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Screen disctortion and hard lock-up: Bye bye GPU?

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a b U Graphics card
November 22, 2011 6:24:07 AM

Hi all,

So: The one thing we all dread and secretly hope never happens to us, seems to have befallen me.. *drumroll*

I think my GPU is starting to give up the ghost... There I said it. :D  I still need some help nailing down the exact problem, so I will briefly walk through the sequence of events and the symptoms. If you need additional info, please ask. System specs are in my signature. There is a quick summary at the end of the post if you want to skip the long version.

The problem started after a two-hour session of Star Wars: Empire at War. It's a few years old by now so the GPU was never under serious strain. I experienced a sudden and total system freeze, accompanied by some jagged distortion on the screen.

After a reboot, Windows came up in the default 800x600 resolution, and could not detect the GPU. I rebooted again, and everything seemed fine. Tried the game again, and after about two minutes, the freeze happened again, once again with a distorted image.

I suspected some kind of driver issue, so I uninstalled the driver, rebooted into safe mode, cleaned it out with Driver Sweeper, and installed the latest Nvidia drivers. After a reboot the system came up fine, but any form of load on the GPU seems to trigger the crash again.

Last night I pulled the GPU, cleaned it, inspected the mobo and card for visual signs of damage, and found none. During this time, I ran the system from the on-board display, did a virus scan to load up the CPU a bit, and it seemed perfectly stable. I replaced the card, fired up StarCraft 2, and after about two minutes in the main menu, it froze again. Same visual distortion as before.

So, quick recap:
1) Putting the GPU under load causes a hard lock-up with screen distortion. 2D desktop mode appears stable.
2) System is stable with onboard GPU, and putting the CPU under load does not trigger the crash.
3) No evidence of sudden overheating or voltage drops, although its difficult to confirm since the system locks up.

Other suspects could of course be PSU going faulty or the mobo itself. Next thing I want to try is borrow a working GPU from somewhere and see if this fixes the problem, or maybe try my GPU in another system.

In the meantime, any opinions or advice would be welcome. Thanks in advance.
a b U Graphics card
November 23, 2011 5:26:04 AM

Update: Problem is getting worse, the system now sporadically locks up just after booting into Windows, or during normal use. I've removed the GPU and the system runs stable using onboard graphics, but this hasn't helped me narrow down the source of the problem. Could still be GPU, power supply, or PCI-e interface. I need some advice urgently.
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 2:02:44 AM

Trust me on this one Herr Koos
before you give up
clean edge connector of GPU with a strong Isopropyl solution (91%)
and pour just a little in the PCIe slot
I went through changing a mobo to figure this out
just helped somebody on another thread and it worked
wont hurt to try and usually Iso alcohol is cheap ($3 USD in any pharmacy)
might have some laying around from doing CPU swaps

just try it
make sure it is dry afterwards
doesnt take long to dry
Iso evaporates quickly

edit - reason why is that gold edge connectors will develop a clear iron oxide film (beginning of rust) especially if
they have been sitting the slot for long periods of time
happens due to salt air,humid climates, and metal to metal contact
also using a pencil eraser to clean edge connector contacts will work but Iso is better
first learned about it during my Atari 2600 gaming days with the gold edge cartridges
then later as a RadioShack manager
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 2:04:51 AM

BTW I love your avatar quote- good choice of proverbs :) 
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 5:17:32 AM

Thanks king... Was beginning to think no-one was interested in my plight. :-)
I appreciate the suggestion, I would never have though of that.

Would it be sufficient to clean all the contact points with a cotton earbud? I'm not sure I'm comfortable actually pouring liquid onto my mobo...
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 5:17:55 AM

king smp said:
BTW I love your avatar quote- good choice of proverbs :) 


One to live by, that's for sure. :D 
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 5:24:45 AM

Herr_Koos said:
Thanks king... Was beginning to think no-one was interested in my plight. :-)
I appreciate the suggestion, I would never have though of that.

