I'm even better at computer problems than I thought

| Thursday, August 18, 2011
Artifacts. The dreaded artifacts. I don't mean archaeology, I mean video card problems. Dots and colors wrong and patterns. Crap.

My first hope was that somehow my video card was too hot; I'd heard that can cause it. It was a slightly warmer day, so who knows, freak event. I turned off the computer, pointed an 18 inch fan directly into the case, and gave it a half hour. That didn't fix it.

Crap. That means actual hardware. Or maybe still overheating. So I pulled the fan off it, cleaned up the dust and old cement, and gave it a new coating, using some high-quality sanded stuff that I borrowed from my brother's remodeling project. Or it was thermal compound that I keep calling cement for no clear reason.

For good measure I reinstalled my video drivers. It worked! Oh glorious.

This all started with Fallout 3, a crash that went crashier than usual. And it happened again, with Fallout 3, crashing crashier than usual.

Here's what the situation looks like: From the moment anything is displayed on the screen, including the motherboard show-off screen, there is a pattern of dots everywhere. Sometimes this goes away during the Windows loading screen and I can get to the desktop with no visual problems. Then it inverts the colors, applies some patterns, and starts flashing, before just stopping entirely. Since it is there throughout startup I figured it was a hardware issue of some sort.

But I'm writing this post using the video card on a perfectly clear screen with no problems, except I don't have the nvidia drivers installed. That suggests that the hardware is okay but the driver causes problems.

Installing the driver causes no problem. But starting Fallout with the driver will soon trigger the crash and then the problem starts.

This makes no sense to me.

P.S. Tried again with fresh drivers again, but without all the other stuff nvidia tries to install, control panels and all that stuff. Now it seems to be fine. I wonder what my next problem will be.


Inno said...

Install an older set of the nvidia drivers ignoring their latest set of drivers.

Anonymous said...

Those drivers certainly aren't running before Windows starts, but the card's BIOS is. If the driver install flashes the firmware, then that could explain the difference. Perhaps when Fallout crashes, the BIOS is getting corrupted, so reinstalling fixes it?

The class of hardware problems you're experiencing also has a tendency to behave somewhat randomly, so I'd be careful declaring it fixed just because you can boot into windows without corruption.

Klepsacovic said...

I suspect the card is just plain old. A couple days before I left it had a new round of artifact issues. So I baked it in the oven for a few minutes and now it is working again, though crashing remains a problem. I'll try flashing a new bios, again, when my laptop arrives. And whenever I get internets I'll try an older driver version for the crashes.

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