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Question on reinstalling XP

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
Ok- I got a new computer a few months back, but it's been having a lot of trouble running games, and it's gotten pretty much unplayable recently (though other programs still work fine). I'm thinking about trying a clean Windows install before I start buying new hardware in the hope that it will get fixed.

However, all I have from my company is a restore disc, and not an actual XP disc. This is for XP home edition. My question is, should I format my hard drive before restoring, or do restore discs typically need a pre-existing version of windows to roll things back?

Also, if anyone has any tips on troubleshooting game crashes, they'd be appreciated. I've got all the latest DirectX and drivers for my machine, but the games I've tried (Pirates, Oblivion, Silent Hill 2, FEAR) still lock up frequently. That's a wide array of games, and even though Oblivion is pretty demanding, I have the recommended specs so it should run at least decently.

Normally I can get an hour or two from Oblivion which, ironically, is better than Pirates or Silent Hill. FEAR is pretty random when it crashes. I generally get a blue screen telling me that it's caused by the nv4 video driver, so there might be a problem with the video card. However, Pirates has given errors that it could not initialize DirectX, so maybe that's causing problems as well.

Anyhow, my specs are:
AMDx2 3800
450 watt PSU
1 gb Kingston hyperDDR
NVidia GeForece 6800xt

If anyone needs any more information, just ask! Thanks!
 

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Redrobes

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
should I format my hard drive before restoring
No definitely not. A restore disk needs most of the OS installed.

Your problems sound like video card or video driver related. Im guessing that your machine works ok the rest of the time.

Ideally you should thrash different aspects of the video card and see where it hangs. Im guessing that it will be with the 3D bits since the driver and DirectX both show issues but it could be in both 2D and 3D. Anyway, it sounds like a memory issue with your video card.

It could be also be getting too hot. Theres usually some utilities to measure the current GPU temperature so run up some demanding app like a 3D benchmark and watch the temperature without taking the case apart or modifying your setup. I would say after about 80 deg C your pushing it but some people think that you can go a bit higher.

Get the case apart and check that your fan is still turning OK on the card and blow out the dust being careful not to damage the card (Physically or via a static electricity shock - hold on to the chassis with a spare hand with the mains power lead plugged into the wall and PC but switched off at the wall mains outlet - i.e. Earth still connected).

DirectX is intimately involved with your graphics card. Its more than just a bit of software - most of it will be running on the video card itself.

I would hold off reinstalling the OS and keep looking at video card issues for a while. Reinstalling the OS can be a world of pain if not done with some thought, consideration or experience.

I dont have any firm tips except to try and run your games with the case side off and see if it still locks up. If it does not then its probably temperature. Also google for an NVidia card RAM checker. There might be one out there, I dont know for sure tho but it does not sound like an impossible app to write.
 
Last edited:

XCorvis

First Post
Redrobes said:
No definitely not. A restore disk needs most of the OS installed.

Er, since when? Usually a restore disk works by wiping your hard drive as the first step, then loading a preconfigured OEM version of Windows, complete with loads of crap demo software.

Redrobes said:
Your problems sound like video card or video driver related. Im guessing that your machine works ok the rest of the time.

Agreed. I would reinstall drivers first. Reinstalling Windows means reinstalling drivers plus everything else. In the worst case, at least you'll get some practice with it.

Check your motherboard manufacturer for software updates and BIOS updates (optional).
Check your video card manufacturer for software updates. If you still have trouble, go to Nvidia and download their drivers.
Make sure you're on DirectX 9.0c.

If you do crack your case and blow out the fans and heatsinks, make sure you put your finger on the fan to keep it from spinning. It's possible to damage the fan by blowing it up to a faster RPM than it is made to handle. (Unlikely, but why risk it?) I also recommend taking the card out to do that.
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
Thanks for the tips so far!

My main concern with the restore disc was that older stuff might clutter it up. If it seems like it will delete older files itself if it needs to, then I'm probably better off leaving things as they are.

