Bad card or bad user?

I encountered the dreaded "NVidia display driver nvlddmkm.sys failed and has recovered" error out of the blue over the weekend. No new hardware / software installed and no OS patches that I’m aware of. No overclocking or mods – everything was left “as-is” after I built it. I rolled my pc back 1 week when it was working with no issues, uninstalled / reinstalled the NVidia drivers with the latest from the NVidia and MSI sites, tested my memory (MEMTEST) and physically removed the card and re-inserted it.

My pc is not recognizing that I have a graphics card installed and my initial log-in screen is completely covered in ‘.’ and ‘:’ characters. So from this experience I have 2 questions:

1- Being a graphics card newb, I’m still getting a screen on my monitor but the card isn’t registering to the system. How am I still getting a display if the card is bad? Or is the basic output of the card working and the rest of it is malfunctioning?
2- What else can I do to determine if my card is bad? I would hate to replace it only to have the same problem and discover that it’s actually my motherboard or something else at fault.

Thanks so much for your input!

System Specs: (3-yrs old)
MSI NX8800GTS 512M OC GeForce 8800GTS (G92) 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16
Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Corsair HX-series 520 watt power supply
GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX All Solid Capacitor Intel Motherboard
Kingston ValueRAM 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
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  1. If your monitor is telling you no signal you might be using your integrated GPU. I would make sure that the card is in completely and all the power cables are connected. Try the card in another slot or PC. Try switching to another display port. Hope one of these works. ;)
  2. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll try some other ports, but what I meant to convey was that I have can view everything else fine - I can surf the web, watch youtube videos, remote access work, etc... but the computer is not seeing the GPU. In the device manager for the display adapters, it says : "Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43)" From both this message and the original nvlddmkm.sys message I was getting the impression from the various other threads that this usually meant the card was slowly on it's way out.
  3. Not sure. Sorry, I am not an expert.
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