Author Topic: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?  (Read 17051 times)

eostache

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Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« on: August 07, 2014, 09:59:29 AM »
Five or six times so far, after at least two hours or more of operation, the screen on my desktop PC computer becomes horizontally scrambled and freezes.

No pointer is visible and it does not appear to be receiving keyboard input (I havenít thought to try doing cntl-alt-delete to see if I get a blue screen, even a scrambled one; this would tell me if the computer, or at least the graphics operation, is responding to keyboard input. Iíll try this when it fails again, which may be any minute now.).

A white noise ďhumĒ accompanies the screen freeze.

A hard reboot is required; after boot up everything functions normally for a while until it does it again, which is typically after another ten or fifteen minutes.

So far I have tried the following without success:

I have verified that the display adaptor driver is up to date.
I have done a system restore to a point prior to this problem (the problem persists).
I have uninstalled Norton and installed AVG.
Did not update to the latest version of Java after the restore. (Java has been updating nearly daily).
Verified that the monitor itself is working fine (it is).
Checked system reliability under ďView Reliability HistoryĒ, which only indicates that Windows did not shut down properly several times. I canít find anything that would tell me why, but Iím not familiar with the Reliability History feature.


Dell Inspiron
Windows 7 Home Premium edition
Amd Athlon II X2 240 2.80 GHz processor
4 GB RAM
Display adaptor is an ATI Radeon HD 4200

I suspect the problem is an overheating graphics card or some similar hardware problem. I canít see, though, that this computer has a separate graphics card, it appears that the graphics hardware is integrated into the motherboard.

Brookston

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2014, 10:31:16 AM »
Sounds like you have Dell Inspiron 570, is this correct?

First thing to do is unplug everything from the computer tower, take the tower outside, remove the side panel and use compressed air to get all the dust and debris out of the fans and off the motherboard. It does sound like it may be an over heating issue so getting dust out is important. 

Next try using a different monitor cable and power cable. I once got a "broken" $1200 NEC monitor for free and it turned out the problem was with the $2 cable. 

If it's still happening borrow another monitor so you know for sure the problem is in the computer and not the monitor itself. 

If it's still happening with the new monitor then it's either a power problem or a video card problem.  If you do have the Inspiron 570 you should have 1 free PCIe x16 expansion slot you can plug a video card into. 20 bucks from amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Gateway-FX4200-Radeon-256-bit-6008202R/dp/B00HW27462/ref=sr_1_1?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1407428864&sr=1-1&keywords=pcie+ATI+Radeon+HD+4200

If that doesn't work you can try testing the power supply if you know someone with a volt meter and some electronics experience. Or spend another 20 bucks on a new power supply.  Make sure the old one is removable first.

Hope that helps.

naloj

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2014, 11:18:27 AM »
I would definitely make sure that the cable is tightly connected on both the computer and the monitor as sometimes a loose cable can cause the symptoms you described.

Also, manually run Windows Update and look in the Optional column for video card driver updates.  If there's none available go to support.amd.com and downloaed the latest.

Otherwise, I would try downloading and running the free version of of memtest86 from memtest86.com.  Integrated graphics typically use onboard RAM so if your memory is bad then it will cause graphics glitches.

Taranis

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2014, 11:30:46 AM »
Sounds like your video card may be overheating. Check in the Catalyst Control Center to see if there is an option for manual fan speed control, and if so, manually set it to a higher rate and see if it stops freezing after that.

Left

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2014, 11:36:42 AM »
hm, i doubt this is the problem but i got it playing computer games in the past that sounds like this :S do you have enough ram? If you updated windows lately, there might be another bug that ties up ram (known to happen in past with microsoft). So the computer can't keep up with processing data to send to graphic card (not sure how to describe this in computer terms)

but you can check how much ram is being tied it fairly easily using task manager

Jack

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2014, 12:02:53 PM »
While you've got your computer open to blow the dust out, check for bad capacitors on the video card. (The issue could also be due to bad capacitors in the power supply or the monitor, but I think those things can hold enough residual charge to be hazardous to mess with.)

eil

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2014, 12:22:04 PM »
A crashing computer can be caused by darn near anything. If somebody brought the machine to me in this condition, I would try these things, in this order:

