Should I just DTMFcomputerA?
June 29, 2011 8:18 PM   Subscribe

My dad's desktop screen looks like a kaleidoscope...

My father uses an old desktop PC; that thing is probably around 7-8 years old. Old, but it works well enough for his needs--Youtube, MS Word, internet and email.

Three days ago, the colours of the screen turned incredibly splotchy and the resolution was something around 4-bit colour, 640x480. Device manager showed the driver for the graphics card (nVidia GeForce 7200, I think) was still installed.

I uninstalled the graphics driver, which sort of fixed the problem--everything looked normal. I reinstalled the driver and then ran into the following:

The motherboard has some integrated drivers (networking being the most significant, can't remember the others) that sort of bundled into a nVidia drivers bundle and uninstalled with the graphics driver. Okay. Reinstall motherboard drivers, okay. Reinstall the graphics card...the install ran okay, then I reboot, and then it either 1) freezes at the "Windows XP" screen, with the Windows XP graphic and the 'loading' bar underneath it was super faded and can barely see it, or 2) it just never loads Windows properly and keeps rebooting itself.

A few cold shutdowns and reboots and many uninstall/reinstalls later, Windows boots, an error message shows about Setup (for the graphics card) not installing/completing, but everything looks fine. Resolution adjusts fine. We shut down the computer for the night. Boot up again the next morning, the colours/resolution is back to its crappy state.

Safe mode, for the record, loads the colours properly.

I swapped out the graphics card for a spare Radeon X800GTO my boyfriend donated to the cause. I uninstalled the nVidia drivers--colours are now fixed. I installed the Radeon drivers (for the record, no error messages pops up, the install runs smoothly, and Windows boots without a hitch as opposed to the nVidia). Colours load fine, resolution adjusts...

...and then we shut it down for the night, boot it up again the next day, and you guessed it--the colours all died and resolution went with it.

To sum up:

It doesn't seem like it's a hardware problem, since the problem lasted through two video cards. (My father did a little parts-replacement wizarding on the nVidia a few months ago due to blown out capacitors, but the parts he replaced did not seem to affect performance for like 3 months and everything displayed properly, so don't think it's that. Especially since the problems lasted into the Radeon.) I've uinstalled/reinstalled the drivers for both video cards more times than I can count. Uninstalling the drivers of the current video card that's plugged in seem to fix the problem, and the fix lasts until the new drivers are installed. A restart post-installation is okay, but a full shutdown and a boot the next morning makes it all go wrong again. No newly installed programs that I know of, virus scan is okay, safe mode runs fine. I've swapped between two monitors (a regular computer monitor, and a monitor capable of watching TV on; both uses the default computer monitor plug and cable, but each had its own cable) to no effect.

Any ideas what the problem may be, Hive Mind?
posted by Hakaisha to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Have you tried installing the card in a different slot to see if that helps? Those sometimes go bad, too.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:05 PM on June 29, 2011

If you don't have an extra slot of the same type (it looks like it might be an AGP based on the video card models and computer year?), you could probably pick up a pci card for dirt cheap to test it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:17 PM on June 29, 2011

If the computer is 8 years old (and I'm assuming it probably wasn't a powerhouse even when it was new) you have to wonder whether it's worth all this time and effort to fix. You could probably buy a faster computer for about $100.

It seems like you've invested a lot of time trying to fix this. How much do you think your time is worth?
posted by WhitenoisE at 11:29 PM on June 29, 2011

If I were investigating this issue, the first thing I'd do is boot up with an Ubuntu live CD to find out whether video behavior was flaky outside a Windows environment. If it was, I'd be fairly sure I was looking at a hardware fault, and stop messing about with Windows driver installs. If it wasn't, I would also stop messing about with Windows driver installs (especially since, when the fault originally manifested, the Device Manager showed the correct driver still installed) and start looking for stuff that could affect driver settings.

I suspect that what you're seeing is a result of Windows not being able to load some driver referenced from HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet, and reacting to that by flipping CurrentControlSet to point to one of ControlSet001, ControlSet002 or ControlSet003 that it's not already using.

If it's really true that all he's using is Word, an email client and a web browser, your least time-consuming option is probably to back up all his stuff, then do a nuke-and-pave reinstall, then put his world back together from the backups. Should take about a day.
posted by flabdablet at 4:20 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think that this could be a hardware issue - on the motherboard itself. If the nuclear reinstall option doesn't fix things, I think that you might as well buy a spiffy new one.
posted by Citrus at 7:48 AM on June 30, 2011

Try uninstalling the drivers again, make sure you also use add/remove programs to zap the supporting nvidia/nforce/catalyst software.


Download and run Device Remover. Change the view to HIDDEN/DETACHED only. Select all and remove (answer yes to create a system restore point, just in case). This removal will usually fail on a RAS adapter, which is normal and can be ignored.


Re-install the latest nforce chipset and nvidia drivers for your motherboard. Ensure your monitor is set to the correct refresh rate (60hz is usually safe).


Since the system is old and has likely survived so long without being reformatted, grab a copy of CCleaner and perform a registry clean (save backups when prompted just in case) may need to perform the clean process 3-4 times to pick up on broken dependacies. Eventually it will return 0 results.
posted by samsara at 4:30 PM on June 30, 2011

Response by poster: Hi everyone--thanks tons for your input. Just thought to throw in an update for anyone who might have similar problems...

After doing registry cleaning and checking settings I was totally ready to nuke everything with a reformat or throw in the towel for a new computer, but my brother took over and after fiddling with the machine a few times, discovered the motherboard battery was dead.

Changed the battery, and presto. Everything's fixed, booted appropriate drivers in for the nVIDIA video card, and done. I haven't heard any complaints for three days now, hopefully it'll hold up.

Thanks again!
posted by Hakaisha at 1:25 PM on July 8, 2011

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