Category Archives: Device drivers

GPU Driver Update Fixes Flickering Solitaire

I cheerfully confess: I start most working days off with a rousing round of Microsoft Solitaire. When the game pane started flickering this morning, I asked myself “Time for a new Nvidia driver?” Sure enough, a new one issued on March 22 (yesterday). And, as usual, that GPU driver update fixes flickering Solitaire as desired.

Keep Calm and Carry On: GPU Driver Update Fixes Flickering Solitaire

I upgraded the Game Ready Driver to yesterday’s version 512.15 using GeForce Experience. The whole process took under 10 minutes. No reboot was required. Interestingly, Reliability Monitor collected no errors nor warnings while the monitor was flaking out on me, either.

It’s a good thing that the symptoms are both obvious, and easily diagnosed. And FWIW, a keyboard GPU restart (CTRL+WinKey+ Shift+B) didn’t fix things. That’s why I was hopeful that a driver update would make it all better. Luckily for me, that turned out well.

What If a New Driver Flops?

Things rapidly get more interesting if a new GPU driver fails to fix monitor flicker. First and foremost, I’d check cables next, starting (in this case) with the DisplayPort cables that stretch from the Gigabyte RTX 3070 Ti GPU adapter to the affected Dell 2717D. If a cable swap didn’t fix things, I’d try rolling back two driver versions or more (for Nvidia GPUs, that means using its manual driver search facility). If no joy after two or three older driver attempts, I’d next run monitor and GPU diagnostics.

Most of the time, it’s the driver. If it’s not the driver, it’s usually the cable. If I have to get down to diagnostics (usually available from GPU and monitor makers), things can quickly get expensive. Glad to have avoided such issues this time around.

But, here in Windows-World, it’s always something, right?

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Overcoming Obsolete AMD UEFI Limitations

In yesterday’s blog post I provided an overview of the build process for a new AMD 5800X based PC. That started with putting the physical pieces together (covered therein). It continued with getting Windows 11 installed on the box. That’s today’s subject and it involved overcoming obsolete AMD UEFI limitations. Let me explain . . . and then share some other interesting observations about the state of current PC art.

What Overcoming Obsolete AMD UEFI Limitations Means

When I started up the AMD build for the first time, I had my Ventoy drive plugged in. The then-present UEFI was smart enough to recognize that my SSD was unformatted and hence, unbootable. Pretty cool. Even better, it was smart enough to recognize that the Ventoy drive was bootable — so it passed boot control to that device.

I had a fresh new Windows 11 image on that drive, and started the install process right away. But after getting past the “enter product key” hurdle (I grabbed one, courtesy of my WIMVP Visual Studio subscription) came the WTF moment. The installer informed me that the PC did not meet Windows 11 hardware requirements. I knew it should (and would, eventually) but I had to figure out what was up.

To Get to 11, I First Had to Get to 10

The same Ventoy drive also included a fresh Windows 10 ISO as well. So I selected that as my install source and went through a hurry-up install of the older OS. It went FAST: took less than 10 minutes, in fact. Then I grabbed the PC Health Check to determine where my problem lay. The then-current UEFI did not support TPM in firmware (aka fTPM). No TPM, no Windows 11.

Thus, I checked the support page for the Asrock B550 Extreme4 motherboard, BIOS (UEFI) page. The latest version is numbered 2.10, dated August 6, 2021, and its first description element reads “Support Microsoft Windows 11” (See lead-in graphic). So I quickly re-learned how to use the Asrock Flash utility, downloaded and installed the new version, and rebooted my PC. This time, the fTPM capability showed up under the Security settings for the UEFI. I was set!

All’s Well on the Second Try

Sure enough, the Windows 11 installer raised no objections to the upgrade process. Here again, the install was fast, and completed in less than 20 minutes. As an aside, I had no issues with drivers on either the Windows 10 or 11 installs, though I do have an unresolved “PCI Encryption/Decryption Controller” entry in Device Manager I still need to clean up. Based on many, many prior PC builds a single dangling reference ain’t at all bad. Looks like a new February 2022 version of the AMD Chipset drivers should take care of it, too.

