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February 19, 2020

War Stories: dwm.exe APPCRASH Returns On Different Laptop

“Uh oh!” I thought as I looked at Reliability Monitor a couple of days ago on my Lenovo T520 laptop. Once again, I found a clear repeat of APPCRASH events, nearly all involving the Desktop Window Manager (dwm.exe). I wrote about a similar set of symptoms on my Lenovo X380 laptops on November 2. But this time, things were different. When I tried to wake up my T520 from sleep, I would get a black screen (no display output). And only sometimes would the cursor appear. Take a look at the output for November 18 in this screen capture:

dwm.exe APPCRASH Returns.relimon

Having just encountered the same error a couple of weeks back, I had a clue when it showed up again.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

But This Time, Things Are Different!

Online research showed me that when a black screen accompanies dwm.exe errors, the graphics driver is often involved, if not directly at fault. Thus, my first move was to run GeForce Experience to see if Nvidia might not have a new driver I could try instead. And indeed, I was in luck: a new driver version (392.58, with a release date of 11/14) happened to be available.dwm.exe APPCRASH Returns

Once installed, my black screen/dwm.exe issues evaporated nicely. Great timing, Nvidia!

I’ve been in this situation before, where I had to wait weeks for a new driver to show up. And sometimes, that didn’t do the trick, either. So, if you can’t roll forward on drivers, you can always try rolling back — that is, installing an older driver may work and be problem-free when a current driver doesn’t work or causes problems. Thus, if you can’t go one way (update to a newer driver), you can reverse directions instead. When it comes to finding workable drivers for specific PCs, I’ve found the forums at places like TenForums.com and NotebookReview to be particularly helpful in ironing out difficulties and providing useful advice. You probably will, too. Check ’em out!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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