Freezing Windows when stray pixels appear

On new Dell Dimension W98 on last two days there has been an intermittent problem lasting 2-3 hours each time when the system completely freezes - the keyboard is no use, but the mouse moves around the screen although clicking anywhere does not help. I have noticed that this problem occurs after a boot (or reboot) when for some odd reason some stray pixels start to appear around the cursor.  I have tried uninstalling/reinstalling both peripherals and software in the hope of isolating the cause but to no avail.  Also, the hard disk churns away pretty much non-stop for about 1o munites before returning to normal.  The odd thing is that sometimes when I boot up the system works perfectly (like at present).  It is only when the stray pixels appear around the cursor (sometimes it is just one dot but at other times it is 5 - 10) that I know I am just about to hit trouble.  I have talked at length to the Dell support but they have so far been unable to help...  I am of the feeling that it is something to do with either Windows Media Player or a driver that controls the monitor.  What happens is that the boot-up proceedure runs normally, and then at the very last point before the end of the boot-up, the pixels appear by the cursor.  Then after a couple of minutes of working on the system (it happens when surfing, using Excel, Word, fax utility, scan utility etc, - in fact this does not seem to be  application-specific, the system freezes - always when there is 'movement' on the screen i.e. a web page refreshes, or even when opening a windows box like the system config box and you grab the window to move it across the monitor.  Sometimes large white patches appear on the monitor, sometimes a strip of black/speckled area appears across the screen.  The system is only 10 days old.  
hudsonerAsked:
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ajmcgarryCommented:
Could you mention the type of  processor, and the Graphics Card make?
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
Sorry...  PIII800EB 256kb on-board cache, 384mb@356mhz RDRAM.  Video card is 32mb nVidia 10 GeForce 256, monitor is 21inch Trinitron Flat Display, hard drive is 27gb ultra ata 7200 rpm. thats about it.
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jhanceCommented:
I'd suspect the video card itself.

Since Dell makes these by the thousands every day my guess is that the video drivers are stable or they would get similar calls from every owner of the same system.  In other words, they'd know about this problem by now.  Even though the PIII/800 systems are just now shipping, the PIII/733 has been shipping since late 1999 with the same video card.  

It's entirely possible that the video card hardware itself is faulty and slipped by their post-build testing.

I'd suggest calling them back and having them send you out a replacement video card since I suspect you don't have a spare GeForce 256 in your junk box...

BTW, you didn't mention anything about software you've installed since you received the machine.  Anything install or modify your video drivers or modes?  Some games rudely install obsolete video card or DirectX drivers that are out of date.  You might check...
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
No games on this machine.  Have installed Epson printer/HP scanner/Iomega zip drive and software like MS Office and MS Photodraw and FP2000.  This machine also has a DVD-Rom and CD-RW but both working ok so I don't think it is down to them.  Will call Dell and ask them for a new Video Card.  Will advise results to you.  Tks vm for the suggestion.
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dew_associatesCommented:
Hudsoner,

Although I agree with Joe Hance's comments regarding the video card, you may also want to check some of the installs you've made.

1. Epson printer. Did you use the Epson disk and install the tools as well? If so, they create problems. How is this connected to the PC?

2. On the HP Scanner. Did you install the scanner software package or are you using the Win98 scaning tools from the Win98 CD? Also, how are you connecting the scanner, LPT port, USB or SCSI interface?

3. On the Iomega zip drive. Have you installed the tools? If so, remove them and leave just the drivers.

4. Did you install the CD-RW and DVD or did it come with the PC?

5. On MS Office 2000, did you disab;e any antivirus before installing Office 2000. If not, re-run the install in administrative mode, but first disable your antivirus.
Dennis
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
Hi again Dennis.

1. Standard install using Epson disk - should I uninstall the Photo Answers and just leave the Help, Readme and Spool Manager?  Connected via Printer Port.

2. Standard install using the provided HP disk - I did not install the Adobe Photoshop.  Connected via USB.

3. If I uninstall the Iomegaware software using Start/Settings/AddRemove Programs etc will this leave the drivers for the disc intact?  Connected via USB.

4. CD-RW and DVD came pre-installed as internal drives.

5. Yes, it is my usual practice to disable anti-virus software (indeed I close as many applications as poosble, before installing new software.  In this instance, I in fact installed MS Office 2000 before the Norton 2000.

Also, I have a Xircom USB Portstation, into which is usually connected a SmartMedia Card reader (have unplugged it since yesterday to try to solve this problem first), as well as the Scanner and Zip.

The keyboard is also USB but is plugged direct into one of the two USD ports on the back panel of the CPU.

Thanks

Eric
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
Dennis; two more things I forgot to mention just now:

1. Another USB device I have plugged in is the Dazzle DVC which is to download digital video on to the PC. Do you think this could be the cause of the problem?

2. My fax software is WinFax Pro V6 - haven't had any problems with it before but would you know if this is a problematical program?

Thanks

Eric
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jhanceCommented:
1. Another USB device I have plugged in is the Dazzle DVC which is to download digital video on to the PC. Do you think this could be the cause of the problem?


