Video card wtfery



  • Ok, this one made me say wtf out loud.  I am possibly including more detail than the story requires because I would be interested if someone could explain how this happened, or possibly tell me how I'm TRWTF.

     

    I was asked by a friend to fix their computer. The graphics card (Nvidia Geforce 5500 PCIe, old I know but still) had stopped sending a signal to the monitor. The monitor simply reported 'Signal out of range' whether the computer was switched off or not but the system was working - you could hear it start up Windows XP and shut down following the correct key presses. I removed the graphics card, gave it and it's connectors a thorough clean,and reconnected it. No change. The motherboard had an internal graphics adaptor (some kind of Intel Integrated Graphics, I didn't pay much attention to exactly what) so I again removed the Nvidia card and reset the BIOS so that it would use the internal card (had to remove cmos chip because there was no screen otherwise). this worked fine, BIOScame up, booted into Windows with no problems, if a little low resolution. All good.

     Next thing I did was ensure he had the drivers for his card (a file on the harddrive, latest Nvidia drivers) and completely remove the installed drivers. I then rebooted into BIOS and swapped the video configuration over to PCIe, switched off, reinstalled the card and rebooted. All fine, video works fine, Windows boots up and finds new hardware. I cancel it's wizard and run the setup program from the hard drive. Now, this is where it gets a bit iffy. When I attempt to run the setup AVG reports it is virused. I remember hearing about this, and also that the general consensus was that it is a false-positive, and since he doesn't actually have internet access at the moment I go ahead anyway. Installs fine, asks me to reboot, reboots fine except that it is now asking me to run chkdsk. I know I should let this run, but I figure he can do it later, I don't want to be here all day so I cancel it.

    Now, here is where I say WTF!. His monitor screen stays on the blue chkdsk screen, but the computer boots into Windows. I hear the start up sounds, I make the correct key presses and I hear the shutdown sound, computer shuts down and the screen returns to Signal out of range. Note: right up till the monitor reports signal out of range it is still displaying the blue chkdsk screen with 1 second left to cancel before it starts.

    I start the computer again and this time allow it to run chkdsk. This runs fine, it reports some lost data from the AVG installation and recovers a few sectors, then displays the XP loading screen. Then the screen goes black. No picture, no signal out of range message, but it still boots into Windows. Again I close it down, and now the card has completely stopped working again, signal out of range message even though Windows still boots up.

     I repeat the whole process from the start, still using the same potentially virused driver, and this time everything  works perfectly. I get the system competely up and running and it seems ok. To finish, I advise him that he needs to completely clean his system preferably with a reformat and complete reinstall and I will download the graphics drivers anew for him.

     So, can anyone explain how the blue chkdsk screen was able to remain visible even though the system had booted into Windows?



  • Sounds like the machine lost track of how to write to the framebuffer on the card and change video modes for whatever reason. As for why, I can't even come up with a sensible guess.



  • Cosmic rays and solar flares. I always check [url=http://spaceweather.com/]spaceweather.com[/url] when things like this happen.



  • You do undertsand that computers are magic, right?



  •  The monitor is fucked.

    Or, the card is fucked, or the driver is fucked, and the special fuckery brings out a weird quirk of the monitor (in that it displays whatever it can if it doesn't know what to display).

     

    I have absolutely no idea what monitor it is, I wasn't there to observe the effects, so obviously my hypothesis is the most plausible.



  •  The behaviour was the same on two different monitors (I didn't bother mentioning that as I didn't consider it relevant) so I doubt the monitor had anything to do with it.



  •  "Signal Out Of Range" is rather strongly tied to the capabilities of the monitor.



  • @db2 said:

    Sounds like the machine lost track of how to write to the framebuffer on the card and change video modes for whatever reason. As for why, I can't even come up with a sensible guess.

    This actually is the closest thing to what happened.

    The frame buffer for display had that chkdsk screen in it and is consistantly sending it to the monitor.  The card itself probably has a problem on it so that the switch to the new resolution is hanging it, preventing any buffer swaps.  When a refresh is sent to the card it reads that and clears the buffers but no new data is sent in, this is detected as bad data by the monitor and you get your message.

    You can clean the system get new drivers, etc, but the problem will remain as it seems to be a hardware problem.

     



  •  Signal Out of Range most often just means that the monitor is not getting a signal, either because the computer is switched off or the card/driver is faulty.



  •  This makes sense. I strongly suspected that there is something wrong with his graphics card but I'm a software engineer not a hardware engineer so I was unable to understand how the card could display something different to what the computer was sending. Thank you for clearing it up. I will advise that he procures a replacement card, although in his current circumstances this may be difficult, hence the fact that he is using such an old card.



  • @Malenfant said:

     Signal Out of Range most often just means that the monitor is not getting a signal, either because the computer is switched off or the card/driver is faulty.

     

    If a monitor doesn't get a signal, it will display "No signal".

    If the card/driver is faulty, then yes, anything might happen.

    I had this way way back while trying to send 1024×768 to a tiny 14" screen that apparently barfed on anything higher than 800×600@60Hz, thus producing... Signal out of range.

     



  • @Malenfant said:

    Signal Out of Range most often just means that the monitor is not getting a signal
     

    On the monitors I used, this message generally meant that it was getting a signal but it was out of range of the monitor's capabilities (such as too high a frequency). "No Signal" informed me that it wasn't getting a signal.



