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Video card performance deteriorated in a short period of time, please help!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / December 18, 2009 5:19 AM PST

Video card performance deteriorated in a short period of time, please help!

Several months ago I installed an ATI Radeon Sapphire HD3850 AGP graphics card in my aging Windows XP machine to give it more gaming oomph. The card features 512MB of DDR3. The performance improved immediately. I was able to play Bioshock and Call of Duty 4 at 1,440x900 pixel resolution without a hiccup. The graphics were smooth with no lag or jerkiness.

Suddenly, now the games don't run well at all. The motion is choppy and the response to mouse or keyboard commands lags.

I tried adjusting the game settings to lower resolution and shutting off some of the shadowing etc., but the problem persists. I am running an Intel P4 3.0 Ghz processor with 3 gigs of ram. The video driver is up to date. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I?m tired of pulling out my hair on this. (I have very little left anyway :). Thank you in advance for your attention and consideration.

--Submitted by Robert F.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but please read through all the member advice and suggestions within the discussion thread.

Roll Back The Driver --Submitted by gr8tdane_10

Video card performance deteriorated... --Submitted by Brechan

Likely software problem --Submitted by glen271

One word - Sapphire... --Submitted by darrenforster99

More info required --Submitted by Sound-byte

Stab in the dark --Submitted by Flatworm

A few suggestions --Submitted by warpete

Read all member contributions to this topic

Thanks to all who contributed!

If you have any advice or recommendation for Robert, please click on the reply link below and post it. Please be as detailed as possible when providing a solution. Thanks!
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video card performance deteriorated

Now this is a very wild stab, but check the capacitors on the board. I had a video card go bad, pulled it, and as I understand, there were a bad set of caps imported that went onto several boards. The slit top on them literally looked like a jiffy pop top after cooking. The fix was less than $8.00 to get replacements and solder them in. Works like a charm again.

Good luck. As I said, this is a wild stab.

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Video card performance

I had a similar problem with the same card, turned out it was the fan on the card was bad. In the beginning it did whar your did, then the fan totally died. Had to RMA the board. My experience leans towards a heat issue somewhere in the system. First place I would look is the card. I have opened the side a put a big fan on it to see if it solves the problem.

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I know how to fix this

Buy an XBox 360 and play Call of Dookie there!

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what i'd do...

Try reinstalling the card and all drivers and other software in came in. Get rid of everything, even settings (if that's possible). After reinstalling, if the problem persists, then you got a hardware problem. My experience in that area is not large so try what other people suggest.

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more questions

*Not really an answer but may help a bit*
Does the OS run fine? I had a similar issue with my pc but it was affecting the OS at times also. I found that parts of it where Over heating, mainly my FSB chip. I placed a 3 pin fan on top of video card blowing air on my fsb heat sink and problem goes away for a few hours.

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Video Card Performance Deteriorated Also

I have a Compaq Presario Mdl:SR1303WM, P4 2.8,I Gig of ram. ATI:8250, 256 Ram. Mine is doing the same thing for 2 mos. now. I haven't figured it out either.

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Video Card Performance Subpar

I tend to agree with several other posters that the video card is most likely bad. I've had three bad video cards in the last 4 years--2 of three were ATI based.

If you have access to another video card or on-board graphics, I recommend you pull the card to see if your system stabilizes.

Hopefully, that will isolate the problem to either your video card or PC.

Good luck.

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perhaps your card overheated, or that your computer's power supply somehow stopped giving your card power, resulting in your computer reverting back to onboard graphics. did you install any drivers for integrated graphics by any chance? it might force your computer to use integrated graphics again which may be the cause of your problem.

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install other integrated graphics by chance
by Vickeych / January 9, 2010 1:32 PM PST
In reply to: overheating?

I remembered my computer came up the NVIDIA Corporation folder containing NVIDIA PhysX properties in the start menu after i installed call of duty 4, as you said it might force my computer to use integrated graphics. I think it may be the cause of gaming lag.

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Roll Back The Driver

Try rolling back the driver. Sometimes updated drivers aren't always best for your particular computer. Sometimes the bugs that are fixed in the new driver version create new problems.

I would also consider just downloading and reinstalling your new driver. It is possible that the driver has somehow become corrupted.

Lastly, Check the operating temperature of your CPU and Graphics card. Check that the fans are all working properly, and that there isn't a build up of dust on them.

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Troubleshooting your graphics video card problems.

