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I was in the middle of playing Insurgency, and I had just tried to switch servers when the entire game froze. No biggie, I thought. I'll just restart the game and go on my merry way. Of course, this didn't work out. I pressed Ctrl+Alt+Del a few times, but I couldn't get the Task Manager to show up, all I saw was a black screen. After waiting awhile, I managed to get the BSOD telling me that Windows couldn't recover from a video card driver crash. When I restarted, I could tell something was off. Instead of the normal English text, everything was in jibberish. It wasn't a foreign language, it was pure gobbledygook. This didn't seem to be a good sign, but I let the computer continue booting. I could never get to the login screen. It should show me the cursor, then (presumably) the video card driver would crash again, and I would be stuck doing a hard restart on my computer.

I restarted into Safe Mode and uninstalled the video card driver. When I booted back into Windows it would tell me it found new hardware, install a driver, and ask me to restart. Installing this driver make the problems return again, so I went back to Safe Mode and uninstalled the driver again. This time, instead of installing the driver that Windows wanted to, I downloaded and installed the drivers from ATI's site, and just as the installer asked, I restarted.

No dice. The same problem returned. I could use my computer in one of two ways: In safe mode, or without a proper video card driver. Frustrating, but I had a recent backup so I figured I would just reinstall windows and everything would be hunky dory. I popped in the Windows 7 RC CD and began the installation. Format hard drive...check. Copying and expanding files...check. Installing feature and updates...check. Completing installation...BZZRT! Houston, we have a problem. After it restarts so it can boot from the hard drive to complete the installation, I get a BSOD again. It's still whining about the dadgum video card driver, only this time I haven't even finished installing Windows.

At this point, I was quite annoyed. I figured the one thing I could do was remove the overclock on my processor (the only overclock on my system). I wasn't sure what that could be doing to the video card, but it couldn't hurt. As expected however, this made no change. I still can't get Windows to install.

My theory so far is that somehow the video card overheated, and might need to be replaced. I don't know exactly how. When monitoring my temps, I've never seen them go above 75C, which should be plenty cool for the HD4830 I have in my rig.

Summary:

  • Video card driver crashed
  • BIOS shows jibberish
  • Can't boot into Windows
  • Can't reinstall Windows
  • HELP!

System Info:

  • Cooler Master Elite 330
  • Gigabyte GA-EP43-DS3L
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 @ 3.2GHz
  • Western Digital WD3200AAKS 320GB
  • Samsung WriteMaster SH-S203F
  • 8GB G.Skill DDR2 800
  • Scythe Mugen 2
  • Sapphire Radeon HD4830
  • Windows 7 RC 64-bit

UPDATE

I just took out and cleaned off the video card. I didn't notice any burnt capacitors or anything, and cleaning it did not help either. The fan spins, it looks nice and purty, but it still doesn't work.

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+1 for the question. I had a similar incident with my cousin's PC (but she's running Windows XP). I'd like to see possible solutions here as well. –  Isxek Aug 13 '09 at 17:08
3  
I'd try swapping in a different video card, if you have one. That way you can confirm (or get a better idea) of whether its the video card or not. –  J. Polfer Aug 13 '09 at 17:39
    
I wish I could, but I don't have another card handy right now. I'll see if I can get one from somewhere. –  Dan Walker Aug 13 '09 at 17:43
2  
I read the question title and my first thought was a song... :-P –  David Z Aug 13 '09 at 19:00

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As things were working fine until the problem in-game I doubt drivers (or Windows 7) are your problem.

It is most likely that the video card has developed a fault (i.e. it has overheated somewhere by enough to burn out a component or few). If this is the case then hopefully it won't have affected anything else. To test the theory put in another card if you have a spare near by or can beg/borrow/steal one, preferably of similar brand and technology (i.e. if it is an ATI PCI-E card replace it with an ATI PCI-E card if you can).

Dieing this way may indicate that you have a cooling problem in your case (bad air circulation), or it could just mean that the card was a dud with a heat related fault waiting to be pushed over the edge by heavy activity and a little bad luck.

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Windows 7 requires a decent video card to work properly with all the fancy Aero effects, and the default driver might enable DirectX effects instead of being a simple fallback driver.

Check the card for any visible damage; something may have been shorted or you may have blown a capacitor. If you can find it, contact the card's manufacturer immediately. The HD4830 is relatively new, and you may be able to get an on-warranty replacement.

If card has no visible damage, you may have corrupted the onboard BIOS of the card. Check to see if ATI offers a BIOS that you can use to flash the card (this might not be helpful if you can't get Windows installed).