Would it be sufficient to clean all the contact points with a cotton earbud? I'm not sure I'm comfortable actually pouring liquid onto my mobo...



well of course make sure no power plug is attached LOL

if you have a paper coffee filter (no lint or debris with a coffee filter)
just dip an edge of coffee filter into the iso alcohol and the use the edge to clean out socket
also use the coffee filter with iso to wipe down the edge of card
I would worry that cotton swab would leave debris

just so you know I am not crazy (many think I am LOL)
take a look at this thread I was on
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum2.php?config=tom...

the OP just PMd me today saying everything is still working fine


I am not saying it is definitley your problem
but sure cant hurt to try
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 5:26:35 AM

it is 2:25 am where I am at (northeast USA)
so I am going to sleep
I will check in the morning
I hope it works
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 5:29:39 AM

Agreed, it's worth a try. I'll give it a shot, although in your other thread the OP just mentions artefacts appearing. I went from 100% perfect operation to total system crash in no time flat. No warning signs at all.
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 5:32:55 AM

king smp said:
it is 2:25 am where I am at (northeast USA)
so I am going to sleep
I will check in the morning
I hope it works


9h32am here. Thanks, have a nice nap. Will check back later.
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 5:34:48 AM

Herr_Koos said:
Agreed, it's worth a try. I'll give it a shot, although in your other thread the OP just mentions artefacts appearing. I went from 100% perfect operation to total system crash in no time flat. No warning signs at all.



check capacitors on GPU for leaking or bulging
bad caps number one reason for GPU failure
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 1:55:17 PM

How are doing Herr Koos?
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 3:41:29 PM

king smp said:
How are doing Herr Koos?


No feedback yet, need to do some admin before I can switch of the PC and test. Will let you know when I have news.
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2011 6:34:10 PM

Not looking good I'm afraid; Still seeing distortion and crashes. The distortion sometimes even occurs during boot-up.
a b U Graphics card
November 25, 2011 1:51:58 AM

Arghh
sounds like the mighty 9800GTX+ is done
Shame
Older but a good one
some of the brand new cards cant keep up with it

do you have another card to try?


a b U Graphics card
November 25, 2011 1:52:55 AM

also possible PSU problem but not as likely

did you monitor voltages
especially on 12V+ rail?
a b U Graphics card
November 25, 2011 5:24:06 AM

king smp said:
Arghh
sounds like the mighty 9800GTX+ is done
Shame
Older but a good one
some of the brand new cards cant keep up with it

do you have another card to try?


Trying to source one. I could also test the card in another PC.
a b U Graphics card
November 25, 2011 5:27:39 AM

king smp said:
also possible PSU problem but not as likely

did you monitor voltages
especially on 12V+ rail?


I kept an eye using HWMonitor; I'm not sure how accurate it is though. 12V normally varies between 11.4 and 11.6. BIOS says 11.9. I didn't notice any major fluctuations.
a b U Graphics card
November 25, 2011 12:28:37 PM

I would trust the BIOS more than a Software monitor
Trying the card in another PC would be great
November 25, 2011 1:44:04 PM

If I were you I would ask a friend for a favour and borrow his/her GPU.

I have such a problem (Not nearly as bad) and I planning on doing that. Problem is who will lend me a GPU :D 
a b U Graphics card
November 26, 2011 3:21:29 PM

VGKitov said:
If I were you I would ask a friend for a favour and borrow his/her GPU.




Working on it... :) 
a b U Graphics card
November 26, 2011 3:24:48 PM

Did you test the card in another PC?
a b U Graphics card
November 26, 2011 3:34:20 PM

king smp said:
Did you test the card in another PC?


Nope, I'm still hunting for a volunteer. But the GPU seems more and more likely to be the culprit. I opened and inspected the PSU and it seems in 100% working order.
a b U Graphics card
November 27, 2011 3:48:40 PM

OK, managed to source an 8600GT from a friend. Not an ideal comparison to the 9800GTX, but it runs perfectly and came through a 3DMark test just fine. This is sufficient evidence to me that at least the PCIe slot still works fine.

