Do I have the wrong graphics card for my system?
September 20, 2010 3:35 AM   Subscribe

Do I have the wrong graphics card for my system?

Earlier this month my Nvidia Geforce 9800 GT graphics card failed. I did a bit of research online for a replacement, but most of the technical information went over my head. And when I got down to the store, it was even harder to work out what I needed. The sales guy knew even less than I did, but we had the technical specifications of the old card as a guide so thought as long as we stuck to those we couldn't go far wrong.

The card I bought had slightly lower power consumption requirements but a bit more memory, and it fitted fine. (I forget the model but can update when I get home.) However, unlike the card I removed, it does not have its own powered cooling unit. (I didn't realise this at the point of purchase and to this day can't figure out how you are supposed to tell this from the packaging information.)

It works just fine most of the time but the PC will occasionally freeze during video and DVD playback (that's the only time I've known it to freeze). The only way to recover at this point is a hard restart.

I'm guessing the card is at fault, but don't know how to diagnose what exactly about the card is causing the problem. I don't even know what questions to ask. Can one of you technically minded Mefites please advise?
posted by londonmark to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
If it's a cooling problem, you can do some (rough) testing by taking off the computer's case and running it this way for a while. If you see a decrease in the number of crashes, you can look into cooling units.
posted by beerbajay at 3:52 AM on September 20, 2010

Those cards tend to also need a hookup from the PSU direct. They can't get enough power through the PCI-e slot directly. Is it plugged in?
posted by Biru at 5:11 AM on September 20, 2010

The cards that need a separate hookup will usually beep and not POST if they aren't hooked up.

Watch out for the advice to take the side cover off and test it that way. Many of the newer systems are now engineered so that the cover is part of the cooling system. Like, there are fans at the back that suck air out, and when the cover is installed, draw air in across a heatsink or hard drive. Remove the cover and this gets disabled.

Does the card have a heatsink at all? Unless something has changed, they have to have some kind of enhanced cooling going on. The GPU chips just get too hot to not have one.
posted by gjc at 5:17 AM on September 20, 2010

It is either a cooling issue or a power issue. It is possible that the card does not require external power but really pushes the edge of the PCI-e power specs. If your motherboard doesn't quite meet those specs then the card would be trying to draw more power than the motherboard can give it causing what you're describing. In this day and age, almost all graphics cards require some kind of external power so it is more likely that it is a cooling issue but we would need the model of card to be sure.

Assuming that it is a cooling issue, you could salvage the situation by replacing the stock heat sink or adding a generic case fan. The better solution is probably to return this card and let the hive mind give you some advice.
posted by VTX at 5:40 AM on September 20, 2010

Without knowing the exact model number, I can't really make a diagnosis. But I suggest updating your graphics drivers if you have not done so already (Drivers online are the most up to date ones)

That, or by accident you bought a graphics card that is supposed to be water cooled (you mention no powered cooling device, do you mean the whole card is covered in a heatsink?) and it's overheating.
posted by hellojed at 5:43 AM on September 20, 2010

What card do you have now?
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 8:08 AM on September 20, 2010

Asking us if you have the wrong graphics card without telling us which graphics card you have is a bit non-optimal. You're going to have to let us know which card you have.
posted by Justinian at 9:26 AM on September 20, 2010

I doubt it's the video card, or at least doubt it's heat related to the video card

DVD playback is literally nothing to a modern system. Pentium 3s 10 years ago were decoding this stuff in software. A passively-cooled modern video card, and by modern I mean in the last half-decade, wouldn't break a sweat. But MPEG2 decoding is very, very rarely hardware accelerated, because there's no point. At most, the best DVD playback software is getting hardware deinterlacing and maybe noise reduction.

I'd try updating/reinstalling drivers, try different playback software, then try a different task entirely. Got any 3D games or other video-intensive things to try, to see if the same issue occurs when doing something else that would put (much more) load on the video card?
posted by Rendus at 9:37 AM on September 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for your advice so far folks. My replacement model is the Geforce GT 240 if that helps?
posted by londonmark at 12:54 PM on September 20, 2010

Any particular brand? Usually it's the GeForce GT XXXX but made by Gigabyte etc.?
posted by lizarrd at 2:25 PM on September 20, 2010

A GT240 should have a cooling fan attached. Did this card come in a sealed box?
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on September 20, 2010

Ok, well the GT 240 as specified by Nvidia doesn't need supplementary power connectors, that doesn't mean, however, that VTX is wrong.

However, this has happened to me before and drivers usually fixes everything. Here is the link to Nvidia's driver download website.

Other than that, it may be overheating, which has many ways to be tested as mentioned above. There should be a system tool as most GPU's have the ability to report their temperature to the computer. Here is Nvidia's System Monitor tool download.

To try a completely different task that indeed tasks your video card and pushes it as far as it can go try: 3dmark 2006. It will run it through the hoops.
posted by lizarrd at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome, thanks. Can't remember the brand sorry, but that was part of what confused me. I thought I was buying Nvidia so to see what looked like the same model numbers in different boxes with different pictures threw me. But yes, it came sealed from a reputable retailer. It has a fan but no separate power connector, making it an inch or two shorter than the older model. I did make a point of getting the latest driver when I installed it, but will give it another go, and then put it through its paces and report back. Thanks again.
posted by londonmark at 12:17 AM on September 21, 2010

How are those paces going? Just wondering if you figured out what the problem was...
posted by lizarrd at 11:29 AM on September 24, 2010

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