My computer died earlier today. I was watching some streamed video on one monitor and attempted to load up a video game on the other. As I was doing so, my monitor displayed some artifacting I've never seen before and promptly died. When I attempted to reboot, the computer simply wouldn't POST. Tested RAM first, shuffled the sticks around and finally got the computer to display, but now Windows couldn't boot.

Booted just fine without GPU's so I wiped the drivers with DDU and rebooted. I can run one of my monitors off of one of my GPU's with drivers, no problem. Yet when I install drivers, the computer will POST, but Windows will be unable to boot and will kick me to the recovery options screen.

Somewhat randomly, I will receive notifications of stop codes and will just have to wait until it manages to let me boot up in safe mode.

What's the deal here? Why can I use my GPU's and run my monitors off of their display ports with no drivers installed, but with drivers installed I cannot boot? I have tried rolling back to old drivers with no success.

Tested both cards individually in both ports, together without SLI, and together with SLI, and everything displays the same behavior. Could both of my GPU's have died at the exact same time? Is this behavior even consistent with dead GPU's in the first place? I'm pretty stumped here and any input would be very much appreciated.

  • Drivers allow hardware features to be used, but the hardware can be functional, but when those features are used a fault can occur. What you describe is entirely possible – Ramhound Feb 25 '18 at 5:42

Without driver support you are limited to a software driven display that is little more than a framebuffer being written out via the display device. This will (mostly) avoid the graphics card RAM and may only use one tiny piece of the GPU to write the framebuffer out to your display.

Once you install the drivers Windows will see a valid 3D capable device and will start using it accordingly. Your desktop windows are drawn and rendered to graphics RAM, when you drag a window it will be using GPU functions to move and composite the window and show windows on top of each other.

Without drivers Windows effectively bypasses almost all of the GPU. With drivers it is attempting to use the GPU and failing.

It seems very odd that both cards failed at the same time but it is not outside the realms of possibility. It almost sounds like a power supply failure.

This is only a guess but it could be that your power supply 12V_GPU regulator has failed. Without drivers your GPUs would effectively start in their "dumb display" modes, drawing power from the motherboard PCIe power lines and not fully powering up the GPU. Once you install drivers they do their initialization on the card including starting up the GPU VRMs. If that fails then the card won't work and you get a dead display.

The PSU would be my first guess for replacement here but I could be wrong and it could well be that both GPUs failed catastrophically at the same time, it's just not as likely.

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