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Garbled DOS & BIOS, Windows looks fine

Posted on 2006-11-21
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Last Modified: 2010-04-25
Hi,

I'm working on a Gateway S500S.  Windows XP, SP2, all available updates are installed.  There were other problems that indicated a corrupted operating system.  However, I was never able to fully determine the cause because the error screen in DOS (Just after the GW Splash screen) was garbled.

To fix it, I simply ran the destructive (after trying the non) recovery option off of the Gateway restore disk.  This fixed it fine when in Windows; it works great.  I was able to get IE7 onto it, and then go to the Gateway support site.  Once there, I downloaded the MOBO drivers update, and also the BIOS update.

The MOBO update installed, but still the DOS is garbled.  Next I tried to flash the BIOS, but with the menus all garbled, I couldn't make out what to do so I cancelled it.

I've updated the Graphics driver, which happens to be a NVIDIA GeForce2 MX 200, but it still give the 'Device Cannot Start' error in Device Manager.  If I roll back the driver, the exclamation mark beside it goes away but the computer freezes on the shut down every time until I update the driver again, which puts me back to an exclamation point and the error 'Device Cannot Start'.  (Even with the rolled back driver, the DOS is still garbled.)

I've searched everywhere/tried everything.  You guys (and gals) are my only hope.

Help?

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Question by:Yarrielle
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 460 total points
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Are you sure you don't have a bad cable or monitor connection?  Usually, it's DOS or the BIOS that look ok and Windows that looks wrong.
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by:Yarrielle
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Hi Callandor,

This is the second monitor I've tried it on.  I just noticed that the monitor plugs into an add-on card and not an onboard one.  I'm not sure if that helps or not.  I don't see any other place to plug it in.
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by:Callandor
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If it's a separate card, try a different one (borrow one from another machine, if you don't have spares).  If the problem is still there, it's not the card.
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by:Yarrielle
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Unfortunately, I haven't got a spare, and all of my computers have the crappy came-with-it onboard graphics cards.  Sorry!  I do have a separate graphics card coming from eBay for just such tests, but I don't know when it will get here and I'm trying to get this computer out before the Thanksgiving holiday.  :-)  Can you think of anything else to try before that comes?

Note:  I did try these monitors with other systems, just to be sure.  They worked fine.
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by:Callandor
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You tested the cable as well?  How does the screen look if you boot into the BIOS?  A garbled BIOS screen is definitely a hardware problem.
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by:Yarrielle
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Each monitor that I have tried here has its own separate connector.  I popped the case and looked at the card and it hasn't got anything coming off of it to check.  Is there some other cable that you're meaning for me to check?

I'm about to the point where I try running dBan and starting over, but I really don't want to because I'm not sure how a GW Restore disk will react to what appears to it to be a factory-fresh HD.  

Whew, this is a tough one.
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by:Callandor
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A video problem is fairly easy to isolate - can you take this card out and try it in another system?  If the problem follows it, the card is faulty.
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by:Yarrielle
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Just to update you, I'm working on that.  I can't seem to find a system (that I'm not using for something else at the moment) that will take that card.  Most of my test cases are older and they don't have a slot for that type of card.  I'm still working on stopping some macros and things so I can try it in one of the newer Dells.  
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by:Yarrielle
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Okay, are you ready for this?  I shut down this system I'm on for testing.  I followed these steps:

1.  Pulled THEIR card and tried it in MY system.  DOS and Windows both looked just fine.

2.  Pulled MY card (and all this time I thought I had an onboard!) and tried it in THEIR system.  Both DOS and Windows looked just fine.

3.  Put THEIR card back in THEIR system.  DOS was garbled again and Windows still looked just fine.

What's really flummoxing me is that their card works fine in mine, and my card works fine in their, but their card won't work fine in theirs.  This has got to be either a driver thing or a BIOS thing.  But...But...oh, heck; I'm confused!  

This is the card that came with the computer, and it did work fine until about a week ago when suddenly they started getting their garbled error message on boot as I discussed in my first post.

What do you think?
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by:Yarrielle
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BTW, since I figured out that I have a removable card in this machine, I noted that mine also is a NVIDIA GeForce2 MX but it doesn't have the 200 on it listed in Device Manager.  (Didn't notice when I had the card out if there was 200 on it or not...I don't like to open up my system for anything, including hardware testing.  This was a special occasion.)  I'm not sure if that helps, but figured it was worth a mention.  

Also, it's five o'clock and I can't stay late today because I have to go out of town.  I won't be back in town until late tonight, so I won't be able to see any responses in here until morning now.  Hopefully I'll come back to some good news!  :-)

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Callandor earned 460 total points
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It would seem that you have one of those instances of a video card being incompatible with a specific motherboard.  It's not supposed to happen, but these things do occur, and the only thing to do about it is to use a different video card.  It's clear that both cards work properly separately in each compatible motherboard.
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by:burrcm
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I have an MX440 which does similar things. A clean power on boot, no problem, a restart, garbled. As far as I can see, it is faulty.

Chris B
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by:Yarrielle
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Question:  If my vid card is the same vid card as theirs, and it worked fine, are we sure we're not missing something?

I'm going to assume that you are right and that it is an incompatible card.  Before I close this, I'm going to give Gateway a call because they told this poor lady that it was her monitor and that's bogus.  Maybe I can get them to send her out a new graphics card.

Before I call, do you know what their policy is on if I call them?  I've never admitted to them that I'm a tech but it would sure make things easier if I could.  Will they boot me out if I tell them, or will they still support me while I help her?  i  think she may even still be under warranty.
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by:Callandor
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I would expect the same card to behave the same, but the two cards may still differ enough to make a difference.  I don't know what Gateway's policy is, but they shouldn't be antagonistic towards you if you reveal that you are a tech - any help on the spot should be something they benefit from.
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by:Yarrielle
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Okay, I guess this is the end of the story.  The warranty is expired, and Gateway's response is essentially that even though the card is incompatible with the MOBO and it is the same configuration that the computer came with, since the EU didn't notice it before the warranty expired, they don't care.  So pooey on them!  

I'm just going to explain this to the user.  They don't know how to use DOS anyway.  ;-)  They shouldn't care.  

Thanks so much for your help.  I will leave this open for a little while longer because this is my first time using this site and I'm not sure of the protocol...If I should wait for a response from either of you or if I should just close it.  I hope something comes up in here that I can help someone with too...Make me feel like an integral part of the community and all that.

All-in-all, I consider this a successful first use of this service!  :-D
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