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Last post Author Topic: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?  (Read 6625 times)

tomos

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2015, 03:25:27 AM »
did you try Aomei via their bootable disc?

Not quite sure what you're referring to. Do you mean "Create Bootable Media: Make a bootable rescue media such as a CD/DVD or USB drive", which is under Utilities in AOMEI Backupper Standard? I will try that next.
Yes.
(I see there's also a Linux option - I chose the Win PE option and had to to download the necessaries from the Aomei site.)
AFAIK, you'll need it if you want to restore the OS partition - so I would create it before repairing or reinstalling OS.
Also, if you haven't already, be sure to create a Windows 'System Repair Disc' (if your system can create it - you can also use one created on another machine AFAIK) -

Screenshot - 2015-09-11 , 10_18_04.pngHELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?


So tomorrow I can start with the Windows re-installation.

best of luck!
Tom

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #26 on: September 11, 2015, 03:55:58 AM »
be sure to create a Windows 'System Repair Disc' (if your system can create it - you can also use one created on another machine AFAIK)

Thanks for the tip, will do. Control Panel is inaccessible on this PC, but fortunately I have another Win7 PC in the household.

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #27 on: September 11, 2015, 04:41:56 AM »
To the description of the symptoms in the OP I should also add that recently I tried to get into the BIOS to fix something and it was also not working properly.

When I tried to use keyboard arrows to navigate the menu, BIOS would go crazy and the cursor would start cycling through the menu items at huge speed and then I would have to hit enter or escape to stop it, at which point it would stop at a seemingly random menu item, but never the one I wanted, so it took me forever even to just cancel operations and get out of there.

It was like a crazy fruit machine (slot machine). I don't know anything about how to fix or update BIOS but it seemed like another indication of things not being right.

4wd

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #28 on: September 11, 2015, 05:14:38 AM »
When I tried to use keyboard arrows to navigate the menu, BIOS would go crazy and the cursor would start cycling through the menu items at huge speed and then I would have to hit enter or escape to stop it, at which point it would stop at a seemingly random menu item, but never the one I wanted, so it took me forever even to just cancel operations and get out of there.

Sounds like the keyboard has sticking keys but one thing you could do is change the CMOS battery, (normally a CR2032), it's probably nothing to do with the problem but if you haven't changed it previously, then 5 years is a long time considering there's no knowing what state the battery was in to start with.

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #29 on: September 11, 2015, 05:46:31 AM »
Sounds like the keyboard has sticking keys but one thing you could do is change the CMOS battery, (normally a CR2032), it's probably nothing to do with the problem but if you haven't changed it previously, then 5 years is a long time considering there's no knowing what state the battery was in to start with.

Thanks, I never knew that existed!

Yeah, speaking of a 5-yr old PC and all the trouble it's causing me at the moment, I am seriously contemplating whether I'd be better off getting a new PC (or even an ultrabook, as it's about the same price). The thing that's holding me back is that this system was still fairly usable just a couple of months ago, so it seems like a waste not to try to restore it.

MilesAhead

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #30 on: September 11, 2015, 06:46:30 AM »
Sounds like the keyboard has sticking keys but one thing you could do is change the CMOS battery, (normally a CR2032), it's probably nothing to do with the problem but if you haven't changed it previously, then 5 years is a long time considering there's no knowing what state the battery was in to start with.

Thanks, I never knew that existed!

Yeah, speaking of a 5-yr old PC and all the trouble it's causing me at the moment, I am seriously contemplating whether I'd be better off getting a new PC (or even an ultrabook, as it's about the same price). The thing that's holding me back is that this system was still fairly usable just a couple of months ago, so it seems like a waste not to try to restore it.

You might hang onto it as your "guinea pig machine."  When you want to experiment try stuff on the expendable machine first.  ;)

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #31 on: September 11, 2015, 12:16:08 PM »
Well, I hit a dead end with my in-place upgrade installation pretty quickly. I'm following the instructions on www.winhelp.us, launched setup.exe from my Windows 7 DVD, and after I click on "Install now," I get the following error:

Quote
Windows could not retrieve infromation about the disks on this computer.

