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My Vista machine was running fine until about a week ago while surfing the web, when my system started locking and unlocking followed by this error and a quick BSOD to reboot:

Display driver stopped responding and has recovered

I immediately assumed that I had gotten a virus, but other than some tracking cookies, scans from two different anti-malware programs have turned up nothing. I wanted to do a Windows restore but found that for whatever reason (possibly low space on C drive), I had no backup to revert to.

Initially the driver error was popping up quite frequently, generally after a freeze and black screen, but lately it's been appearing less and in some cases my desktop will freeze but the error message doesn't appear.

I of course upgraded my NVidia drivers which may have lead to the decrease in occurrence, but hasn't solved the problem. I want to rule out all possible causes before assuming that it's a hardware failure with the mobo or video card.

I plan to open up my case tonight and blow the dust out (been too long since I've done this last) to see if it could be due to overheating, and after that I'm planning to check for RAM failure by removing one stick at a time, but I'd like to know some other easy things I can do to figure out what the culprit is.

Edit: also forgot to mention that, oddly enough, the problem seems to come up most often while a web browser is open (Firefox and Chrome). I was able to run Lord of the Rings Online for a good 1.5 hours last night with only a couple of slowdowns when entering new areas and no crashes or lockups. You'd think a graphic-intensive program would be really unstable in this situation.

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You've pretty much got the troubleshooting procedure down, yeah. Try disabling Aero for a while and see if it goes away - that would indicate it's maybe a software problem causing DWM crashes. –  Shinrai Oct 27 '11 at 16:14
    
Use Bluescreenview to see what the crash dump contains...nirsoft.net/utils/blue_screen_view.html –  Moab Oct 27 '11 at 17:18
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Update: the issue turned out to be a browser redirect virus/rootkit that wasn't picked up by antivirus, antimalware or antispyware scans. I ended up running TDSSKiller and it solved my problem. I believe the display driver error was due to the virus freezing my computer, so Vista thought the driver wasn't responding.

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