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I have a high-end dual processor Dell workstation that operated for several years without problem. Recently, the video output has gone flaky, in the sense that after 2-3 days, it loses synch with the monitor (sometimes you can still see a hashed-mess of the what you expect to see on the screen). Poking at the keyboard, and accessing the file system on the machine from over the network, indicates that the machine is running fine and its just the video. A reboot fixes the problem... for another day or two. This in effect makes the machine unusable.

So, I replaced the video card with an exact duplicate bought from e-bay. (I checked after the dupe arrived to be sure, yep, same model number).

I still get the same behavior.

So unless I believe that both video cards are broken the same way, I have to beleive this is a problem with the motherboard/power supply, neither of which I am inclined to replace. The only other possibility I can think of is a Windows update to the graphics driver. How would I check for this? Anybody had a similar problem?

Otherwise we're junking what used to be a perfectly good machine. (Another couple of hours of more wasted effort and that's it in terms of economics anyway).

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migrated from serverfault.com Oct 10 '09 at 5:57

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I don't see any mention there of having tried a different monitor ? –  Alan B Feb 8 '11 at 6:35
    
Fair question. It isn't the monitor. I tried that. –  Ira Baxter Feb 8 '11 at 6:47

3 Answers 3

If the same video cards are producing the same results, then yes, the common factors are the drivers, mobo, bios(es), and monitor. Of those, check/upgrade the software first (drivers) then firmware (bios and video bios). Try swapping the monitor for another, as that should be an easy fix. If you run Windows, try a linux live CD, as that will have entirely different graphics driver stack from Windows. All else fails, by a DIFFERENT card, then a DIFFERENT mobo.

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+1 for helpful advice, althought it didn't ultimate help. –  Ira Baxter Jun 11 '10 at 21:37

As you say, its unlikely that you have 2 broken video cards, having said that if I had seen this problem without knowing you had done that, then I would have said it was a graphics card problem.

It could be a drive issue, although you would expect that to manifest more than every couple of days. You can try updating the drivers to the latest ones, or try rolling back your machine to a time when it was working, if you have system restore availbile.

That then leaves either the PSU or the Motherboard. In a normal PC, a PSU is an easy swap out, and one of the cheapest options, but I guess if your dell uses one of Dells funky sized PSUs you may have an issue there. It may be worth just trying a normal PSU and leaving it outside the case, to see if it solves the issue.

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+1 for helpful advice, although I was too lazy to go further on the swapouts. We just retired the machine. –  Ira Baxter Jun 11 '10 at 21:37

If it is several years old, it is no longer high end. Old Dell components are relatively cheap on the second-hand market, so I wouldn't dismiss the idea of replacing the motherboard. You also have to consider the economics of your time reinstalling all the software on a new system.

Have you reseated all the components and removed all the dust?

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Thoroughly cleaned the machine and checked all the components several times even before replacing the video card. –  Ira Baxter Oct 8 '09 at 13:04
    
+1 for helpful advice. We just retired the machine. –  Ira Baxter Jun 11 '10 at 21:38

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