When I checked the compatibility online, and downloaded and tried to run the "Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor", It gave me the error message:

Quote
The Windows Installer Service could not be accessed. THis can occur if the Windows Installer is not correctly installed. Contact you support personnel for assistance.

When I Googled what could be causing the first error message, one suggestion was that "Virtual Disk Service" was not set to "automatic." I fixed that, but I still got the same error message after rebooting. Reading up more on the matter on the (Microsoft Forum), there are suggestions that

Quote
The install failure that you are describing is usually caused by driver problems with either the motherboard chipsets or the hard disk controllers.  I would contact either your OEM or motherboard manufacturer and obtain the most current chipset and controller drivers.

Well, this is above my skill set and patience level, so I presume there is not many other options left than restoring the PC to factory settings. I wonder whether even that is going to work, considering how vital drivers seem to be damaged. It's amazing that one AMD driver installation failure (plus the failed System Restore) could wipe out an entire range of essential drivers.

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #32 on: September 11, 2015, 01:30:04 PM »
OK, the deed is done. Restored my PC to factory conditions as of October 2010. Quite a time travel experience...

Boy, am I glad those recovery DVDs didn't deteriorate in all that time!

Now looking forward to a week of reinstalling software from scratch... But I learnt my lesson about incremental system backups.

Thank you to you all for all the help and advice.

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2015, 05:41:43 PM »
I did a clean install of Win7, and within the first 30 min I had a video hardware error (this is from Reliability Monitor):

Quote
Description
A problem with your video hardware caused Windows to stop working correctly.

Problem signature
Problem Event Name:   LiveKernelEvent
OS Version:   6.1.7600.2.0.0.768.3

Followed by:

Quote
Summary
Shut down unexpectedly

Problem signature
Problem Event Name:   BlueScreen
OS Version:   6.1.7600.2.0.0.768.3

Maybe this is really telling me that the AMD driver problem was maybe a video card hardware problem.

I don't really know where to begin with replacing a video card and whether it's worth it, but if that is really the culprit behind all my problems, then maybe experimenting with different AMD drivers is never going to solve the problem.

P.S. And then the only Windows update that failed so far was

Quote
ATI Technologies Inc. - Display - ATI Radeon HD 5700 Series
Display software update released in April, 2011
« Last Edit: September 11, 2015, 05:56:42 PM by dr_andus »

4wd

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #34 on: September 11, 2015, 08:09:50 PM »
I did a clean install of Win7, and within the first 30 min I had a video hardware error (this is from Reliability Monitor):

Quote
Description
A problem with your video hardware caused Windows to stop working correctly.

Problem signature
Problem Event Name:   LiveKernelEvent
OS Version:   6.1.7600.2.0.0.768.3

As a simple possible fix:
  • Shut down the computer, if the PSU has a power switch turn it off, otherwise turn it off at the power outlet but leave the power cable plugged in.  Push the computers power on switch for a few seconds, this will discharge anything left in the PSU.  (Of course, if the computer powers up, you've still got power being supplied to it :) )
  • Remove the side panel of the computer.
  • Ground yourself by holding the metal chassis for a few seconds.
  • Unplug the separate power lead going to the video card, if it has one - some do, some don't.
  • Remove the video card, there will be a small plastic locking clip on the PCIe slot you'll need slide/push out the way as well as any screws/clips holding it at the bracket end.  Avoid touching the contacts and/or any other bare component leads on the card if possible.
  • Re-install the video card making sure it's properly seated and replace any screws that you removed.
  • Keeping your fingers out the way, re-power the computer and let it run for a while doing whatever you'd normally do.

With any luck, it will have been just the contacts within the PCIe slot or on the card getting a little dirty.  The reseating will normally fix that problem, the constant heating/cooling cycles also sometimes causes the card to shift possibly causing intermittent or high resistance contacts - depends how good the retaining fixtures are.

