Getting to the Heart of the Video Card Problems

Once again the hardware mojo is plauging me. My nice, fast, expensive and awsome video card (ATI 9800 PRO) is giving me grief. It started out as some odd patches of (and I don’t know how to describe it better than this) wackiness when in 3D mode but has no progressed to full system lockups. Figuring it had something to do with heat, I purchased a sweet Thermaltake Volcano 9 CPU cooler. This, while having horrible instructions, does work well and after a bit of trouble getting it going, works dandy, regulating the CPU temperature to stay under 45C or so. In a fit of rage and madness as odd video spots and glitches turned to full system lockups, and before I went completely batshit, I invited Cat5 and Lawrence over to see if their debugging kung-fu was better than mine. After watching the game we went to it. Read on for the horrowing tale (and some more pictures).

While the cat snoozed looked on Cat5 and Lawrence and I did an array of testing and playing. The symptoms looked something like this, kinda in order of harshness and how things seemed to progress:

  • small “flecks” of missing or wrong color in the “Windows XP” logo as it starts up (before any special video drivers are loaded I’m guessing)
  • bands of purple in 2D mode
  • squares and lines of of “bad video” when in 3d mode
  • the ATI “VPU recover” kicking in and letting me know the card had locked up in 3d mode
  • complete and total lock ups in 3d mode
  • random graphical glitches in normal 2D mode
  • complete and total lock ups giving just a monitor with no signal going to it when entering windows

The other day when I was just getting the squares and lines of bad video only in 3d mode I debugged a bit and when I figured it was the card I took the card in to Discovery Computers where I go it, along with the drivers and the 3d benchmark program I used on a USB flash disk. They put it in one of their random machines and it performed just fine, no glitches, no nothing (like it did for me a while back). I figured, OK, must be my system, the drivers, the install, heat, something.

So I got and threw in a big-ass CPU fan. Kept the CPU cooler, but no change in glitches. Even after booting the box up after sitting all night, off, beside an open window with cold air pouring in it locked up hard yesterday morning.

Things started getting progressively worse. I plugged the card into Firefly’s machine, which while it is almost identical in setup (same P/S, slightly different version motherboard, less of the same kind of ram, same OS and same level up currentness) and after installing the same drivers and benchmark, it gave the same problems. Ok, very odd.

To see if maybe it was just something in a service pack or something, I installed a fresh and clean version of windows XP, no updates other than installing the video drivers and… bingo bango bongo, same issues. Even on booting up before the video card drivers were installed I had the “flecks” of bad color in the windows xp starting up screen. Ok, something definately wonky.

So Lawrence and Cat5 poked around in the BIOS. I updated from 1005 to 1007 for the A7N8X bios, but that didn’t help. We increased the voltage going to the AGP slot, and that almost worked. Windows booted up with no flecks, no 2D glitches, and the first two or three tests ran fine under the benchmark. The third of fourth though, just started to go bad again, and the memory chips on the card were very hot. While the cat appreciated this, we did not.

Just to be sure, we put the card into Lawrences machine (which he had helpfully brought along) and installed the drivers. He has a totally different motherboard, which is what I was wanting. Same flecks, same screwyness in the benchmark.

Case closed. Card is messed up somehow.

I don’t know why it was working fine in the system in the computer store, or why it was working fine for me (though there was oddness before, but the card was “fixed”). However, there is definately a problem with something, and since the card has the same problem in three separate computers, I think a replacement card is in order IMHO. And while it’s bad hardware, I honestly don’t think it’s the bad mojo, from me or the apartment because I’ve had two others confirm that it’s a problem!

I plan to take the full box into Discovery tomorrow night after work, put my game face on and after showing them with not only my current setup, but also the fresh and clean XP install, demand that I get a new card, and get one sooner rather than the 2-3 weeks it took last time. Assuming of course, that it doesn’t work perfectly because they have some sort of good hardware mojo shield around the store!

Send courage mojo please.

5 Comments on “Getting to the Heart of the Video Card Problems”

  1. Glad to see the new kittie is willing to help with any computer problems 😉 She looks more helpful than jez, who kept sticking her nose in my system while I was trying to upgrade the RAM. Sheesh.

  2. Well, having three guys with a combined 30+ years experience (at least, I’m sure lawrence has been in it for longer than us) look at it ahead of time helped. Basically I went in and told him what we did, he asked if I could leave the box here (he was too busy ATM to watch me go through it all) so I handed him the box and the spare drive with the fresh XP install on it, and said I’d pick it up tomorrow (today) and that I was sure that ATI would cross ship an advance replacement (your words IIRC 🙂 and that I really didn’t want to wait 2-4 weeks like I did the last time.
    So if I’m lucky it’ll be a few days and a new vid card will arrive. If the Gods above are really smiling on me and think they’ve kicked my ass around enough lately he’ll have begged, borrowed or stolen a new card for me when I pick up the computer today. But I doubt that somehow 🙂 More than a couple of days though and I start screaming.

  3. cool 🙂
    Another strategy I’ve successfully used:
    The 1st time you ask them to fix it and they say “minimum 24 hours”, put up with it graciously.
    If and when it requires a 2nd visit to recify same, get the manager first off, and inform them you’ve already waited the 24 hours and require resolution NOW.
    Refusing to step aside to let other customers’ “quick issues” be resolved first, adds that special “something extra” that makes it work that much better. 🙂 – I’ve loudly declared something like “No thanks, I won’t wait. I think your other customers are interested to see how you treat clients”

  4. Nasty. Thing is that this won’t work in this store (as well) because the guy I deal with is the manager, and asking for the # for the head office has a bit less impact than getting the manager to come out from the other room. I also understand that they are tied a bit by being restricted in not being out in richmond with the ability to get new stuff ASAP. So I give them some leeway. SOME.

  5. Thanks BTW – it seems that whatever Badness(tm) was floating around your hardware, decided to come over to my place and visit for a while 🙁
    @$#@%%ing flaky video cards!
    ‘course, this DOES mean I have justification for an upgrade 🙂
    How did the “give me a new one” speech go?