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HP Notebook PCs - Using Docking Stations with Notebooks Running Windows Vista

This document pertains to HP Notebook PCs with Windows Vista.

Using a docking station

A docking station, also known as a port replicator or a dock port, allows you to plug your monitor, keyboard, mouse, cables, and other peripherals into the docking station itself, while the notebook only connects to the dock. This set up saves wear and tear on connections each time you need to pick up the notebook and leave the peripherals behind.

In Windows Vista, you can remove and replace the notebook from the docking station in a number of different power states, ranging from simple on and off to hibernation mode and sleep mode.

HP recommends only docking and undocking a notebook when it is turned off. While problems caused by docking and undocking in other power states are rare, they are still possible. This document outlines what to expect when docking and undocking the notebook in each state, and makes some recommendations for general docking station use.

Best practices for using docking stations

In order to use a docking station, you must have a notebook that is compatible with the particular model of the docking station. There is a connector strip on the back of the notebook. Be sure that the docking station you are using has the appropriately sized connector for this connector strip!

If the port on the docking station is the wrong size, do not attempt to force the notebook into place. Doing so can permanently damage the connectors on both pieces of equipment.

When docking a notebook, set the notebook in place and gently ease it down. The connectors will snap into place, and you may hear a short tone from the laptop, indicating that it recognizes a change in its state. LEDs on the docking station may also light up, depending on the specifications of the model.

Figure 1: Lowering the notebook into the docking station

1 - Lever/button for docking and undocking
2 - Port connector

When undocking a notebook, press the button or lift the lever on the docking station that releases the computer. You should hear a distinct click, and possibly a short tone, depending on the power state of the computer, that will inform you that it is now safe to lift the computer away from the dock. LEDs on the docking station may also turn off, depending on the specifications of the model. Never flex or bend the notebook when removing it; this can cause damage to the notebook's components.

Figure 2: Removing the notebook into the docking station

1 - Lever/button for docking and undocking.
2 - Port connector

Use a docking station designed for the notebook by the manufacturer. Different power requirements between different manufacturers can cause permanent damage to the notebook's power supply, CPU, and motherboard, either immediately, or over time. Check HP Shopping for docking stations recommended for your notebook model.

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Power states in Windows Vista

There are four basic power states available to most users in Windows Vista.

  • On. The computer is in a fully active state. Docking and undocking while the computer is on is called hot-docking, because the computer has active connections to all of its peripherals. Most of the time, if a computer is removed from the docking station while on, Windows Vista will recognize that the peripherals are no longer available, and change its configuration to compensate, but sometimes, this can cause problems.

  • Off. The computer is completely shut down. The hard disks are not active, and no power is being used. No peripherals have active connections while the computer is turned off.

  • Hibernate. Hibernate mode may not be available on all computers with Windows Vista. It is a power-saving mode that saves all open documents and programs before turning off the hard disk. No peripherals have active connections while the computer is in hibernate mode.

  • Sleep. Sleep mode (Vista) or standby mode (XP) is a power-saving mode that saves all open documents and programs, but does not turn off the hard disk. Peripherals may not have active connections in sleep mode.

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Docking and undocking in different power modes

Docking and undocking in any of the available power modes should not affect the notebook's operation in Windows Vista. It is important to note, however, that any change in state--docked to undocked, hibernate mode to active mode--requires the computer to scan its configuration and make adjustments, if needed.

  • Active notebook/hot-docking. If you dock or undock a computer that is fully on, it can take between 10-30 seconds to determine which connections are still there and re-establish them if possible. You may hear several tones as the computer reconfigures itself. Wait until the system has had a chance to recognize the changes that have occurred, and then you should be able to use the computer normally.

    Please note that while the computer is conducting this scan, system response may be absent. In some cases, you will need to turn on some peripherals, such as the touchpad or the wireless internet adapter.

    Replacing the active computer in the docking station requires the same scan. Again, be patient, and listen for a short musical tone to indicate that the computer has found changes to its configuration. Then use the computer as usual.

  • Off. If you dock or undock a computer that is turned off, you can return it to the dock at any time.

    If you turn the computer off, all LEDs on the computer will turn off as well. To turn the computer back on, press the Power button. If you leave the computer turned off and redock it, the computer will not automatically turn back on. Press the Power button to restart the computer, as if the computer were not docked at all.

    HP recommends performing all docking and undocking with the computer turned off.

  • Hibernate. If you dock or undock a computer in hibernate mode, you can return it to the dock at any time.

    If you place the computer in hibernate mode, the LED on or near the power button will remain lit, and other LEDs may remain lit, as well, for up to a minute. In order to resume from hibernation mode, press the Power button when the LEDs turn off.

    Pressing the Power button starts the resume process, which may last up to a minute. The system displays a message reading Resuming Windows, and then the log in screen appears. Logging back in shows that your applications are just they were when you put the machine into hibernation. For example, an unsaved file in WordPad will still be open and available for you.

    If you leave the computer in hibernate mode, and redock it, the computer will not automatically turn back on. Press the Power button, as if the computer were not docked at all. There may be a one minute delay in resuming hibernate mode.

  • Sleep. If you dock or undock a computer in sleep mode, you can return it to the dock at any time.

    If you place the computer in sleep mode, the LED on or near the Power button and other LEDs may remain lit for about 10 seconds. In order to resume from sleep mode, press the Power button when the LEDs have turned off.

    Pressing the Power button will return the computer to its active mode within about 10 seconds, and display the log in screen. Logging back in shows that your applications are just as they were when you put the machine into hibernation. For example, an unsaved file in WordPad will still be open and available for you.

    If you leave the computer in sleep mode and redock it, the computer will not automatically turn back on. Press the Power button, as if the computer were not docked at all. There may be a 10 second delay in resuming from sleep mode.

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Resolve issues with docking stations

Assuming that you have a docking station that is mechanically compatible with your model of notebook, there are three ways to resolve issues that may occur when docking and undocking your computer.

  1. Restart the computer. Turn the computer off, and either dock it or undock it, and then turn it back on again. This process will allow the computer to run its configuration process again, and find all of the connections it needs to run properly.

  2. Update the BIOS. In some rare cases, hibernate mode may not work correctly with all models of docking stations or notebook computers. To resolve this issue, or any issue with a computer failing to resume from a power saving mode, obtain and install the latest version of the BIOS for your computer. For more information, please refer to HP Notebook PCs - Locating HP Software, Drivers, and BIOS Updates .

  3. Update the drivers. In some cases, not all peripherals may work initially with a docking station. If you have issues with a printer, external speakers, mouse, keyboard, or other such item, obtain and install the latest drivers from the manufacturer. If the manufacturer of the device is HP, please refer to HP Notebook PCs - Locating HP Software, Drivers, and BIOS Updates for more information.

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