{Note added 5 mins later: And yes, installing those drivers did indeed clear this entry in Device Manager. All fixed!]

I used the Windows 11 product key to activate the OS after the install was complete. I’d never activated the Windows 10 having chosen the re-installing option to bypass that check when bringing up the PC for the first time. I’m still in the process of cleaning and finishing up the new Windows 11 install on this PC. That will probably stretch out over the rest of this week, given other work commitments. But so far, now that I’m past the UEFI hurdles, the new PC has shown itself to be fast, smart and capable.

Next month, I’ll start the process of shifting over from my current production PC to make this build my new production PC. But I have a bunch of other “real work” to do first. Stay tuned: I’ll keep reporting on this process. In fact, I’ll explain what I had to do to RDP into this new PC in  tomorrow’s post.

For now, here’s the info on this new PC that shows up under my MSA. As you can see I named it RyzenOfc. (It’s got a Ryzen CPU and it’s in my home office, so why not?)

Overcoming Obsolete AMD UEFI Limitations.account-info

Interesting how Windows 11 shows up with a 10-based version number. The build suffix gives it away though…

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Monitor 2 Blink Mode Gets Easy Fix

Talk about great timing. I just finished a marathon work engagement on Thursday, and was playing catchup yesterday. As I was beavering away at a mountain of email and phone calls, I noticed my right-hand monitor acting up. It started going into what I call “blink mode.” That means it would go black every 30-60 seconds, after which it would return to what looked like normal operation. As you can see from the lead-in screencap, the right hand monitor is labeled “2.” Fortunately, monitor 2 blink mode gets easy fix (this time, anyway).

Here’s How Monitor 2 Blink Mode Gets Easy Fix

From long experience I know that when Windows monitors/displays start acting up, there are two common causes. Most common is a misbehaving graphics driver. Second most common is some kind of hardware fault, out of which the cable running from PC to display is most likely.

“Hmmmmm” I found myself thinking “Didn’t I ignore a recent Nvidia Studio Driver update because I was too busy to mess with it?” And indeed, when I ran GeForce Experience, it updated itself right away. Next thing I noticed was a new release of the aforementioned driver (Version 511.65) was out with a February 1 release date.

Consequently, I grabbed and installed that driver right away. Luckily for me, it fixed the problem. The monitor hasn’t blinked once since the update (at least, not that I noticed). It’s a good thing that the obvious fix sometimes works. It’s a better thing that it worked this time. Better still, this problem didn’t manifest until AFTER my recent work marathon ended. It would have been problematic troubleshooting an issue in the middle of a deposition, with the clock ticking away.

What If The Driver Update Didn’t Fix the Problem?

I keep cable spares around as a matter of routine. Thus, my next attempt would have been to swap out the DisplayPort cable from monitor to GPU. If that hadn’t worked, I would have swapped the monitor from one of my test PCs (I have a spare, but I’m using it to check dual-screen behavior on Windows 11 Dev Channel). I’m pretty sure the GPU is OK, because Monitor 1 has remained rock steady throughout this situation. That said, I could always switch the second monitor to HDMI, on the chance that the GPU port itself was having issues.

That’s the way things go here in Windows World. I’m glad the simplest, most obvious fix did the trick. You would be too, if it happened to you.

 

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Windows 11 Sports Slow NVMe Driver?

Here’s an interesting thread emerging from the Windows press. A growing number of outlets are reporting that Microsoft’s own NVMe drivers run slower than their Win10 counterparts on identical (and other hardware). If Windows 11 sports slow NVMe driver, what can users do? Not much, it turns out, unless they can run a third-party driver instead (e.g. Samsung NVMe Controller). For good coverage on this topic, see Taras Buria’s recent WinAero story “Windows 11 apparently slows down NVMe SSDs.” It cites a range of interesting and informative original sources.

If Windows 11 Sports Slow NVMe Driver, Then What?

