Drivers or Video Card?

Well, I’m having a bit of trouble with my computer. I try to repair computers for a living, and I usually do pretty good job of fixing whatever may be the problem. Before I go spending a bunch of money on a new video card, I figured I would run my situation past the geekier readers of my blog to see if there is anything obvious that I am missing.

Video Card Information

Current Card: SAPPHIRE RADEON 9200 128M DVI Radeon 9200 128MB DDR AGP 4X/8X Video Card
Purchased on: 3/29/2004 10:45:39 AM
Drivers: Catalyst 05.7 (newest available– upgraded last week)

Other System Information

OS: Windows XP Professional SP2
MB: MSI|PT880 NEO-LSR MS-7008
CPU: P4-2.8E, 800MHz FSB, Socket 478, 1MB Cache
HSF: Thermaltake XP-90, Nexus fan, Zalman Fanmate II, Arctic Silver 5
PSU: Rosewill RE501-SLV ATX 500W Power Supply
RAM: Patriot 1GB (2 x 512MB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Unbuffered
RAID0: 2x Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 6Y080M0 80GB 7200 RPM Serial ATA150
Sound: M-Audio Audiophile 2496 PCI Audio Interface Card
Case: SkyHawk MSR-4610 Silver 1.2mm All Aluminum ATX Mini Server Case
Cooling: 2x120mm, 2x90mm, round cables, fan controller, very clean wiring, decent aiflow1.

Symptoms

Screenshot
Click for larger image.

  • Started about 2 months ago.
  • Strange pixels at random locations.
  • Happens about once or twice a week.
  • Often follows return from standby
  • Has happened while actively using system (lightly)
  • Only known recovery is reboot.

So, it really seems to me that this is a video card issue of some sort. I was able to take the screenshot you see above, so I know it is not a monitor issue (unless Print Screen works much differently than I have been lead to believe).

So the question is whether or not it is drivers or the card itself.

I guess it could be heat acting upon the card. The card itself doesn’t have a fan on it, just a heat sink. So, I’ve got this nifty bracket that mounds on the screws that hold in the PCI cards. It holds a 120mm fan parallel to the side panel of the case, and blows air directly onto all of my cards.

My temps, while high, are not too far out of line for the system:

Room: 28.4c
Case: 47c
CPU: 51c
HD: 48c

It is a Prescott, after all. I know the case temps are high, and I attribute part of that to poor quality sensors in the incredibly cheap MSI motherboard, and partly to the lack of top fan on the case. I plan on putting a top vent on the case as soon as I find someone with a Dremel.

So, it is a tad hot on the video card, but it has direct airflow over it, with some coming from outside the case. I can’t imagine heat is the issue, but of course, I may be wrong.

So how about voltages, you ask? Maybe the video card isn’t getting the right voltages. Here they are:

VCORE: 1.38V
+3.3v: 3.18V
+5V: 5.05V
+12V: 12.46V

Alright, so the voltages are a bit off, but tolerable. You should have seen what they were when I had my old 350-watt PSU in there! I can’t imagine that voltages like these would be the cause.

Now I think I have heat and power covered. That leaves drivers and general card failure as my only options.

Since I am running the latest drivers, and this issue has happened with the current drivers, and my old driver (prompting the update), I would have to say my card is starting to fail. Unless I am missing something, I can’t really imagine any other cause.

Anyone?

3 thoughts on “Drivers or Video Card?

  1. Sadly, I’m probably not one of the geekier readers of your blog, but it sounds like it’s the video card. Do you have an old, but functional card you could replace the current one with for a few days and see if the problem disappears?

  2. Heya Wertz! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    I sure don’t have an extra video card. The best I could do is swap my card with Jaime’s card to see if her computer acts up with my card. But, after having a very difficult time diagnosing and fixing the random freezing of her computer over the course of nearly a month, I am afraid that the mere suggestion of tampering with her baby will make the couch my bed.

    I’ve got to get this fixed before we start AD Radio. It is happening more frequently lately, and if it happens when we are broadcasting, I will have to reboot. That will take us off the air while I reboot.

    I’m going to find a video card, and we’re going to get this thing going. I cannot wait! The show must go on!

    Mike

  3. I have a media center PC with a GEFORCE FX5600 that behaves (misbehaves?)in a remarkably similar way. Computer will not resume from standby. A forced restart results in a screen that appears very similar to yours, sometimes worse, occasionally blank.

    I can enter safe mode every time with no ill effects immediately, but have to turn off the computer and wait to boot normally–sometimes the wait is nearly 30 minutes. I originally suspected drivers since I could boot in safe mode, but I believe the real culprit is heat because after a wait the computer boots normally. Installing fan speed and clearing obstructions of case venting had a minimal positive effect.

    I believe heat is the issue. If you solve this, please let me know, because I really don’t want to fork over the dough for another video card either!

    Good luck and thanks in advance,
    Justin

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