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GeForce cards + VIA Chipsets ... *Very Bad News*

Last response: in Overclocking
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March 22, 2001 4:07:25 PM

Like many other people, I assembled a computer with an AMD platform, VIA chipset, and the nVidia GeForce2 GTS ... including a 300 watt power supply.

Ever since, I have run into more problems using this system than any other computer I have ever owned. I've posted here previously about the problems I've had with this machine ... and as you will read, it's been an on-going battle.

System Specs:
Win98 SE
MSI K7T Pro - VIA KT133 chipset
1000MHz Athlon
256MB Crucial Cas2 PC133
Adaptec 29106N PCI SCSI Controller
Adaptec AIC-7850 PCI SCSI Controller (for a SCSI-2 scanner)
18.3GB IBM SCSI hard drive
SoundBlaster Live X Gamer
RealMagic Hollywood Plus MPEG DVD Decoder
NIC Card
Antec 300 watt power supply
(5) 80mm fans
GlobalWin heatsink and fan combo
And last, but not least ...
nVidia GeForce2 GTS w/64MB-DDR

The system ran fine for a few months. I overclocked the video card when playing games, even raising the memory speed to 393Mhz. I was pleased with the performance of the computer, and I got really good benchmarks with 3D Mark 2000.

Then ... out-of-the-blue, while playing MechWarrior 4, the computer locked up, the monitor screen went blank, and the computer refused to boot. The only way to get the computer to restart was to unplug the power supply from my UPS ... and wait for a while, sometimes several hours.

I did not realize what was causing the problem, at first. Like other people, I did everything fundamentally possible to ensure that this was not a software issue, from installing Windows on a freshly formatted drive, to the latest drivers for the chipset and video card. I used probes to test for temperatures, just in case this was heat-related. But ... nothing fixed the problem.

(Note: After the first incident, I never overclocked the video card again. You may have noticed I had several fans in the machine. I took 3 of them out. I also had an NIC card installed at the time; but I removed that also. I am now running an USB ADSL modem, so the NIC card wasn't necessary anymore.)

At this point, I had to conclude that this might be a power issue. The GeForce Faq page had information posted that stated a GeForce card needed to have at least 20 amps available for the 3.3v line in order to run correctly. I saw that the Antec 400W specs said it could provide 28 amps for the line ... so I installed it.

(Note: I kept installing Antec power supplies because these were on the AMD-approved list, and a site that had done some testing found these to be the most stable. But, hey ... don't believe everything you read.)

Everything ran fine for two weeks.

Then, while running a low detail multiplayer game online, the system crashed, and again, would not boot up for nearly two hours. I assumed that this was because the power supply needed to cool.

I fought the system for the next few hours, and watched the video card die. All sorts of artifacts on the screen. Eventually, all I could reach was Safe Mode, and even then, I could barely see the display. I observed that in the BIOS, everything was spelled incorrectly ... and this included the hardware being listed in DOS when the computer goes through the POST.

After installing a new video card, I found that my hard drive's electronics had sustained damage, the sound card was damaged, and one of the memory modules was fried.

I was more than convinced that this was a power issue after I saw all the damage!

Antec power supplies might not be the best ... but a power supply, previously, and successfully tested under load, and 400 watts ... that should have been sufficient to drive this system. However ...

When playing games, or running other 3D applications, the AGP port demands more current than when the system is idle. The 3.3v and the 5v lines "share". This means, when the demand on the 3.3v line is high, less power is available for the 5v line, and vice versa.

I also discovered that a regular AGP port (not the AGP pro) can only deliver 25 amps to the video card.

Basically, this means that whenever I played a game, the rest of my system became underpowered, and believe me, that can be just a damaging to system components as too much current. It just may take the parts longer to die.

My conclusion was that this particular motherboard, with the VIA chipset, does a horrible job of regulating current, especially to the AGP port. I don't think that installing ANY ATX power supply, of ANY size, would make a difference.

