Windows 8.1 + NVidia + 4 Monitor = buh bye! (and other tales of 8.1 woe)

Ah Windows 8.1 how I hate thee. A dot release really shouldn’t be calamitous, right? I mean we’re talking a .1 here, not an “R2” or a “+1”. Well Microsoft is nothing if not a rule breaker and the unofficial rule that a dot release generally won’t cause catastrophic impact has officially been broken in at least some cases as of Eight Point One.

My particular case is an admittedly niche one. Four monitor NVidia surround setups will hang when the 4th monitor is enabled. But oh my what an annoying problem it is! The hang condition is partial. The mouse will continue to work but everything else will be dead. No error is indicated, there is no bluescreen and nothing hits the event log. What generally follows is a complete nightmare of trial and error troubleshooting which, along the way, introduces you to other incredibly annoying Windows 8.1 anomalies like the Creative Labs X-Fi driver issue whereby Gamer Mode causes the speakers to be disabled.  For me, troubleshooting lead me to remove my uEFI overclock settings which lead to my Intel RAID controller losing it’s metadata and a RAID 0 member being reset to non-RAID which lead me to having to do this fun procedure.  Ultimately, my suspicion over the health of my system following attempts to roll back the Windows 8.1 upgrade lead me to wiping everything and doing a clean install of Windows 8 followed by an upgrade directly to Windows 8.1 once it was patched which, of course, also did not remediate the issue since the issue actually turns out to be this doozy.

Of course there are a few lessons learned here and they are lessons one typically learns many, many times throughout a troubleshooting career.  One is to search the web exhaustively for every possible condition you may encounter before either initially attempting an upgrade or making any high impact change (like a clean install).  Of course in my case this thread hit the web after I was well into it and without the clean install (which forces redoing the NVidia surround setup) it would have been quite some time before process of elimination lead me to bark up that particular tree (vs assuming the culprit was any number of other factors like USB devices, RAID, overclock settings, etc).  Another lesson is that while overclocking is often a culprit, once rock solid it rarely will be again barring some fundamental change in hardware state (like a failing part or cooling subsystem).  The uEFI settings/RAID calamity is unrelated to Windows directly of course, but it was the Windows upgrade that caused me to question my OC to begin with.  I should have stayed strong on that one.

Perhaps the best lesson here though is one I had thought no longer applied.  Never touch a Microsoft release until the first service pack (and yes, that means dot releases too!)


2 thoughts on “Windows 8.1 + NVidia + 4 Monitor = buh bye! (and other tales of 8.1 woe)

  1. Patrick

    how did you get your first 3 monitors to work? I was running 3 monitors on 8.0 just fine, then i upgraded to 8.1 yesterday, now the 3rd one isn’t even being detected by Windows.

    1. I wish I had a trick to impart but for me it was business as usual until the accessory display went on which instantly kills the system. To be fair I didn’t run in surround without accessory for long as I need four monitors, so it may have ultimately crashed without accessory at some point as well. The displays did register and configure correctly though. I do run tri-sli, so one monitor per GPU, which may be making a difference.

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