Flashing Screen & Windows 10
As of the time of writing this article, I have just received my new laptop. This system is to replace my primary HP laptop that died a few months ago after being in faithful service for over 10 years. Here’s what I got.
- Alienware 17 R3
- Microsoft Windows 10 Professional
- Intel Core i7-6820HK (Quad-Core, 8MB Cache, Dynamically Overclocked up to 4.1GHz)
- 32GB Dual Channel DDR4 2133Mhz (16GBx2)
- 256GB PCIe SSD (Boot) + 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s (Storage)
- NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 980M with 8GB GDDR5
- 17.3 inch UHD (3840 x 2160) IGZO IPS Anti-Glare 400-nits Display (4K)
- Intel 8260 2×2 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz + Bluetooth4.1
- 8 Cell 92Wh Battery
- Customizable RGB Keyboard
- Xbox 360 Controller (Black)
Needless to say, I love it! I’ve been playing Fallout 4 on it with graphics set to Ultra and it doesn’t even break a sweat. The fan is barely audible during normal operation. It really kicks up when working hard, but that’s necessary to keep things cool and prolong component life. I loaded some software that I commonly use and everything was going well. That’s when it happened.
I was going to install a Linux VM and was deciding between the trusty old VMWare and Microsoft’s Hyper-V. I did some reading and saw that Hyper-V supports Ubuntu and has native CPU support, so I figured I’d give it a try. I added the Hyper-V components in Windows Features, as well as some other items I’d need for development work (IIS, ASP.NET support, etc.) and then restarted my system.
Upon coming up to the login, the screen started flashing / flickering. I thought it was strange, but maybe some things are still kicking off from the reconfiguration. Once I logged in though things got worse. There was a messed up bar flashing down the left side of the screen and the entire screen kept jumping and flickering. It looked for all the world like a hardware issue (cables loose, bad video card, bad screen, etc.).
At this point I was NOT happy! I thought, here I have a brand new $3,100 laptop (before discounts) that has failed on its 2nd day of use! However, I figured that it was far too coincidental that this happened immediately after I’d just made a software change, so I started uninstalling the components I’d just enabled. I removed them one at a time, rebooting after each uninstall. Of course I left Hyper-V until last since I figured it was the most likely software culprit. Nothing worked until I uninstalled Hyper-V. After that everything went back to normal and I haven’t had a problem since.
Now keep in mind that I have a couple of decades of experience (just helping illustrate the following point) and to me this problem was IDENTICAL to a loose video component or cabling. It was so similar that had it occurred at any other time I would have sworn it was a hardware issue and would be pursuing a replacement right now. When I started researching this issue I found that this is in fact what others have done. I’m writing this article to hopefully clarify the source of the problem.
There are several resources online discussing various ways to troubleshoot this. However, what they all have in common is isolating software components to determine which is causing the problem. What this all really boils down to is software compatibility with Windows 10. Each of these resources takes a different approach to determining which piece of software or driver is not playing nice with Windows 10.
Apparently Microsoft knows about the problem and offers the following article to troubleshoot flickering in Windows 10.
Microsoft: Troubleshoot Windows 10 Screen Flickering
They suggest that either one of three software components and/or video drivers are typically to blame. The software packages that they specify can cause problems are Norton AntiVirus, iCloud and IDT Audio. If you have one of these Microsoft recommends removing them to see if that resolves the issue. The process for video card issues is a bit more involved but generally involves updating drivers and if you have multiple display adapters, isolating which is causing the problem by disabling them one at a time.
Other 3rd party articles provide different ways to achieve a similar main purpose… isolate the software component and disable or remove it.
Techdows – Turn off Windows problem and error reporting services
Windows Report – Isolate boot software components to determine which is causing the problem
Make Use Of – Basically a reiteration of Microsoft’s steps
Long story short, it’s a simple software incompatibility. You just need to get to the bottom of which piece of software is causing it and remove or update it. For me it was Hyper-V, but for you it could be something else. Now keep in mind that this is not a means to fix actually broken or defective hardware. Using some common sense though you could probably determine the difference. If you just upgraded to Windows 10 or installed some software when the issue started then it’s probably a software issue. However, if your system has been running flawlessly for quite some time with no changes being made and then it starts, then chances are it’s hardware.
I hope this article helps you get to the bottom of whatever the cause might be!