- Clean out the fans and heat sinks as previously recommended. Reseat the RAM, video card, and all other connectors.
- Run memtest86+ overnight (free: http://www.memtest.org/)
- Run spinrite (not free: https://www.grc.com/sr/spinrite.htm)
- Make sure all hardware drivers are up to date
- Try a different video card for awhile.
- If there is one stick of RAM, swap it out with another. If there are two, remove one and run for awhile. Then swap in the other and run it for awhile.
- Back up your data (which you don't have to do, because you already do regular backups, right?), wipe the disk, and reinstall Windows

At the end of this, if the computer still glitches regularly and nothing has changed as a result of the work above, it's time for a new computer.

eostache

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2014, 02:08:51 PM »
Thanks for all the suggestions. We will try some of them out.

What is the usual life span for a computer? We bought this one in Nov 2010 from Dell, ~$350 for just the tower.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2014, 11:56:20 AM »
It sounds like a bad video card or bad video card driver if the whole computer locks up like that.  Update the driver, dust out your computer, and see if things improve.

There's not a whole lot of things that will kill a computer permanently.  I've still got a working Dell from the late 90's under my desk at home, working as a file server.  Dust and other stuff (e.g. tobacco smoke) *can* gunk up a computer, causing parts to overheat and fail.

The whole bad capacitors fiasco ended several years ago, so that's not likely to be an issue nowadays.  Only the big high-voltage capacitor inside your power supply is dangerous, and you shouldn't need to crack that open. 

gimp

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2014, 11:57:04 AM »
I have experience in the industry (from the side that designs things - worked/working for an ODM and OEM).

The bathtub curve. Oh, the bathtub curve. Basically, parts have a high infant mortality; this is why they get burned in before being shipped, so that a lot of the infant mortality happens in the factory / etc. Sometimes you will still see it, especially from cheaper vendors using cheaper parts. After this, your failure rate is very low until a certain amount of time at which point things start breaking because parts were only designed to live about that long.

For CPUs, that number is 7 years.

For other parts, that number is higher or lower.

The weakest link tends to govern how long your computer lives. The cheaper the computer, the cheaper the weakest link. It's rare for it to be a CPU these days - I don't know AMD's bathtub curve, but Intel's 7 years is pretty generous. That's 7 years running at 105C, last I checked, which was admittedly a few years ago. But capacitors tend to be weak points... caps in your power supply and the system won't boot, caps on your motherboard and the system won't POST, caps on your video card and the card goes wonky or doesn't work, blah, blah, blah. Then there are the more heavily-used components like hard drive controllers, blah blah, that are always on and unlike a CPU don't have a high dynamic range. And the RAM, oh god the RAM, a single chip failing just a little causes entire systems to not boot or be very wonky, and you have to diagnose which stick is failing and remove/replace it. Easy to do but hard to figure out if you're not aware of the symptoms.

This is a very long way of saying:

- It depends on your luck
- It depends on how much the system cost
- It depends on how good the OEM is at selecting good parts
- It depends on how well you take care of it.

I expect all my gear to live at least five years. My laptop is still alive five years later, and still a beast of a machine. My HP tower before that died after five years because HP is a piece of shit company making piece of shit gear (see point 3). On the other hand, I expect my current PC to last (with upgrades) 10 years or so. Why? Because I bought top of the line, including cooling, and don't push things to run hot 24/7.

$350 in 2010 from Dell I would expect to be barely alive in 2014. Dell's budget line is a real piece of shit, but to be fair, that's true for everyone's budget line. The problem is that the margins are just too slim, so corners are cut. I'd much rather buy a device that costs $200 to manufacture for $350, than a device that costs $325 to manufacture for $350, because while I'd get more for my dollar from the latter, the former would have much better quality control because those margins allow for good quality control. And good design and manufacture and parts selection.

eostache

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2014, 09:36:37 PM »
Things kept going dowmhill for this computer. It stopped recognizing the mouse and keyboard input. So we assumed the motherboard is gone. I talked to the IT guy at my workplace about it and that's what he thought too. Not much use putting a $200 MB into this machine.

