Graphics card meltdown - need help fast!

So a friend of mine is in the middle of online courses and it appears his graphics card has had a freakout.

A few weeks ago, it made a horrible noise on bootup, but it went away after a reboot, so he paid it no heed. A little while ago, he left his computer alone for a few minutes only to find that the monitor was claiming "unsupported timing" and that the computer itself had gone silent (it's a Vista machine; the hard drive light is always running non-stop even when not in use). So he turned the machine off manually, turned it back on, and got as far as the "Windows did not shut down properly" message before he noticed the display had a liberal dusting of artifacts.

So he turned it off again, waited about fifteen minutes, then turned it back on. No artifacts this time, even as far as selecting "Start Windows Normally," nor during the bootup sequence. He left it alone again to do its thing, then came back to a nightmarishly glitched BSoD in the middle of executing a memory dump. The computer rebooted afterwards, and he turned it off again when it prompted him to run Startup Repair (the screen was still full of artifacts).

Is there any kind of short-term solution he can use? His homework is due in a couple of days and he can't wait for a graphics card to come in through the mail. Would it be enough to just leave it alone for a few hours and dust it off with some compressed air?

The computer is a Dell XPS from late 2009 and the graphics card, IIRC, is an ATI Radeon 3750 X2.
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  1. A busy HD even when it's idle usually means you have way to may process's running or you have some virus's.

    The memory dump was the PC crashing.Something must of happened and it couldn't keep up.

    If it's a complete PC(store bought) then it most likely has an on board graphics chip.You should use that until we can find a solution.

    Seems to me it's either the GPU is failing or the PC is overwhelmed with Virus's.

    What are the full system specs?(CPU,RAM,etc.)

    What is the make/model of the PSU?
  2. When a graphics card is done it is done , no amount of compressed air will help. The only solution now is to get a new card . He may be able to pick up a sort term cheap card some place just to get by, Wal-mart, Best Buy. Maybe he can borrow yours for a bit ?
  3. On old computers the vanes on the graphics card heatsink can get clogged with dust you should check for this. Also a faulty power supply could cause this problem you describe. Older Dell computers use non standard power supplies so check for this if replacing it
  4. I do agree cleaning it is a good idea but the problems described happen during the boot process.Doubtful it could get that hot that fast.
  5. No onboard graphics, and he's smart enough to use antivirus software and avoid sketchy sites/emails.

    It's an older machine with 4GB RAM, 32-bit Vista and an Intel Core 2. The PSU appears to be Dell brand itself.

    If it helps, it shut down the first time while he was playing Minecraft, which can be pretty hardware-intensive. He didn't see the artifacts until he rebooted, so whatever the problem was, it was still ongoing. Then he let it rest for a few minutes and the artifacts went away just long enough to give him a false sense of security.
  6. Update:

    Tried again just a little while ago. I let it do Startup Repair and it looked like this after a while. I even had a small fan blowing on it, to no avail.

    So what does this look like? Graphics card failure? If it's any help, the computer seemed to work just fine despite the screwed-up screen, but after 15 minutes or so, it told me it couldn't fix the computer automatically (more than a bit disturbing; it's never done that to me before).
  7. Best answer
    It could also shutdown from overheating the CPU due to dust build up. I would download a program called "speedfan". This will help you monitor temperatures in the computer and if you get any that are over 70 degrees for the CPU thats trouble and anything over 90 degrees for the gpu thats trouble.

    That looks like a failed GPU or a failing GPU. Usually thats the sign of death.
  8. By "sign of death" you mean "graphics card death," not "PC death," I hope?
  9. That is a GPU death for sure, I have seen about 5-6 of them go out in the past years and every single time the GPU was going to die it would do a variation of that.
  10. What wattage is the PSU? How many amps are on the +12v rail(s)?

    The total system power draw with a 3870x2 is around 320 watts.If you have a normal 350watt Dell PSU then it's been underpowered for a long time and it might have taken other componets with it.
  11. It says "Max Power Output 750W," so am I correct in assuming it's a 750W PSU?
  12. Hmm.If it's not the PSU then maybe it's just age that's getting to the card.If it is indeed the card causing this then their's no way around it,you will need a replacement.
  13. So I broke down and replaced it with a Radeon 6670. It's working fine now. Thanks for the input, everyone.
  14. Best answer selected by Ryusui.
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