Microsoft has identified a new issue that causes Desktop Windows Manager (DWM) to crash when a user repeatedly opens and closes their laptop.

The problem reportedly affects laptops running any version of Windows 10 and configured to operate at 4K resolution, whether via an external monitor or the device display itself.

According to a recent Microsoft Support entry, the DWM crash is caused by a bug in the Microsoft DirectX Video Memory Management component and has nothing to do with a hardware issue.

Windows 10 crash

First introduced with Windows Vista, Desktop Windows Manager dictates how any given application displays pixels on the screen.

“When desktop composition is enabled, individual windows no longer draw directly to the screen or primary display device as they did in previous versions of Windows,” explains documentation on the Microsoft website.

“Instead, their drawing is redirected to off-screen surfaces in video memory, which are then rendered into a desktop image and presented on the display.”

Simply put, the Windows feature is responsible for enabling visual effects tied to desktop activities and supporting high resolution display, including 4K.

According to members of various online forums, DWM crashes can have a range of different effects, ranging from the minor to the debilitating.

Some users found their desktop icons had been rearranged and resized, others were unable to activate Windows Aero themes (which support 3D window switching, taskbar previews and transparency), while the unluckiest were served a black screen, fixable only with a restart.

As demonstrated by two scenarios set out by Microsoft, the problem is only triggered if a number of specific criteria are met.

Scenario 1:

  • You plug an HDMI monitor into a laptop computer that is running Windows 10
  • The monitor is configured to operate at 4K resolution
  • You repeatedly play a 4K H264 video in Movies & TV on the computer
  • In Control Panel, you open the Advanced settings screen of the Power Options item, and then you set the Lid close action as Do nothing
  • While the 4K video is playing back, you repeatedly close and open the computer lid

Scenario 2:

  • You connect two 4K monitors to a Thunderbolt 3 docking station
  • You connect a laptop that has a 4K solution monitor to the docking station, and then you configure a triple 4K display configuration in either “clone” or “extend” mode
  • You repeatedly undock and redock the laptop

The company is currently working to deliver a patch for the DirectX issue, but has not specified when that might arrive.

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