Signs of an Ailing Graphics Card?


So first off, a little background here before my problem.

My current computer I built in December '09, and for the first year or so it worked without a problem. Around November/December of last year my video card (Radeon 5850) started making some noises, and still does. It's the sound I would probably associate with the fan slowly dying on it (that "whirring" sound that gets worse as time goes on). At the time I didn't think much of it, because I simply didn't expect problems with any hardware that soon.

So around the same time I decided to upgrade my RAM from 2x2 (4GB) to 4x2 (8GB). After I did this I started noticing programs crashing, and this eventually evolved into my games crashing, and BSOD's. Now of course at the time I assumed there must be a problem with my RAM, or possibly one of the DIMMs were bad, since I had never used the other two before. I gave it a month, switching up the RAM, running MemTest86+ (to some very mixed results I might add), and then about two weeks ago I decided to swap back to my old RAM which never had problems. Much to my surprise, the problems got worse which lead to me formatting my computer this week in hopes that it was simply a software problem.

That leads me to today, or specifically the past few days since my fresh install of Windows 7. I'm currently running in the same hardware setup prior to swapping RAM, and while the bluescreens and crashes have diminished, I'm still experiencing them. These mostly happen while watching videos, or while playing a game. So I'm starting to think I may have misdiagnosed the problem all those weeks ago when I thought it was my bad RAM, because the new RAM was installed at the same time that my video card [fan] started acting up.

Below are the problems I'm currently experiencing:

BSOD that happens randomly, so far about once a day. Most recently while watching a video. If there's an error listed, it doesn't seem constant. I've seen page fault and memory management errors recently, as well as a system one (I can't remember exactly what it said).
While playing a game on one monitor, and having a video or live stream open on the other, the performance on both will suffer to the point where I have to turn either the video/stream or the game off. This did not happen when I first built the computer. I'm not talking about Crysis or any other high-end game either, I'm talking about something like WoW, which a 5850 should be able to handle.
While watching a video on VLC (or any media player) it may crash.
While playing a game, it may crash.
While scrolling down a page (eg. website) I will notice "flickering" on some parts of my screen, most often the bottom part. Thick black lines will appear for a fraction of a second, and it's noticeable. This also can happen on the other monitor when I'm doing stuff on the first, or vice-versa.
Ghosting on both monitors. Both monitors are fairly new, they're not the same brand and/or model, and they both have fast response time. I've had both since I built the system, and this didn't happen. It's extremely noticeable while dragging windows. I actually can't say I've seen any ghosting in a game or video though.
I have been experiencing the "Display Driver is not Responding" error, and it oftens shows up after the next point.
If I have a video/live stream and another video/live stream/game open, randomly both monitors on my computer will go black, then turn to a random color (I've seen black, green, a burgundy), then go back to normal. After this any video or stream I've had open will be completely green until I refresh the page.
Might as well add in that the fan on the video card seems to be dying, BUT temperatures are absolutely fine. At one point the sound became so high pitched that it was starting to bother my ears.

Now what I've done to try and diagnose the problem:

Fresh install of Windows 7, eliminating any software factor.
All drivers, on everything, is up to date.
Swapped my RAM back to the old RAM just in case the newer sticks were defective.
Ran MemTest86+ multiple times over the past two months, having extremely mixed results (I would never see any errors unless I ran it right after a bluescreen). Haven't seen an error after swapping RAM back to the old sticks.
I moved my video card to another PCI-E slot, just in case it was a bad one.
I attempted a fix found on these forums regarding the 5xxx series video cards not drawing enough power when idle. It actually seemed to help a bit for the display driver error, but the big problems are still relevant and happening.

So, I believe I've listed everything. As I said, with the current hardware setup at one time this computer was running perfectly.

I'm really hoping some people with more experience than me can give me an idea of whether they think it might be time to replace the video card, or if I'm just missing something else that could be causing all these symptoms. I don't mind buying a new video card (been contemplating upgrading for some time), but I don't want to try and fix a problem that's in another place.

10 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about signs ailing graphics card
  1. Have you tried checking your gpu temps?
  2. Temps are currently idling around 45-50C, under load I don't think I've seen it past 80C.
  3. Best answer
    Very nice list of symptoms and what you checked, from the clues about when the crashes happen, video card is most likely the cause of this.

    Someting you may try, use only the new ram instead of the old, you did try just the old RAM, but what if that's the one causing the issue. Swap power leads going to the video card (may need to use an adapter if you don't have any more video card power leads). If you happen to have a spare power supply, try that also. If you don't, I'm leaning towards card replacement, although nothing is really 100% in random crash cases.
  4. That said try checking your voltage setting on your psu.
  5. Just swapped out the RAM for the new ones, and I replaced both power leads into the video card.

    Just from the few minutes I've had the computer up though, I still see that flickering as I move through web pages. I also still see the ghosting (as I just noticed, it's extreme if I move a window around on the same monitor that has the browser open, but almost non-existent if there's no other window up).

    Regardless though, I'll put it through it's paces for the next few hours.

    While I'm at it, is there any software out there that can be used to stress test a video card? I know of ATI Tool but last I heard that was no longer supported. I think I remember hearing about FurMark being pretty good.
  6. 3DMark should work well to heat up the card, and it will use many features of it so if there is any failing silicon, it should find it.
  7. The symptoms you listed sound EXACTLY like the ones I was experiencing not long ago.

    Went through all the tests, attempts to use process of elimination, etc. Long story short, it was the video card.

    That doesn't necessarily mean the same for you, but your symptoms sound frighteningly similar.
  8. Best answer selected by UnknownSoldier.
  9. I'm sorry OP but it seems that people here have been giving you not-so-well-informed solutions.

    The #1 component that comes to mind is your PSU. Intermittent lock-ups and crashes are almost always caused by a faulty PSU. First, try using the on-board GPU if you have one, or find a cheap replacement for now. If you are still experiencing problems, there is no doubt about it; you need a new PSU.
  10. abottig said:
    I'm sorry OP but it seems that people here have been giving you not-so-well-informed solutions.

    The #1 component that comes to mind is your PSU. Intermittent lock-ups and crashes are almost always caused by a faulty PSU. First, try using the on-board GPU if you have one, or find a cheap replacement for now. If you are still experiencing problems, there is no doubt about it; you need a new PSU.

    You needed to read his post better, crashes only, PSU possibly aside from RAM, or heat But he's getting ghosting, flickering, display driver crashes, monitors shifting colors, and more. He did a great job explaining what is going on, it's almost certainly his video card, to a 95%+ probability.
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