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My PC is showing symptoms which indicate a possible graphics hardware failure, but I am not 100% certain. First of all forgive me, I haven't performed common sense trial and error by trying to use my onboard graphics. My PC was factory assembled, and for some reason the VGA socket for the onboard graphics has a cover on it saying 'do not remove'. I will remove it soon, but I thought I'd ask here first.

My PC has been crashing during graphics-intensive events. It first happened during a game, and then during a high definition video, and again during watching a DVD. I have attempted to recreate these circumstances to recreate the crash. A game or HD video always does it, unless it's very simple such as a youtube video.

More specifically, the crash is usually accompanied by a Blue Screen of Death, with the message that the driver nvlddmkm.sys has stopped working, or equivalently that a graphics driver has stopped working. In the most serious crashes, the crash is preceded by strange graphical glitches such as wobbly lines across the screen, the screen goes blank (the monitor goes onto standby) and the PC does not respond at all unless I shut it down with the power button.

Updating to the most recent driver does not solve the problem. At the moment I have rolled back to a generic Microsoft driver, with no change. It does not appear to be a software problem. The strange graphical glitches/lines even appear sometimes on the opening BIOS screen.

Another interesting symptom is that the Windows Experience Index numbers have changed. My Gaming graphics rating was over 5, now it has changed to 4.7.

My PC and graphics card are about 3.5 years old and I use the PC every day. The graphics card is an Nvidia GeForce 8500 GT (not exactly amazing even at the time). I recently replaced my hard drive and installed Windows 7 on it, because the previous hard drive failed.

Replacing the graphics card would be very cheap, but I need to be more sure about what the problem is.

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You might want to try shortening your question (or in this case, novel) if you want people to answer you. Most people will do a TLDR (too long didn't read). –  David Jun 23 '11 at 17:48
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2 Answers

If it's crapping out under load it's either the graphics card or the power supply, and it doesn't really sound like the power supply (power supply crashes usually don't cause blue screens, they cause random reboots).

However, it may just be that your drivers are screwed. This isn't unlikely. So go to the nvidia site, and download the newest drivers, and perform a clean install. IIRC, it's an option now in the driver setup to do a clean install, but if it's not, then make sure you remove the old driver software (from Add/Remove programs).

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Another option would be to try with older driver, if the driver is new. There were some problems with recent nvidia drivers and older cards. Also the problem looks like the nvidia 8000 silicon bug, but I'm not 100% sure. –  AndrejaKo Jun 23 '11 at 19:28
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With the system powered off, remove the graphics card and boot your computer with the cable from the monitor plugged into the onboard VGA out. If your computer boots normally with no lines on the screen, you know it's your graphics card.

The BSOD mentioned the driver "nvlddmkm.sys". This is an nvidia driver, which points more fingers at your graphics card, though they do make motherboard chipsets.

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