This is/was my bf's primary computer. I told him to use my laptop now. I haven't used it much since I got a Chromebook. So he's been setting it up with his monitor and external keyboard and liking the idea of a more portable machine.


On another computer note but somewhat related since the CB is becoming my primary machine at home now: I'm thinking about dual booting my Chromebook with Ubuntu (Chrubuntu) so I can run QGIS. I'm a total Linux newbie and not very techy. Can someone point me towards a website with tutorials newbies could understand?

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2014, 06:40:46 AM »
On another computer note but somewhat related since the CB is becoming my primary machine at home now: I'm thinking about dual booting my Chromebook with Ubuntu (Chrubuntu) so I can run QGIS. I'm a total Linux newbie and not very techy. Can someone point me towards a website with tutorials newbies could understand?
It all depends on what you want to do with the laptop.  Just google "ubuntu tutorial <topicname>" and you'll probably find what you want.

DarinC

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2014, 10:43:59 AM »
Can you loop an mp3 through a music player that allows keyboard shortcuts? When it freezes, you can determine if the systems is halting completely, still working but not accepting inputs, or if it's just the display adapter going wonky.

Which chromebook do you have?

eostache

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2014, 08:47:03 PM »


Which chromebook do you have?

Acer C720P Touchscreen. I've only had it a few weeks. Happy with it so far.

DarinC

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2014, 09:58:52 PM »
Cool beans. Installing *nix is pretty straightforward for newer models like that since they have a seabios installed from the factory.

You can install from within chrome.

http://chromeos-cr48.blogspot.com/2013/10/chrubuntu-for-new-chromebooks-now-with.html

Or just enable the seabios, boot from a usb/cd/sdhc and install any distro like you would with a normal computer.

LennStar

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2014, 12:14:06 AM »
For me it sounds like the graphic part is slowly going to heaven. Had the same (first slightly errors on screen, then getting more in one case, in another the freezing at high demand).

I dont think your cheap board will have good sensors, but you can try to download
GPU-Z (CPU-Z the same for CPUs ;)) and have it shown heat stats.
You can also download Furmark and use its burn-in test to see if you can repeatedly provoke the problems with the burn-in test.
To test the RAM, there is memtest86 - you burn it on an CD, boot from the CD and let it run for a night. If it shows an error (in your case there likely should be an error after a few minutes if you have problems so often), you have a culprit. Then test the RAMs single.

That is after you have cleaned the dust ;)

Apart from that computer problems can, as someone wrote, be caused by nearly everything, including a bad windows (the error can have its root cause months back). The only way to get definite results is to change every part one after the other. Ask a friendly geek/gamer if they can spare a GPU for a day to test, its likely they have an "old" one. I still have one of the slightly broken for test purposes or as a substitute if the current gets broken, since it works fine as long as you dont stress it.

Daley

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2014, 08:52:12 AM »
LennStar has some good advice, but I think a bit more than just the graphics card is at play.

The system should be cracked open and the capacitors inspected on the motherboard (and in the power supply if possible to do safely - don't crack open the PSU unless you know what you're doing or you could physically hurt yourself) before determining it's a write-off... not just cleaned of dust bunnies. Something about the symptoms doesn't entirely sit right with my gut as being a system that needs to just be tossed on the scrap heap of history. It's possible the graphics card might be failing, but more likely it would be the power supply given the advancing symptoms (freezing from graphics card, USB input failure). This is a $40 fix if a proprietary PSU isn't used by the manufacturer. It cold be fixed for less, but if you're going to fix something, do it right. That means buying a quality power supply. The price difference between a crappy $25 PSU and a decent quality Corsair is $15-20, and the Corsair would likely out-survive the rest of the system to help keep another computer operational, and result in better stability.

sleepyguy

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Re: Scrambled screen. Video card problem?
« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2014, 08:54:37 AM »
Generally it's gonna be 3 things.

1. video card issue
2. mother capcacitor issue
3. power supply unit issue

easiest test is to try an extneral video card and see how it turns out.  if it's fine then it's the video

gonna be hard to test the other 2 without multiple spare stuff available, but you can check for "bulging' leaking capacitors on the motherboard.

3 is mostly unlikely because your system is still booting so, mostly likely it's 1 or 2.