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Custom System Graphics Issues: Ram? GPU? PSU?

Last response: in Systems
September 12, 2011 7:46:36 PM

Hi everyone, I was hoping I could get a few opinions on what my next course of action should be as I'm sort of at the end of my rope with this one.

I recently decided to upgrade my ~4 year old custom system with a new video card and some additional RAM. However, during the upgrade process, I made the foolish error of upgrading my BIOS using the ASUS Update tool within Windows (I should have known better but had used it in the past without any problems). Long story short, I ended up with a bricked motherboard that I was unable to recover. Since I had been planning on upgrading my mobo and processor in the next year or two anyway, I decided to simply bite the bullet and do it now.

As a result, I ended up upgrading all of the components in my old system with the exception of the power supply and case. Here are the specs I ended up with:

CPU: Intel i5 2500K (3.30GHz, 6MB cache)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 (just the standard version, not the pro/evo/deluxe/etc.)
Graphics: EVGA Nvidia GTX 460 SE 1GB (Superclocked version)
Ram: G.SKILL Ripjaws X DDR3 1600MHz 8GB (2x4GB) (8-8-8-24 timings)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200 1TB SATA
PSU: OCZ GSX 600W , 18A per +12v rail (from existing system)
DVD: Samsung 22x SATA
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium

After getting everything set up and the OS installed, I was able to boot the computer without any problems. I downloaded all of the various Windows updates, as well as the most recent drivers for my graphics card (v280.26). I also updated my BIOS to the most recent version (without incident). I did encounter a few initial BSOD issues, but through investigation on these forums I learned that the XMP ram profile should be enabled in the BIOS to ensure that the timings, etc. are accurate. This seemed to solve the problem.

However, I immediately began to encounter what appeared to be graphics issues. While using various applications within Windows, I noticed slight artifacts (i.e. little red dots that would appear and disappear at will). These seem to be most prominent when I'm using video or flash-heavy applications within Windows, such as Skype or even YouTube. However, they would also occasionally appear in games. From time to time, Windows 7 would also "soft crash" with the infamous "Kernel dump" message:

Display Driver Nvidia Windows Kernel mode driver, version ... stopped responding and has successfully recovered

Through further investigation, it looks like many people with the 400 series cards have had the same problem. Most of the suggested fixes involved cleaning out all of the existing graphics drivers and reinstalling with an older version. I did this (using Driver Sweeper and safe mode to ensure that all remnants were gone), and then reinstalled an older version of the drivers that some people seemed to have had better luck with (v266.58). However, the problem persisted.

To add to matters, when going to power up my computer yesterday, it wouldn't post and was giving me the MemOK! "red light". Using the MemOK! feature on my motherboard, I was able to get it to boot, but only once the BIOS had adjusted the ram to a lower speed and timing than the actual specs. When running at the XMP specs, which previously seemed to work, I got all kinds of errors when running memtest (if the computer would post at all), but no errors were identified when running the reduced speeds. However, even when booting this way, the red artifacting and driver crashes still persist. It also doesn't explain why the XMP specs worked fine for the first few days or so.

I also noticed that my CPU was running a tad hot. I was wondering if this could somehow be related, so I removed the fan, cleaned it and the CPU (using Arctic Clean process) and reinstalled it using Arctic Silver 5. It seems to be running a little cooler now, which is a plus, but clearly that wasn't the underlying issue.

I've tried just about every suggested driver and BIOS fix that I've found online, but none of them seemed to have done the trick so far. I'm at the point where I'm starting to think that it may be a hardware issue of some sort. The problem is that the various symptoms point to all kinds of things that could potentially be causing it: bad ram, incompatible ram, bad mobo, bad PSU, bad graphics card. The "bad PSU" theory would seem to make sense, except for the fact that the PSU was running fine in my previous setup. From the digging that I've done, the only major difference in power consumption would be the graphics card (GTX 460 SE instead of a 9800GT); however, I would think that I would still be well within the 600w specs.

I don't really know where to go from here, so I'm wondering if any of you have any suggestions for what you would try next if you were in my shoes. Since everything (except for the power supply) are still under warranty, I can certainly try to RMA items if there is strong evidence that they are faulty, but since it could be almost anything at this point, I don't really know where to start. I've read so many examples of people RMAing when it isn't even the root cause, so I'd like to avoid that if possible.

Thanks in advance everyone, very much appreciated!

* Edit: Added more specific information about my power supply
September 14, 2011 4:27:29 AM

As a follow-up question, is there anyone out there with a RAM recommendation for the P8P67 motherboard? The ram I currently have was recommended by someone on another site, but it's not on the P8P67 QVL list, so I have to wonder...
a c 136 B Homebuilt system
September 14, 2011 4:43:16 AM

what are the voltage and timing specs for the RAM?
What happens when you set them manually ?

You have another graphics card ?
What happens when you install that and run the computer?

You cleaned out old drivers ? Why were there old drivers? Wasnt this a fresh installation of windows? If it wasnt the fact its running at all is a miracle and you should immediately buy a lottery ticket
Related resources
September 14, 2011 11:01:58 PM

Hi Outlander, thanks for your reply.

The actual voltage and timing specs (i.e. what's printed on the package and on the sticks) are: DDR3-1600MHz, CL8-8-8-24, 1.5V. The voltage and timing specs that the MemOK! utility set my ram to (i.e. to allow my computer to post) are: DDR3-1373 MHz, CL9-9-9-24, 1.6V. Regardless of whether I let MemOK! set them or set them manually, the computer boots fine when using the latter specs, but doesn't post when using the former.

I don't have an old graphics card on hand now, as I already gave my old one to a friend. However, I am probably going to ask them to borrow it back for a day to see if I have the same issue with it.

And to clarify, this was a fresh install of Windows 7. However, I had let Windows Update install the most recent Nvidia drivers (280.26) instead of installing them myself. After I started having troubles, I uninstalled & cleaned the drivers, and then experimented with the various previous certified driver versions. As I kept having problems with each of them, I kept uninstalling and moving to an older version of the driver. I'm currently running the oldest version of the driver that Nvidia had listed for this card (263.09), but am still having the same issue.

Thanks again for any advice you may be able to provide, very much appreciated.
September 15, 2011 10:30:02 PM

Hi again,

Just as an update, I did manage to borrow my old card back and swap it into my current system. I didn't experience any artifacting or driver crashes.
September 20, 2011 4:48:01 AM

Any last advice before I RMA the card? The EVGA website indicates that RAM problems could possibly cause graphics driver crash issues. Has anyone ever found this to be the case?