What appears to be affected is the OS boot/system drive (usually C:, where Windows itself resides). Some independent tests show that other non-OS partitions don’t suffer performance degradation. But OS partitions could suffer from reductions in random read/write speeds of 50% or worse. For grins I compared CrystalDiskMark stats from my 11th gen Lenovo X12 Hybrid Tablet running Windows 11 to my 6th gen home-brew Z170-based desktop. The former has a WD SN530 1 TB SSD, while the latter has a Samsung 950 1 TB SSD.

As you can see in the lead-in graphic, the newer Windows 11 unit is a bit slower on most readings than the older Windows 10 PC. Indeed QD32 random reads  are about 1/3 slower. That said, random writes of the same ilk go the other way (but with a less-than-7% delta). For random reads/writes with QD1, 11 edges 10 on writes by just over 9%, and vice-versa for reads by just over 15%. Kind of a wash, if you ask me.

What This Means for Upgrade Plans

MS has acknowledged that the issue is known to them and that they’re working on a fix, ETA unknown. Some reports aver that this phenomenon justifies postponing upgrades until a fix is in. My own experience with Windows 11 has been uniformly positive so far, NVMe performance observations notwithstanding. I’d recommend rethinking upgrades on PCs with heavy I/O workloads (e.g. CAD, AI, data analysis, and so forth). But for routine personal or productivity computing, it doesn’t really seem to make a noticeable difference.

I’ll be watching this issue as it unfolds. Count on me to let you know when this situation changes. Given the importance of NVMe to modern computing workloads, lots of people will no doubt follow this carefully and closely.

Note Added December 10: KB5007262 Fixes Issue, But…

KB5007262 should be installed as part of the upcoming December 14 updates for production Windows 11. It came out for Beta/Dev Channel users in November (ditto for production versions, as a Preview Update on November 23). Indeed, it seems to fix the performance issues. According to this WinAero story, the MS bugfix info for the KB5007262 announcement includes the following text:

“Addresses an issue that affects the performance of all disks (NVMe, SSD, hardisk) on Windows 11 by performing unnecessary actions each time a write operation occurs. This issue occurs only when the NTFS USN journal is enabled. Note, the USN journal is always enabled on the C: disk.”

And indeed, on my X1 Extreme laptop (8th gen i7, Samsung OEM 512GB NVMe SSD, 32 GB RAM) speeds are where experience teaches me they should be. According to the afore-linked story, this fix applies to all versions of Windows 11 except Dev Channel. As far as I can tell, that version remains subject to the slow-down. I’m looking for some additional word from MS on this topic. Hopefully, they’ll fix it there soon, too. Stay tuned!

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Nvidia Game Ready vs Studio Drivers

In visiting the GeForce application to check for Nvidia drivers yesterday, I noticed a new pop-up in the options menu for driver selection. It appears in the lead-in graphic for this story. At present, it distinguishes between Nvidia Game Ready vs Studio drivers. “Hmmm,” I wondered, “what’s up with that?” I soon found out. Here’s the scoop.

Who Cares About Nvidia Game Ready vs Studio Drivers?

I’m glad you asked! For sure, all the important details are included in the NVIDIA Studio FAQs. And indeed, they’re worth reading end-to-end for those with NVIDIA graphics cards and concerns about which way to go. The simple dichotomy is: if you are mostly a gamer and want to keep up with new game releases, use the Game Ready drivers. If you are mostly a creative professional who wants to run graphics apps, use the Studio drivers. However, if you want to go both ways, you can. But that requires uninstalling one and installing the other to make that switch. Bit of a pain, actually.

To be more specific, here’s how the FAQs document ‘splains things:

  • If you are a gamer who prioritizes day of launch support for the latest games, patches, and DLCs, choose Game Ready Drivers.
  • If you are a content creator who prioritizes stability and quality for creative workflows including video editing, animation, photography, graphic design, and live-streaming, choose Studio Drivers.

GeForce Experience Lets You Pick

By default most people use the Game Ready Drivers (NVIDIA abbreviates them GRD). But if you click the vertical ellipsis to the right of Check For Updates (see lead-in graphic) the radio buttons that let you choose between GRD and SD (Studio Driver) popup. Voila! This is where you decide which fork in the driver path you’ll take.

