Let me give you the full background in case any of it is relevant.
The wife and I both purchased the same PC for a steal 2 years ago, the Dell XPS 420. It came with a Nvidia 8800 GT(512) in it. Both computers have lasted until now with absolutely no issues. However, recently the wife's card was fried(I thought?) It started with green vertical lines up and down the screen and then just became unreadable all in the same night. At first it only did it in windows but after rebooting a few times reinstalling drivers even at the BIOS it was messed up. After reading multiple things on what issues cause what artifacts on the screen, and the graphics being messed up at the bios, I decided the card must have died.
I purchased a new card(after recommendations from Tom's hardware on what to get!) and put it in my dell XPS 420, since I play more games, and gave her my working 8800 GT. Tonight that 8800 GT died in the exact same way hers did about a month ago. I still had her 8800 GT that had died awhile back sitting in the closet(who knows why) and decided to try putting it in since she had no working card anyway. Lo and behold it booted up fine with nor graphical artifacts or issues on the screen at all. Now we only kept it up and running for about 5-10 minutes so thats not to say that the issue won't resurface after its on for a bit.
What I am wondering at this point is if its just bad luck that both cards had reached the end of their life, hers just went before mine, or if something about her PC is killing these graphics cards. I really don't want to go out and buy a new graphics card for her and have it die in a few months. The only difference in her setup this time and when the 8800 gt died before is she is on Win 7 now whereas she was on Win Vista before.
We both game heavily, mainly Starcraft 2 at this point. She does however do a lot of graphics work in photoshop with pictures and websites design
Airflow I do have an interesting addition on. When my 8800 GT was in my PC the fan on it would always spin way up when playing games, like you could easily hear the fan blowing away. On the wife's pc it never spins up that high(even when I gave her my 8800 GT when hers died it is always quiet as well), its always quiet, which always struck me as odd as she had the same pc and driver version as me.
Helltech I will have to check with her but I believe windows update grabbed and installed latest ones for it
There is also a possibility it could be a power supply issue(as in the power supplys continuous output capacity has degraded over time to the point that it cannot support your card running at max/min/medium for an extended time.)
It could also be a motherboard issue, although this is even more unlikely.
See if you can get your hands on another PSU and check if thats the problem, Also if what raydog said is true I'd recommend downloading rivatuner and verifying that your fan is adjusting itself properly.
If what Raydog said is true, try using MSI Afterburner, its a little more user friendly then his options (although his will do the same thing). You can then 1) monitor the fan speed, 2) adjust the fan speed accordingly.
Buts still, you need the acutal drivers for the card.
I downloaded MSI Afterburner and the fan speed was set to auto and at 30%, the GPU was sitting at 64-65 C. I cranked the fan speed up to 75% and it sounds exactly like mine used to when it spinned up after i started a game, and GPU temp dropped to 53 C, this is while idle.
I tried starting starcraft 2 with the fan speed at 45%(wife complained that 75% was too loud) the GPU temp jumped up and when it got to 71 C the screen flickered and i got an error saying "Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered." I immediatly cranked the fan speed back up and closed starcraft 2. After it cooled down a bit I set the fan spped at 80% and tried starting sc 2 again, temp got back up to 67 and was still rising when the display went all crazy again it flickered once and then pixels started changing colors all over.
Even after GPU speed is back down to 51C it still has all kinds of crazy artifacted pixels on the screen. I am going to try and see if a restart clears them up.
Yeah, I'm no expert but maybe it got hot too many times and the damage is already done. I just know I run mine w/ fan speed at 100% and have a slot fan under each to help expel air (I have em in SLI). Those suckers get hot. As I type I'm idling one at 59c and the other at 54c. In game they can get into the 80's celsius but I don't get any artifact or have any problems. So, maybe yours are already damaged?? Run it at 100% fan speed and see if that helps. u shouldn't be getting any flickering at 71c though; that's not that hot. u can also get a zalman vf900 if u hav no problems at 100% and want to reduce the noise and temps.
try 100% fan speed, update drivers from Nvidia's website, set driver settings to default, update starcraft if there is an update available, swap out PSU if you have another. Then yeah, maybe the card has had it.