If it seems to be working normally again, put the side panel back on while powered down.

mouser

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #35 on: September 12, 2015, 09:31:22 AM »
Quote
Maybe this is really telling me that the AMD driver problem was maybe a video card hardware problem.
I don't really know where to begin with replacing a video card and whether it's worth it,

older video cards are frequently discarded or available super cheap; having a spare one is never a bad idea.

it's absolutely sensible to get your hands on a spare cheap video card and try it -- it sounds like that may be your problem.

Innuendo

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #36 on: September 12, 2015, 10:15:19 AM »
it's absolutely sensible to get your hands on a spare cheap video card and try it -- it sounds like that may be your problem.

If a person has techie friends, they often have one or more video cards laying around doing nothing they might let you have.

MilesAhead

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #37 on: September 12, 2015, 05:15:38 PM »
Too bad you are in the UK.  When I finally got around to replacing the card in my quad core I found a clearance item on newegg.  A good enough for my purposes video card with 1/2 GB  ram for around $20 plus a couple bucks shipping.


dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #38 on: September 13, 2015, 12:25:47 PM »
Sounds like the keyboard has sticking keys but one thing you could do is change the CMOS battery, (normally a CR2032), it's probably nothing to do with the problem but if you haven't changed it previously, then 5 years is a long time considering there's no knowing what state the battery was in to start with.

Indeed, I have a CR2032 in there, except that it is of "NewSun" brand. I've never heard of that brand before. But I'll be replacing it shortly.

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #39 on: September 13, 2015, 02:22:17 PM »
As a simple possible fix:
  • Shut down the computer, if the PSU has a power switch turn it off, otherwise turn it off at the power outlet but leave the power cable plugged in.  Push the computers power on switch for a few seconds, this will discharge anything left in the PSU.  (Of course, if the computer powers up, you've still got power being supplied to it :) )
  • Remove the side panel of the computer.
  • Ground yourself by holding the metal chassis for a few seconds.
  • Unplug the separate power lead going to the video card, if it has one - some do, some don't.
  • Remove the video card, there will be a small plastic locking clip on the PCIe slot you'll need slide/push out the way as well as any screws/clips holding it at the bracket end.  Avoid touching the contacts and/or any other bare component leads on the card if possible.
  • Re-install the video card making sure it's properly seated and replace any screws that you removed.
  • Keeping your fingers out the way, re-power the computer and let it run for a while doing whatever you'd normally do.

With any luck, it will have been just the contacts within the PCIe slot or on the card getting a little dirty.  The reseating will normally fix that problem, the constant heating/cooling cycles also sometimes causes the card to shift possibly causing intermittent or high resistance contacts - depends how good the retaining fixtures are.

If it seems to be working normally again, put the side panel back on while powered down.

OK, I have just done this. The AMD graphics card was very dusty all around. I used a painter's brush to clean off the dust (also to tease it out from the inside via the fan), as advised on the earlier thread.

I don't want to speak too soon, but it seems to have done the trick so far. I was able to install the latest version of the AMD Catalyst driver, and it seems to be working fine.

Thanks for the suggestions about getting another card. I'll see how this current fix goes first. I did actually do a quick search here in the UK for a compatible but higher spec card to replace this with, but the prices quoted (on Amazon UK, for instance) were too high for me (multiple hundred pounds). This whole episode has already convinced me to upgrade to a new machine, so I'd rather spend the money on that.

Too bad you are in the UK.  When I finally got around to replacing the card in my quad core I found a clearance item on newegg.  A good enough for my purposes video card with 1/2 GB  ram for around $20 plus a couple bucks shipping.

That's a whole lot cheaper than what I found in the UK. I was either looking in the wrong places, or maybe in the UK there is a shortage of these older cards, which is driving their price back up again.

MilesAhead

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #40 on: September 14, 2015, 08:21:20 AM »
One thing I didn't think to ask.  Does the mother board also have a built in video chip set?  Sometimes there is video built into the motherboard but a graphics card is added for better performance and the dedicated video ram.  If there is a video output connector that does not go to the card it may be possible to remove the card and still have a working computer.

That way you could keep it as a guinea pig machine without spending any money on it.  Assuming the cleaning does not permanently fix the issue.

