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Inability to install: Is it my Motherboard or my Video Card?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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April 7, 2010 7:25:31 AM

I have a strange situation with an HIS Radeon HD 3650 4x/8x AGP graphics card and a dual-processor AMD Athlon MP 2800+ setup running on a Gigabyte GA-7DPXDW motherboard with a 4x AGP/AGP Pro slot. I am looking for some hints to determine where the problem might be.

One of the first things I should mention is that I recently had some open-heart surgery done on the motherboard. A number of capacitors were bulging (none leaking, tho) and I had them professionally replaced by a local business that has been doing electronics repair for the last 40 years (the same person). The end result appears exquisite, even though I lost the on-board networking in the process (no biggie, just dumped a PCI NIC into the rig).

HISTORY:
Before the cap work on the mobo, I had been unable to even install the drivers under XP for the video card. The drivers would install just fine up until the point where the screen goes completely black except for a blinking cursor in the upper left. It would hang - permanently - at this point without returning to the Windows desktop. A forced reboot would show no graphics drivers installed. This was under XP 32-bit (the MP 2800+ is a 32-bit only processor). It had the same effect under a fresh install of XP on a different drive. Win7 32-bit was able to install the drivers but was unable to maintain a dual-head display between reboots. Every time the system booted back up, I had to re-set the card to a dual display layout. I assumed that these problems (under both XP and Win7) were a result of the bulging capacitors, hence my repair of the mobo.

PURPOSE:
I have this video card because I want to be able to leverage the GPU to display HD video without buying a whole new rig. I also have a dual-display setup, with two HP LP2065 monitors (the ones with true 180-degree display angles, not the crappier versions) running each at 1600x1200 (I absolutely detest anything other than 4:3 aspect ratios). These are fed through a Belkin dual-head, 4-port KVM. Attached to the KVM I have four workstations: A quad-core G5 2.5Ghz PowerMac, a Socket 940 Opteron 148 running OpenSolaris, a Socket 939 dual-core Opteron 265 running OpenSUSE 11.2 and - the focus of this article - a dual-processor AMD Athlon MP 2800+ system running what may be my last copy of Windows ever (I am NOT impressed with the GUI of Vista/Win7, even though the security in Win7 is impressive enough to have me on the fence).

MEAT & POTATOES:
One of the really strange things about this video card that I noticed almost immediately was that upon POST (with any computer, not just my Gigabyte mobo), it would show the POST routine on only one screen. The other was black. If the machine started POSTing when the KVM was on another port, and I switched back during the POST, the video card would show the POST on both screens, but then and only then.

Every other dual-head video card I have shows the POST on both screens. The other cards also show the Windows boot sequence clear up to but NOT including the login screen on both screens (unless the KVM was on another port during boot). Linux & Solaris are different, for some reason only the POST shows on both, and the O/S boot gets relegated to the dominant video port of the card.

Now that I have the motherboard repaired, I am able to install the drivers (it progresses past the black screen with the white cursor and returns to the Windows desktop), but upon reboot the machine never completes booting. Please understand, the machine DOES NOT BLUESCREEN. NOTHING CRASHES. IT JUST FAILS TO COMPLETE BOOTING. I have looked at the logs six ways to Sunday. I have done a logged boot. Each and every time, when the boot process gets to the point where the cursor is supposed to show up, the screen goes black and stays that way. The dominant video port for this card keeps its monitor active (the status light stays green) and the other monitor goes into sleep mode.

The key thing is, THERE ARE NO UNUSUAL LOG ENTRIES. In fact, the log entries stop there abruptly, even though a proper boot would have additional log entries after this point as queued services continue to load and launch. Drive activity comes to a slow stop (some activity petering out over 30 seconds to no activity at all) even though a proper boot would have the drive going full bore for another 2 minutes as the system continued to load services.

I have tried to elicit some sort of response from the machine, including using the keyboard to blindly log in, to no effect. The ONLY way to boot fully into Windows is to use Safe Mode (any of the three, actually). No other boot method available from F8 except for the three Safe Modes allows me to boot successfully into Windows. I haven't had the time to try Win7 on a separate hard drive yet, so I don't know if the problems with Win7 have been solved. Besides, I want to stick with XP for this machine... Win7 is just a bit too weighty for it.

Under all three situations (XP pre and post repair & Win7) I used the drivers from the HIS web site. I tried installing using the supplied installer, as well as the bare, raw graphics drivers. I tried using the latest and greatest, as well as older versions. In all, I must have made at least a good two dozen different installation attempts/variations with no success. BTW, the ATI/AMD website does not carry HD3650 drivers. I was forced to use HIS drivers only.

What makes me think that the card might be at fault is its inability to show the POST on both screens. I have been using dual-head video cards for almost 10 years now, and this is the first card that has not shown the POST (at minimum) on both screens. This behaviour is also duplicated across machines. When I had a client's machine in for a mobo replacement, I tried this card in that machine, with the same effects as my now-repaired workstation. POST on only one screen, drivers accepted but unable to complete boot, etc. etc..

I am also no newbie. I have been working with computers since 1982 (Commodore Vic-20) and have had an ever-changing stable of workstations since the mid-1990s. There is very little in terms of hardware errors and/or bugs which can stymie me. However, this is one of those rare cases where I have been left scratching my head in utter confusion.

So I am looking for suggestions. Is this an issue with the Radeon HD line and AGP slots? Is this a common symptom of the HIS Radeon HD 3650 card in particular? Is this card incapable of driving two monitors off of a 4x AGP slot? (this would be strange, b/c my Radeon 7500 works just peachy) Could it be something else?

Suggestions, please!
April 7, 2010 4:18:32 PM

I recall having install it, but my final few attempts were with the raw drivers -- I didn't bother to install Catalyst at all. As such, I doubt this fix had any effect, because there was no change in how the system booted.
a b V Motherboard
April 7, 2010 4:41:44 PM

Yeah, the boot thing has me puzzled, but that's mainly because I have to take your word on the dual-display both showing the POST screen. I don't use, nor have I ever used, a dual-display setup of my own.
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