That one makes me suspicious!  I'd try uninstalling it's drivers and software and see if the problem clears up.
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Jason_SCommented:
Did this all work when you first got the system?

Try setting the video card settings to 640X480, and see if the problem goes away.  If not, try changing the driver the video card is using to Standard VGA in Device Manager.  If this helps, you can try to download the newest drivers for the card, and install them.

I suspect that you are having either a conflict, or the video card is flakey, and should be replaced.
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
When delivered the settings were on 640x480 but when the problem occurred I played with these settings (and the screen refresh rate too) to see if it made any difference - not.  

Tkx
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dew_associatesCommented:
I think there may be more on those USB ports than the system can handle power wise, but let's see.

<<1. Standard install using Epson disk - should I uninstall the Photo Answers and just leave the Help, Readme and Spool Manager?  Connected via Printer Port.>>

Leave this as is for now.

<<2. Standard install using the provided HP disk - I did not install the Adobe Photoshop.  Connected via USB.>>

Dosconnect the scanner for now.

<<3. If I uninstall the Iomegaware software using Start/Settings/AddRemove Programs etc will this leave the drivers for the disc intact?  Connected via USB.>>

Disconnect this for now.

4. CD-RW and DVD came pre-installed as internal drives.

Good, then these should be okay.

<<Also, I have a Xircom USB Portstation, into which is usually connected a SmartMedia Card reader (have unplugged it since yesterday to try to solve this problem first), as well as the Scanner and Zip.>>

Leave this out.

<<The keyboard is also USB but is plugged direct into one of the two USB ports on the back panel of the CPU.

Is this original Dell equipment?
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
Dennis.  Final thing I did last night was to uninstall the Dazzle DVC Digital Video-editing software and hardware. So far this morning since I booted up the machine an hour ago, it has worked fine with Excel, Powerpoint and Acrobat reader, as well as connecting to the net and IE5.  I will see how the system functions for another few hours, and then try the scanner - the printer seems fine.

What I am curious to know is why one is lead to believe that one can connect a large number of peripherals to a PC using USB Portstations (or even a string of portstations) and no mention is made of power requirements.  Surely there out to be a mention made about checking one's system to see what the USB can support.  For instance, my CPU has two USB ports on the back panel, and into one of these the keyboard (yes it came with the system) is plugged.  But I see that the rear of the keyboard itself also has two USB ports too, so presumably these can be used - but for what? Someone somewhere has to have the specifications regarding what power requirements these ports can support.

Final thing, my Xircom Portstation is plugged into the mains power, so would I be right in saying that this ought to remove any problems regarding power?

Thanks

Eric
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dew_associatesCommented:
The portstation should work if it provides its own power source for "itself" as well as providing line power to the device. USB is still very much in its infancy in spite of what people say. While this is an overly simplistic explanation, it will give you some idea. Think of the USB link like the bandwith allocated to one internet provider. It is finite. Pick a number, let's say 1000. If one person accesses, he access the full bandwith, add another, now they each access 500 and so forth. USB devices require power through the USB cable, and it too is finite. HP makes a great product, but it often takes allot of this power to operate.
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
OK.. I think we are boiling things down even more.  I played a short video clip using the Media Player.  No problems about starting the clip, sound etc.  After watching it for a for a bit I then grabbed the slider and tried to move it forward to play something further along the clip.  The video froze, as did the Media Player.  Clicking on the main Start button opened up the menu but on closing the menu it left a large white outline patch.  Ctrl/Alt/Del/End Task worked to close down the Media Player.

Does this sound like a bad Video Card or driver?
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dew_associatesCommented:
Could very well be! Check Dell's site and see if they have an update. Also, for the heck of it, install the latest media player to see if its a file problem there.
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
ok...Dell will come along early next week to replace the Video Card and then update the drivers, after which I will download the latest Media Player.  If that all results in a resolution, how to I transfer points to both jhance who first suggested the video card problem and also to Dennis who has answered a lot of my questions?
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dew_associatesCommented:
We can have E&E staff handle that. Let's wait until Dell has been there and go from there.
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Asta CuTechnical consultant & graphic designCommented:
Interested in final resolution; thus listening in.  

Just as an aside, I've found that most sites I visit (WindowsUpdate included) have preferred settings at 800X600X24 (or 32; which are also my preferred settings.  As an outsider listening in; it sure sounds like video card or settings/driver issue.  Curious if you ever checked in SAFE MODE for any anomolies listed there; since duplicate or erroneous monitor.INF assignments have created some strange and intermittent stuff for me.  MSINFO32 - tools and DirectX diagnostics is also quite helpful to me in diagnosing issues relevant to video/sound, etc.

Asta
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
jhance - Dell replaced the video card and this seems to have done the trick. Thanks vm!  

Dennis - you deserve some points too - how do I do this?
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dew_associatesCommented:
Thanks Hudsoner, I'll have E&E take care of it for you.
Den
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ianBCommented:
Hi,

Since this question has already been closed and graded I cannot split the points on this question, but I have posted a question in this topic area of equal points to award dew_associates some points.

Ian
Community Support @ Experts Exchange
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dew_associatesCommented:
Thanks ianB!
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hudsonerAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone.

Eric
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