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #41 on: September 14, 2015, 05:49:43 PM »
One thing I didn't think to ask.  Does the mother board also have a built in video chip set?  Sometimes there is video built into the motherboard but a graphics card is added for better performance and the dedicated video ram.  If there is a video output connector that does not go to the card it may be possible to remove the card and still have a working computer.

That way you could keep it as a guinea pig machine without spending any money on it.  Assuming the cleaning does not permanently fix the issue.

I'm not sure where to look to find that out. I checked in "System Information" and couldn't find anything. But I suspect that the answer is no. My PC did come with a VGA port and an HDMI port, but they both seem to be dead. Instead, when I first unpacked the PC, the instructions said to use the enclosed "DVI to VGA adapters" to plug my two VGA monitors directly into the video card's DVI ports.

Then when I wanted to add a third monitor years later, I had to use a "DisplayPort to VGA adapter/converter" to also plug into the video card. That's when my troubles started, as the DisplayPort adapter would occasionally fail, and then I would unplug and replug it to get it going again. Possibly the AMD card didn't like that, and it's also possible that all that plugging/unplugging dislodged the card a bit (and maybe that's why reinserting it fixed my problems this time).

But it's also possible that three monitors is just too much for this video card. They are all of different age, brands, and models. Since the clean reinstall I have only added one monitor, so maybe that's why it's playing nicely so far.

But in any case, this will now become my secondary backup and testing machine (as you suggested), as I'm taking the opportunity to upgrade and also untether myself from the desk. I'll be getting an HP ZBook 14 G2 Mobile Workstation instead.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2015, 06:21:49 PM by dr_andus »

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #42 on: September 14, 2015, 06:02:40 PM »
Just make sure to do at least one full disk image before starting, ... because if you lose any files during the process you should be able to mount the backup images to recover them, (at least with Paragon or AOMEI Backupper [..]

did this lately with AOMEI Backupper (free version . created image backup + mounted to recover files). I restored OS partition from image a couple of times as well. Was much relieved that everything worked, as I hadn't done a restore of an image in years.

Tom, 4wd - this is probably a stupid question but I don't know anything about restoring files from an image. I've just done a clean install of Win7, so everything has been wiped. Can I still use my AOMEI Backupper system image to selectively restore certain software to the Program Files and some of my data folders (My Documents and User)? Or is that not possible or advisable?

I also have copies of these folders on an external drive, so I could also just drag and drop them back in their place. Or would that mess things up?

Or is it best to reinstall software from scratch, and then drag and drop the "My Documents" data for them?
« Last Edit: September 14, 2015, 06:22:30 PM by dr_andus »

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #43 on: September 14, 2015, 06:20:00 PM »
When I tried to use keyboard arrows to navigate the menu, BIOS would go crazy and the cursor would start cycling through the menu items at huge speed and then I would have to hit enter or escape to stop it, at which point it would stop at a seemingly random menu item, but never the one I wanted, so it took me forever even to just cancel operations and get out of there.

Sounds like the keyboard has sticking keys but one thing you could do is change the CMOS battery, (normally a CR2032), it's probably nothing to do with the problem but if you haven't changed it previously, then 5 years is a long time considering there's no knowing what state the battery was in to start with.

Now that I can finally access my System Information, I was able to check that my BIOS version is
Quote
American Megatrends Inc. P01-B1, 23/03/2010

This seems to be older than the versions available for my PC model on the Acer support page:

 Screenshot_15_09_2015_00_14_11.pngHELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?

Would it be worthwhile for me to upgrade to the latest version? I'm a bit worried about the red text though, as this is something that I have also never done before. Although what's the worst thing that could happen? Another clean install? Or could it permanently brick the machine?

4wd

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #44 on: September 14, 2015, 06:42:31 PM »
This seems to be older than the versions available for my PC model on the Acer support page:

 Screenshot_15_09_2015_00_14_11.pngHELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?

Would it be worthwhile for me to upgrade to the latest version? I'm a bit worried about the red text though, as this is something that I have also never done before. Although what's the worst thing that could happen? Another clean install? Or could it permanently brick the machine?

Looks like the top two updates, (2010/04/19 & 2010/06/28), were trying to fix problems with keyboards which may be what you experienced when going into BIOS.

