Video card flaked out…

Performance on my desktop system has been quite problematic lately… Usually things worked OK but sometimes the mouse would just freeze. Sometimes when it would happen the IDE light would be on steady for a few seconds. Light on or not, after a few seconds the system would start responding again like nothing happened. My experience in the past suggested this was due to a sector going bad on the hard drive and it would be reported in the WinXP system log, but, the log didn’t mention any problems. I did full chkdsk (including media test) but that reported no problems.

I started to suspect a rogue process, but, rebooting didn’t matter so I uninstalled a ton of software and then checked the process list, nothing abnormal running. Problems would still occur when I killed all “extra” processes.

Another very annoying symptom was that when I played games there would VERY frequently pause for no reason, sound often stuttering repeatedly. This made almost all games completely unplayable.

So I started wondering if maybe my RAM was bad (or maybe an IDE cable?) I doubted both of these because the system didn’t lock up completely, just freeze for some seconds at a time. I would think bad RAM or cable would be more likely to cause crashes. The last thing to check was to see if maybe one of my RAM modules was bad (there are two modules) so I decided to remove one of them and test the system. I removed one DIMM and then I was getting very flaky video right from the self test screen. STRANGE! This occurred no matter what memory configuration I had installed and in what slots. So I admitted defeat for the night and turned off the system.

This morning I decided to change video cards (from a new ATI Radeon 9800 Pro to an old GeForces 2 MX400). What do you know, it appears the flaky video problem that started last night cleared up and games run without stutter. I haven’t used the system long enough to see if that was the whole problem, but, it appears it is.

Where does all this leave me? Either my Radeon 9800 Pro is completely hosed (and has just been getting worse) or my motherboard (Gigabyte 7N400Pro2 v2.0, latest firmware) has some odd compatibility issue with my Radeon 9800 board. Some searching usenet suggests a few things to try: changing AGP from 8x to 4x, disabling the “SmartFan” option in the BIOS, and getting a bigger power supply. I will likely try these, but, my guess is that the video card is now toast. This is odd because it is a pretty new card, but, we’ll see.

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