Why does Bioshock make my WinXP computer completely shut off?
August 22, 2007 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Why does Bioshock make my WinXP computer completely shut off?

Recently installed Windows XP Pro, XFX Nvidia 7600GT, Athlon 64 X2 3800, 2GB RAM. All drivers up to date, new Nvidia Bioshock patch installed. All overheating-shutoff settings disabled in BIOS.

When I launch the Bioshock demo, I can't make it past the loading screen. Sometimes it happens at the credits, sometimes during loading, but it never makes it to the game engine. It's a complete shutdown - power off - no warning, no blue screen, no "last best settings" during boot, and no "system has recovered from a serious error" when it starts back up.
It doesn't happen during any other games, including HL2 and BF2. Since the reinstall, it does occasionally do this when booting Windows, after the WinXP logo, it just shuts off. Occasionally.
Twice now, instead of this complete shut down, when launching Bioshock, the video card has seemingly just shut down. The fan is still running, the computer is still running, but the monitor goes into sleep mode. Also, no sound is playing. This is leading me to believe it may be a video card issue.
Bioshock demo works great on the same system in Vista (dual-boot). But since XP is still my primary OS, I would like it to work there.

Any ideas?
Great game (so far), by the way.
posted by bradn to Computers & Internet (20 answers total)
I had random computer shut-down problems exactly like the one you're describing. It turned out to be a bad motherboard.
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:23 AM on August 22, 2007

Many many people are having similar problems with Bioshock :(
posted by Sufi at 7:33 AM on August 22, 2007

I know there's been quite a few issues in regards to Bioshock's (both the game and demo) stability. I chose to install the full game without upgrading the Nvidia drivers, and I've only encountered one to-desktop crash in about 5 hours of playing. You could try installing older drivers and seeing if maybe the patch was the problem.
posted by Meagan at 7:33 AM on August 22, 2007

Thanks, Sufi, I didn't realize that there were so many issues. I found it hard to search for any PC information because I kept getting results pertaining to the 360 version.
posted by bradn at 7:42 AM on August 22, 2007

Offhand, I'd guess it would be heat; that sounds like an emergency shutdown. But you say you've disabled all that, so my next guess would be an inadequate power supply. It might be enough most of the time, but Bioshock demands more of your system than any game ever has.

If your power supply is just barely coping, and then you start up this beast of a game, it's entirely possible your current draw jumps over what it can supply, and it's shutting down.

Third possibility would be some other bum component; your motherboard voltage regulators, for instance, might be inadequate to supply your video card running at full power.

Or, of course, it could be something trivial, like bad RAM.

Likely to be a major PITA to troubleshoot, I fear. :(
posted by Malor at 7:52 AM on August 22, 2007

I do see that the demo runs in Vista, which confuses me. Is it possible to install the game under Vista just to see what it does?
posted by Malor at 7:54 AM on August 22, 2007

Yeah, the whole "works in Vista" thing is quite confusing, and is what dissuaded me from suggesting a hardware problem. Then again, I've stayed away from Vista, so the issue might in fact be an XP-only hardware issue.
bradn, I think your best plan of action is simply to play the game on Vista for now, because at the current moment it's pretty hard to distinguish whether it's a Bioshock-caused issue or a hardware problem issue. Sorry I can't help more with resolving the problems the game has caused for XP.
posted by Meagan at 8:24 AM on August 22, 2007

I played through the entire demo in Vista without a hitch. Like I said, I would rather play it in XP, because that is what I use 90% of the time, but if I have to play it in Vista, I'll have to live with it.
posted by bradn at 8:30 AM on August 22, 2007

When windows gives that error it usually logs something in the event log. Are there any details? I'm sure its going to point to the video card but there might be more details.

There's an nvidia patch? I thought nvidia released a beta driver for this. Or are you referring to the same thing?
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:28 AM on August 22, 2007

Weird random shutdowns could be caused by power fluctuation or maybe your motherboard.
Sometimes, a combination of certain hardware, with a certain game creates weird random effects.
See if changing your board fixes the issue.
I had similar problems with Guild Wars freezing and rebooting my computer randomly. It fixed itself when I changed some hardware in my PC.
posted by PowerCat at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2007

I think Malor has it: your power supply is crowbarring.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:35 AM on August 22, 2007

ape - yes I meant the beta driver
posted by bradn at 9:43 AM on August 22, 2007

See Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Event Viewer and see if anything dodgy's being added to the System log, in XP and Vista. It's always a good idea to check from time to time, since it can show up filesystem corruption and failing hard disks, among other things.