If a BIOS update screws up then the machine becomes a brick unless it's fitted with Dual BIOS, (the second BIOS takes over in the case where the first becomes corrupt).

I've never had a problem doing a BIOS update, (which considering I live in a power outage prone area is almost a miracle), but if you're not comfortable with it you can always grab the machine, a copy of the BIOS update, and take them down to the local computer shop and get them to perform it.

All manufacturers give a warning notice regarding BIOS updates, it's part of their CYA policy.

That said, if you're not experiencing any problems in your day-to-day use of the computer that would be fixed by doing the BIOS update, then don't consider it a necessity that needs to happen.

I just did a BIOS update on mine within the last few days, it was three versions behind, it wasn't to fix anything on my machine, (just added support for CPUs I'll never have) - I just don't like being that far out of sync with the latest update ... it's a techie thing ;D

Can I still use my AOMEI Backupper system image to selectively restore certain software to the Program Files and some of my data folders (My Documents and User)? Or is that not possible or advisable?

I also have copies of these folders on an external drive, so I could also just drag and drop them back in their place. Or would that mess things up?

Or is it best to reinstall software from scratch, and then drag and drop the "My Documents" data for them?

You need to reinstall software from scratch, unless they're portable programs, in which case just copy them across to wherever you want them.  Documents can be copied across to your new Documents/Pictures/Videos/Music/etc folders.

If you want to copy them from the backup image, install AOMEI Backupper, then under one of the options down the left side, (I think it's Utilities(?) - don't have it installed at the moment), you have the option to Mount (could be Explore) an image.  Selecting that will let you choose your backup image which the program will then mount under a drive letter so you can access it through Explorer or some other file manager.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2015, 06:52:51 PM by 4wd »

MilesAhead

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #45 on: September 15, 2015, 08:33:59 AM »
But in any case, this will now become my secondary backup and testing machine (as you suggested), as I'm taking the opportunity to upgrade and also untether myself from the desk. I'll be getting an HP ZBook 14 G2 Mobile Workstation instead.

That looks like quite a machine.  If it is anywhere near as heavy as my Toshiba I recommend caution when slinging it over your shoulder.  Tendinitis has a tendincy to sneak up on you.  I had to switch from backpack and computer case to putting all my stuff in a wheeled suitcase.  My left are keeps going numb on me.  The recuperation by resting it is very gradual and any exertion or lifting of weight sets it back months.  One of the security guards at the school told me a lot of faculty get it as they have large Laptops and lug them to and from work every day.

It does look like a nice machine though.  :)


dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #46 on: September 15, 2015, 03:28:47 PM »
4wd - Thank you very much for the detailed explanation! All the advice in this thread was indeed very helpful. Thank you all! :Thmbsup:

I'll be getting an HP ZBook 14 G2 Mobile Workstation instead.
That looks like quite a machine.  If it is anywhere near as heavy as my Toshiba I recommend caution when slinging it over your shoulder.

It hasn't arrived yet, but it's a 14" machine weighing around 1.7 kg (the upper limit of the ultrabook category), which is pretty much the size and weight of my HP Chromebook 14, which I've been carrying around in my backpack. I don't have far to go, so for my use case it is manageable.

I did consider the lighter ultrabooks, especially the Dell XPS 13, the HP Spectre x360, and the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, but at least in the UK they didn't come with big enough hard drives and/or RAM, and/or were a lot more expensive. I also wasn't sure if some of my favourite Windows apps would be usable on such super high resolution screens. Finally, I'm not ready to make the step up to Win8 and Win10.

What attracted me to the HP ZBook 14 is that it is still relatively portable (compared to the 15.6" and 17" laptops and workstations), while remaining powerful with a lot of storage, and that is easily expandable. Apparently there is a bay inside for a second hard drive; all drives and the battery can be easily swapped (and of course extra RAM added).