Make the selection that works best for you, and take that fork. Just for the record, the SD version is best understood as follows. Basically, it’s a slightly back-rev, more fully tested, and more stable GPU driver that emphasizes reliability and functionality over speed and support for newly introduced gaming-specific features.

I’m switching my production desktop to the SD fork. My son, who’s a gamer of sorts, is sticking with the GRD fork. If any interesting distinctions between these two paths emerge, I’ll let you know. Stay tuned!

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Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue

Big Sigh. I’ve been trying to get the Thunderbolt 4 firmware updated on the snazzy new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 they sent me, but to no avail. Today, I observed that Win10 rollback works but Thunderbolt issues continue. Something gets weird when the PC reboots to do the firmware install. I see a short (and tiny) error message long enough to know it’s there, but definitely not long enough to read it, or interpret its significance.

When Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue, Then What?

First, the good news. I elected to roll back my Windows 11 update on this machine and it not only went well, it finished in under 3 minutes. That’s amazing! It also confirmed that the Windows.old snapshot is of whatever vintage and state the OS was at the time of upgrade. All my account stuff remained clear and workable, thank goodness.

Now, the bad news. I remain unable to complete the firmware update successfully. That means Thunderbolt sees no devices on either of the PC’s two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Bummer! It also means I’m sending this fish back to the pond (Lenovo, that is) with a request to return it when THEY can fix this driver issue. For me, Thunderbolt 4 is a big deal. I don’t think I can review this system without a working and capable Thunderbolt 4 connection for me to test performance, throughput, and so forth.

That said, the USB-3 Type A port is remarkably fast. I get better performance out of my old, tired mSATA drives on this machine (Samsung EVO SSDs in Sabrent mSATA enclosures) than I’ve ever seen before.

Do All Things Come to He Who Waits?

I guess I’ll be finding out. Tomorrow, I’ll fire off an email to the reviews coordinator, explain my situation, and let them know I’m sending the laptop back. It will be absolutely fascinating to see how they respond. I’m hopeful I’ll get a fixed (or replacement) laptop soon. If and when I do, I’ll start posting madly about what I see and learn. Right now, I just can’t go forward with a major subsystem on the fritz. Hope that makes sense…

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Nvidia Drivers Gain Considerable Heft

I noticed early this afternoon that my GeForce GTX 1070 GPU needed a driver update. The lead-in graphic shows the download size for the 496.13 version at 830.3 MB. When expanded and installed, that translates into 1.5 GB in the DriverStore (see RAPR screenshot below). That’s why I claim that  Nvidia drivers gain considerable heft. The preceding version, as that same screencap shows, weighs in at a slighty-less-ginormous 1.3 GB. Heft!

Nvidia Drivers Gain Considerable Heft.rapr

Driver Store Explorer (RAPR.exe) shows some big driversizes for Nvidia stuff!
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As Nvidia Drivers Gain Considerable Heft, What to Do?

Clean up old ones, obviously! With that kind of space consumption you wouldn’t want to keep too many of them in the DriverStore. I will usually keep the previous version around for a week or so. I’ve been bitten in the past by new driver issues, and have learned to support rollback long enough to make sure everything’s OK.

I can remember only a couple of years ago, when Nvidia drivers routinely weighed in at 600-800 MB each. They’ve doubled in size since then as more bells, whistles and game tweaks get rolled up underneath their capacious umbrellas. Even then, I advised cleaning up if more than 2 copies reside in the DriverStore, and have personally seen that single cleanup maneuver — namely, removing older drivers from the store — free up 3-5 GB of disk space.

Note: by default, Windows 10 or 11 will allow an arbitrary number of versions of the same driver in the store. For big drivers this can produce unnecessary bloat. As you roll new Nvidia (or AMD Radeon) drivers in, make sure you also take the time to roll old ones out. Cheers!