Since your motherboard's BIOS got turned into gobbledygook, you may have corrupted that somehow. Remove the CMOS battery, unplug from the wall, press the power button 2 or 3 times, and let the computer sit for 10 mintues or so. This will reset the BIOS back to factory settings and may solve the issue.

If neither of these work, you may have borked the motherboard and the videocard. You'll have to get replacements.

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I doubt the motherboard's BIOS is turned into "gobbledygook," although it might be possible. The problem could be with the video card's BIOS, of which its code is usually used for blitting letters to the screen. –  J. Polfer Aug 13 '09 at 17:38
    
The problem then becomes: how do I replace the video card BIOS when I can't get into an operating system? –  Dan Walker Aug 13 '09 at 17:38
2  
I'd swap your video card out for a different one, or use the internal video on the motherboard, if you can. You could then determine if it's really the video card causing problems, or something else in your system. –  J. Polfer Aug 13 '09 at 17:42
    
+1 on the swap for a similar video card. Since you don't have drivers installed yet, anything from a lowly VGA/DVI adapter to an nvidia card will do. –  Andrew Scagnelli Aug 13 '09 at 19:06

If you have a spare video card (simple PCI/PCI-e will suffice), I'd recommend swapping the old card out first and trying a different card and seeing if the machine can boot and most importantly you can see the BIOS menus and such.

If that doesn't work, try resetting your CMOS values. In your Gigabyte Manual, there's a layout diagram for resetting/clearing your CMOS. Follow the directions in your motherboard manual on clearing your CMOS.

All Gigabyte boards (for quite some time) ship with dual BIOSes. If one of them is corrupt, I think there's a way to restore to factory default settings. Start with the manual.

Whenever you're troubleshooting, don't assume anything. Eliminate good parts from bad parts. Maybe one of your RAM DIMMs is fried. Try removing a few DIMMs to the bare minimum needed. Or try running the Ubuntu memory tests from a CD/DVD. Maybe the hard drive is fed up with Windows 7 and doesn't want to reinstall it for you. Try using another hard drive. Anything you can use to get the system running again. Eliminate every possible part if it comes to it.

If I had to guess what's going on, I'd say your video card is unofficially supported and your BIOS/CMOS might be a little pissed off from the whole joy of Windows 7, ATI's 'rock solid' stable drivers and an overclocked CPU. Overclocking + unofficial OS + Microsoft + ATI Drivers + BIOS is unhappy = an unhappy computer. If you can eliminate the video issue (with another card), try reinstalling again. If it fails, start investigating the disk with using another one.

I may not be able to properly diagnose your computer problem, but I can give you a few tips from preventing and possibly fixing this issue from reoccurring:

  1. Stop overclocking; period. I've never understood the fascination with it and the "surprise" people get when a system starts to behave oddly. Why risk damaging hardware for a couple hundred extra MHz? You want to eek out 500MHz? Pay for the difference and be happy that you're not risking your hardware.

  2. Stop using Windows 7 RC. Try something that has stable driver support .. like Windows XP. Hell Windows 2000. Linux. Anything. I don't care if Windows 7 was working beforehand. It's not working now. ATI has always had shitty drivers, why would Windows 7 be any exception to that history?

  3. Don't use beta products as your primary computer or workstation/whatever (this is paritally related to #2). People can't be too much of a help on a product that hasn't even been officially released so very few people have any exposure to your problem. If you really want to play with Windows 7 RC do it virtually using VirtualBox from Sun (for free). Wait a while and let everyone else deal with the driver pains and the heart aches from it first. Once a service pack hits the streets after 6 months and people are finding some sense of stability, then consider switching.

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Check for burst capacitors on the video card. I've been seeing an epidemic of that recently. Possibly helped along by excessive heat. If that is the case for you too, the easiest thing is to replace the card. If you're electronically inclined, it is possible to just match up some new caps (from Mouser, or elsewhere) and replace them yourself. I've done that with a couple cards with good success so far. I keep wondering if whatever popped the original caps will come back and pop these too, but so far, so good!

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Just checked it, the capacitors look fine. –  Dan Walker Aug 13 '09 at 17:32

You don't mention any hardware specifics. I have a recent AMD dual-core CPU, and with both the on-board video (nvidia 7025) and an stand-alone card (a 9500-class card) I regularily get hard lockups running Ubuntu. I've talked to a number of people who have the same experience, and some have mentioned that the same thing happens with Windows.

What CPU, MB and graphics cards are involved?

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added system info –  Dan Walker Aug 13 '09 at 19:21

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