware. If your graphics card isn’t powerful enough to handle the game or video you’re trying to run, it might not be able to maintain a consistent frame rate.

As a result, the frame rate might drop or fluctuate, leading to screen tearing.

Video or Game Settings Contribution to Screen Tearing

Lastly, specific video or game settings might contribute to screen tearing. Running a game in full-screen mode, for instance, can sometimes result in screen tearing, especially if the game’s resolution is set higher than what the monitor can support. 

Similarly, certain video playback settings or software may also cause screen tearing issues.

Solutions to Screen Tearing

Person gaming on computer 4

Identifying screen tearing and understanding its causes are important, but how do we get rid of it? In this part of the guide, we will discuss several solutions that can help you eliminate screen tearing and enhance your viewing experience.

Aligning Monitor Refresh Rate with Graphics Card Frame Rate

One simple solution to screen tearing is to ensure that your monitor’s refresh rate matches the frame rate of your graphics card. This can be done by adjusting the settings in your computer’s display options or through the control panel software of your graphics card.

The goal is to limit the frame rate of your graphics card so that it doesn’t exceed your monitor’s refresh rate.

Enabling VSync, FreeSync, or G-Sync

If aligning the refresh rate and frame rate doesn’t completely solve the problem, enabling VSync (Vertical Synchronization), FreeSync, or G-Sync might be the next step. These technologies aim to synchronize your monitor’s refresh rate with your graphics card’s frame rate.

VSync is a feature present in most games and graphics cards. It works by preventing the graphics card from sending a new frame until the monitor is ready to display it. 

This avoids the creation of multiple frames within a single screen draw, thus eliminating screen tearing.

FreeSync and G-Sync, developed by AMD and Nvidia respectively, are technologies that go a step further than VSync. Rather than locking the frame rate to the maximum refresh rate of the monitor, FreeSync and G-Sync dynamically adjust the monitor’s refresh rate to match the graphics card’s frame rate.

This not only prevents screen tearing but also reduces input lag and stutter that can occur when using VSync.

Note that to use FreeSync or G-Sync, your monitor and graphics card need to be compatible with the respective technology.

Upgrading Your Hardware

In some cases, screen tearing might be the result of outdated or weak hardware. Upgrading to a more powerful graphics card or a monitor with a higher refresh rate could help eliminate screen tearing.

Remember, the hardware upgrade should be balanced. Having a high-end graphics card with a monitor that has a low refresh rate or vice versa can still lead to screen tearing.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as adjusting your in-game settings. Reducing the game’s graphics settings or running the game in windowed mode instead of full-screen mode can sometimes help reduce screen tearing.

Moreover, updating graphics card drivers or switching to a different video playback software might also help in reducing screen tearing.

Implementing these solutions can drastically reduce, if not entirely eliminate, the annoyance of screen tearing, ensuring a smoother, more enjoyable viewing or gaming experience.

Potential Drawbacks of Some Solutions

While the solutions we’ve provided can effectively address screen tearing, it’s also important to consider potential drawbacks.

Potential Downsides When Using VSync

While VSync can effectively prevent screen tearing by syncing the frame rate to the monitor’s refresh rate, it can sometimes introduce other issues, such as input lag. Input lag is the delay between the time you make an input (like a mouse click or key press) and the time it takes for the action to be displayed on the screen.

This can make games feel less responsive, which can be particularly problematic for fast-paced, competitive games.

In addition, if the frame rate drops below the refresh rate of the monitor while VSync is enabled, it can lead to stuttering or noticeable jumps in the game, as the same frame may be displayed multiple times.

Evaluating Cost-Benefit Analysis for Hardware Upgrades

Upgrading hardware, such as your graphics card or monitor, can be an effective solution to screen tearing, but it’s also the most expensive option. Not everyone may be able or willing to invest in new hardware just to address screen tearing.

It’s essential to evaluate whether the improvement in visual quality is worth the expense for your particular use case.

Moreover, merely buying a high refresh rate monitor or a more powerful graphics card won’t necessarily solve the problem if they aren’t compatible or properly synchronized. A lack of knowledge on how to properly configure these components can lead to continued screen tearing despite the upgrades.

Implications of Adjusting Game Settings

Reducing the game’s graphics settings to prevent screen tearing might lead to less visually impressive gameplay. This can somewhat undermine the point of having a high-definition monitor and a powerful graphics card, as you’re not able to fully enjoy the graphical capabilities of your system.

Remember, while these solutions come with their potential downsides, most can be effectively managed with a little research and careful configuration.


The pursuit of seamless visuals is one of the most engaging aspects of digital experiences, whether that’s gaming, movie watching, or even regular computer use. Screen tearing, a disruptive visual artifact, can significantly hinder this experience, causing annoyance and diminishing the quality of our digital engagements.

However, understanding the causes of screen tearing and how to fix it equips us with the knowledge to take full advantage of our devices’ graphic capabilities. From aligning the monitor’s refresh rate with the graphics card’s frame rate, enabling VSync, FreeSync, or G-Sync, to possibly upgrading hardware, various solutions can combat screen tearing effectively.

However, it’s essential to bear in mind that while these solutions can significantly improve your viewing experience, they also come with potential drawbacks. Therefore, it’s crucial to weigh the cost and benefit of each solution in relation to your specific needs.

Whether you are a casual user or a hardcore gamer, learning to fix screen tearing can help you better enjoy your digital experience. While this guide provided you with the basics, continue exploring and experimenting with various settings and options.

After all, the aim is to create the most visually smooth and immersive digital experience possible. Your screen should be a window into vibrant worlds, not a barrier.