I can’t find a similar case anywhere.
I’ve actually solved it (I hope) but I want to understand what caused it.
My friend got a refurb PC, and installed this Wireless USB adapter using the provided CD.
Within about 5-10 seconds of plugging it into any USB port (usb2 or 3), his monitor would flicker, and then display only colorful rapidly-moving static. No other issues. Windows was still running OK because it would make the usual sound if I unplugged and replugged the USB dongle.
If I removed the dongle it would not immediately recover, but if I also unplugged the video connector (VGA) and plugged it back in, it would recover.
The ‘fix’ was to connect to his wireless network during the 10 second window before the screen went nuts, then just wait and do nothing for a while. I saw he had a network driver update pending, in windows update. So I figured if the dongle is working, we can let windows update and see if that solves the issue. It apparently did. It’s been fine for hours.
Still, this is strange and I’d like to know… just a driver problem? Why would a USB device mess with the display? (it’s using onboard intel graphics).
Also, this is probably unrelated but maybe you have a guess… the speed seems terrible for fios. About 3-4 megabits. He’s across the house from the wireless router but his laptop (a few feet from router) gets 11-12 megabit. That’s more like low-end cable than FIOS, right? Also weird: Massive 300+ ping on the laptop but only like 3-5 ping on the more distant PC (the one with the misbehaving wireless adapter).