A few other notes:

When I first started getting problems I downloaded NVTemp logger and use that to monitor crashes. I've never seen a GPU temp above 70 C. The case temp usually averages about 33 C. I'll try with the side off, but the case already has a side fan in addition to the PSU fan.

I'm checking for a RAM tester right now, so I'll have to take things apart later. If it is a video card defect, it should still be under warranty, so I've at least got that going for me. As for drivers, I've tried about four different versions (for both video and mb) since this began, running driver cleaner each time I switched. It's definately a problem under different driver versions.

The last thing I tried was disabling the sound in BIOS, since I'd heard that AC97 can produce problems. That didn't help, either.
 

reanjr

First Post
Sounds like typical garden variety bad video drivers. Where did you get the latest drivers from? Do you have the latest NVidia detonator drivers or ones supplied by MS on Windows Update? MS drivers tend to be MUCH more stable than NVidias, though you might lose some performance and (unlikely) some advanced features.
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
I've tried drivers alternately from the Nvidia site and the manufacturer (EVGA) site. I hadn't thought to try MS's drivers, I'll do that tonight, thanks.

What do you mean by "detonator drivers"? I've never heard the term before.
 

Rackhir

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
I've tried drivers alternately from the Nvidia site and the manufacturer (EVGA) site. I hadn't thought to try MS's drivers, I'll do that tonight, thanks.

What do you mean by "detonator drivers"? I've never heard the term before.

"Detonator" is just simply the "nickname"/Marketing name for nVidia's unified driver package. If you've downloaded the drivers off of their website then you have the "detonator" drivers.
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
I gotcha, thanks. That would be what I have then.

It's funny, I'd always assumed the company drivers would be better than microsoft's. I didn't even know they put out their own 3D drivers.
 

Rackhir

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
I gotcha, thanks. That would be what I have then.

It's funny, I'd always assumed the company drivers would be better than microsoft's. I didn't even know they put out their own 3D drivers.

I don't believe that MS does make their own 3d card drivers. Most likely they are a simplified or stripped down version of the manufacture's drivers.

Question -

Have you deleted or uninstalled the old drivers before installing the new drivers? Or did you just install the drivers over the old ones. If the later is the case you might want to try uninstalling the old drivers before installing the new ones.

As Always make SURE your important data is backed up BEFORE screwing around with your system like this.
 

reanjr

First Post
Rackhir said:
I don't believe that MS does make their own 3d card drivers. Most likely they are a simplified or stripped down version of the manufacture's drivers.

That's correct except I always figured they were the last "good" version of the company's drivers. That was the case when I had to use the Windows Update service to fix my GeForce 4 from outputting S-Video in B&W only. I literally spent almost a year with no idea why it wasn't working. Faulty drivers were not even a thought as everything else worked fine and I had the latest from the manufacturer.

I didn't use it very often but then I installed a different OS and it was in color so I went back to Windows and started poking around. Finally I remembered the nagging Windows Update for my video card that I always ignored because it was an older, "worse" version. I took MS's advice, and voila, working S-Video.

I take Windows Update's advice more seriously nowadays and while I don't install everything they offer, I do keep it in mind when something goes wrong.
 

drothgery

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
I gotcha, thanks. That would be what I have then.

It's funny, I'd always assumed the company drivers would be better than microsoft's. I didn't even know they put out their own 3D drivers.

IIRC, They don't. But the drivers on Windows Update/Microsoft Update are the last build that's been through testing at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WinHQL for short).
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
Rackhir said:
Have you deleted or uninstalled the old drivers before installing the new drivers? Or did you just install the drivers over the old ones. If the later is the case you might want to try uninstalling the old drivers before installing the new ones.

I've been using Driver Cleaner between each switch, it clears out pretty much everything. It even scours the CAB files.
 

ssampier

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
Ok- I got a new computer a few months back, but it's been having a lot of trouble running games, and it's gotten pretty much unplayable recently (though other programs still work fine). I'm thinking about trying a clean Windows install before I start buying new hardware in the hope that it will get fixed.