I think I'll be pulling the trigger on a new GPU then. This brings me to the question of running new GPU's in older motherboards, but I'll make a new post for that.
a b U Graphics card
November 28, 2011 6:30:45 PM

Final confirmation: I tested the 9800 in another PC, and can now categorically state that it is busted. I also tried out a borrowed 6850 and it worked just fine, although the performance was not what I expected.

Thanks a million to everyone for your input.
a b U Graphics card
November 28, 2011 7:00:00 PM

No problem
Well alot of sales this time of year (in USA not sure of SA)
so a good time to upgrade usually
if you want a performance boost
then you would have to look at least at 560 or HD 6870
and really more like a 560Ti or HD 6950 according to Toms Hierarchy Chart
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fastest-graphics-ca...
the new 560Ti 384bit(?) might be a good choice
also depends on budget of course
the problem is that thought the 9800GTX+ was older it was an awesome
card at the time and still ranks in the higher levels of cards
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 12:23:06 AM

My budget is a touch limited, to be honest. I wasn't planning on replacing this card for quite some time.

The borrowed 6850 benched about 15% faster than the 9800 in 3DMark06, which is much less than I expected. The card was heating up quite badly though, so I won't be buying that particular one (Vertex 3D). I also didn't check settings in depth, so with some tweaking I can probably coax more speed out of the setup.
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 12:41:26 AM

if you can get 20 percent more with the HD 6850 then it is decent upgrade
just on the HD 7xxx rumor thread and really the improvement from one generation to another isnt that dramatic anymore
one bonus would be getting new feature set like DX11,UVD 3.0 etc
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 12:44:01 AM

king smp said:
if you can get 20 percent more with the HD 6850 then it is decent upgrade
just on the HD 7xxx rumor thread and really the improvement from one generation to another isnt that dramatic anymore
one bonus would be getting new feature set like DX11,UVD 3.0 etc


True enough I guess. My mobo is mainstream, I only have a PCIe 1.x slot, and in all honesty I just want something that can at least deliver equivalent performance or slightly better.
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 12:49:06 AM

then a HD 6850 is a good choice
or maybe a 550Ti or 560 non Ti if you want to stay Nvidia
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 12:54:00 AM

king smp said:
then a HD 6850 is a good choice
or maybe a 550Ti or 560 non Ti if you want to stay Nvidia


Looking at options as we speak. The 560's are too expensive, and the 550Ti can't really keep up with the 6850 in most cases. It is a tad cheaper though, but I tend to think the 6850 is better value for money.
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 1:02:04 AM

While I do lean towards ATI
I do also appreciate Nvidia
Maybe a GTX 460 1GB
a great card at a good price right now
though I am not sure of your area

I am only a Logitech Fanboy LOL

but at about the $150 price mark
the HD 6850 is a great choice

a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 1:05:05 AM

Can't find the 460 anymore, unfortunately. The 6850 offers about the same performance though.
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 1:18:15 AM

Great
HD 6850 it is
good choice
Well this thread is about closed
PM me when you get your card
I would be curious about benches and performance and such
and what brand you picked
Too bad Logitech doesnt make video cards :) 
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 1:19:41 AM

Lol, fanboy! :-) I have the MSi Cyclone lined up. Factory OC, but ridiculously good cooling and noise levels.
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 1:25:09 AM

I own an MSI myself
I like the fact they advertise military grade components
plus the cooling is awesome

BTW the Logitech thing is my way of poking fun at fanboys

I do prefer certain brands just because of good experiences
but really whatever has good reviews at a good price

though I must say one day I will own a Logitech G15 keyboard
just a cool looking board
(just turned out all my mice and kbds are Logitech-all decent at a good price-not intentional though LOL)
a b U Graphics card
November 29, 2011 1:26:38 AM

Well the wife and kid are asleep
so time for a Witcher 2 session
Good luck
PM me if you want
Later
a b U Graphics card
December 1, 2011 5:35:04 AM

HD6850 installed and purring like a kitten... Yeah! I haven't put it through its paces properly, but so far I haven't been able to push the card beyond 62C. The Cyclone cooler is amazing...

Once again thanks to everyone for the assistance.
a b U Graphics card
December 1, 2011 4:57:23 PM

Glad to help
Good luck
!