Windows XP PC hangs when installing ANY graphics driver

This is an odd problem. My setup hangs up (black screen with dash cursor in upper left) whenever installing ANY graphics driver, whether for an add-in card or on-board GPU (which is SiS 661FX). It runs fine using the on-board graphics with whatever crappy driver windows XP SP3 provides.

Gigabyte 8S661FXMP-RZ M/B, been running with no problems for 6 years with Northwood P4 and Geforce4 MX 440 Video Card (AGP slot) on Windows XP SP2, 512 MB DDR RAM. Has the original 120GB HHD from when I first purchased this system in 2003. I replaced the original M/B in 2005 or 2006 when it died. 6 years later it was still chugging alone with no hardware configuration changes and no major problems.

It wasn't broke, so I decided to fix, er, upgrade it, starting about a month ago.

First, I replaced the RAM with 2x1GB DDR (2GB total), the max the board will support. This improved the snappiness noticeably and I probably should have stopped there. All systems seemed to be working fine; better than ever in fact.

The goal here was to use the system mainly for my pre-teen boys to play their older PC games that I couldn't get to work on Windows 7 (even running XP emulation on Pro, but that's another story). The Geforce 4 MX440 could run less demanding games OK, but better game performance could be had by replacing it with GeForce FX 5500. This install went fine and the 5500 provided a big improvement over the 440. So I really could have stopped there.

But I didn't. Next, I replaced the older Northwood P4 with a used Prescott 3.2GHz. Heard those run hot, so I replaced the CPU cooler and installed a case fan as a preventative measure. Everything went smoothly and the system ran fine with the Prescott but not really noticeably faster. (CPU temps running between 45 & 65 C).

OK, I thought, now it's time to finally upgrade to SP3 since earlier versions are no longer supported. This was not easy and frankly I don't remember the details of how I finally persuaded SP3 to complete installation; just that it involved a few visits to Tom's Hardware and the MS help site to figure things out. But finally, SP3 completed installation. At which point the PC would not boot up into windows, except in safe mode. After numerous attempts to install ANY of the aforementioned Geforce cards or even just a driver for the onboard GPU, all of which ended miserably at the black screen with the cryptic dash, not to mention much online searching for solutions to this problem, I gave up. The IT guy at work kindly offered to have a go at it, and basically repeated my experience, plus ran the usual driver cleaners and such, removing a old Trojan horse and some spyware. But he had no better luck than I installing a graphics driver. The PC will boot into Windows normally now, but will not permit any graphics driver to be installed.

His theory is that the Prescott got too hot or drew too much power, probably when installing SP3, and fried some M/B hardware (voltage regulator?) needed to install a graphics driver. This seems sort of plausible, but not too convincing, because it's hard to imagine such a problem preventing driver installation but still allowing the onboard GPU hardware and the AGP Geforce cards to operate using the default Windows VGA driver. Anybody have a better idea of what the problem might be, and how to get the system graphics operating properly again?

BTW, I put the Geforce FX 5500 into another system with an AGP slot running XP SP3, and it works fine.
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More about windows hangs installing graphics driver
  1. Have you tried disabling the OB GFX in BIOS ?
  2. I will check that out, thanks for the suggestion. I doubt that is the problem, though, because neither the AGP cards nor the OB GFX will tolerate driver installation. If it was a BIOS setting, at least one of the AGP slot and the OB GFX should work, shouldn't it?
  3. This BIOS will default to an AGP card unless the slot is empty, so that is not the problem.

    Downloaded the latest SiS AGP driver and SiS VGA driver from the motherboard manufacturer's support site. These drivers installed without a problem. So it appears that the drivers that could not be installed were simply not compatible with Windows XP SP3 or with the M/B (or both).

    Wish I'd tried that earlier, but isn't that always the case.

    Using the O/B VGA for now, since the Sparkle 5500 is now working in another machine. Might try the MX 440 again when I have an hour to kill, or not. Maybe an outdated AGP slot driver was the problem, causing an incompatibility with the SP3 install. It is also possible that the driver for the Geforce MX 440 (originally in this system since 2003) is just too old to work with SP3.

    About $20-30 for a newer (used) AGP card, with newer drivers available, should get this system working better than ever. Maybe a Geforce 6800?

    A Geforce 6200 (EVGA refurbished) card is now working fine in the AGP slot, using the latest driver from the EVGA support site.

    Still not sure what cause the original problem. But the most logical conclusion I can reach is (a) the original O/B graphics driver was incompatible with XP SP3 and then a later replacement driver advertised as SP3 compatible was not or was incompatible with the system motherboard, and this was resolved by updating the O/B GFX driver from the Gigabyte site; and (b) the original AGP slot driver was incompatible with XP SP3, and this was resolved by updating the AGP slot driver from the Gigabyte site.

    Hypothesis (b) could be tested by trying the old 440 or 5500 GFX cards in this system again, but I'm through mucking around. If you've read this far, I hope you learned something useful.
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