Viewer freezing when detecting hardware

This week's round of Windows updates appears to have brought me an interesting problem, and a bit of searching on Google suggests it's "just me" rather than a widespread issue.

Wednesday night into Thursday morning my desktop machine did an automated Windows update (yes, I do let it do that -- I find I'm really lazy about letting them apply manually if I don't). No big deal, it's happened many times in the past. I get to the machine the following morning, log myself in, go make my coffee (I know to do this first as I indirectly get alerts on my Android devices that let me know this has happened) and then come back and set things up as I like them and do my usual quick viewer login check.

This time though it didn't go so well. It just sat here:
Not good. I then tried a different viewer, and then a different one. Same result with them all. The next thing I did, in the best IT Crowd tradition, was turn it off and on again (or, to be more precise, did a proper restart via the OS). That seemed to fix it. I could start Firestorm and all the other viewers and everything was fine.

So I went about my normal work day and then, in the late afternoon, went in-world to do a few things. Everything worked fine. I probably ran up the viewer and logged in 3 or 4 times in total. I headed off to make dinner and deal with some general RL things and came back a couple or so hours later. Ran up Firestorm and... it froze detecting hardware again!

This time I did a bit of searching to see if anyone else was reporting a similar issue and nothing turned up. I found sporadic reports of similar issues over the years, but every single case was isolated and they all appeared to be down to video driver issues (that I could see). I did notice however that a workaround in each case was to use the "-noprobe" command line option on the viewer to get going.

So, I tried that, and it worked like a charm. Suddenly Firestorm was working just fine. One wrinkle however is that opening "Help >> About" causes the viewer to freeze and I have to kill the process -- presumably this is because the about dialog again probes the machine to find the video card and driver details.

At this point I decided to update my video drivers. This is something I'm normally pretty lax about so it was a good enough problem to prompt me to do this. This in itself didn't go well to start with in that the install kept hanging at various points. In the end though, after a few attempts, the install went through.

At this point viewers were starting up just fine again (without "-noprobe" on the command line) and everything was looking okay with the new driver. In fact, while I wouldn't say general performance was any different, I did notice that turning on advanced lighting didn't seem to have much of an impact on performance.

Normally, if I try and use ALM, I find that my FPS drops by half or even more (even with shadows turned off). With this change I'm finding that the FPS drops by just a small amount rather than by 50% or more. I even found that if I turned on full shadows it had little extra impact! I need to test it some more but I think I might just have given my ageing graphics card a little extra lease of life.

Anyway, at this point, everything was looking good. Viewers were starting and I had a shiny new driver installed that seemed to be improving the performance of the more stressful aspects of a SL viewer. All was good.

I get to my machine this morning and run up Firestorm again to check if everything was still okay and... same problem. The viewer was frozen detecting hardware. So, whatever the issue was, it wasn't down to a mix of a Windows update and the graphics driver. It seems that whatever it is it's related to the uptime of the machine. After a reboot hardware can be detected just fine. After a significant number of hours this ceases to be the case.

So, for now at least, until I can find the actual cause of the problem, it looks like I'll have to run my viewer with "-noprobe" and be sure I never go anywhere near "Help >> About".

As a side note, as I was typing this, I noticed that Windows was telling me that there was yet another update available. Which is sort of odd. There's an update marked as important called KB3024777. Reading its details it seems its job is nothing more than to undo KB3004394 because it causes (unspecified) problems on Windows 7 SP1 -- which is what I'm running on my desktop. Perhaps these issues are related?

I'll install the update and see what happens.

Edit to add: Seems I'm not alone in this. I've just seen two other people mention the issue in the Firestorm support group. Not seeing any solutions offered at the moment (I don't think there's any support people around right now) but it's kind of heartening to know it's not just me.

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