Over the last few weeks, I have found literally hundreds of people yelling about this problem. The symptoms are nearly always the same ... lockups when playing games, sometimes only a few minutes into the game ... difficulty attempting to reboot after the crash, sometimes artifacts on the screen, spontaneous reboots with Windows first loads and/or Windows won't completely load the desktop, system tray, and icons.

I found an entire section of a forum devoted to this issue ... including information on why this is happening:

<A HREF="http://www.insanehardware.com/articles.php?i=00003" target="_new">http://www.insanehardware.com/articles.php?i=00003&lt;/A>

The first thing you'll see, is that this is happening primarily to people with the KT133 chipset, regardless of the mobo manufacturer. Also, people who are using a GeForce card like the MX seem to experience less problems, as these types of cards require slightly less current, and may even be a more efficient design. But people using these cards may experience problems, nevertheless.

The solution? I really hate to say this ... because I have been an AMD fan, right from the beginning ... but the solution, at least for the moment, is an Intel chipset and mobo, like the revamped 440BX, or the 815e. Unless you wish to use RDRAM, and that's your business ... and your money.

I haven't heard enough about the KT133A to know if this problem has been addressed. I also don't know if the newer GeForce cards, like the Ultra, or the GeForce3 handle power the same way. But I would be surprised if there have been any major changes to the nVidia reference design, and the way the cards handle current ... the company didn't bother to correct the problem with the earlier cards ... so why do so now?

I'm hoping that a couple of things will happen in the future. One ... AGP Pro cards will become affordable. AGP PRO 50 and AGP110 (or AGP Universal) can, respectively, provide 50 and 110 amps to the video card and port, using not only the 3.3v line, but the 12v line as well. Second, nVidia and VIA will fix this problem. Or I'll never come anywhere near a mobo with VIA chipset, ever again. Third, power supply manufacturers will recognize the need for affordable, higher power, cooler ATX units that will fit on existing motherboards and inside ATX cases. How many people do you think will want to cut up their cans, and install redundant power supplies? Heck, how many people would even know how to do that? We are PC users, not electricians.

Right now, I have a replacement KT133 motherboard I obtained from MSI, because the parts were still under warranty. I am using a Creative Labs Annihilator2 with 32-DDR, at least until my replacement GTS card arrives. For power, I installed a 400W Leadman PowMax, which seems to be a better constructed unit than anything from Antec. It was no problem to install new memory, but I'm also waiting for the new hard drive to arrive.

The computer is cranky, but running. I CAN play games ... I tested the system with the new 3D Mark 2001. But that's as far as I went ... I don't want to damage the new card or the mobo. Rebooting is still a problem ... I might have to restart the computer two or three times to finally load Windows. But once all the new parts arrive, I am going to put everything in a new can, install an older video card, and set the system aside as an emergency backup.

I'm going to put an Asus Solano2 815e motherboard in my old can, install a 600W ATX power supply from PC Power and Cooling, load up Win2K ... and I expect that all my problems will disappear. I've built systems similar to this for other people, and they haven't had any complaints, whatsoever. This is what I get for trying to get more bang for my buck, and trying to support healthy competition between chip manufacturers ... hit right in the wallet, and very disappointed.

That's the real deal, whether you are using an Abit, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, or any other mobo with this chipset. You've been burned. If you want your GeForce to run the way it should ... go to the Intel platform, get a big power supply, and never look back. It'll be cheaper to buy a new proc and motherboard than to gut your entire machine and start over from scratch when the video card dies, weakens the power supply, and the rest of your system bites the dust.

Comments? Additional information?

Yours truly,

Toejam31
March 22, 2001 7:11:46 PM

Is this really a common problem? Radeon users havn't have this problem with Via chipsets as far as I see it. At Rage3d.com this isn't mentioned at all. I guess the Radeon uses significantly less power than the nVidia boards. The Radeon chip doesn't even need a fan for the heatsink in reality to operate successfully overclocked up to 190mhz. I also bought the LeadMan 6100D 400w power supply. Very nice and professionally built with dual ball bearing fans. Your problem really sounds like a faulty power supply resulting in your severe damage. Anyways I have a VIA KX-133 board in my closet which I was going to team up with a nVidia card for Linux, so any additional info I would appretiate as in boards susceptible. Currently running a IWILL KK266 with a Radeon 64 VIVO Retail without any major problems, almost without a hitch.
March 22, 2001 8:34:41 PM

I am not claiming to be an expert on this subject I am only asking. However, isn't the Via chipset only two integrated circuits? and isn't voltage regulation part of the motherboard design set by the manufacturer? Voltage regulation seems to be different on each manufacturer's motherboard.

