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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Speckles, Crashes, etc. in Windows 7 Media Center


OK, so I need a hero right now. I'm having graphics issues with my custom media center (no gaming whatsoever) running Windows 7 Ultimate RTM. I've tried everything I can think of over the last few weeks, all to no avail. No matter what I do, at least one of the following eventually happens, according to the rough probabilities noted:


1) It always reaches a state where the screen is lightly speckled, progressing to heavier speckles, and eventually to near total distortion (note that sometimes, however, it will jump straight to the total distortion phase and sometimes, the blue screen mentioned in #3 will occur before the speckles begin).

2) It often pops up the tray notification about the display driver stopped responding and has recovered.

3) It sometimes results in a blue screen (usually after speckling a while, but sometimes beforehand) mentioning that an attempt to reset the display driver and recover from timeout failed and referencing nvlddmkm.sys.

4) It occasionally causes the screen to randomly flicker / flash.

5) It rarely causes the screen to black out, sometimes coming back on and sometimes not.


The issues most commonly occur while displaying the Favorites slideshow (i.e. Win7 Media Center's screen saver) or while displaying the Now Playing collage of album art. Interestingly enough, though, it hasn't ever started during a movie, even a Blu-Ray or HD DVD.


I've tried three different graphics cards (8500GT, 8600GT, 9500GT) to drive my HDTV through my receiver via component video (I have no HDMI devices) and to drive my front panel via VGA (my case has a touchscreen display on the front). I should note that when each card is first installed, I get an initial error about how my video may not work as expected since I have less than 64 MB video RAM (I don't remember the exact message), but that's obviously not accurate. I just click OK, move on, and it never shows again until I install a different card.


I've also tried using a 7300GS in conjunction with with one of the main cards and drove the front panel off this separate card. I hoped this might take some load off the main card if that was somehow a problem (don't know why it would have been, but was getting desperate). It didn't fix the problem coming out of the main card, but I was at least able to conclude that the issue doesn't affect the front panel if it's running off a separate card, but that both screens are affected when one card is doing double duty.


Anyway, here are the specific graphics card models I've tried:


1) 8600GT: eVGA 256-P2-N753-TR 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 (ordered a couple weeks ago to convert this box into a media center; this PC was originally built as a home automation server, and all other hardware components below are holdovers from when I originally built the PC for that purpose)

2) 8500GT: MSI NX8500GT-MTD256EH 256MB 128-bit GDDR2 Silent Heatsink (took out of my modified HP z558 to try)

3) 9500GT: Galaxy 95TGE8HUFEXX 1GB 128-bit DDR2 (went out and bought at Best Buy just to make sure this wasn't an 8-series issue)

4) 7300GS: XFX PVT72GWANG 256MB 64-bit GDDR2 (the one I used back when this was just a home automation server)


And here are my other hardware components:


1) Case: Moneual MonCaso 932B Black Aluminum 7" Touch Screen ATX

2) Power Supply: Scythe Kamariki 2 KMRK-450A-2 450W ATX12V

3) Motherboard: eVGA 122-CK-NF68-AR Intel LGA 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX

4) Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz LGA 775 65W

5) Memory: Corsair XMS2 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit

6) Hard Drive: Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB 10000 RPM SATA 1.5Gb/s 3.5"

7) Optical Drive: LG GGW-H20L Super-Multi Blu-ray Disc Burner & HD DVD Drive SATA Lightscribe

8) Display: Pioneer Elite PRO-710HD 64 Reference Monitor (at least it used to be a reference model )

9) Receiver: Pioneer Elite VSX-49Txi THX Ultra 2 A/V i-Link Receiver


So what else have I tried (other than that mentioned above)? Well, I failed to take good notes along the way, but minimally, these efforts come to mind, and none of the efforts resulted in any substantial change to the system's behavior pattern:


1) Installed old and new drivers ranging from version 181.71 to the latest version 190.62; also tried the version that came on each included installation CD; used Driver Sweeper between attempted version.

2) Have tried with one card doing double duty and have tried with separate cards driving the two displays; either way, the displays are used in extended desktop mode; each display has been tried as the primary.

3) Have tried all three PCI-E x16 slots; the 8500GT, 8600GT, or 9500GT, whichever was in at the time, has definitely been tried in all three slots; didn't try the 7300GS in all slots, but that's likely irrelevant.

4) When only using one card, have tried it with and without the front panel being active; have tried it with the front panel turned off via the display settings and have also tried it disconnected altogether.

5) Originally had the 64-bit version of Windows 7 RTM installed; thought it might be a 64-bit driver issue, so I even did a clean install using the 32-bit version of Windows 7 RTM, but there was no improvement.


And with that HELP!!! I've wasted enough time trying to solve this. It shouldn't be this difficult, so I know one of you out there has a magic bullet for me, so please hurry and fire it my way!
 

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I've just read 52 comments about your motherboard and being very buggy / glitchy, it's also been discontinued. I'd say update your BIOS asap if you haven't already. A lot of users were complaining about RAM issues with this motherboard. The northbridge seems to have an issue with overheating as well. Don't overclock the mobo at all, check the voltages on all the PCIe slots and RAM slots, it may not be delivering enough juice to the GPU when doing 2 display outs.


I'd also consider just trying windows XP 32-bit and see if you get the same results. If you are swapping OS's and still have the same problems, it's clearly hardware - being as you've tried the obvious (GPU's) next cheapest is RAM, then the motherboard. Start with the free stuff (OS) then work your way up.
 

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Speckles are usually indicative of GPU issues, specifically the memory on the graphics card. However, since you've tried different cards with similar results, my thought would definitely be the motherboard and the entire chipset/PCIe subsystem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Sorry for the delayed update, but it looks like soulrider had the magic bullet indeed. I wanted to be sure the system remained stable for a week before celebrating publicly, but now I'm comfortable saying that... yep, all it took was the motherboard BIOS update. Not sure why I never felt compelled to try that amidst everything else I was trying, but I certainly didn't. Anyway, that's it. That's all I had to do... just updated the BIOS and it's been running perfectly ever since. So, thanks again for all the help. I've definitely found more answers on this site over the years than on any other board, and I'm happy to say that you've come through for me again!



Two relatively trivial caveats:


1) I DID get the error about the video card only having 64MB RAM one more time, but only the first time I started up after updating the BIOS. I just ignored it as usual and haven't seen it since.


2) I ALSO got one more error about the driver stopped responding, but only while running the Windows Experience Index... after which, by the way, my desktop graphics went up almost a point and my gaming graphics went up by more than a point from what they were before the BIOS update.



And two more quick questions:


1) Do you think I should also do the nForce motherboard update now... or should I just leave well enough alone?


2) Also, I noticed that Realtek drivers were listed for my onboard sound, but I thought I had Azalia HD. Is Azalia HD just a standard that Realtek builds to, or do they have the wrong driver listed?
 
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