Several days ago, I began having crashes where my computer's screens (I have two) would go blank and the machine would be unusable. The screens wouldn't always be completely blank, they usually go white with vertical bars or blue with the bars, or sometimes they would be a completely blank white, or blue, or black. This was not a BSOD, there was no text, just random colored patterns. I am a fairly advanced computer user, so after the first crash I started trying to fix things.

First, I rebooted the computer and closed all unnecessary programs, leaving only a blank desktop. I let that run for about 15 minutes, then brought other programs online. That ran fine, so I resumed normal usage, hoping it was a one-time fluke. It wasn't. A while later, it crashed again in the same way.

Since I recently made some changes to the internals (removing an HDD, DVD burner, and card reader), I tried restoring it to the original condition, and plugged all those back in. No dice, crashes again. The first crash seemed to be a result of my mom accidentally unplugging my USB wireless adapter, so I messed with that, leaving it out, leaving it in, using a wired connection, etc. Still, crashes.

I thought it might be memory, so I tried reseating that and running a memtest. The test came up fine on all 8GB, so that isn't the problem. Next thing I think I'll try is using a different graphics card I have around, but I wanted to post here first and see if anyone knew anything.

A few other interesting/maybe important details: during one crash I was listening to music, and when the screen went blank, the music kept playing for a while before stopping. Also, the crashes seem to happen a lot when using a web browser, especially with 5-6+ tabs open. During another crash, I was working on a document in Notepad++. After rebooting post-crash, the document had changed to all NULs. The crashes seem to happen a lot after I've been using the computer for several hours. Then, once a first crash has happened, after rebooting, the crashes start coming a lot closer together.

This is a custom build, but I've had it about a year and as I said, the crashes only started a few days ago after removing some parts. With the HDD out, I'm now running only an SSD (OCZ Agility 3 90GB). The processor is an AMD Phenom II 555 Black, the two extra cores locked but the main two OCed to 3.7GHz. I've had the OC for a month or so now, no problems there (I've got a good cooler on it). Graphics card is a Sapphire Radeon HD 4650, all of this is attached to a Biostar A870U3 mobo running Win 7. Computer is a little over a year old.

I still haven't nailed down if this is software or hardware, so I'm going to try running Ubuntu for a while tomorrow. I don't think this is a virus, as I have good AV and haven't downloaded anything weird lately. This is really disruptive, and I hope someone here knows what's going on and can help.

Edit: I reseated the memory yesterday and had no crashes today. Maybe fixed? Hard to say, we'll see how it goes over a few more days of use.

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    Random stuff like this is usually memory or graphics card, in that order. – user3463 Oct 25 '12 at 22:59

Random colour patterns and graphics going crazy while music keeps playing usually points to a video adapter failure.

Ensure it's properly (re)seated and that any aux power is attached properly.

if there is on, check the video card fan for failure, and ensure the cooling unit is properly and firmly in place.

Beyond that, it's probably time to try a different video adapter for a while.

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  • thanks for your response, but I believe the problem was that my memory was going a bit wonky and just needed to be reseated (see my answer) – D. Strout Oct 25 '12 at 20:19

Still not entirely sure if the problem is fixed, but six days with no crashes would seem to indicate it is. The fix seemed to come from reseating my memory. I believe when I reseated the two DIMMs, I put them in opposite slots, for what that's worth. So, if anyone happens to be stumbling across this question and you're worried you might need a new graphics card, try reseating your memory first.

Edit: One month crash free.

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