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How to fix problems with your design software and Display Link docking stations.

Have you ever had an issue trying to open your favorite design app like Sketchup or Adobe InDesign only to see an error message about your video card not supporting the software? The problem is most likely related to your docking station and multiple display screens, and this is what we are looking at in this post.  

What is the issue? 

The issue manifests itself with laptops with an internal graphics card from AMD or Nvidia, basically all Architectural or Design Windows laptops. When connecting such a laptop to a non-branded docking station like “Pluggable” or anything else you may find on Amazon, some of your design apps like Sketchup, Adobe InDesign or Photoshop, etc., may display an error and fail to launch. This is very annoying and has caused some pain for our customers. The reason is that these programs require your high-end graphics card to work properly, and the generic docking station tries to bypass that card by using a virtual driver called the “display link.” Let’s dive into more detail.  

Generic vs. Branded Docking Stations 

Suppose you have a Dell laptop and use a high-quality dell docking station. In that case, your docking station is specifically designed to support and pass through all the computer’s hardware, including your high-end video card. The same goes for Lenovo or HP laptops and docking stations. However, the generic docking stations are designed to be universal and must work with every hardware brand. So, to get around, they have created a set of universal open standard drivers to help adapt to the hardware profile of every manufacturer. It works very well, except with the expensive hardware graphics cards 

What is a virtual graphics card driver? 

For graphics, they use a universal driver called the “DisplayLink”, a virtual driver running on top of your operating system, passing the video signals to the displays connected to the docking station. The problem is that your Design Software, for the most part, requires a physical graphics card in your computer to function correctly. That is why you paid an extra $ for your laptop in the first place. The DisplayLink driver takes over for the physical graphics card in your computer, but it cannot provide the same functionality to our design apps, and that’s when we get the error and a failed application launch. 

What is the solution? 

First and foremost – use the high-end branded docking stations for your design laptops. This will ensure optimal performance and operations.  

If you have already invested in a generic docking station and want to try and make it work. Please read on for some possible solutions. 

  1. Update Windows to the latest feature pack.  

Microsoft is constantly making improvements to the Operating System. They have resolved some bugs with the OpenGL implementation in the 20H2 update of windows and later. So, these would be the first steps to try 

  1. Update your video card drivers and DisplayLink drivers to the latest version. Same logic as above. The manufacturers are always fixing bugs in the driver software providing better integrations and interoperability of components. In our experience performing items 1 and 2 together resolved the issue in 80% of the cases. 
  1. If the above two suggestions do not fix the issue, there are workarounds that can be implemented. The first one is easier to implement than the second one.  

Always launch your design app from the main laptop screen. This will ensure that you use the built-in graphics card, not the DisplayLink driver. 

The second workaround is a bit more cumbersome but worth mentioning. Launch your design application while your laptop IS NOT CONNECTED to the dock. Then connect your computer to the dock and work as you would normally.  

We hope this helps you the next time you run into this issue with your generic docking station and your design software. If you have any questions, please contact us.

ArchIT specializes in providing IT services for architecture, design, and engineering firms.