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I was playing Skyrim and suddenly the PC froze. I had to reset it by pushing the button. On reboot the display is very weird and I can't figure out what's wrong. My guess would be the graphic card (Nvidia 8800 GTS) or the memory sticks.

Windows 7 resolution is now 800x600. Linux does not start X at all.

Has anyone here seen that kind of display before?

BIOS GRUB

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That looks like a video card to me. –  kobaltz Jan 3 '12 at 17:04
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That is one type of artifacting you can get when overclocking the video memory to high, or of course if it borked. It could require a full power off (pull the plug) to do a full reset. It not starting up to the OSes res (even with the artifacts), doesnt sound good, but there is always reSEAT the card and hope. It's dead jim :-) –  Psycogeek Jan 3 '12 at 17:08
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How does it run with a different video card/integrated graphics? looks like the video card to me but you should probably run a mem test just to be safe. –  Kyle Jan 3 '12 at 17:11
    
My grandpa calls these space boogers. With his poor eyesight, he confuses them for real boogers that may have crept onto his screen. –  kobaltz Jan 3 '12 at 17:15
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Most likely, this is bump underfill cracking. It's a mechanical failure inside the GPU, in the 'bumps' that make the electrical connection between the GPU and the video card.

The solder in the bottom of the bump makes the electrical connection to the video card circuit board. Because it's soldered in place, it cannot move. As the GPU heats and cools, it expands and contracts. This causes stress on the underfill, the material the solder connects to. Eventually, the underfill cracks and you get intermittent contact between the GPU and the circuit board.

If the problem, at least initially, gets better as the GPU gets hotter, then this is almost definitely the problem. If it gets worse when the card gets hotter, then it's not bump underfill cracking.

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i.stack.imgur.com/5ZbP0.jpg this is a pic of a ATI type card around the same age. I cracked it open , to see how relative underfill is to this, vrses the underfill that has some interest on the web. It seems to be minor compared. I just posted it so it could be seen. –  Psycogeek Jan 4 '12 at 7:12
    
Definitely the GPU. It has been suffering from cold bug for a while. –  SamK Jan 4 '12 at 19:01
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The standard practice is to remove each component one by one, replacing essential ones, until a working system is obtained.

Since the BIOS screen is screwed up, you can narrow things to very few components. Graphics card, memory, BIOS and CPU are all candidates. You can probably unplug all drives and non-essential peripherals without affecting the problem to start.

  • For graphics card, most modern motherboards have onboard graphics. It will activate simply by removing the add-on graphics card. If you remove it and get a workable system, you found the culprit. Otherwise, maybe you can borrow a card from another computer.

  • For memory, remove all but one DIMM (stick as you called them) and then try each one alone. If you get a working system at some point then (1) you found a good DIMM and (2) one of the others is bad.

  • For BIOS, it maybe corrupted and not driving the right voltages, so you can do a BIOS reset. How depends on your motherboard, so check the manual (usually some pins to short, button to press or battery to remove).

  • For the CPU, there is no other option than trying another one but I would reset the BIOS first. On some motherboards you can try under-clocking the CPU (BIOS setting) and see if things improve.

Good luck!

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