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Windows 10 External Video Part 5 – Failure

I’m either very persistent or very stupid. After 4+ months, I’m still chasing unexplained problems with external video on the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2 laptop that I bought in May. Recently I thought I’d finally solved it, but I was wrong, and now the problem is worse than ever. I am slowly going insane.

For the previous chapters of this story, see part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. Here’s a short refresher:

  • Windows 10 laptop with an external monitor, ASUS PB258Q 2560 x 1440
  • works OK during normal use
  • problems appear every couple of days, after a few hours of idle time or overnight
  • random crashes in Intel integrated graphics driver igdkmd64.sys (stopped after upgrading the driver)
  • computer periodically locks up with a blank screen and fan running 100%
  • Start menu periodically won’t open, must kill WindowsShellExperienceHost.exe
  • Windows toolbar sometimes disappears
  • Chrome window sometimes gets resized to a tiny size

This might sound like a random collection of symptoms, but I’m 99% sure they’re all somehow related to the external video. I suspect the external video is periodically disconnecting or crashing or entering a bad state, which causes errors for the Start menu, toolbar, and applications, and sometimes causes the computer to freeze.

 
Updates

Here’s a recap of the past month. On August 15, I switched from using an HDMI cable to a USB-C to DisplayPort cable. This did not fix the problems. On August 22, in the Windows advanced power options, I changed the Intel Graphics Settings power plan when plugged in to “maximum performance”, and also changed the minimum processor state when plugged in to 100%. The computer then went seven days without problems. On August 29, I also installed two “critical” HP updates: a BIOS update and an Intel Management Engine Driver update. Neither one mentioned anything about video issues in its release notes. The computer went a further 11 days without problems – 18 total days problem free!

Believing that the issue was resolved, on September 9 I switched back to an HDMI cable, which I prefer over DisplayPort for reasons of convenience. Within a few hours, the problems returned. I swapped the DisplayPort cable back in, and everything seemed OK.

But this morning, I once again experienced a frozen computer with a blank screen and fans running 100%. After forcing a shutdown and restart, the external monitor via DisplayPort no longer works at all. When I connect the cable, the Device Manager shows “Cable Matters USB-C Video Cable” but no external display is detected. I’ve tried rebooting and unplugging/replugging the cable at both ends, and cycling through options in the monitor’s menus, but nothing helps. Maybe the cable is broken? It was working last night, and I didn’t touch it after that.

 
Where Do We Go From Here?

I’m at wits’ end. Is this is a Window 10 driver problem? Laptop hardware problem? External monitor hardware problem? Cable problem? Multiple such problems at once? The sometimes long delay between problem episodes is frustrating any attempt to find a solution. Typically the problems appear every couple of days, but I recently went 18 days between problem events. That makes it almost impossible to make changes one at a time and draw conclusions about whether they helped.

A few people have suggested I try running Linux, to help determine whether this is a Windows problem or a hardware problem. I have briefly run Linux a few times, and it works OK. But I can’t devote 18+ days to running Linux simply as an experiment. Much of the software that I use is Windows-only, and I’m not interested in switching to Linux as my desktop OS right now.

I could look into repairing or returning the computer, but I’m not interested in that. It was a used/refurb machine, and not terribly expensive. While the money is not insignificant, my time and the disruption to my work are more important. I can’t be without this computer for three weeks while a reseller or PC tech experiments with it. If I need to move everything to another PC anyway, then I’ll simply go with that as the final solution.

I could try another DisplayPort cable. Maybe it simply broke somehow. That would be cheap and easy, and everything did seem OK via DisplayPort up until today.

I could also try switching back to my old 1920 x 1080 external monitor. In earlier testing from June-July, that seemed to work OK, but perhaps I just didn’t test it long enough. Reverting to the smaller and lower-resolution monitor would be a disappointment, but at this point I would be happy with any solution that works.

Finally, I could just replace the whole computer. That’s what I keep threatening to do, but I haven’t yet. Reinstalling and reconfiguring all the software on this PC would be a major pain, and the memory of that experience is still fresh in my mind from May. Several multi-gigabyte packages would need to be downloaded again, and node-locked licenses re-requested and regenerated for several software tools. When I went through the process in May, it took close to a week to get through it all.

Perhaps I could clone the existing hard drive and use it in the new PC, avoiding having to repeat all the software setup. But then I’d also be cloning all the HP-specific drivers and plugins and utilities, while missing out on all the vendor-specific stuff for the new computer. And I’d still need to regenerate the node-locked licenses for some software, even if I didn’t need to download and install them again. Maybe it’s better to start with a clean slate, even if it takes longer.

