Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding, but has successfully recovered.

Time to upgrade my PC…I have being using a single core AMD 3200 Athlon for quite a while now and so I set forth on a new PC build. After many many hours of research (a.k.a. surfing) I have ordered all the parts I need:
Monitor: 22" LG Flatron LCD Wide (L226WTQ)
Motherboard: ASUS P5K-E/Wifi AP (P35)
Processor: E8400 Core 2 Duo (wolfdale 45nm) 3GHz, 6MB L2 with stock cooler
Graphics: Zotac 8800 GTS 512 (G92)
Memory: 2GB (2 x 1GB) Crucial Ballistix DDR2 8500 (1066MHz)
HDD: Samsung Spinpoint T166 500GB 16MB Cache (x2 arranged in RAID0, ‘striped’)
Case: Antec Solo
PSU: Antec TruePower TRIO 550W (triple rail)
plus a new MS Keyboard and Optical Mouse
I managed to grab a new wolfdale on the first day of release so eagerly awaited its arrival, which despite using eBuyer’s 5 day free delivery came very quickly in just a couple of days.
Putting it all together was easy and the Solo case was simple to access. Turned it on and blimey it all worked first time. Single beep, BIOS POSTed successfully – brilliant…but I needed to flash the BIOS as the motherboard didn’t fully understand the wolfdale E8400. This was also a breeze, using a USB pen direct from the BIOS.
This was all going too well…installed Vista Business Edition (I was already using this on my existing Athlon 3200 1GB system) and that was easy too. It only takes about 20 minutes to get Vista fully installed. It did however take me another 20 minutes to get all the ASUS motherboard drivers installed :-(. Then I took an image using the built in Vista Backup software (in Control Panel) which takes a complete backup of the system while it is running and that fitted comfortable on a single DVD. This image can be restored by booting to Vista install disk and full recovery is done within 20 minutes.
I put a few additional bits of software on, like the monitor drivers and the NVidia driver (192.25) and I was just about to move on to installing the main software when I though I’d just have a browse at the graphics card setting in the NVidia Control Panel. Then it happened…the spinning ‘NVidia Eye’ graphic on the first tab paused and I got a task tray pop-up advising me that ‘The display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding, but has successfully recovered.". then the ‘eye’ moved a bit more then another pause and the same message appeared again…this continued happening every couple of seconds then the BSoD (Blue Screen of Death).
Vista had bombed out big time.
I rebooted, tried again and no matter what drivers I tried it just kept happening. I read around on the forums and it seems lots and lots of people are getting the nvlddmkm error and there is no single resolution for it. Even MS have tried releasing updates, but none of these things fixed my problem. All the posts I read were about freezes in games, but I was getting it every couple of seconds in the NVidia Control Panel.
So what is the problem then? I ram MEMTEST for almost 24 hours – perfect results. I ran Prime95 – utilising both cores for a few hours – perfect results. I could test the Graphics card as this was the problem – then I stumbled on some posts regarding underpowered PSUs.

Then I even tried wiping the system and installing XP. Whilst this was more stable, Far Cry graphics didn’t work properly and F.E.A.R. would even start, saying something like ‘Cannot initialize engine’. This found a couple of posts suggesting the system was underpowered – but I had bought a brand new Antec truePower TRIO 550W (SLI certified) – so this should be fine shouldn’t it – if it is SLI certified and I am only running 1 card surely this would be OK. A little more digging and I discovered that the BIOS reported by 12V only delivering 11.6V and when Vista was running (am I glad I took that image now!) SpeedFan showed on 11.31V.

I contacted Antec and they said based on my Voltage reading the PSU was faulty – but by the time they responded I had already taken it into my own hands and returned it to Amazon. Their returns service was excellent. I printed off a postage paid label, popped it in a box, completed DHLs online pickup request and DHL collected it from  my workplace the next day.

I have decided that a 3 rail PSU may or may not be an issue, but I am taking no changes this time, so I have prder a Corsair TX 750W single rail PSU, which shuld arrive this week…please oh please let it fix my Vista woes. I so want to get the PC working properly and I really wantr to be able to play some games in Vista to test out the new grapics card (8800 GTS 512)…plan to play F.E.A.R. then challenge it with Crysis.

All this has comsumed two weekends of my time (grrrrrr), but is that light I see at the end of the tunnel?

I shall update this BLOG once I have received the new PSU…pray with me…Oh Lord make my Vista work?!

Well – as promised, I am updating this Blog entry…the new Corsair PSU did arrive but it did not address the problem – however I returned the PSU as it was too noisey and swapped it for another (this is my thrid now!) – a Seasonic S12 Energy plus. I am very pleased with this PSU and it is lovely and quiet – but it also did not address the problem.
So – I think I can be confident it isn’t the PSU, but it still loks like a lack of power to me. Next, I tried returning the Graphics Card (Zotac 8800 GTS 512) and ordered a new replace – this time opting for a cheaper 8800 GT (Play Value 8800 GT 512, which turned out to be a Palet 8800 GT 512). I am very pleased with the Palet as the fan is very quiet during normal useage and only ramps up during gameplay and I like the little utility that came with it called VDOTool as apart from allowing me to manually control the fan spped also allows me to change the MHz setting on the 3 main Graphics Card chips/memory.
In-between these two graphics cards, I borrow a friends ‘retired’ 6800 GT and with that I had no issues with the driver so maybe it was the card all along – but then the 800 isn’t so power hungry.
8800 GT arrived – so popped it in and tried the NVidia control panel and so far so good, so ran 3DMark06 – which black screened on me and returned to the desktop with the same old driver problem…ahhhhhhhhhhhhh
Finally I started fiddling with various setting in the BIOS and to my surprise found that increasing the NorthBridge voltage fixed the problem – I can now run 3DMark all the way through without error (11333 btw).
So, on my ASUS P5K-E motherboard I am now using all the default settings but with the components I don’t nee turned off (such as Floppy, Wireless, JMicron, Firewire etc) and changing only 2 settings:
1) Change DRAM Frequency from Auto to 1066 (as otherwise it tries to use default 800 it seems)
2) Change NB Frequency from Auto to 1.4V (I am assuming it was running at 1.25V as that was the only explicit value available to select below 1.4V).
I’d love to hear from anyone who has had this problem and found that upping the NB Frequency has fixed for them too?

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