Windows 10 and Intel GMA 3600: Making it Work

So of late I've been getting some hits with the Intel GMA 3600 and I know exactly why. Some months ago I wrote a post on how to resolve the low resolution of the chip on Linux systems, and to be specific, on Arch-based distros. On that post I didn't touch on Windows because I was fully aware the problem was much complicated on that end. Here's why:

The chip was designed for the Windows 7 system, and particularly the 32-bit variant, though the atom chip it's paired with is 64-bit capable. Contrary to expectations, that is as you would have with other similar graphic chips, this one became quite problematic in running anything else other than Windows 7.

With Linux it was expected but when it showed issues with Windows 8/8.1 I wasted no time getting back to Windows 7. The new UI was enough of a reason to downgrade then. Flash forward to 2015 and Microsoft is all up on our desktop's paining us to upgrade to their new OS - Windows 10.

Knowing very well the problems I had faced with Windows 8.1 I decided not to take up the offer. It's been over a year now and thanks to those queries I've decided to revisit that decision. As it turns out I wasn't mistaken.



Intel GMA 3600 Windows 7 Driver in Windows 10

intel gma 3600 w10
Intel GMA 3600 Netbook

After loading Windows 10 on my Samsung netbook as I expected it defaulted to the Microsoft Basic driver which meant it had to run with a resolution of 800 x 600 and of course with no brightness control.

So the next thing I did was use the good old device manager to install the last updated Windows 7 driver from Intel (who by the way we have to thank for all this mess on account of them dropping support for this driver).

The driver installation went smoothly but after the restart came the issues: blank screen followed by BSOD. The error message: VIDEO_TDR_FAILURE. The same exact error witnessed on Windows 8.1 if I’m not mistaken.


The "Fixes"

After that I didn't even want to waste my time troubleshooting, but seeing I had nothing to lose, well apart from my time, I decided to tinker around with it using some solutions being offered online. And talking about online, I have to say this issue is troubling quite a good number of us. But going with the response, it's easy to conclude that we mean very little to both Intel and Microsoft.

The first solution which I came across was to remove the SystemApps and WindowsApp from the system then reinstall the driver. Seemed a bit too drastic but again nothing to lose was the mantra here.


1. Removing the Driver

First order of business was to remove the Intel driver seeing the computer was useless at this point. This is how I did that:
  • First get into safe mode. Since the BSOD is triggered after logging in, the trick is to not log in first but instead Restart from the log in screen while holding down the Shift-key. That should take you to the recovery options. Go to Troubleshoot >> Advanced options >> Startup Settings. You should restart from there to enter safe mode.
  • After restarting you should be taken to Safe Mode. Logging in wont trigger the BSOD because only basic drivers are loaded in this environment. Now go to Device Manager, uninstall the Intel Display Driver and Restart to the normal mode. There shouldn't be a BSOD this time round.


2. Removing SystemApps and WindowsApps Folders

These are essentially System folders, so deleting them is not a walk in the park. It's either you acquire their ownership first then try deleting them or the more elegant solution, boot into a Windows neutral environment like a Linux Live CD and yank them out from there. All these seem like good ideas but I wouldn't advise on deleting anything.

While deleting the WindowsApps folder might not be a big deal the same however is not true for SystemApps since it contains important system apps. So a less invasive approach seems to make more sense and that's just renaming the folders. This is just in case you need to revert to the modern apps at some later point.

At this point I think I should address the big elephant in the room - doing this will mean losing all your modern apps. That's the price to pay. So if you're not ready for that, better to stop here.

For renaming the folders I went with a Linux Live CD. There are quite many out there so use what you're most comfortble with. Of course if you're in a hurry you can take ownership of the folders from within Windows and rename them form there. You can read on that here.

The exact location of the folders is as follows:
WindowsApps: C:\Program Files\WindowsApps
SystemsApps: C:\Windows\Systemspps

Rename the folders as you feel like. For instance I renamed mine as follows:
WindowsApps: C:\Program Files\Back_WindowsApps
SystemsApps: C:\Windows\Back_Systemsapps

After you're done, restart your system.


3. Reinstall the Driver

After you're done restarting, reinstall the Intel driver. I would stick to installing it from the Device Manager rather than using the executable so as to avoid compatibility issues. This is what I mean:

a. Put your driver in an easy to locate place like the desktop. If it's a single executable file (*.exe), first extract it using 7-zip or Uniextract. The latest driver is available from Intel here.

b. Open the Device Manager by opening the run menu (Win + R), type "devmgmt.msc" without the quotes then press Enter.

c. From the list of devices, locate Display Adapters. Under it you should find Microsoft Basic Display Adapter. Double click to open it then go to the Driver tab.
Microsoft Basic Diver
Device Manager
Select Update Driver and in the pop up window select Browse my computer for driver software.
Driver properties
Update Driver
d. Point it to the folder containing the driver and make sure to check the Include subfolders option. Click next to install the driver.
Locate driver
Driver Location
Driver install complete
Driver Successfully Installed
e. When it's done, restart your computer.



4. The Results and Possible Solutions

So after doing all that and restarting, here are the results:
desktop
Desktop: 1024 x 600, Classic Shell Start Menu (click to enlarge)

1024 x 600 resolution (native res'), no more BSODs after logging in and finally brightness control.
DierctX Display Properties
DierctX Display Properties (click to enlarge)

However all these come at some added costs, other than losing the Modern apps:

1. The Start Menu doesn't launch when clicked.

Possible Solutions:
  • Install ClassicShell to replace the start menu.
  • Use Launchy - if you don’t use the start menu that much, Launchy makes it easy to launch apps and do other fancy stuff using your keyboard.

2. The Battery, Sound, Wi-Fi and Time notification icons don't work when clicked though their tool tips and right-clicking on them works. Just hover over them to get the battery level and Wi-Fi status.

Possible Solutions:
  • Battery: Right-click Battery icon >> Power Options to manage battery settings. You can also pin it to the task bar or create a desktop shortcut for it.
  • Sound: Right-click Battery to manage volume and sound devices. You can also use your keyboard buttons to adjust the volume
  • Wi-Fi: Connect Wi-Fi from the lock screen. Oddly, the menu works perfectly from there. You can easily go to the lock screen using Win + L.
  • Time: Right click Time to adjust time/date

3. Search box and Action Centre (Notifications) don't work.

Possible Solutions:
  • Search box: Hide the search box --> Right-click on the Taskbar >> Search >> Hidden
  • Search function: For local search use ClassicShell Start Menu search or give Everything a try
  • Action Centre: Disable Action Centre Icon --> Right-click Taskbar >> Notification area: Customize >> Turn system icons on or off

4. Brightness
Adjusting brightness using the keyboard buttons will most likely not work. To do that, right-click on the battery icon on the taskbar and select Adjust brightness


Conclusion

Initially I had my doubts whether this solution would work but after trying it, the laptop is at last usable. Of course this comes at a hefty price of doing without the modern apps, which is an integral part of Windows 10. Actually I think it's the main selling point of Windows 10.

So as far as using Windows 10 in this state is concerned, I think I will pass and stick to Windows 7 - and it's not just about the chip, I'm just too used to the Windows 7 desktop environment. However that's just me, so if you really need that Windows 10 upgrade badly I think this is worth giving a try.

I'll advise on trying this on a dual-boot, which by the way is what I did. This way in case you're not happy with the results, you can easily switch back to your old system without having to start over again. If you find that too complicated, a proper back up should suffice. Good luck!.


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