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Diagnostics for graphics card and motherboard?

by Simon Adebisi / January 24, 2010 10:29 AM PST

Hi all,

I think I have a problem with my nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX.
I was watching a dvd on my computer when suddenly strange artifacts started to appear, and then the whole computer froze up (but the sound kept playing). I switched my computer off.

Now when I start up my computer, strange lines and dots appear on the XP loading screen, and when the desktop should appear, I get white/black/blue bands across the screen, and I can't see the desktop at all.

I can start up in safe mode with no problems.

I tried to install updated drivers but I get an error message saying "The nVidia control panel could not be installed...the most recent driver will be restored". It has now rolled me back to driver version (dated February 2007).

I have also tried cleaning and resetting the card. I am certain it is not a heat issue, as the hottest it gets is 85 degrees (only on very hot days and when I'm playing the latest games) and the original crash occured while I wasn't playing a game, but watching a dvd. I have not overclocked my card.

I'm assuming the issue is most likely a hardware problem and is either my graphics card or my motherboard. Can anyone recommend diagnostic utilities/tests that I can run to isolate exactly where the problem is occuring?

The computer was bought from Dell just over 2 years ago, and I have not installed or removed any hardware since getting the computer.

Here are my specs:
Intel Core 2 Quad Processor Q6600 (2.4GHz)
Windows XP SP3
768mb PCIe x 16 nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX



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What you need to know.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 24, 2010 11:41 PM PST

Is you did the diagnostics. What you saw on screen is exactly what a tech would need to see to diagnose this one. I think you want more but here's the ugly truth. Unless Dell Diags answers your need I agree with the diagnosis. Which is? (you may ask) The video card, the cooling and the power supply should be worked over. Change the video card, assure the case and vents are spotless and the power supply has the Watts for the job.

Said video card may have a warrany. Use it.

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Suspect PSU?
by Simon Adebisi / January 25, 2010 3:07 PM PST

I did some investigations inside my computer and have discovered that the wonderful morons over at Dell have sold me a computer with a 350W PSU that doesn't meet the minimum suggested 450W to run the 8800GTX that I ordered with the computer. I've read some people stating that wattage isn't really important and that it is all about amps, but still, 350W for an 8800GTX.....I'm never buying Dell again.

Anyway, the artifacts on the screen are consistant with those of bad Vram. Also, the artifacts appear on the initial Dell loading screen, before the BIOS screen appears. It seems only VGA mode is unaffected.

Now I know practically nothing about PSUs, but if it has been running the card ok for the last two years, could it be that it is entirely the PSU that is causing these sudden faulty graphics and that the card is actually ok? I would assume no. I don't run any fancy hardware or fans, just the DVD drive the gfx and sound card, and one hard drive.

I unplugged my DVD/CD drive from the PSU to give the GFX more power and it made no difference.

One thing that worries me is that I can't install the latest nVidia drivers. I keep getting the error message "The nVidia control panel could not be installed...the most recent driver will be restored". Even after using driver sweeper I still get this problem.

So I'm thinking I will have to get a new card and a new PSU.
I'm currently eyeing a 1GB 9800GT and a Zalman ZM600-HP 600W Power Supply Unit. Does this sound ok? I know the 9800GT isn't necessarily as good but they appear to be MUCH cheaper to buy here in Australia.

I'm assuming that if my motherboard supports an 8800GTX it will support a 9800GT no probs?

Thanks guys.

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I wish it was that simple.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 26, 2010 3:07 AM PST
In reply to: Suspect PSU?

These cards need so many Amps. If Dell supplied it they could have used the required Amps to calculate if the the PSU was large enough. This area could confuse those that didn't know about this and went straight to the Watts recommendation.

If the card was added later, then Dell is not at fault.
If the card came with the machine, Dell could have used the better method (Amps.)

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In their defense...
by Simon Adebisi / January 26, 2010 6:34 AM PST

The graphics card came with the computer.

Fair enough that the PSU ran the card ok for two years, but even so, giving me a PSU that is below nVidia's own minimum recommendation, and mentioning nothing about it on the order form (or the spec sheet) is cheap and dodgy.

I guess I've learnt to find out exactly what all of the components are in your computer before you buy it.

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At 2.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 26, 2010 7:45 AM PST
In reply to: In their defense...

There are other considerations. Here's something I find many owners skimp on. In the owners defense, NO ONE TOLD THEM.

Read and do ->

Back to the PSU. I had hoped you could dig in a little deeper about Amps. I have a machine with an 16 amp RAIL and because of that I can't use your average high power card. The PSU meets the Watts but failed on the Amperes available on that rail.

Just sharing this because this area is not simple as Watts.

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by Simon Adebisi / January 26, 2010 3:58 PM PST
In reply to: At 2.

I checked the amps on the PSU, I can't remember off the top of my head exactly what it was...32 amps total I think, which is enough to run the card. As I said it ran fine for 2 years. I'm not suggesting that the PSU is to blame for the problems I'm having, I think two years of constant gaming and the GFX card had had enough. I just expected to get a PSU that ran everything AND gave me breathing room to install extra components or upgrades. But anyway....thank you very much for the cleaning link! Over the last 3 days I've learnt more about the inside of my computer than I ever knew before and I'll be reguarly cleaning her from now on. Cheers.

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