onsdag 10 juli 2013

Nvidia nForce4 / geforce 6150 LE crashing

I had an old Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo E5615, which has a Nvidia nForce 410 or 430 chipset, with integrated GeForce 6150LE, running Windows 7 64-bit and the latest drivers supporting the GPU (version 307.83, according to Windows Update, Nvidia Update och Nvidia website)

The problem:
* When playing movies encoded with VC-1 in Windows Media Player, the video would not be displayed properly and within seconds the computer froze, the graphics driver crashed, or I got a blue screen with various messages, often with a message that the graphics drivers timed out and could not be restarted.

* When calculating the Windows Experience Index, the computer crashed in similar ways during the "Windows Media" assessment.

The cause:
This seems to be an issue with the graphics driver, which crash on hardware accelerated VC-1 decoding. Note that the WEI crash while invisibly decode a VC-1 encoded file, "Clip_1080_5sec_VC1_15mbps.wmv", in C:\Windows\Performance\WinSAT. (SAT = System AssessmentTool).

* Ignore the WEI and don't watch VC-1 files :)

* Get an older driver. For example, 285.79 (beta) seems to work while 296.10 (whql) does not, so somewhere between there, the bug was introduced. Obviously, any improvements done to the driver after will dissappear

* Disable video hardware acceleration. This can be done in Windows Media Player -> menues (press Alt to make them appear) -> Performance tab -> Tools -> Options -> uncheck "Turn on DirectX Video Acceleration for WMV files". This will fix WEI and will make VC-1 videos play without crashing, but these, and all other WMV files will no longer have hardware acceleration and thus worse performance. (Note: DirectX Video Acceleration = DXVA). If other applications use DXVA, these may have to have hardware acceleration disabled as well.

* Get another GPU if the computer has expansion ports. :) Make sure to get one that doesn't demand more than your power supply can handle. Remember to disable the 6150 (so it doesn't take up RAM and other resources) and uninstall its drivers.

If you have a better workaround, please let me know :)

Other ideas:
Some things that I tried that didn't help me in this case but might help someone else:

* Run Memtest86+. Faulty RAM is the cause of many strange problems.

* You can run WEI in console mode, just open a command prompt as administrator and run "winsat". It has various parameters to output reports and to only run particular tests. run "winsat -?" to show all parameters. Run "winsat >> c:\somelogfile.txt" to generate a log file. Also note that winsat can generate some XML report. This lets you troubleshoot various issues that happens during WEI problems.

* If the computer just restart with no explanation, maybe you got a bluescreen and the computer has been configured to restart automatically on errors. To change this, hold Win + Pause/Break button (in the upper right corner of your keyboard) -> Advanced system settings -> Startup and Recovery -> Settings -> uncheck "Automatically restart".

* Also try VMT, video memory stress test, from http://www.mikelab.kiev.ua/index.php?page=PROGRAMS/vmt . Like memtest but will run on the graphics RAM.

* Note that the drivers included in the nForce4 driver package is ancient, so answer "no" to the questions if you want to install them in the installation wizard of the nForce4 drivers.

* The nForce4 seems to have some problems with random hard drive corruption. If you have this chipset, try taking a big file and make multiple copies of it, preferably back and forth between two different (internal) hard drives, then run "comp" to ensure they are all identical.