To the best of my knowledge it could be a few different things. First I want to say check your video game options for video settings. Then the settings in the video card's control panel, like performance and quality settings(antialiasing,anistropic filtering)make sure these are set to application controlled. Then check software options(screen saver, automatic wallpaper changer)if your running a skin changing program like Style XP. Also open up the PC and just take the video card out and reinstall it, the teeth could be misaligned somewhere or it could be defective product. Other than that I'd just reset the video options to default if everything else is to no avail.

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Maybe it's not the card...directly...

You've introduced a newer high performance card into a system and haven't given any indication of your existing cooling setup...if you're using stock heatsinks and just have the power supply extracting air, then you can realistically expect other heavily used gaming components like the CPU and NorthBridge to be overheating...Thermal Throttling on the CPU (Automatic Speed Cutback) can cause symptoms like what you have described.
Intel Stock heatsinks can do OK or normal use, but they need to be pretty clean for gaming use...you might want to look at puting a more capable heatsink on that 3GHz room heater, might turn out to be quieter too.

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Video card performance deteriorated in a short period of tim

Having a system that I had do the same thing, I found out that the processes that are running in the background should not exceed a certain amout. XP runs an enormous amount of background processes, most are unneccessary and bloated at best. My system could not have over 26 processes for the card to perform best, but as time and new programs installed, the processes increased and the video card performance lagged terribly. So, I suggest that you seek information on the absolute least amount of proccesses you need and rid yourself of the bloat and all should be fine. You can see the processes in the task manager of XP and using certain reputable websites, you can determine which are not needed and get to the point of good gaming. I hope this helps. Let me know...

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Video card performance deteriorated...
by Brechan / December 18, 2009 11:49 AM PST

From my experiences, I always check the following:
1)check any and all power connections; whether its a cable running from your PSU to your MOBO, or your PSU to a hard-drive, one unseated cable can cause problems.
2)As others have stated; check the fans inside your computer, not just the one on the videocard, but the other fans as well. An overheated computer can cause problems within your whole system.
3)Try uninstalling the latest drivers from ATI; if your card worked fine with the drivers from the install disc, then use them (it's not written in stone that you have to use the latest drivers from ATI or Nvidia).
4)Being a gamer myself; I know from my online experiences that background processes do in fact play a role in 'game lag'.
ATI has a small program that will temporarily shut down certain background processes, until you stop the program. It's called ATI's Fusion for Gaming, you can check it out here:
5)Some older Intel boards require that you disable the onboard graphics within the BIOS in order for the stand-alone videocard to work properly.
6)Lastly,if all the advice you get from here fails; then it may be that the card you have is DOA, then don't hesitate to RMA the card back to the manufacturer.

It is problems like this one that keeps me playing games on my computer rather than going out and buying a console; If I run into this kind of problem on a console, I'm SOL. If I run into this kind of problem on my PC, then I can spend a few hours and quite possibly figure out (and correct) the problem. Even if I can't remedy this particular problem (and have to RMA the part), I've still learned a thing or 2 in the process(es) of elimination.

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by Jerry66 / January 8, 2010 11:05 PM PST

excellent advice, I even picked up some. haha
Thank you.

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ATI Radeon Sapphire HD3850 AGP graphics card

The updated software from ATI has problem with AGP. There is a fix at ATI site for download. During the past three months, a couple of times my computer has paused and rebooted itself. Hopefully, ATI will correct the problem in their next update.

Pray for Peace, and a Have a wonderful Christmas

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Check the internet

Sounds like Automatic Updates is running in the background. I always turn off automatic updates for this reason.

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Just a guess ....

This is just a guess, but a well educated one. The deterioration in video performance is probably a symptom; the cause may have nothing to do with the video card. There isn't much that can happen to the card itself of it's software (although if the card came with diagnostics, by all means run them). What I am guessing may be going on is some other task running in the background that is using a lot of CPU resource. I can't be sure of that, but bring up task manager and see what else is running that you can identify that may be using resources (note, also, this could be a virus or malware).

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Are you sure?

This sounds a lot like something else eating up your CPU, not a problem with the videocard. Have you installed new programs that might be running in the background? Are you trying to run additional programs while you run your game? What about the possibility of an infection- is you anti-crapware running and up-to-date? These are the first things that I would look for, especially since it's program response and not just video performance that seems to be suffering. Try running the Task Manager to see what all is running while your computer is acting up.

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Simple Solution:

Toss that ATI card! Get an nVidia card.

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Video card may need replacing

I recently had an NVidia card go south on my machine. Symptoms were much as you describe - video was choppy and the entire machine seemed to slow down, including slow keyboard and mouse. The video card itself was getting very hot, especially when trying to run graphics programs, to the point of occasionally shutting the machine down. Colors were rendering badly, and I would sometimes get a set of yellow vertical stripes on my monitor. When a video card starts getting errors, any program has to retry and retry the commands. This soaks up main cpu cycles, so everything slows down.