Note: RAPR Pointer

If you’re not already familiar with the excellent Driver Store Explorer tool (aka RAPR.exe), download a free copy from its Github home page. An invaluable tool that I use myself at least once a month. All you have to do is click the “Select Old Driver(s)” button to clean up obsolete driverstore elements.

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Dev Channel Instability Promise Starts Manifesting

Back in late August, Microsoft sent an email to Windows Insiders. It indicated that the company would “soon be flighting early development builds in the Dev Channel.” That e-mail was reported by an Italian TV station, HTNovo. In fact, it’s the source for this story’s lead-in graphic. The next line in the email reads “These builds may be less stable…” With the last few (2 or 3) releases, this Dev Channel instability promise starts manifesting itself. At least, on my Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Hybrid Tablet, anyhow.

Dev Channel Instability Promise Starts Manifesting Exactly How?

Two Builds back — namely 22458, installed on 9/17 — I noticed my X12 start getting laggy and draggy. Click on a Start menu item, and there’s a noticeable pause before it opens. Double-click inside an application — Explorer, for example — and it takes one or two seconds for the drive or folder to expand and show its contents.

I’ve also noticed that the Belkin Thunderbolt dock on that PC is running at about half-speed. I’m seeing data transfers closer to 500 Mbps in Macrium Reflect, and around 70-80 MBps in Explorer for large file transfers. Wired Ethernet is topping out at under 100 Mbps on my nominal GbE Internet connection, which routinely delivers 600-800 Mbps on other wired connections. The same dock runs much faster on a Windows 10 PC, and a USB-C NVMe attached to the X12’s other USB C port directly (no intermediating dock) also runs much, much faster.

Learning What “Less Stable” Means

The weird thing is my older, less capable X380 Yoga (8th gen Intel CPU Thunderbolt 3) isn’t slowing down as much as the X12. That newer tablet includes an 11th gen Intel CPU, faster RAM, and a Thunderbolt 4 interface. My gut feeling is that the penalty must be related to newer-gen drivers and interfaces. My hope is that MS works out the kinks sooner, not later.

I installed the latest Build (22468) yesterday. It is much less laggy and draggy than the preceding 22463 and 22458 builds. But it’s still not “nearly instant.” My Beta Channel test PC (another X380 Yoga) is snappy and even a bit faster than it was when running recent Windows 10 builds.

So right now, I’m having fun. I’m observing performance, looking for potential issues and causes, and giving the new builds a good workout. I don’t mind — it’s what I signed up for when I joined the Insider Program. But it is worth noting and reporting on. I’ll keep you posted as things change and develop further. Please: stay tuned!

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Nvidia’s Microsoft Windows 11 Game Ready Driver

OK, then. As October 5 gets ever closer, more of the pieces start falling into place. This morning (September 20), Nvidia released GeForce Driver Version 472.12. As you can see in the lead-in graphic for this story, the GeForce download page bills this new offering as a Microsoft Windows 11 Game Ready Driver.

Obtaining the Microsoft Windows 11 Game Ready Driver

The driver weighs in at nearly 723MB (they keep getting bigger, don’t they). You can grab a copy using GeForce Experience or directly from its download page. With two Nvidia-equipped PCs here at Chez Tittel, I was able to confirm that it downloads and installs just fine on both Windows 10 and 11 rigs. I can also say it goes much faster on an 8-core 2021 CPU than a 2014 4-core model.

What Can Go Wrong, Didn’t — This Time

I’ve seen previous GeForce drivers from Nvidia cause occasional Windows problems. These have varied from effects as trivial as momentary screen blinking or blanking to out-and-out BSODs. So far, thank goodness, the 472.12 version seems entirely stable and well-behaved.

That’s good: the last thing users want to face when tackling a new OS is driver problems to make things more interesting. After the official upgrade to Windows 11 comes and goes early next month (October 5), we’ll have a better idea of where production issues may manifest. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the recent trickle of updates from the likes of Intel, AMD, and now Nvidia, as they get ready for an influx of Windows 11 updates. Indeed, I’m sure many are hoping for a flood of Windows-11 ready (and installed) PCs to hit stores and users’ hot little hands this holiday season, too.

 

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