Display driver stopped responding and has recovered, here's a simple fix that worked on Windows 7 gaming system with NVIDIA 560 Ti, and Windows 8 ThinkPad W520 with NVIDIA 1000M

Posted by Paul Braren on Jun 27 2012 in
  • Gaming
  • GPU
  • HowTo
  • Windows
  • Ah, the dreaded "Display driver stopped responding and has recovered" message, aka, TDR error that dates back to Vista days. Here's my saga, that began in the summer of 2012:

    You may recall I'm using an SLI configuration in gZilla, the family's gaming system. That's two 560 Ti based GPUs:

    MSI GeForce GTX560 Ti 1 GB DDR5 2DVI/Mini HDMI
    PCI-Express Video Card N560GTX TI TWIN FROZR II OC

    Recently, I began to run into trouble with one of the 2 cards running significantly hotter than the other, even when installed alone. How do I know this? For one, the gamer was complaining of random crashes becoming more frequent, forfeiting battles. Not good.

    So I used MSI Kombuster that comes along with MSI's latest Afterburner 2.22 from here:

    to stress the GPU, and really bring it to high temperatures rather quickly. This quickly crashed the system with a blank black screen. It was kind of like the computer was running, but nobody was home. Being able to quickly reproduce the problem is good, in a way.

    So I pulled one MSI card out, 50/50 shot at getting the right one. Oops, I apparently chose the wrong one, since the remaining one ran hot (>80C then crash). Swapped cards, much cooler, no crashes, simple, now I know which one to RMA (which MSI processed instantly, 3 year warranty is a good thing.

    I then figured now was as good a time as any to also update to the latest WHQL 301.42 drivers, as well as bring my ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3 motherboard to BIOS level 2.10. That didn't go so well, with 2 new issues:

    • one of my three 1TB drives dropped from the Intel Rapid Storage Technology RAID0 array, perhaps just as a nasty side effect of the UEFI flash upgrade
      time for a restore from my latest Windows Home Server based backup, which had a problem with booting the usual recovery media, which after additional anxiety, I eventually worked out here:
      good, at least I have an operating system again, one hurtle cleared, one more to go:
    • I began to get this error (pictured above) on this 301.42 driver:
      Display driver stopped responding and has recovered
      Display driver NVIDIA Windows Kernel Mode Driver, Version 301.42 stopped
      responding and has successfully recovered.

    Here's the details of the error, from the Windows System Event Log:

    Log Name: System
    Source: Display
    Date: 6/25/2012 5:02:13 PM
    Event ID: 4101
    Task Category: None
    Level: Warning
    Keywords: Classic
    User: N/A
    Computer: gzilla
    Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered.
    Event Xml:

    So I began my quest for a solution, Googling away, and pouring over NVIDIA and MSI FAQs:

    Basic Troubleshooting Guide:
    Online FAQ (frequently updated to provide fresh solutions):

    and hundreds of various forum posts. Bad sign that I was not finding consensus for this catch-all "display driver not responding" class of error, which could be anything from an under-powered power supply to bad DIMMs.

    I then knew this was likely going to be a tough nut to crack. So I also opened a trouble ticket with MSI, just in case they had helpful advice or things to try. Here was their admittedly very fast response:

    Dear Mr. Braren I want to apologize for the issues that you are experiencing with your MSI product. If you are experiencing issues after updating the drivers you can try installing an older version of the driver from the NVIDIA website to see if the issue gets betters or stays the same. If the issue is not a driver issue please try testing a different game to see if the system is crashing only on a specific game or multiple applications. If you continue to have the display driver error this may be a result of a defective video card, if possible try testing this video card on another computer or a different video card on this system. If you are able to troubleshoot the issue as a defective video card you will want to submit a request at the following link to have an RMA number issued http://service.msicomputer.com/msi_user/rma_form_new.aspx

    Not really wishing to go all the way back to mid-last-year's drivers (with worse StarCraft II performance), I figured there must be a better, more elegant solution. Pouring over the release notes for all the 2011 and 2012 driver releases proved fruitless. But eventually stumbled across this simple gem, from August 16 2011, when "Yowan" had this to say, on 08/16/2011 04:43 PM:

    My gut and experience was telling me to try this simple fix, since avoiding GHz shifting on the fly seemed to help others with similar video cards. At the cost of some watt burn savings perhaps, but worth a try, still, and took only seconds to do.

    Amazing, it worked. No need to fiddle with clean uninstalling of drivers. Yep, nailed it with this one simple fix, which is not the default driver setting that you get with a fresh install. Overall system watt-burn seems to be the same at idle and under load, actually. Thank you Yowan!


    Step-by-step, start by right-clicking on your desktop, choosing the NVIDIA Control Panel:

    “Power management mode – Adaptive” is the default setting
    Change it to Prefer maximum performance
    Then click “Apply” and you’re all set, no reboot required.

    I may try SLI again once I get the RMA'd 2nd 560 Ti card back, but only if I see StarCraft II frame rates not keeping up when boyo is streaming. And only if stability of the system is unaffected, of course.

    So there you have it, a nice tidy ending to a long saga. Hope this helps somebody else out there. And I learned a lot along the way. Which is often the case with the tougher, more time consuming technology battles we all find ourselves fighting. Feels good, going from zero (I broke his system) to hero (I got things working better than ever).

    Nov 26 2012 Update:
    Surprised myself today. Was Google searching here, for a cure for a BSOD error I was getting coming out of suspend on my ThinkPad W520 with Windows 8 Pro 64 bit:


    and as I poked around various sites, I surprised myself when I came across my own June 2012 post, yes this, the article you're reading now was the 2nd result when searching for

    nvlddmkm.sys crash "windows 8" nvidia 100m thinkpad w520

    Google search for: nvlddmkm.sys crash “windows 8″ nvidia 1000m thinkpad w520

    Figured why not try it again. Surprise surprise, the same fix worked here again, no reboot needed, stability regained. Wow. Even though it was a seemingly entirely different error and circumstance. This W520 has the latest Windows 8 drivers from here:
    which currently means NVIDIA video driver /

    So I updated the title of this post, and added better screenshots. Interesting that this article continues to see Pageviews grow over time, seen below.


    Apparently I'm not exactly alone with this apparently common issue. Glad this workaround may also be helping others. And glad I was able to help myself!

    Apr 06, 2013 Update:
    Still going strong, with positive user comments still coming in, with 10,000 unique pageviews.

    In an effort to bring more attention to this helpful tip, Microsoft's Dan Stolts allowed me to post over at his popular IT Pro Guru Blog as well:


    Aug 27 2013 Update:
    This is kind of amazing, still going strong, with positive comments continuing to flow in.


    Oct 30 2013 Update:
    Still growing, 34,727 page views so far, with a recent flood of roughly 100 unique pageviews per day.


    Just an FYI, this video by Michael Martin covers some other fix methods. I didn't try changing the PhysX settings, or changing the voltage of the GPU, since I didn't have to. But these methods may be of value to you, should my method above not work for you. These are procedures to follow if you know what you are doing, and are done at your own risk!