I have one of the supposed most difficult combinations. I have a Geforce256 and an Abit KT7 w/ KT133 chipsest. The Geforce is <b>the most power hungry</b>, at 40 watts not overclocked. The KT7 has been known to have problems with AGP cards, especially the Hercules Prophet II PRO and all of the ASUS Geforce 2 cards (all right maybe not the Deluxes, jury is still out). Now, I had heard that the AGP spec allows for cards in the 25 watt range (but maybe your 25 amps is the correct number). Still, my system is stable even though the odds are against this combination.

Again, I am way out of my expertise (not sure I actually have one) but tt seemed reasonable to me that an overly engineered PSU might make voltage regulation easier for the motherboard. I mean if the PSU can provide the correct voltage <b>no matter what conditions</b>, is there much left for the motherboard to do. OK, so it's a theory.

Anyway, I saw the same information at GeforceFAQ.com you mentioned, regarding the power demands (20 amps for a Geforce plus Athlon combo) of Geforce. I decided my PSU did not have the required capabilities so I bought an Enermax EG351P-VE which can supply 3.3 volts at up to 32 amps. I bought this for insurance. I say insurance because I had only had about 4 crashes in as many months of use of my system. Still, I was convinced I was overtaxing the old 300 watt power supply (which can only supply 14 amps at 3.3 volts). With the Geforce, there just wasn't much reserved for other 3.3 volt components.

It would seem to me that if the KT133 chipset alone was responsibly for bad AGP power regulation, and universally so, then my system could not possibly be stable yet it is. I think your theory is wrong.

I do believe you have/had some sort of power issue, either one that you described or one that I did but I don't think the power problem centers around the Via chips.

Don't get me wrong. I think Via chipsets are a nuisance but that is because they have too many quirks and some underlying design weakness, (though I don't know what). However, with care they are more than managable.

Ask around. Ask how many people have a Geforce card (any variety) paired with a KT133 or KT133A mobo that are now stable. Find out how many people had power related issues and how many had driver related issues. I think you will find it is mostly the latter.

I doubt this will dissuade you from dropping Via based systems.

Good luck with your next project.

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by phsstpok on 03/22/01 05:36 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
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March 22, 2001 11:24:55 PM

Wow. I'm still working on destroying my mainboard/geforce2. I'm at 220/400 on my card, and playing deusex under win2k. It's artifact free (as far as my poor eyes can tell), and helping to keep my room at a warm 28C.

Some people are just better than I am.....
March 23, 2001 8:48:39 AM

Wow - I've read a lot about VIA KT133 issues, but had never before such a horrible story like your's. I only had a few minor problems with my KT133 up to new. As I already dislike a little bit nvidia (they start behaving like Micro$oft) I'll team up my ASUS K7V with a Radeon, and my next system will have no VIA chipset inside. Altough I think you had a big dosis bad luck and murphy's law with your system...

Have Fun, IceDragon

Freedom may be the only true Illusion
March 23, 2001 11:24:01 PM

You must have one hellacious card cooler! What are you using?

Toejam31
Anonymous
a b U Graphics card
a b K Overclocking
March 25, 2001 8:35:06 PM

I had this same problem with my 300W AMD Certified Power Supply, MSI K7T Pro, and Hercules 3D Prophet II GTS 64 MB. I had no idea what the problem was. I finally came to the conclusion it was the power supply or motherboard. My Motherboard still being under warranty, I tried replacing that. The company I got my computer from no longer carried the k7t pro, so they sent me an EpoX 8KTA+. I installed this and so far it seems to have fixed all the problems. It has been a few months. You might want to try out another motherboard besides the MSI.

It's better to be pissed off than pissed on :) 
!