The weaknesses are the lower resolution (1920 x 1080 14" ISP screen), apparently the keyboard is mediocre, and it's not as much of a looker as the aforementioned competitors. But I can live with that, considering what I'm getting for the price.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2015, 03:34:04 PM by dr_andus »

tomos

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #47 on: September 16, 2015, 03:48:02 AM »
What attracted me to the HP ZBook 14 is that it is still relatively portable (compared to the 15.6" and 17" laptops and workstations), while remaining powerful with a lot of storage, and that is easily expandable. Apparently there is a bay inside for a second hard drive; all drives and the battery can be easily swapped (and of course extra RAM added).

that does sound very good


The weaknesses are the lower resolution (1920 x 1080 14" ISP screen), apparently the keyboard is mediocre

notebookcheck liked the keyboard. And I think a  lot of software UI's are not yet ready for UHD (U for ultra - or whatever they call it), so you might be better off with the FHD/IPS screen (which also gets a positive review btw).
Tom

dr_andus

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #48 on: September 16, 2015, 06:11:21 AM »
notebookcheck liked the keyboard. And I think a  lot of software UI's are not yet ready for UHD (U for ultra - or whatever they call it), so you might be better off with the FHD/IPS screen (which also gets a positive review btw).

Thanks, I missed that review. Though note that it is for the 1st gen. device, while mine is going to be G2, so I can only hope that they've kept the same keyboard. This review of the G2 didn't like the keyboard. But it probably depends on what you compare it to. Nothing's gonna measure up to some of the Thinkpad or Apple keyboards.

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Re: HELP! AMD Catalyst update broke my PC - How best to reinstall Windows 7?
« Reply #49 on: September 21, 2015, 04:55:18 PM »
Instead, when I first unpacked the PC, the instructions said to use the enclosed "DVI to VGA adapters" to plug my two VGA monitors directly into the video card's DVI ports.

Then when I wanted to add a third monitor years later, I had to use a "DisplayPort to VGA adapter/converter" to also plug into the video card. That's when my troubles started, as the DisplayPort adapter would occasionally fail, and then I would unplug and replug it to get it going again. Possibly the AMD card didn't like that, and it's also possible that all that plugging/unplugging dislodged the card a bit (and maybe that's why reinserting it fixed my problems this time).

But it's also possible that three monitors is just too much for this video card. They are all of different age, brands, and models. Since the clean reinstall I have only added one monitor, so maybe that's why it's playing nicely so far.

Just to bring this saga to an end, and also if by any chance someone else out there starts having the same problem with this same model (ACER Aspire M7811 PC with AMD Radeon HD 5770 video card), I have narrowed down the problem to plugging the third monitor into the AMD card using a DisplayPort to VGA adapter/converter.

It just seems that this Radeon card and the driver that comes with it can't handle a third monitor with DisplayPort. As soon as I plugged it in (after my fresh Windows install), the AMD Catalyst software struggled to recognise it, and when I tried to rotate one of the 3 monitors into portrait mode, the Catalyst software either crashed or it failed to even detect one or two of the monitors, and it would rotate the one in the wrong direction. I have been able to make the three monitors work with an earlier version of the driver in the past (before the crash), but that's when the system started malfunctioning, and gradually developed more and more problems.

I bought this PC in October 2010, so maybe those were early days for supporting 3 monitors? Maybe this particular AMD card is inadequate for such a task? Or maybe my system was inadequately configured with all three monitors running via the AMD card? I'm not sure what to take away as a learning point from this whole experience. Maybe I have to research more carefully in the future whether systems I buy support more than 2 monitors.

Anyway, the HP ZBook 14 G2 Mobile Workstation I'm getting is supposed to have a powerful video card (AMD FirePro™ M4150), able to support one VGA and one DisplayPort (alongside the onboard screen, so that will make three displays, which should hopefully suffice).

P.S. Just found out that the HP ZBooks can use a single DisplayPort to link multiple additional monitors, so maybe it can be a lot more than 3 after all:

Quote
DisplayPort v1.2 supports “Multi-Stream Transport,” which allows multiple video streams across a single DisplayPort connection. This is commonly referred to as DP 1.2 “daisy-chain” feature where multiple displays may be driven by a single DisplayPort connector.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2015, 05:10:26 PM by dr_andus »