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My dad has a HP pavilion laptop, which is over 6 years old. It contains an onboard graphic card, a NVidia GeForce 8400M GS. Since a week or two, he's getting BSOD in Windows Vista. Also, the screen was acting up; strange lines and figures keep creeping up, but only once in a while -- not always. Thinking that it might be the drivers he had recently upgraded, I decided to downgrade the driver, with no luck at all. I then continued to deinstall the driver, and reinstalling the current stable version, but alas, to no prevail.

Windows kept crashing during the course of the last two weeks, and thinking it might be Windows breaking up, I decided to upgrade his Vista installation to Windows 7, as I've been hearing good things about it. Alas, even that didn't help, and it seems the strange lines and figures keep popping up. I've opened the laptop itself, thinking it might simply be overheating because of clogging in the vents, but that's not the case, it's clean as a whistle.

Now for the actual question; does anyone have a decent flowchart on how to troubleshoot such issues? It might well be the videocard itself, as the strange lines and figures sometimes even appear during BIOS and POST, but I'm not sure.

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If it already happens in the BIOS then clearly the GPU is broken. –  ZippyV Nov 22 '11 at 22:39
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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Sounds like the card is starting to go bad. The same thing happened to me recently with a GeForce 7300 in a HP Pavilion desktop (running Vista).

In the BIOS screens and when running full-screen DOS applications there would be patterns of solid lines approximately like this across the whole screen:

| | | |         | | | |         | | | |         | | | |
| | | |         | | | |         | | | |         | | | |
| | | |         | | | |         | | | |         | | | |

If you are getting something like that, then the card is definetly about to go bad; time to look for a new one.

Are you having any issues with DirectX/Direct3D? This is another a sign that a card is going dead.
Reinstalling the drivers with the latest version is a good first thing to do, upgrading the OS is a little more extreme, but a good last-resort measure.

If none of those work, then it's definitely the card, and it sounds like you've already done those with no success.

There is one way to try to salvage a card known as "baking", which will (theoretically) solve any issues that may be caused by microfissures in the solder, but you need to be careful about oven temps or you will fry the capacitors, making it even more useless.

WARNING: if you try this, remember, it is not guaranteed to work and you will void the warranty, but if everything else fails it might be useful to try

(It didn't work for me, see here and here)

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That's exactly the pattern I see while in the BIOS stage. Guess that's a new laptop then. Thanks for your answer, much appreciated. –  Berry Langerak Nov 23 '11 at 8:27
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I've had this problem see my question about it. The issue is with your graphics card itself. One of the ways you can find this out, is if you take a screenshot, and then send it to yourself, then open it on another computer, you'll see it looks just fine.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to check your laptops power supply, as the problem was most likely caused by the power supply.

The only way to fix it, is to buy a new graphics card (unless yours came with a 6 year warranty or something.)

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Definitely sounds like a bad GPU. Also be VERY careful about taking Nate's advice, as he said. Baking can work but use it as an absolute last resort.

The strange artifacts you're seeing is definitely a bad GPU. If you want to save some money, hit up eBay and start looking for that particular GPU with that laptop as your search term. You may be able to find a spare part that's available to replace it. If you're not too tech savvy, ask a friend to install it for you - it's a bit of a pain to do so on a laptop and it is definitely not as straightforward as installing a new GPU on a desktop.

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This sounds exactly like cracking of the bump underfill on the GPU. One sure sign that this is the problem -- it's usually worse when the GPU is cold, at least when the problem first appears. Contact your laptop manufacturer and see if they'll extend the warranty as it's a known manufacturing deffect.

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Thanks, I might. Then again, being such an old laptop, maybe a replacement wouldn't hurt anyway. –  Berry Langerak Nov 23 '11 at 8:26
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That particular family is known to be somewhat problematic - some cards of the family have odd issues (the question was specific to a dell desktop, but the links might be applicable to any card of that vintage), apparently due to the manufacturing process.

In my case, this included letters getting swapped on pure graphical mode applications, and with heavier workloads blue or red 'static' on the screen.

Its almost certainly a borked video card.

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