George V. Reilly's Technical Blog

June 2009 - Posts

When Video Cards Go Bad
Blown Capacitors

I complained a week ago about my display driver going berserk. I blamed Windows Update, since it happened within hours of a pile of updates being installed. I upgraded to the latest beta NVidia drivers on Monday and it helped for a while, but by Wednesday, it was almost as bad again as it had been last Friday. It was infuriating and I was both entertaining and alarming my neighbors with my cursing.

Today was the last day of a very busy sprint for me and at last I had the time to dig into it. I opened up the case and took a look at both video cards—I have two dual-head cards connected to three monitors—and one of them had partially blown capacitors like those in the picture. I removed the bad card and did some graphics-intensive things for an hour, and the other card behaved flawlessly.

Oddly, until someone mentioned that it might be a hardware problem yesterday, it didn't occur to me, even though a video card blew in this machine last year. I came in one morning to find a black monitor, and when I pulled out that card, I found that some of the capacitors had popped right open with stuffing protruding.

On general principles, I had been meaning to repave this machine for a while. I've had it since December 2007 and it was still running the original installation of Vista. I booted from a DVD, reformatted my C: drive, and installed Windows 7 x64 RC1.

I finally have a 64-bit OS as my primary Windows desktop, so I'll actually be using the Win64 build of Vim that I maintain. My first impressions of Windows 7 on this machine are very favorable, but there's plenty more that I need to install before the machine has everything that I need.

Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered
Display driver lddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered

This morning, the video adapters on my Vista dev box were resetting 2–3 times per minute.

After a pile of Windows Updates landed on my machine at 3am yesterday, it would occasionally freeze solid for a few seconds. Once in a while, all the monitors would go black briefly, then restore. Each time, I would see a status update pop up from the system tray, "Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered."

This was irritating enough that I downloaded the latest NVidia drivers this morning, 185.85_desktop_winvista_32bit_english_whql.exe. That really screwed me. The video adapters started resetting 2–3 times per minute, rendering the machine almost unusable. I have two video adapters, NVidia GeForce 8600 GT and NVidia GeForce 7600 GT.

The eventlog was full of Event ID 4101 - Display Driver Timeout Detection and Recovery.

I reverted to the 178.24 drivers and that helped. When I'm not touching the machine, the adapters only get reset every few minutes instead of several times a minute. When I am using it, something as simple as clicking a window to bring it to the foreground can trigger a reset.

It's very irritating but I can live with it for a little while, unlike the other. I don't want to repave my box: apart from the time loss, I'm not convinced that it would help if I got the same driver config all over again.

I contacted a friend at Microsoft who tried to hook me up with a driver guy, who is unfortunately out of office. I'm hoping that it can be fixed early next week or my temper is going to fray rapidly.

Update: June 19th: See When Video Cards Go Bad.

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