However, all I have from my company is a restore disc, and not an actual XP disc. This is for XP home edition. My question is, should I format my hard drive before restoring, or do restore discs typically need a pre-existing version of windows to roll things back?


Generally speaking most restore discs is simply an "image". It does not "roll" anything back. Usually the system restore cd partitions the drive, formats the partition, and restores the image. Your data and Windows settings are good as gone.*

*Technically you can restore some or all of it since a format does not write over your data, but don't count on it.
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
Well, I've got my data backed up on a secondary drive, so that's not a problem. I just didn't know if formatting first would mess up the restore process. Since it seems like it'll format itself, I won't worry doing it beforehand.

I Googled around for some diagnostics last night and played around a little with PassMark. It came up with some video display errors, saying that there was corrupt video RAM. However, according to the programmers on the boards, the test is picky enough that a few corrupt video RAM errors are common. Which of course isn't really helpful in determining whether my video RAM is really bad or not.

I also searched on the error code that has been coming up on the BSOD, and found a tweak to change in boot.ini that supposedly causes the error in processors that are 64 bit compatible. I made the change, and it helped some, but I'm still got some program crashes, though they were crashes to desktop, I haven't seen BSOD again yet. So there's probably multiple things that are combining together to create these problems.

Later today I'm going to try the MS update drivers and also try some BIOS tweaks that I found on search. If those don't work, then it'll be time for the reinstall.

Thanks to everyone for their help so far!
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
Update:

Windows Update didn't come up with any drivers, nor did the restore disc have anything that windows would recognize. I can't seem to find any download section on the microsoft site that doesn't involve their own software.

Can someone tell me where I should be looking for the MS drivers?
 

Rackhir

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
Update:

Windows Update didn't come up with any drivers, nor did the restore disc have anything that windows would recognize. I can't seem to find any download section on the microsoft site that doesn't involve their own software.

Can someone tell me where I should be looking for the MS drivers?

Have you tried switching out the video card with a different one to see if it is a hardware problem? If you don't have one check with a friend. Someone should have one you can borrow to test it out with.
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
Rackhir said:
Have you tried switching out the video card with a different one to see if it is a hardware problem? If you don't have one check with a friend. Someone should have one you can borrow to test it out with.

Thought about it, but I'd have to find someone with more or less the same card. Otherwise, I'd be installing new 3D drivers to go with it, and then there'd still be no telling if it was hardware or the drivers. It would verify whether or not it's a DirectX problem, I suppose...
 

Rackhir

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
Thought about it, but I'd have to find someone with more or less the same card. Otherwise, I'd be installing new 3D drivers to go with it, and then there'd still be no telling if it was hardware or the drivers. It would verify whether or not it's a DirectX problem, I suppose...

Actually, nVidia uses a unified driver, ie. same drivers for pretty much all of their cards. So as long as it was a not horribly old nVidia card you shouldn't need to install new drivers.
 

reanjr

First Post
Byrons_Ghost said:
Update:

Windows Update didn't come up with any drivers, nor did the restore disc have anything that windows would recognize. I can't seem to find any download section on the microsoft site that doesn't involve their own software.

Can someone tell me where I should be looking for the MS drivers?

http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com

Once there - after it has scanned your machine - I think there are three update sections on the left: critical, software, and hardware. You want to click on hardware and see wwhat comes up.

You could also try uninstalling the video card driver and then restarting (or go to Add Hardware wizard) and letting the wizard search for drivers from Windows Update.

It's quite possible that MS does not have drivers for the card, especially if it is newer.
 

Byrons_Ghost

First Post
Update- the new drivers, plus the tweaks (adjusting memory settings and disabling Vsync) seem to have stabilized things. For instance, I could play Pirates for more than five minutes at a time. I think I'm going to let this ride for a while and see if it works before trying any other changes.

Thanks for everyone's help!

Side note- Pirates was my favorite game growing up, and I'm loving the updated version. It is my fond hope that, when I'm old and can barely leave the house, I'll still be able to play Pirates 2050 in a VR Carribean designed by Sid Meir's descendants. :p
 

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