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Computer failure: garbled screen

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September 15, 2009 9:35:49 PM

My computer two days ago very suddenly went totally haywire and I’m at a loss to figure out why.

It started with some strange, vertical lines appearing when I was browsing the internet. Then weird lines ended up all over my screen and things started looking garbled and my computer BSOD’d and restarted itself. When it did, even my BIOS startup screen was garbled!

At this point, my computer won’t even finish booting into Windows, but I did end up getting it there once and it wouldn’t load programs before it finally had the screen go black and I restarted it.

Thinking it was the video card, I took my video card out and put it into my wife’s computer (which has the same power supply, though a totally different CPU and motherboard). After reinstalling the video card drivers (though why I had to do that when switching out an 8600GT to a 9600GT, I have no idea), the video card seemed to perform absolutely fine, both in a game (WoW) and web browsing.

Thus I am left to conclude that it’s not the video card that is the problem, despite the fact that it’s a video-related issue.

Any suggestions? Could it be my motherboard? How can I find out?

Thanks! I’m dying with my computer out of order. :) 

Specs:
Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 Wolfdale
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R LGA 775 Intel P45 motherboard
3GB (3x1GB) Kingston ValueRAM PC2 6400
EVGA 512-P3-N861-TR GeForce 9600 GT 512MB PCI Express x16 video card
Corsair CMPSU-450VX 450W Power Supply
Windows Vista 32-bit SP1
a b B Homebuilt system
September 15, 2009 11:28:27 PM

Motherboard is still a possibility, but a few other things to check first. How old is your computer? All PSUs will degrade over time, and even a good brand like Corsair may lose up to 10% of it's rated wattage after a year or so. What are your case temps like also? Overheating can be a cause, and if it's been an ongoing issue, will lead to possible failures. 450 watts is probably a bit on the low side for a PSU configured as yours is.

Also, I see you have Vista SP1, you should upgrade that to 2 for improved stability and better performance when you get things back up and running.

3GB of Value RAM: Kingston is a reputable brand, but anything with the word "value" in it when talking about RAM means they are cutting corners on something. Usually it's the heat/voltage tolerance of the memory modules, and skimpy or nonexistent heat sinks. You may have a RAM issue, though the garbled video during BIOS would more likely suggest a PSU/Motherboard issue.
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a b U Graphics card
September 16, 2009 12:00:07 AM

Buy a "kill a watt" ($25 I think) to test the PSU, after that it was just a process of elimination (aka it's your motherboard if it isnt your PSU).

If it's a expensive motherboard, you could have it fixed however the chances of it being successful are slim... the costs for repairs could be in the range of $100.

If it's inexpensive, go buy a new one for around $60-$80
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September 16, 2009 12:11:57 AM

wathman said:
Motherboard is still a possibility, but a few other things to check first. How old is your computer? All PSUs will degrade over time, and even a good brand like Corsair may lose up to 10% of it's rated wattage after a year or so. What are your case temps like also? Overheating can be a cause, and if it's been an ongoing issue, will lead to possible failures. 450 watts is probably a bit on the low side for a PSU configured as yours is.

I built the computer in December. I will check temperatures, but I believe they're all fine. I may also take the PSU out of my wife's computer (it's the same model as the one I use in mine) and see if it works when I'm using her PSU.

wathman said:
Also, I see you have Vista SP1, you should upgrade that to 2 for improved stability and better performance when you get things back up and running.

Perhaps I do have SP2, I'm not sure. :)  I don't remember deliberately downloading it, but if it came through the pipe on automatic updates, I would've downloaded it. I'd check but, as I said, the computer is down.

wathman said:
3GB of Value RAM: Kingston is a reputable brand, but anything with the word "value" in it when talking about RAM means they are cutting corners on something. Usually it's the heat/voltage tolerance of the memory modules, and skimpy or nonexistent heat sinks. You may have a RAM issue, though the garbled video during BIOS would more likely suggest a PSU/Motherboard issue.

Well, Kingston sells two types of RAM: gamer-type overclocker RAM with heat spreaders on it and "ValueRAM." Since I don't overclock, I saw no point in spending extra money on their "hardcore" variety.
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a b B Homebuilt system
September 16, 2009 1:33:42 AM

yes, your point on value RAM is valid to some extent, and overall kingston RAM is just as good as any other major brand. On certain budget builds I've used value line RAM without issue. Even if you do not overclock, there is still justification for using higher quality, "overclocking" RAM. High quality RAM will have better stock timings, and more importantly, lower stock voltage ratings. 1.6v Low latency RAM has the ability to overclock past its specs because it will tolerate up to .3 or .4 +volts and not fry itself. value RAM for example might have a stock of 2.2v and will perform at specified timings, but will not be able to do any better with stability.

Regardless, I think your RAM is operating fine as long as your internal temps are not getting too hot. If your PSU swap with your wife's PC is successful, a new PSU should solve the problem.
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September 16, 2009 11:16:36 PM

As a picture is worth a thousand words, and thus a video must be worth millions, here is a video of my computer having its recent issue. During this video, the problem mysteriously clears up for no apparent reason and hasn't completely returned since.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7Djb-BxzNM

Following this I ran FurMark at EVGA's suggestion, with video card temperatures that EVGA said were totally normal.

Twice I saw "Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered" since this. I also saw a slight glitch like what is in this video today, but nothing as "catastrophic" as what you see here.

After this video, I updated my video card drivers. Then I played WoW for about two hours.

It's doing it again right now!! Uh-oh.
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September 16, 2009 11:23:34 PM

Computer just crashed. Saw the "display driver stopped responding and has recovered" error three times then the screen went black and all I could see was my cursor (though it did change back and forth from a pointer to the text-input cursor.) Now the screen is flickering with those lines randomly every minute or two.
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a b U Graphics card
September 17, 2009 12:30:34 AM

You had said you tried the video card on another computer (your wife's) so I suppose we could rune out the display.

Now here's the million dollar question... how many times have you installed a display driver after the last Clean install of an OS?
Alot of times having many display drivers installed, even if it is for the same company say ATI or Nvidia can cause issues with loading of the display drivers. This is why a lot of times the removal of all display drivers is required before installing a new GPU.

If your answer is between 1-2, then you can rule out the driver issue
If your answer is over 2, then you need to uninstall every driver for displays. Then rebooting after every uninstall/install regardless of the software asking you for a restart or not you must reboot..


Okay if it isnt your drivers, video card, or power supply. The only option left is your motherboard.

Make sure to label your Power supply, and your wife's power supply for this test.

Since the power supply hasn't yet been tested do this: Test your power supply on your wife's computer, using your video card. This gives up a more controlled experiment.
If it works perfectly normal, then the final thing is put your video card back into your computer, and test you wife's power supply on your computer. If your using your wife's power supply, and the problem persists, it is very clear that the motherboard is behind the error.
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September 27, 2009 5:17:06 AM

An update:

So EVGA had me RMA my video card to them after a lengthy bit of e-mail correspondence. When I get it back, I suppose I'll find out if it was the video card.

Meanwhile, Gigabyte offered to let me RMA my mobo to them, too.

None of which rules out the power supply. I still haven't gotten around to doing anything to test it, and swapping in the one from my wife's computer won't work right now since I have no video card. :) 

Hopefully, it's the video card and EVGA will be able to fix it and send it back to me. That'd certainly make my life easier.
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