dead graphics card or just driver problem?

I began having a problem with the video display on my Dell Dimension 4600 two months ago. The display on my LCD monitor, connected via DVI, began flickering, then going blank whenever the mouse was touched. A dialog box said:

“Windows-Display driver stopped. The NV4 display driver has stopped working normally. Save your work and reboot the system to restore full display functionality …”

Switching monitors, to one which was functioning normally on a different computer, did not help. Nor did system restore or using a different DVI cable. I also tried reseating the graphics card, with no effect. The only way I could stabilize the display was to use safe mode, which did not allow use of my internet connection or my LCD’s native resolution (1280 x 1024). Following advice from Dell’s site, I then uninstalled the driver for my 128MB NVidia GeForce FX5200 graphics card and reinstalled a new driver, first trying the one at Dell’s site and then, after uninstalling the Dell one, one from NVidia’s site. Neither stabilized the video. At this point, I chatted with Dell and was told that my graphics card was damaged and needed to be replaced.

However, I then uninstalled the driver again and found that I could get a stable display, with no driver installed, using the analog connection between my computer and monitor, even at 1280 x 1024 resolution. However, the monitor sometimes remains blank on booting up the computer, only coming on after turning off the computer (by turning off the power strip) and back on again. Also, I would like to be able to get the better performance of the DVI connection again.

My question is whether my graphics card does indeed need to be replaced or whether there is some software issue causing the problem with DVI. Does the fact that the graphics card works in analog mode mean that it is not broken (and that the problem with DVI is therefore a software issue)? Or does a graphics card have separate components for analog and digital output?

Second, if I do need a new one, can I use a PNY 256MB GeForcFX 5200, Dell part A0656962, which cost $59.99 new at or must I use the original 128MB model (Dell part 9Y452), which is $155.99 for a refurbished one! Obviously if the one with double the memory would work well in my Dimension 4600, I’d prefer the better performance and almost $100 savings! says both are compatible with the 4600, but a Dell chat representative recommended I get the 128MB one, though he couldn’t explain why the web site said the 256MB one was compatible if it wasn’t really.

Any answers to either or both questions would be appreciated.

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  1. The Dell rep is just trying to get more money out of you for an antique piece of crap that they have in their wharehouse. I would recommend a quick trip to your local computer store or go online to newegg or some other online vendor and purchase something like this which will work fine in your machine. I wouldn't spend more on a card for it, the computer isn't capable of substaining a faster card really, and is probably on its last legs anyway.
  2. Well, Dell's pricing of old video cards is certainly odd: they sell my original GeForce FX5200 with 128MB of memory for $155.99 refurbished; the 5200 with 256MB, but no DVI, for $59.99; and the 6200 with 256MB and DVI for $43.99. Perhaps their least knowledgeable customers (like me) want to replace their card with its exact replacement, which may not be sold elsewhere (or they may not look elsewhere), and therefore end up paying more for it than they would for a newer and better model.

    Thanks for your suggestion but I think I'll stick to a NVidia model with the thought (perhaps totally mistaken) that there will be less chance of incompatibility than with a different brand of chipset. The GeForce 6200, with 256MB and DVI, $43 at newegg, seems like a decent choice.

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