First, try removing and re-seating the card. It might just be a loose connection. If that doesn't help, you'll probably have to replace the card. I hope it's still under warranty!

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Vid card may indeed be the problem
by Technosarge / January 9, 2010 12:02 AM PST

I had symptoms - twice - like those described. After a lot of noodling around the first time, I took the bitter pill of wiping and reinstalling Windows and everything else. It didn't work. But that act alone gave me new data which helped me realize that the vid card had lost its 3-D handling only and it had reverted to VGA, which still worked. My card was under warranty and easily replaced.
A few years later I saw the same behavior. Armed with my experience, I bought a replacement card for my now rather elderly PC and immediately all was restored.
The important take-away here is that the vid card would still run, but when it tried to do 3-D gaming it became a slide show and colors etc. varied from what I expected.
Other commentators have focused on things you might have done to create your problem. I think if you had done something and it seemed to cause the change, you would have told us. I think it was nothing you did - just a partial hardware failure.

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Likely software problem

My first thought is what a lot of people will respond- your problem sounds like the result of malware, some virus or spyware that is taking up system resources, or perhaps the malware has damaged a Windows component. My previous XP PC got malware on it, and though anti-malware programs appeared to clean it successfully, nothing ran quite as well as before. After I wiped the hard drive and reinstalled Windows, games and everything else ran much better.
Since you describe only the problem, here are some questions:
Do you use a risky download program such as Limewire? (This program can easily let a virus onto the PC... Torrent downloads are generally safe, but not Limewire- it opens a door for viruses.)
Are there any other signs of malware, especially slow performance? Is the poor performance limited to games?
If you're confident that the problem is not a virus, then some other questions would be:
How many processes does your PC have running in the background? Has anything new besides games been installed since this problem began? (Try reducing the unnecessary processes running in the background by using msconfig or another program.)
Try uninstalling the driver for your video card and reinstalling it.
Do you use the ATI Catalyst Control Center? If so, set it so that the application controls the graphics quality. Also try closing out the ATI CCC, to see if that would make a difference- you can end its process from the Task Manager.
Has there been anything else installed such as a sound card? If so, try disabling this device.
If hardware failure is causing this problem, that would be rare and more difficult to diagnose. Does the fan on the card run any louder since the problem began? If so, that would again be a sign that something in the background is taking up processing power, forcing it to work harder.

Hope this helps,


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Video Card Deteriorated...

Heat is a killer with electrinics. You said you have an "older" machine. How are the fans working? Does the card have a fan or a heat sink. I would look at the cooling aspect of your PC.

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One word - Sapphire...

I've had about 3 Sapphire cards that I've used in mine, my sisters and my mums computer, I also seen cards in other peoples machines that have failed too.

I thought it was a good idea to get them at the time as they were a lot more cheaper than the other manufacturers graphics cards. However the age old saying here applies - you get what you pay for.

All three graphics cards ended up mainly with "overheating" issues. Overheating issues are normally noticeable when you start playing a game after a few seconds you notice your graphics performance go really slow and then you start getting what appears to be like a "snow effect" on the screen (some random white dots appearing on screen), and eventually leading to a full game lock up.

Firstly check your graphics card, take the cover off your PC and ensure things like the fans are going round (remember look but don't touch when the PC is on - and when it's off touch the case first before touching anything else to remove static!). Sapphire's cooling system on their graphics card certainly isn't the best in the world and I found on a lot of them either the fans are prone to failure, or sometimes Sapphire decide not to even install a fan!

The ones I had in my computer never had any fan on them, just a heatsink. I did think that was slightly odd, seeing as how hot they'd get and the previous card had got fans on and that was slower than the new Sapphire one, but I guessed Sapphire must know what they're doing. Quite clearly not.

If your graphics card hasn't got a fan on it or you can see that the fan isn't spinning this is most probably your problem. Your graphics card is overheating. The cards we had worked fine for a few weeks, until they overheated. Once overheated though you'll be lucky to ever keep them cool again, as they will have been seriously damaged.

It might be time to get a new gpu and if it's only a few weeks old take it back to the shop and see if you can get a refund, although most shops wont cover it on overheating as it's your problem for not checking there was adequate cooling in the PC, especially if you bought it at an OEM store.

I'd highly recommend getting a Gigabyte card as these have plenty of cooling on them and aren't as poor quality as the Sapphires. I had a Gigabyte before the Sapphire, and then after all 3 Sapphires failed I went straight back to Gigabyte, and have not had any problems with overheating since and that was about 2 years ago now.

