Nvidia GT 540M crashes with dual monitors

Jun 5, 2018
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I have a Dell XPS laptop L502X with 1366x720 native resolution & Nvidia GT 540M GPU. Have run dual screens with a Viewsonic VA1918wm external monitor (1440x900 native) via HDMI port of laptop and it mostly works fine. But periodically, without warning (usually on a mouseclick) the system locks up. Characteristically, the monitor then displays a uniform blank screen (colour random - never the same, but fixed when it happens). This can happen regardless of me running a video or using multiple applications (I do not run games, but sometimes do 720p or 1080p video editing with PowerDirector). Nothing resolves the freeze other than complete powerdown and reboot. Any suggestions? How can I test to confirm where the problem lies? Is there a solution other than replacing the laptop? Thanks! - Ed.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Does this only happen when both monitor are in use? Did you test it for a extended period with the laptop screen only? Try going through a few benchmarks like 3DMark to see if system is stable, PassMark is also good. I'd try a few different ones.
 
Jun 5, 2018
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It only happens when the Nvidia control panel is set to dual monitors. Yes, I can totally avoid the problem when it is set ONLY to using the laptop's internal screen, and I have done so for extended periods (weeks). But if I have *forgotten* to change the Nvidia control panel to single screen the freeze will still eventually happen, even if the external monitor is switched off. It can happen several times in a day when set to dual monitors.

I will try the benchmarks you suggest, but this is a very intermittent problem and I also wonder whether these will capture the moment that the system freezes, since (as I say) the only solution then is to "push the plunger" by switching off the laptop via its power button (3-finger-salute does not work). But perhaps these tests may catch premonitory changes that I am unaware of and that precede the freeze. Thanks! -Ed
 
Jun 5, 2018
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Thanks for your suggestions. I ran all tests of the Passmark utility without major hiccups (leaving aside that my eight-year-old machine is no longer at the cutting edge, being down at about the 25th percentile score overall). In particular, it was marked down in the 3-D graphics test because it was unable to run this at its full native resolution, with evident chunkiness and some hesitancy. It was difficult to override the program’s default, which had the test window running on the laptop screen, but easy to drag the Passmark Control Panel over to the external monitor. During testing, I avoided using the mouse.
But at the end of testing, I produced an instant freeze when I clicked the maximise button on this Control Panel screen, attempting to use the external monitor’s fullscreen mode. This was the classic freeze described earlier, but (as I expected) after recovery there appeared to be no record displayed by Passmark of the underlying fault. I am not sufficiently computer savvy to use SAFE mode after reboot, for troubleshooting.
This latest freeze may link with your question about which screen is driven by which processor. My understanding is limited, and I was only aware of options offered by Nvidia to set defaults for particular programs, and I found no option for the user to decide what would drive a particular hardware screen. This may explain what I recently noticed in the Nvidia Control Panel regarding multiple monitors. This shows the laptop screen under the heading “Intel HD graphics family” and the ViewSonic screen under the heading “GeForce GT 540M”. Perhaps this answers your question without me consulting Microsoft? Bearing in mind my description of the way these freezes occur (only needing a mouse click to cause a crash, without necessarily running graphics-intensive programs), it appears to confirm a fault or flaw in the GT 540M. I am unclear whether this is a flaw inherent in all GT 540M’s, or just a fault in mine.
So, where do I go from here? Do I have any recourse to Dell/Nvidia, now that the laptop is out of warranty? Do I need a new laptop in order to run dual screens? -Ed
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
If the monitor is using the nVidia card, and it locks up when using it, points to an issue with the card. You can try disabling the nVidia card and see if the external connection works. Not much you can do if the card is bad outside of replacing it if it is installed in an MXM slot and you can find a working one. 8 years is a good lifespan of a laptop.
 

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