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Windows 10 External Video Crashes Part 6 – Conclusion

For most of 2019 I was going crazy trying to solve unexplained problems with Windows 10 external video on my HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2 laptop. I bought the computer last May, with the idea to use it primarily as a desktop replacement. But when I connected an ASUS PB258Q 2560 x 1440 external monitor, I was plagued by mysterious intermittent crashes that slowly drove me insane. For the previous chapters of this story, see part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.

The computer worked OK during normal use, but problems appeared every couple of days, after a few hours of idle time or overnight. I experienced random crashes in the Intel integrated graphics driver igdkmd64.sys, though these stopped after upgrading the driver. The computer periodically locked up with a blank screen and fans running 100%. The Start menu sometimes wouldn’t open. Sometimes the Windows toolbar disappeared. Sometimes I’d return to the computer to find the Chrome window resized to a tiny size.

The crowning moment was the day I woke from the computer from sleep, and was greeted with the truly bizarre video scaling shown in the photo above. The whole image was also inset on the monitor, with giant black borders all around.

These might sound like a random collection of symptoms, or like a software driver problem, or maybe a typical problem with bad RAM or other hardware. But after pretty exhaustive testing and analysis (did I mention this is part 6 of this series), I became convinced the problem was somehow related to the external video. The problems only occurred when connected to external video, and when the external video resolution was 2560 x 1440.

I tried different cables. I tried both HDMI and DisplayPort. I tried RAM tests, driver updates, and firmware updates. I tried what seemed like a million different work-arounds. And I tried just living with it, but it was maddening.

 
Out With the Old

After seven months of this troubleshooting odyssey, in late December I finally gave up and replaced the whole computer. I purchased a Dell desktop, which is probably what I should have done in the first place. My original idea of using the laptop mostly as a desktop seemed attractive, but in actual practice I never made use of the laptop’s mobility. It functioned 100% as a desktop, except it was more expensive than a desktop, with a slower CPU than a comparable desktop, and with more problems than a desktop. For example, the external keyboard and monitor didn’t work reliably in the BIOS menu – I had to open the laptop and use the built-in keyboard and display. Waking the computer from sleep with the external keyboard was also iffy. I eventually concluded that a “desktop replacement” laptop isn’t really as good as a real desktop computer.

I’m happy to report that the new Dell desktop has been working smoothly with the ASUS PB258Q 2560 x 1440 monitor for five months. But what’s more surprising is that the EliteBook laptop has also been working smoothly. My wife inherited the EliteBook, and she’s been using it daily without any problems. She often uses it with an external monitor too, although it’s a different one than the PB258Q monitor I was using. No troubles at all – everything is great.

So in the end, everything’s working, but the problem wasn’t truly solved. Can I make any educated guesses what went wrong?

All the evidence points to some kind of incompatibility between the PB258Q’s 2560 x 1440 resolution and the EliteBook x360 1030 G2. Other monitors didn’t exhibit the problem, and other video resolutions on the same monitor didn’t exhibit the problem either. I believe the external video was periodically disconnecting or entering a bad state, causing the computer to become confused about what monitors were connected and what their resolutions were. This caused errors for the Start menu, toolbar, and applications, and sometimes caused the computer to freeze or crash. Was it a hardware problem with the EliteBook, a Windows driver problem, or maybe even a hardware problem with the ASUS monitor? With a large enough budget for more hardware testing, I might have eventually found the answer. For now I’m just happy the problem is gone.

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