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Just noticed one other bit I missed in the original post....
by darrenforster99 / December 18, 2009 4:18 PM PST
In reply to: One word - Sapphire...

I just noticed one other bit I missed in the post which could also be an issue...

Your running XP. Look in the right hand corner of the screen (where the clock and programs thing is) and recently a new magnifying glass icon will have appeared there.

This is part of Microsoft's new search indexing system, and it was included in a recent update on XP.

The only major problem with it is that it virtually kills a system running XP.

Right click on it and exit it, you should see your system running a lot more faster now. It restarts every time you start Windows.

It's a nuisance and very bad decision by Microsoft to install it on XP systems. It's supposed to be very similar to the way it works on Vista and 7 but on Vista and 7 it works a lot more faster and doesn't take up as much system resources.

One other way to tell if you have this update is to right click on a folder and click search, if "Search Companion" comes up (the one with the dog that actually works!) then you don't have the update installed, but if "Windows Search" comes up and has a button at the bottom giving you the option to use "Windows Search Companion" then you have the update installed.

If you know what you are doing you can tell the indexing program to not index any files on your computer and this will stop it from attempting to index the entire computer every time it starts up and slowing the machine right down.

What this program does is it opens every single document file on your computer and creates a database of the contents, it's designed so that if you want to search for text in a document it just goes off to the database and quickly finds documents with that text in them, unlike "search companion" that goes through every single document every time looking for that text. Although whilst building this index it does slow the computer down a lot.

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not so automatic
by dg27 / January 8, 2010 9:11 AM PST

Windows Live Search is only installed as an add-on to XP if you let automatic updates install it. I agree that it's a horrible update for XP and would add that it's a great example of why Windows users should never let updates install automatically and always use the so-called "advanced" settings (a bit of a joke, IMO) so that you'll know exactly what's included. I tried this out and uninstalled it within one day.

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Windows Search
by p5surf / January 8, 2010 9:52 AM PST

I agree with this poster regarding windows search hogging all the system resources. It may not be your video card or anything else but windows indexing your computer which could take days.
The best and only way to disable windows search is to right click on 'my computer' and select 'manage'. Select 'services' on the left side of the dialogue. On the right side lists all the active services. Find one called 'Windows Search' or 'wsearch', it may also go by 'mssearch'. Right click on the service, select 'properties'. Under 'startup type' select 'disabled' and make sure to 'stop' the process.

Additionally I would check your power supply. By adding a discrete video card like the one you did, it will consume more power and therefore could slowly beat up the one that came with your computer. You should have around a 700 Watt power supply to run such a video card. Some people will argue and say that a 450 Watt should do the trick, but you are not talking about a big difference in cost and the 700 will run just about anything you put on it. If you notice the computer freezing or just rebooting on its own, replace the power supply.

Good luck.

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Couldn't agree more....
by jaybee48 / January 10, 2010 10:40 PM PST
In reply to: One word - Sapphire...

I had a very similar experience with Sapphire GFX cards, starting with a Radeon 9800 Pro in my old 32-bit Athlon XP3000 rig; initially the whole system was on water cooling because of the T'Bred's habit of getting very hot very quickly.
When I built the first A64 system (MSI 7049) I used the 'old' 9800 GFX card, but reverted to aircooling, as the A64 CPU's didn't warrant the use of water; however very shortly after the build it became apparent that the GPU was in trouble - temps up to 75 - 80 deg C, even with an auxiliary side fan blowing directly onto the card.
The display showed exactly the same characteristics that Darren has described, and after a few hours' use failed altogether in a most bizarre fashion.
I've since had a PCI-E (HD2600 Pro) card go exactly the same way, but a 2800Pro made by Asus has no such problems, and nor has the multimedia 3850 card made by Gigabyte, so I can only assume that the cheaper cards are marginal at best.

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Nothing Wrong With Sapphire
by haloviper / January 11, 2010 1:05 PM PST
In reply to: One word - Sapphire...

I own a small computer store in which I build, sell, upgrade and repair computers. I have installed many Sapphire cards in the computers that I have sold in the last 4 years and have had only one that I had to replace for a customer. I am currently running 2 Sapphire HD 4870 cards CrossfireX in one of the computers that I game on and also have them moderately overclocked and for the last 18 months they have given me great service with no sign of failing. I am using stock cooling on these cards. Under load, playing Crysis at the highest settings, the temps have never gotten over mid 60C. Sound like just the bad luck of getting 3 defective ones. Oh, and the type of case that they are in and the cooling characteristics of the case will have a bearing on the heat generated.

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