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05-10-2012 12:58 PM
After spending hours on the phone with HP support staff this week, plus many more hours with my Pavilion Elite HPE Windows7 desktop, it seems I should post this trouble report of a rather insidious bug in an otherwise lovely computer. You'll know it has bitten you if all the cool graphics seem to be permanently running at half-speed on your gleaming-fast machine. "Cool" graphics meaning those normally handled by the AMD Radeon HD 6450 graphics adapter. I'm talking about slow dancing-lights in the Windows7 boot-screen, slow animated max'ing and min'ing of Aero windows, any of the vector-graphics in Flash animations, etc.
I'm talking about a permanent state of slow, week after week, reboot after reboot. It's insidious because Window's DeviceManager diagnostics report your Radeon chip to be in perfect health (navigate there via ControlPanel >> DeviceManager >> DisplayAdapters), but that's because the Win7 diagnostics rely on the chip's internal self-test.
A test which can spot the bite of this bug is found in HP Support Assistant >> Troubleshoot >> GraphicsVideo&Display, because it's a comprehensive test of the Radeon in its entire motherboard environment. If your machine has slow graphics and the Radeon fails THIS test, then here's what's probably crippled your machine:
You accidentally left a USB storage device (in my case a SanDisk UltraBackup 64GB) inserted into the primary port of your machine while it was rebooting (my primary USB port is the uppermost-left on the front panel).
This might have happened weeks ago and you have forgotten about a cryptic "failed to find boot drive" message etched in white on the black screen. I certainly forgot about it, because I've been seeing messages like those on other computers for years, and it was never a problem: I'd merely remove the offending thumb-drive from the port and recycle the power switch to get a fresh boot, and everything would turn out fine. We understand there's a tradition that the primary port is what service technicians have always used to boot a machined with a dead hard-drive. Mere mortals like us never had boot-partitions on our flash drives, so we occasionally got reprimanded by bad boots.
BUT NOW IT'S TOXIC:
The aborted boot process somehow maims the bus environment around the AMD Radeon Graphics Controller. From now on, crucial vector graphics operations will be detoured into software emulation, causing most "cool" visual effects to crawl at half speed. You cannot fix this problem by downloading a fresh copy of the chip's driver software and reloading it into the chip.
THE ONLY SOLUTION I have found is to completely reset the machine back to its factory state. This entails about 45 minutes, and it will delete ALL files and software you have installed. (One way to do this is through Control Panel's "Recovery" feature: Click on the little "Advanced Recovery Options" link and choose to reset back to factory condition.) Can you spell "Draconian"?
The bottom line: NEVER, EVER, leave a USB storage device plugged into your computer's primary USB port: You might forget to remove it if your machine restarts. Me, I'm gonna stuff a bit of cardboard into that primary port and finally go get some sleep!