Please see update below this post as this info is now out of date
I'm a long term sufferer of extreme migraines and headaches which started after purchasing my Late-2011 model Macbook Pro back in Jan 2012. For me, these migraines are typified by sharp pain in my left eye, swirling nausea, neck pain, and photosensitivity, all of which can last for days from fairly short periods of usage on a 'bad' system.
I'm a long term reader and contributor of this and the Apple discussion on the subject.
After many years of trying to find solutions to allow me to use a Macbook, I have discovered that I have a particular sensitivity to temporal dithering algorithms used by OSX, some monitors / TVs and AMD graphics cards on PCs. After countless trips to doctors, optometrists and specialists there's nothing noticable wrong with my eyes, and various forms of glasses did nothing. I have only persisted with trying to use Macbooks as I teach people who use them for a living.
Anyway, I took the plunge three weeks ago after lots of tests in stores and bought a Dell XPS 15 9550 laptop (1920x1080 Matt screen, Nvidia GTX 960M & Intel 530 graphics). As soon as I received the laptop I installed Ditherig.exe:
This disabled temporal dithering for Intel graphics cards. Three weeks in and my headaches and migraines have lifted. I can use the screen for hours on end with no problems whatsoever, it's back like the old days when I had a laptop without an LED display.
I do feel that the exposure to Macbook screens over the years has permanently affected my eyes though. I find that if I'm even slightly tired and I look at any kind of screen with LED lighting I'm likely to wake up with a headache or migraine, which I believe is down to s sensitivity to blue light which has increased since my problems began.
Anyway, I'm happy with where I'm at just now and wanted to share my news in the hope that it might help someone else.
UPDATE JANUARY 2020 (OUT OF DATE, SEE BELOW)
I just wanted to provide an update regarding my current system in 2020 as the above post is now out of date. I still have severe temporal dithering sensitivity. I have not found another usable setup, but my current laptop is perfect and I can use it for many hours per day with no eye strain or migraines. Hope this helps anyone else in my situation!
Laptop: Dell XPS 9560, with 1080p FHD matte screen
Windows Version: Windows 10 version 1511 (this is very important)
System tweaks: Intel & Nvidia Display adapters disabled in Device Manager
Software: Ditherig v1.11 with all dithering disabled, Windows Update Blocker:
UPDATE JULY 2020
Huge update here.
Since moving to Windows 10 v2004 (May 2020 update) there has been a massive improvement in my symptoms. Now, as long as I use old Intel drivers and ditherig.exe (still not sure if this does anything but can't change it now!) then I can use my machine without disabling the graphics drivers.
This has changed my life as I can now play games, do video editing, use the HDMI output, and have the power saving features of the laptop (battery lasts about 400% longer!). It's the first time in 8 years I've been able to do these things, ever since getting my first Macbook in January 2012 and discovering my temporal dithering sensitivity and my ability to have non-stop migraines..
To confirm, my 100% working setup (been testing for months now):
Laptop: Dell XPS 9560, with 1080p FHD matte screen
Windows Version: Windows 10 version 2004 (this is very important)
Intel HD 630 driver version: 126.96.36.19975 (from 2016, more recent drivers cause symptoms)
Nvidia driver version: 188.8.131.5214 (latest)
Additional Software: Ditherig v1.11 with all dithering disabled, Windows Update Blocker: https://www.sordum.org/9470/windows-update-blocker-v1-5/
After finding this solution, I tried buying some modern laptops but it would seem that all Intel UHD drivers (anything from 8th generation processors onwards) cause me symptoms. So right now the most recent processor I can use is Intel 7th generation with the 2016 drivers.
I am so happy to have a laptop I can use all day, really hope this helps someone else in my situation.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2020
I have been using Windows 10 v2004 since May now with graphics drivers enabled on my Dell XPS 15 9560 and have been largely without any issues whatsoever. Happy days.
I'm still using Ditherig.exe v1.11 (not tried any other version), Intel driver 184.108.40.20675 and Nvidia driver 220.127.116.1114.
I did have a period where I started getting headaches again, and I noticed that dithering was periodically being enabled at seemingly random intervals, but probably because some request was made to the graphics drivers. I realised this was happening because my desktop background (colour #c84141) shows banding when everything is set up correctly, and no banding when my display is problematic for me - I took pictures of what I mean:
- Perfect setup - Background has Banding
- Bad Setup - No Banding
Here's the desktop for you if you'd like to try it:
So I am checking my desktop from time to time, and if there is no banding then I have created a shortcut which restarts explorer, and this fixes the issue. To do this:
- Right click on the desktop and go to New -> Shortcut
- In the box that appears, copy and paste this:
C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /c taskkill.exe /f /im explorer.exe && start explorer.exe
- Save the shortcut and run it whenever you need to
Hope that helps someone out, I can honestly say that this setup has changed my life. 🚀
Here's my system profile in case it helps someone for comparison to their machine:
UPDATE JANUARY 2021
Update on the Nvidia G-Sync enabled laptop I purchased, the HP Omen 15-ek0005na. Booting the laptop after receiving it I initially felt the familiar 'jitter' in my eyes, an inability for them to be at peace that I recognise from MacBooks and any laptop other than my working setup. This was followed by a dizzy feeling quite quickly.
I jumped into Device Manager and noticed that Intel UHD graphics were running alongside the RTX 2070. Opening the Omen Command Centre software there is an option to switch from Hybrid graphics (Intel & RTX - good for power saving / gaming occasionally) or to pure Discrete graphics:
After switching to Discrete and rebooting the Intel UHD graphics are gone from Device Manager, the display is calm and feels flat like paper, just like on my working setup.
There are of course a few of downsides of G-Sync laptop:
- being a gaming laptop, they are big and ugly - if it's for everyday work and travel the XPS 15 9560 would be my go-to
- it's not silent even when idling, and makes a bit of a racket when gaming
- power management in Discrete-only mode will be affected, so shorter battery life
I'm happy to trade all of this for a working machine though, and this has been the easiest on my eyes that I've tried in many years even after 6-8 hours of gaming and working each day.