I had installed Windows 7 on an Acer Aspire V3-772G-9829 laptop. This laptop used an Intel Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M with 4GB DDR3 VRAM. In addition, I had a total of 12GB RAM and was running Windows 7 from drive C on a 128GB SSD. The Windows Experience Index was 7.1. It did not seem that this system should be having significant graphics display problems.
And yet it was. I was often getting poor video response. For instance, various windows would be labeled “Not responding” and sometimes I would have to kill and restart them, to get them to display properly. I was also having a new problem where posts in this very blog would sometimes gray out: the text would still be there, but I would have to hit F5 to refresh and see it.
I decided to try to figure out what could be causing these video problems. A search led to a variety of suggestions. One suggestion was to go into Control Panel > Power Options > Change Plan Settings > Change Advanced Power Settings. There, I made two changes. First, under Intel Graphics Settings > Intel Graphics Power Plan, I changed the Plugged In option to Maximum Performance. Second, under PCI Express > Link State Power Management, I changed the Plugged In option to Off.
Another suggestion was to disable Windows Aero. A search led to indications that I could do this by going into Control Panel > Personalization and choose a non-Aero theme (which might exclude some entries in the My Themes section). As described in the Windows 7 installation post (first link shown above), I was using a customized old-style theme. I did not think it was an Aero theme. Nonetheless, I switched to the Windows Classic theme.
These measures did not immediately seem to be making a difference, so I continued my exploration. It was possible that these or other measures would have a different impact after a reboot, but that was not an option at the moment: I had some other processes underway, and would need to let them finish before I could reboot.
Somewhere, I got the idea to run Intel’s check for updates. It failed in Firefox, apparently because I wasn’t paying attention and Firefox blocked it from running a script, so I tried running it in Chrome. There, it ran, but gave me this message:
Product Detected: NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
Current Driver Installed: 184.108.40.20621
This device is unknown or unsupported. Please contact the manufacturer for possible updates.
So, OK, I went to NVIDIA’s site and ran their system scan. For some reason, it didn’t detect my current installed driver, which according to Control Panel > Device Manager > Display Adapters > NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M > right-click > Properties > Driver tab was 220.127.116.1121, as just noted by that Intel error (above). But I could see why they were offering a Recommended Update, because theirs was called GeForce 332.21 Driver. It seemed they were using an entirely different numbering system. I wasn’t sure where I had gotten this 18.104.22.16821 thing, although I did see a parallel in its ending numbers: 3.3221. Odd. It soon developed that the full name of the driver they were now offering to give me was 332.21-notebook-win8-win7-64bit-international-whql.exe. I had already downloaded it, and I thought I had installed it. Indeed, Control Panel > Programs and Features said that I did have NVIDIA Graphics Driver 332.21 installed. I decided not to install it again.
Someone suggested that I might actually get better results from uninstalling the Intel graphics driver and just using the generic driver. I guessed the same approach could work with the NVIDIA driver. I decided to hold those options in reserve.
Others suggested disabling hardware accceleration in specific applications (e.g., Microsoft Word: Tools > Options > Advanced) or doing it for the system as a whole. I couldn’t find the system-wide option, but while I was cruising around, I did try Control Panel > Troubleshooting > Appearance and Personalization > Display Aero Desktop Effects. That option turned on Aero and gave me a new theme. I didn’t like it, but it did occur to me that possibly my custom theme was introducing complications somehow, so I thought maybe I should go with the Aero thing for a while and see if it made a difference.
Eventually I did find where the system-wide hardware acceleration option was supposed to be: Control Panel > Display > Change Display Settings > Advanced Settings > Troubleshoot tab > Change Settings > move the slider. Mine was grayed out at the Change Settings button, so I couldn’t do it. But I did find hardware acceleration options in my NVIDIA Control Panel, available from the Start Menu or system tray (bottom right corner of the screen). Within the NVIDIA Control Panel, my NVIDIA Phys-X graphics accelerator was set to auto-select a GPU. I tried setting it to use only the GeForce GPU (not the system’s CPU). Soon, in light of the changes described in the next paragraphs, I changed my mind: I thought it might be best to leave the Set PhysX Configuration option where it originally was, so I changed it back to “Auto-select (recommended).” I wasn’t entirely sure how to read the GPU-Z GPU Load Sensor, but it did tentatively seem that I was on the right track — that, if anything, I might actually want to be shifting more of the load from the NVIDIA to the Intel graphics.
From the system tray, I was also able to start another piece of NVIDIA software, called the NVIDIA GeForce Experience. It confirmed that my driver was 332.21 and it was up to date.
While I was in the NVIDIA Control Panel, I saw that there were a few other things I might tweak. First, in the Adjust Image Settings with Preview area, I changed the system to balance Quality against Performance, rather than fixate on Quality. In the Manage 3D Settings area, I changed the “Multi-display/mixed-GPU acceleration” option away from its apparent default (Multiple display performance mode) to the seemingly more relevant “Single display performance mode.” Then I realized there was no separate setting for when I was on battery, so I decided to try the “Compatibility performance mode” option. I changed the “Texture filtering – Quality” option to Performance.
Following another tip, I went into Control Panel > Display > Change Display Settings > Advanced Settings > Monitor tab. Some people were able to choose different options there. The suggestion was that a slower rate might help. But the only option I had was 60 Hertz. That was true on the Intel HD Graphics Control Panel tab as well. I did try to go into Monitor tab > Properties (where it was listing a Generic PnP Monitor) > Driver. The driver for this monitor was version 6.1.7600.16385, dated 6/21/2006. The Update Driver button yielded a statement that the driver software for this device was up to date.
In that same Monitor tab, I also had the option of switching from 32-bit to 16-bit color. I tried that. A search, and quick sampling from a few movies, suggested that this switch might not give me terribly inferior color. Participants in one thread said the viewing difference could be quite noticeable (e.g., color banding rather than smooth transitioning from one color to another within a scene) and that the 32-bit performance hit would be negligible on contemporary systems. Participants in another thread echoed those points, and also the observation that 32-bit could actually be faster. They said that I would likely see more performance improvement without such a visible quality hit if I left it at 32-bit and just reduced the resolution from its present 1920 x 1080. I was reluctant to do that — I needed the screen real estate — but I did restore the 32-bit setting.
That same webpage indicated that the video problem could also be due to demanding background applications. Based on previous unhappy experience, I suspected that my system response problems might be caused by Copernic Desktop Search. Their new version, recently installed on my machine, no longer provided as many customization options. Specifically, I had noticed that their canned settings tended to keep grabbing system resources after I had returned to the machine and had started trying to work. According to their canned settings, that was not supposed to happen: Copernic was supposedly set so that its indexing performance was “Restricted (optimized for low impact).” But that wasn’t how the program actually behaved — which was why, with the previous version, I had opted for a Custom indexing settings that, as I say, was no longer available. I liked Copernic and wanted to continue to use it, but now I had to wonder whether there was a way to use some other tool or trick to throttle back the demands that Copernic could make on my system. I saw that a number of users in one thread seemed to agree that Copernic version 4 was a de facto downgrade, not an improvement. I decided to uninstall Copernic 4, try the 14-day free trial of X1, and maybe go back to Copernic 3.
It would take me a while to decide whether these steps yielded improvements. In the short term, over a period of a few days, they definitely did reduce screen problems. They also made a significant reduction in my system’s graphics performance, dropping from 7.1 to 5.8 on the Windows Experience Index — although, frankly, that seemed to be a relatively theoretical drop; my actual system usability improved, with much less stuttering and other screen nonresponsiveness.