For Windows 10 testers with high resolution laptops and discrete graphics, crashes are all to common... here's a handy fix

If you have a laptop without a discrete graphics card or if you have a PC with a traditional desktop graphics card, chances are you've had a smoother experience when it comes with testing Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 10 and NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) experimental graphics drivers.

On the other hand, if you are like me and have a laptop with a high resolution screen (2K or up) and discrete NVIDIA GPU part (particularly one that shares the DRAM with the CPU) you may have felt the pain of frequent graphics crashes.  Even rolling back from the suggested GeForce 349.90 WQHL with Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10041 to 349.65 WQHL I continue to experience a fair number of crashes.

The good news (sort of) is that I've developed a protocol that allows me to save my work under most crashes, including the case where the display goes black but the machine is still running.  I figured I'd share it with you, in case you have a similar experience.

NVIDIA GeForce 650M GT

Here's what you need:
  • A display output dongle
Here's what to do:
  1. Plug in the display dongle (this will put your screen into a VGA mode of some sort, forcing the display driver to restart).  You should now see a lower resolution environment show up.
  2. Now that the graphics are back to life remove the display adapter.
  3. For good measure disable your GPU.  To do this go into Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Device Manger and go to your display adapter.  Left click on the little arrow next to it, to expand it.  Right click on the graphics chip which shoud read something like "GeForce ...".  Click disable.
  4. Now close any GPU-accelerated programs you don't need to save work in (Adobe Systems Inc.'s (ADBE) Photoshop, browsers like Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Chrome, etc.).
  5. Finally, go to the app that you want to save work in, but appears to be graphically dead due to the GPU glitch.  Select full screen mode in the target app ("F11" in most browsers, or "F" key in Photoshop).
  6. Exit fullscreen mode (either reenter shortcut or click "Esc" key to exit, in most apps)
  7. The change in screen setting should force the app to refresh its graphics context... you should now be able to save your work.
  8. Turn off GPU acceleration in most apps to prevent crashes.
  9. Reenable the GPU by right clicking in the Device Manager and selecting "enable".

GeForce Trash

Beware you may get a hard crash like a blue screen of death ("out of memory") after your do reenable the GPU as its memory allocations may reload messed up values.  But at least you've saved your work!

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