The demo works fine in XP for me, fwiw; I'm running ForceWare 93.71 on a 7950GT and Opteron 185 (read: Athlon 64 X2 5200+) and I can't say I've noticed any glitching, never mind crashes. Presumably the latest beta drivers are mostly for GeForce 8 users.

Did you install the AMD Dual Core Optimizer thing? I seem to remember uninstalling that long ago because it caused *way* more problems (insta-reboots iirc) than it solved (none, as far as I could tell).
posted by Freaky at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2007

I had this problem with Oblivion when it came out.

Turns out, my power supply, which worked find most of the time, was simply not up to the task.

These kinds of problems typically stem from hardware: bad ram, weak power, bad mobo. It's rarely bad software that makes your computer just flip out and reboot.
posted by jaded at 10:46 AM on August 22, 2007

jaded, that's not entirely true; bad drivers, especially bad video or sound drivers, can cause the same behavior.

This article is an amazing intro to basic "My computer reboots when I play game 'x'" problems. Below is the easy-to-follow condensed version, although the article has more info and commands you can run if you're feeling adventurous.

Quickie version
Note: if you have mini-dump files from recent attempts in c:\windows\minidump, you can skip steps 1 and 2.
  1. Enable the mini-dump (Right click my computer, choose properties, go to Advanced and then "Startup and Recovery" and make sure the 64k minidump is selected)
  2. Start your game as normal, system will crash
  3. Download the windbg program (free) from Microsoft and install it. Takes just a couple of minutes, it's a quick install.
  4. Open the Windbg program, and choose File -> Open crash dump, and browse to the latest dump file in c:\windows\minidump\
WinDbg will churn the file, and amazingly will spit out output that at the bottom says a certain file is probably at fault. Do a search for that file on your machine, and it'll probably be a video driver.

An example I've seen with other people fairly often (as these things go) is with the nvmcp.sys driver. Do a google search on BSOD nvmcp.sys, and you'll see what I mean.
posted by hincandenza at 2:37 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh- forgot to mention the above obviously only works if you are in fact having a windows system crash (which the default settings don't show a blue screen of death any more, I believe- you'll want to look for the minidumps, or the System log events that suggest it recovered from a stop error).

And in any event, the best it'll tell you is that a specific driver is, in fact, likely at fault, and your only recourse is a driver update with the vendor.
posted by hincandenza at 2:41 PM on August 22, 2007

Hincandenza, it's hard to see how bad drivers could lead to a full unscheduled preemptory powerdown. A reboot is not the same.

An instantaneous unscheduled powerdown can't be a software reaction. It's got to be hardware -- and it's got to be the supply.

The only way I can see this happening is that the demo is maxing out the CPU, the display card, and probably the sound hardware all at the same time and the resulting demand for current is exceeding the ability of the power supply. Well designed switching supplies respond to this by shutting down, because if they don't they're going to smoke.

Among engineers, that's known as "crowbarring". It refers to the ultimate desperate (apocryphal) way of shutting down heavy machines: you throw a crowbar across the power lines to cause a short so that the main breaker throws.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:50 PM on August 22, 2007

"Peremptory", that should have been...
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:57 PM on August 22, 2007

I dont think its shutting down. I had a buggy board/card that did the same thing. The video system would crash taking out the monitor, but all the fans still ran. I imagine he's missing sound because he's probably taking directx down with it too. I'm sure its still running, but without video its not going to do much.

Still, I wouldnt be surprised if this is a power issue. Granted, it works in Vista, but who knows what this software does in XP. It just may make the card work harder. I wonder if he can load the HL2 HDR map and get similiar results.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:58 PM on August 22, 2007

Your machine doesn't have enough ADAM to adequately run Bioshock. Time to find some Little Sisters.
posted by nakedsushi at 5:45 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

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