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How to troubleshoot: is the problem video card or drivers?

dtleahy
dtleahy asked
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Last Modified: 2014-11-20
I have a computer with an AMD "A" series CPU/GPU. After a couple of years, I started seeing video problems which made me think video card degradation or overheating - but of course, I had no video "card" that I could inspect or clean.

I gave up and bought a cheap video card (Zotac GRForce 210), installed it, and it has been working fine for about 6 months. Now, I am getting pixelation and strange window layering artifacts - some freezes and Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD - its a Windows XP OS) - a memory dump screen that said there was an infinite loop in NV4_disp (which I figured had to be a file in the nVidia drivers. So, I went online, and downloaded their fancy schmancy "GEForce Experience" application that looks for, finds, and installs new drivers when available.

Now, after a reboot, I no longer have the exact same video card/driver problems, now I'm just seeing random pixelation noise randomly dispersed over the screen - mostly when I'm online. This happens sometimes when I'm not doing anything (maybe their is an auto refresh) and with tab changes, drop down menus, with pop up menus and screens.

Something obviously is wrong... So, how do I troubleshoot whether it is the drivers or the card? Seems really odd the APU's GPU would have problems, and then a video card would have video problems. Anyone have any ideas what to do? I hate to waste money on yet another video card, if that isn't really the problem.

Thanks!

Dennis
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dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.
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Commented:
Seems to have been the driver, in this case. Rolling back the driver a couple of versions seems to have cured it 100%. (if it degrades, I'll use Aaron's and dbrunton's suggestions for narrowing it down.

Thanks!

Dennis
AaronSystems Administrator & DST

Commented:
I think you might have missed in my comment:

"If the card was working fine when you got it you could roll it back to the drivers that worked "

:D glad that it worked!

Author

Commented:
Aaron,

No, I didn't miss your excellent advice - I had already done that before seeing your reply.

I credited both you and dbrunton with being correct, and made yours the "accepted" solution and dbrunton's the "assisted" solution to reflect trying drivers first in troubleshooting. I think you both have good info about how to troubleshoot this problem. I have seen motherboards and video cards physically degrade (cheap capacitors, overheating which might be overheating due to dust, dead video card fan, and I have had bad cables in the past. So, the next person that stumbles into this thread will have good troubleshooting advice from both of you.

I suppose I could have said, "As Aaron mentioned, it seems to have been the driver, in this case. "

I'm still wondering if the video card will show signs of degradation. It still does not make sense that the drivers worked fine for 6 months, and then started doing weird things on screen. That was what made me download a new driver (that was apparently too new, and buggy.) For now, it's working properly again, so it is hard to justify spending time going through further testing or hardware troubleshooting - but I can come back to this thread for further ideas if it starts to crap-out again

Thanks!

Dennis
AaronSystems Administrator & DST

Commented:
Thanks for the reply I just thought you might have missed it as my post was rather lengthy and sometimes when people solve a problem they don't read their responses. I appreciate your acknowledgement and this is certainly a nice troubleshooting thread. However lets hope you don't have to come back to it!

Thanks,


Aaron

Author

Commented:
It started happening again, which seems now to be more likely either overheating of some component or that some electronic component is starting to physically fail (I know capacitors do this - I have had it happen to me.) I have also seen a CPU slowly fail. I haven't had a bad RAM chip/module in decades, so I'm guessing the video card itself. I will check running temps, then thoroughly clean the inside of the computer, then recheck operating temp.

It is possible that the "cure" of the new driver was a false cure, and that simply rebooting the computer was the reason for a temporary reprieve in the self-destruction (or overheating) of some component.

Dennis
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.
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>>  It is possible that the "cure" of the new driver was a false cure, and that simply rebooting the computer was the reason for a temporary reprieve in the self-destruction (or overheating) of some component.

Anything is possible.

Checking for dust and temperatures is good.  Also check how hot the temperature of the air coming out of the back of the PSU is.
AaronSystems Administrator & DST

Commented:
One thing you could do to test is something I haven't done in many years but when my friend had an overheating issue he took the side panel off his tower and put a large box fan positioned to flow more air to it and dropped the temp of that room to 50 degrees. But I would say that as a temporary way to check if it is overheating though it could still be heat trapped somewhere.

You mentioned you clean a lot but what I am wondering is that with compressed air or vaccum? Sometimes using compressed air you can wedge dust particles into components though this is rare I have seen it happen on high end server equipment (contractor came in and was cleaning a $3k card and just a few puffs of air that thing never worked again).

The cheapest thing to replace might be the PSU. Though I hate to see you replace parts until you have totally replaced the computer. If you had another computer you could swap parts around with to test the individual components that would help you out a lot.

Author

Commented:
Just for a baseline (before cleaning), I thought I'd check temperatures. I have not done that in so long on my computer, I could not remember if there is an application or if I can only see temps in BIOS (which is the only place I remember seeing any temperature monitoring.)

So, I did a quick search, and came up with an app called "SpeedFan", downloaded, installed, and ran it. If the temperatures reported are correct, I'm surprised the computer works at all. And, the CPU has a relatively sophisticated all solid copper heat sink w/ fan.

SpeedFan readings of my computer 2014-11-20
AaronSystems Administrator & DST

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The flame icons are awesome, almost spit out my coffee scrolling past that!
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.
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Commented:
First, don't panic.  Speedfan isn't necessarily accurate.  (I do use it myself).

Get AMD Overdrive http://download.amd.com/Desktop/aod_setup_4.3.1.0698.exe

Read the notes here http://download.amd.com/Desktop/AMD_OverDrive_Utility_4.3.1.0698_Release_Notes.pdf and http://www.tomshardware.com/faq/id-2122665/understanding-temperature-amd-cpus-apus.html

You can use this to see how close you are to the maximum operating temperature of the processor.

Other utils to also try

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