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Windows 10 Crashes Part 4 – 2K Video

I’m still chasing after unexplained errors and crashes with the new Windows 10 powered HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2 laptop that I bought in May. See part 1, part 2, and part 3 for the backstory. The computer crashes, freezes, reboots, or experiences other problems every day or two when I’m not using it – I’ll return to the computer after a few hours and discover that something’s gone wrong. From investigation of event logs and other clues, the problems seem related to the graphics display. I’m using the laptop with an external ASUS PB258Q 2560 x 1440 monitor. On June 15 I uninstalled the HP OEM graphics driver and installed the generic Intel graphics driver, after which I had no more crashes, but I continued to see other problems:

  • computer periodically locks up with a blank screen and fan running 100%
  • computer is unexpectedly off, then hangs during booting
  • Start menu won’t open
  • Windows toolbar is missing
  • Chrome window gets resized to a tiny size

After a few months of testing, I believe I’ve finally isolated the problem: the computer can’t handle 2560 x 1440 graphics on an external monitor. If I use a 1920 x 1080 monitor, or a 2560 x 1440 monitor running at 1920 x 1080 resolution, everything is OK and the computer runs smoothly for weeks at a time. But switch to 2560 x 1440 resolution and problems reappear within a day or two.

What’s going on here? A previous commenter mentioned that for resolutions above 1920 x 1080, HDMI uses a different signalling method with a higher frequency data rate. That’s probably part of the answer, but if there were problems with the faster data rate, I’d expect to see video artifacts rather than Windows errors. I tried two different HDMI cables to see if that might help, but it made no difference. Perhaps the 2560 x 1440 resolution is forcing the integrated graphics hardware to work at a faster rate or in a different mode, exposing some firmware bug or hardware defect, or simply overheating.

As a last-ditch solution, as of today I’m running 2560 x 1440 using a USB-C to DisplayPort cable instead of HDMI. Maybe that will help, maybe not. If it doesn’t eliminate the problems, I’ll have to choose between attempting to RMA the computer or just living with 1920 x 1080 resolution. The lower resolution by itself isn’t so bad, but that solution would leave me with a useless 2K monitor. Anybody interested in some used hardware? 🙂

Read 5 comments and join the conversation 

5 Comments so far

  1. Jeff August 17th, 2019 10:28 am

    Kudos for your tenacity…I’m really curious if using USB-C is the fix. I can’t recall if you tried it with Linux at that resolution, but stable operation there might help rule out hardware/thermal issues.

  2. BartoszP August 18th, 2019 11:08 am

    Steve,

    Try to remove all icons from desktop. Try to pin all needed programs to taskbar for easy usage but stay with empty desktop.
    I had a problem with one computer (Lenovo) which were bumping into high gear when external monitor was connected. No crashes but processor was used @ 100% and the fan was almost flying away 🙂
    It turned out that problem was connected with “broken” installation of Adobe Reader. Candidly it was not problem with Reader per se but with Widnows icon caching service.
    The culprit was that Windows tried to render the document to display icon filled with the content of the first page. When the particular icon was visible the computer was “crying for help”. When the icon was moved away from the Desktop the problem vanished.

    Maybe yor computer has same problem with thumbnail cache and the driver is not so resistant to this situation and resets computer? Look for “Clear & Reset The Thumbnail Cache In Windows 10”.

  3. Steve August 18th, 2019 12:02 pm

    Hmm, very interesting theory. I do use Adobe Reader extensively and have some PDF icons on the desktop.

  4. Ramtop August 21st, 2019 3:22 pm

    I think the outcome of using the USB-C/DP cable will depend on the exact capability of the laptop’s USB-C port. From reading HP’s specs it looks to me like their USB-C is actually a full thunderbolt implementation, so the cable should just be taking DP signals and passing them through to the monitor. That’s good, because it bypasses the Intel iGPU’s TDMS transmitter, which is very possibly the source of the problem as HDMI depends on the TDMS hardware.

    Of course if the iGPU’s display output block is actually broken then nothing much will change. Only a CPU swap would fix that.

  5. Steve August 22nd, 2019 6:22 am

    Rats… it died again after a week with the USB-C/DisplayPort cable. This morning the external and internal screens were both black, fan was running 100%, and the computer was unresponsive. And yet I could tell Windows was still running, because I heard the correct audio sounds when I unplugged USB devices and when I pressed Shift repeatedly to activate Sticky Keys. To BartoszP’s point, I did have Adobe Reader open and running. I don’t know how that would explain a black screen, but I’ll try his solution for one last attempt before I throw this computer in the dumpster. 🙂

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