  • I have had systems work in VGA mode but crash as soon as the proper drivers are installed. My reasoning is that the capacitors on the card or in computer power supply are a bit flaky and when the higher resolution causes more power draw, the card crashes



  • @jpa said:

    My reasoning is that the capacitors on the card or in computer power supply are a bit flaky and when the higher resolution causes more power draw, the card crashes
     

    How do you even diagnose something like that?  (generally speaking)



  •  I'd agree with the PSU not being up to scratch - or possibly a cheapo card falsely rebranded. Or even the wrong choice of drivers.

    The Lenovo update wizard on this Thinkpad insists on using older drivers on IBM's website, overwriting the newer ones I downloaded and installed from ATI's site.



  • @Malenfant said:

    So, can anyone explain how the blue chkdsk screen was able to remain visible even though the system had booted into Windows?

    Because the 80x25 text-based mode Windows uses for setup is completely separate from the graphical modes Windows uses once booted. So the video card's fault was not switching video modes when instructed by the OS, although I've personally never seen that happen and I'm not entirely sure how it could happen. That, combined with the "out of range" error (you didn't tell us what kind of monitor connection was being used, but that error doesn't even make sense with newer ones), makes me think the problem is that the card's either overheating or defective. Since it happens right after boot, if it's overheating it's doing it quickly which might indicate dried-up or missing thermal paste, or a jammed fan.



  •  The signal out of range is actually not a fault in any way. I guess it depends on the monitor, but when I turn off my computer but not my monitor (LG Flatron in case you're interested) it says signal out of range. The same thing happens on my friend's (a Philips TV with PC mode). Neither monitor ever displays a no signal message, just signal out of range. As it is a fairly old card, and has been used in several different computers (my friend is very unlucky with his computers, they break in odd ways often) I'm going with the card being on it's way out. It wasn't overheating, it was barely warm.

     An weird thing with this card, in his last computer, an old Compaq machine,  the correct nVidia drivers would never work with it. Despite it being a PCIe card, the only drivers that would work were the nVidia AGP drivers. PCIe drivers would only work at low resolution, AGP drivers worked fine. I could never explain that one either.



  • Someone should send their graphics card a very sternly worded letter.



  • @dhromed said:

    How do you even diagnose something like that?  (generally speaking)
     

    In the case of the struggling PSU, swap out said component for a known good (and mower powerful one) and watch the card happily cope with higher-res displays.

    I had a card struggle until I swapped out my PSU for a Corsair TX750. I'm guessing it was leeching too much juice off one of the rails when it had to work under duress with a screenful of animated nasties in Unreal 2.



  • @Cassidy said:

    (and mower powerful one)
    Get off my lawn. You're having delusions, Jobe.



  •  Your naive idiocy makes me VERY WTFery!



  • @Cassidy said:

    In the case of the struggling PSU, swap out said component for a known good (and mower powerful one) and watch the card happily cope with higher-res displays.
     

    Many many computer problems are caused by power supply issues. Whether brownouts from the mains, struggling PSU, overheating regulators, exploded capacitors, corrosion in connectors (increasing resistance in the cable) or something, these are all related.

    When I ran a PC support business I always kept several decent PSUs on hand which did fix many issues. (Not "all" of course, but many)



  • @dhromed said:

    @jpa said:

    My reasoning is that the capacitors on the card or in computer power supply are a bit flaky and when the higher resolution causes more power draw, the card crashes
     

    How do you even diagnose something like that?  (generally speaking)

     

    Put the card on a known working system (motherboard + power unit + hard drive) with a known working windows drive image. Install, run. If it success, card is ok, computer is broken. If it fails, replace video card with same model from a new box. If it does not fail anymore, card is faulty, replace. If it fails again, suspect driver problem.

    Most of the time you want to be a computer shop to have spare parts around for your test :)

     



  •  I was hoping for something more advanced than labour-intensively determining what we already knew, namely that it's broken, but alas.



  • I suggest you download the latest drivers that support the FX5500 card (if he's running XP, these should do).



    You should also check the capacitors on the card - my 7900GT died in a somewhat similar fashion. Came home one day, and I couldn't log on to the machine locally (I was connected through RDP from my workplace), so I reset it, and Windows booted, but I only saw black screen after the boot logo vanished (I could hear the logon sound though). Then after a few reboots, Windows started bluescreening, but it booted fine if I picked "Standard VGA mode" from the boot menu. When I took out the card, several capacitors were inflated.



  • @dhromed said:

    determining what we already knew, namely that it's broken
     

    Well.... actually.... some of those techniques are determining what is broken, not that something is.



  • @dhromed said:

    I was hoping for something more advanced than labour-intensively determining what we already knew, namely that it's broken, but alas.

    Computer hardware has only two diagnostic states:

    1) Broken and untrustworthy

    2) Working correctly

    Something on a computer that appears only "slightly" broken will eventually destroy your data or at the least prevent you from using the computer. So you replace it right away, there's no point in "waiting it out" hoping the problem will go away. Therefore, there's also no point to determining exactly what's wrong, since you need to replace the component anyway.

    I've fixed a shitload of computers, so you have just received the Wisdom Of Blakeyrat. Be enlightened.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    you have just received the Wisdom Of Blakeyrat. Be enlightened.
     

    BEHOLD YOUR ICON

    then behold mine



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Computer hardware has only two diagnostic states:

    1) Broken and untrustworthy <---- PC

    2) Working correctly <---- Mac

    iFTFY


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to What the Daily WTF? was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.