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Speckles, Crashes, etc. in Windows 7 Media Center

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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August 23, 2009 3:24:04 AM

Speckles, Crashes, etc. in Windows 7 Media Center

OK, so I need a hero right now. I’m having graphics issues with my custom media center (no gaming whatsoever) running Windows 7 Ultimate RTM. I’ve tried everything I can think of over the last few weeks, all to no avail. No matter what I do, at least one of the following eventually happens, according to the rough probabilities noted:

1) It always reaches a state where the screen is lightly speckled, progressing to heavier speckles, and eventually to near total distortion (note that sometimes, however, it will jump straight to the total distortion phase and sometimes, the blue screen mentioned in #3 will occur before the speckles begin).
2) It often pops up the tray notification about the “display driver stopped responding and has recovered”.
3) It sometimes results in a blue screen (usually after speckling a while, but sometimes beforehand) mentioning that an “attempt to reset the display driver and recover from timeout failed” and referencing “nvlddmkm.sys”.
4) It occasionally causes the screen to randomly flicker / flash.
5) It rarely causes the screen to black out, sometimes coming back on and sometimes not.

The issues most commonly occur while displaying the Favorites slideshow (i.e. Win7 Media Center’s screen saver) or while displaying the Now Playing collage of album art. Interestingly enough, though, it hasn’t ever started during a movie, even a Blu-Ray or HD DVD.

I’ve tried three different graphics cards (8500GT, 8600GT, 9500GT) to drive my HDTV through my receiver via component video (I have no HDMI devices) and to drive my front panel via VGA (my case has a touchscreen display on the front). I should note that when each card is first installed, I get an initial error about how my video may not work as expected since I have less than 64 MB video RAM (I don’t remember the exact message), but that’s obviously not accurate. I just click OK, move on, and it never shows again until I install a different card.

I’ve also tried using a 7300GS in conjunction with with one of the main cards and drove the front panel off this separate card. I hoped this might take some load off the main card if that was somehow a problem (don’t know why it would have been, but was getting desperate). It didn’t fix the problem coming out of the main card, but I was at least able to conclude that the issue doesn’t affect the front panel if it’s running off a separate card, but that both screens are affected when one card is doing double duty.

Anyway, here are the specific graphics card models I’ve tried:

1) 8600GT: eVGA 256-P2-N753-TR 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 (ordered a couple weeks ago to convert this box into a media center; this PC was originally built as a home automation server, and all other hardware components below are holdovers from when I originally built the PC for that purpose)
2) 8500GT: MSI NX8500GT-MTD256EH 256MB 128-bit GDDR2 Silent Heatsink (took out of my modified HP z558 to try)
3) 9500GT: Galaxy 95TGE8HUFEXX 1GB 128-bit DDR2 (went out and bought at Best Buy just to make sure this wasn’t an 8-series issue)
4) 7300GS: XFX PVT72GWANG 256MB 64-bit GDDR2 (the one I used back when this was just a home automation server)

And here are my other hardware components:

1) Case: Moneual MonCaso 932B Black Aluminum 7" Touch Screen ATX
2) Power Supply: Scythe Kamariki 2 KMRK-450A-2 450W ATX12V
3) Motherboard: eVGA 122-CK-NF68-AR Intel LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX
4) Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 65W
5) Memory: Corsair XMS2 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit
6) Hard Drive: Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB 10000 RPM SATA 1.5Gb/s 3.5"
7) Optical Drive: LG GGW-H20L Super-Multi Blu-ray Disc Burner & HD DVD Drive SATA Lightscribe
8) Display: Pioneer Elite PRO-710HD 64” Reference Monitor (at least it used to be a reference model )
9) Receiver: Pioneer Elite VSX-49Txi THX Ultra 2 A/V i-Link Receiver

So what else have I tried (other than that mentioned above)? Well, I failed to take good notes along the way, but minimally, these efforts come to mind, and none of the efforts resulted in any substantial change to the system’s behavior pattern:

1) Installed old and new drivers ranging from version 181.71 to the latest version 190.62; also tried the version that came on each included installation CD; used Driver Sweeper between attempted version.
2) Have tried with one card doing double duty and have tried with separate cards driving the two displays; either way, the displays are used in extended desktop mode; each display has been tried as the primary.
3) Have tried all three PCI-E x16 slots; the 8500GT, 8600GT, or 9500GT, whichever was in at the time, has definitely been tried in all three slots; didn’t try the 7300GS in all slots, but that’s likely irrelevant.
4) When only using one card, have tried it with and without the front panel being active; have tried it with the front panel turned off via the display settings and have also tried it disconnected altogether.
5) Originally had the 64-bit version of Windows 7 RTM installed; thought it might be a 64-bit driver issue, so I even did a clean install using the 32-bit version of Windows 7 RTM, but there was no improvement.

And with that… HELP!!! I’ve wasted enough time trying to solve this. It shouldn’t be this difficult, so I know one of you out there has a magic bullet for me, so please… hurry and fire it my way!
August 23, 2009 3:36:25 AM

the only thing i can think of is that is an issue with Win 7... besides trying a different OS, just avoid the "displaying the Favorites slideshow or while displaying the Now Playing collage of album art"... i cant really think of anything else :( 
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August 23, 2009 4:07:29 AM

Looking for something a little more insightful... Win 7 is displaying these apps just fine on one of my HP z558's
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Anonymous
a b U Graphics card
a b $ Windows 7
December 31, 2009 2:33:02 PM

Its definitely the operating system, i am running a new HP Z600 workstation with 6gig ram and win7 64 bit. I didn't have this issue with win xp 64bit. Graphics card i am using is ATI Radeon 4800 with 1gig ram. I haven't been able to find a solution for it
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January 2, 2010 5:12:49 PM

No, it definitely was NOT the OS. A quick motherboard BIOS update fixed everything. It's been working perfectly for months now. Thanks to the most helpful forum in the world -- AVS Forum (yes, even for computer issues) -- for the winning advice within hours of my original post.
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