I know any computer can have hardware problems, and any OS can have bugs. But I can’t escape the feeling that this type of driver/hardware mystery is precisely why so many people dislike Windows. I feel like I’m living in one of those “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” television commercials. If you have any suggestions for other solutions I could try (short of a sledgehammer), please share them in the comments.

Read 10 comments and join the conversation 

10 Comments so far

  1. Steve September 11th, 2019 10:57 am

    Rebooted the computer again. This time it installed some updates during the reboot. Now the DisplayPort cable is suddenly working once more. This is crazy.

  2. Jerry September 11th, 2019 5:49 pm

    One of the windows updates a month or two ago made the external monitors on my HP Zbook thru the thunderbolt dock not work anymore. Then the corporate IT guy tried to \”help\” and effectively bricked it. He did some sort of update and then LCD screen wouldn\’t work either.

    Another guy had to come around, grab the computer, fix it, and then we could update the firmware in the thunderbolt dock so things would work again.

    Welcome to the modern era of computers. I\’m beginning to think having to set I/O port settings with jumpers was better.

  3. Peter C September 11th, 2019 8:07 pm

    This reminds me so much of the defective “refurbished” laptops we were getting off eBay that must have been returned to the OEM for problems like yours, dumped on a reseller, and then sold to someone like us as working, which they mostly do until the intermittent problem like this occurs some weeks into using them.

    If it is a hardware issue, and the laptop wasn’t terribly expensive, why not buy another of the same model and see if it does the same thing. That might at least allow you to rule out defective hardware, and at most fix your problem.

  4. Trevor September 12th, 2019 12:54 pm

    Hi Steve

    Allison Sheridan, the presenter on the NosillaCast, t had an annoying problem when her MacBook Pro would slow down under load from 2.5-3GHz to 1.0GHz. Read the story here and, like you went through many permutations swapping computers, devices, and working with software developers trying to solve it: https://www.podfeet.com/blog/2019/08/processor-failure/.

    In the end she found it was her $1200 27″ 5K display from LG that seemed to suck the life out of her MacBook Pro when set up for podcasting.

  5. BartoszP September 13th, 2019 7:53 am

    Steve,

    Download and run from pandrive any Linux distro let it run for all night with some graphics or cpu test started to heat the system up. Maybe the VRAM which is used for display is faulty and goes crazy when is overheated?

    As the second try you could start and loop forever any MemTest like memory test to check memory to stress the system.

  6. Steve September 13th, 2019 8:00 am

    Yeah, this was a refurbished laptop. I’ve bought similar ones before, and they either worked fine or had fairly obvious issues. It has definitely occurred to me that the problem I’m seeing is exactly why this machine was refurbed. BTW I did run MemTest overnight back in part 1 or part 2.

  7. Jerry September 13th, 2019 4:23 pm

    Did you try a video stress test, such as Furmark?
    https://geeks3d.com/furmark/

    I ran one video stress test on my old laptop to see if I had the unsoldering NVIDIA chip issue, and it failed within an hour.

    I\’ve had computers pass MemTest86+ fine, but fail when compiling the linux kernel. That\’s my favorite CPU/Memory/Cache stress test. I let it rebuild the kernel continuously for a few days, and if it doesn\’t fail, I call that computer good.

  8. Peter G September 27th, 2019 9:39 am

    Hi there

    I used to do second and third line support on about a thousand HP notebooks for a bank and your tale sounds familiar. A quick question, are you….

    a) Running the standard HP install for the machine, built using the restore partition or DVD

    b) Running the W10 install provided by the reseller

    or

    c) Running a fresh install of W10 after downloading it from Microsoft

    Option (c) is the only way to go because in my experience both HP and the refurbishers add lots of cruft and even spyware to machines that can cause lots of problems. If you are running (A) or (B) then I strongly suggest that you fit a new hard drive, load a fresh copy of W10 and start again.

    By leaving it to download and configure overnight you get the option to swap hard drives during the day and actually get some work done.

  9. Steve September 27th, 2019 9:54 am

    I am running (B), the HP-flavored Windows 10 that was pre-installed on the computer when I got it.

  10. Brian October 4th, 2019 5:39 pm

    Hey Steve,

    This reminds of a similar problem I had with an external monitor a few years ago. In my case, the computer would randomly lock up (fans going) when trying to wake the monitor, but only occasionally. I was using Linux at the time, and I tracked it down the EDID. The computer was trying to read the monitor’s ROM over the display cable so it could begin driving the correct screen resolution, but occasionally it would get garbage info back- so it got stuck in a tight loop re-trying, burning up the CPU. Since it was Linux, I simply disabled EDID in the kernel and updated my monitor config file to use a fixed resolution. The Wikipedia article for EDID mentions an EDID Windows utility called Powerstrip which might be useful to you. I hope this helps!

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