Bugger bugger bugger bugger... oh!

My main (WinXP) PC has, of late, developed the habit of hanging when I change screen resolution a couple of times. I get a black screen, or a frozen copy of the last desktop state. The computer's still accepting input, and the mouse cursor knows what it's over and changes appropriately, but there's just no repainting of the screen itself at all. Ctrl-Alt-Del works just fine, insofar as I can tell that there's a Task Manager window in there somewhere by dowsing for it with the mouse, but it's not very useful to me if I can't see what's listed there.

I can, at least, shut the computer down elegantly with a simple press of the power button. At some point during the shutdown the desktop unfreezes - perhaps because explorer.exe is what's hung and it's just exited, but there are still some application windows open for me to look at. Or perhaps not. In any case, it is of course now too late. Huzzah.

Because the screen changes resolution when I play a game, this situation is unacceptable. I can play any game I like - I just have to reboot afterward.

So I reinstalled XP, intending to install over the top of the previous installation and not trample all of my previous stuff.

As any fule kno, you don't do an over-the-top reinstall by selecting the Repair option when the XP installer presents it. That'll give you the Recovery Console, which you probably don't want. Instead, you go on to the next screen and Windows detects the previous installation and lets you either nuke it, install alongside it, or attempt to repair it.

So that's what I did. Except the installer never said it had detected the previous installation. It just chugged on cheerfully installing to C: as if it was a nude blank drive.

Lo, did I say many uncharitable things about this, as I read a book while the chirpy WinXP setup advertisement-screens went past, and tried not to think about all of the stuff I'd have to reinstall and reconfigure (I guess this'd be a chance to switch from Azureus to Utorrent or something, since it certainly can't be any more annoying than recreating a previous list of downloading and downloaded torrents in a new Azureus install...).

And then the system rebooted, and... my previous Windows install came back up again, A-OK. It had done a repair install anyway.

But I still can't change resolution without freezing the screen.

I'll accept that, with abject gratitude, given what I thought I was going to be doing for the next four hours.

But if any of you have any idea why the hell this is happening, do please tell me. I'm flummoxed.

I've tried going to HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG, System, CurrentControlSet, Control, Video in Regedit and deleting everything therein, and that improved the situation somewhat after I rebooted; now I can at least change resolution and refresh rate freely in Display Settings without the screen freezing. The freeze still happens when I exit any fullscreen app that uses a different resolution, though.

I've also got three pesky Default Monitors (in addition to my two real monitors) that just won't go away. It's like Win98 all over again. I've disabled them in Device Manager, which seems to be the best I can do.

(Yes, I have of course installed the latest drivers for my GeForce 7800 GT. And the latest DirectX, too. Perhaps installing that is what caused the problem. Who knows. I have used all of my search-string-crafting ability and failed to find anybody else who's ever suffered this problem, so I'm just guessing.)

I suppose I should just start disabling startup apps one at a time, despite the obvious irrelevance of almost all of them to the screen display and the fact that all of them Worked Before, And I Didn't Change Anything.

Any better ideas, anyone?

UPDATE: W00t, it's fixed. Hosing out whatever had become of the old drivers with Driver Cleaner Pro, then rebooting and installing the new-as-of-five-days-ago v93.71 Nvidia drivers, seems to have rectified the problem.

The worst that happened was the automatic multi-monitor setup reached the perfectly obvious conclusion that my 21 inch monitor should be running at 800 by 600, while my 17 incher should be at 1280 by 1024, at I think about 12Hz. This was not a major obstacle.

Thanks, everyone!

9 Responses to “Bugger bugger bugger bugger... oh!”

  1. matkun Says:

    I'd try older versions of the display drivers, going back 10 versions or so just to make sure.

  2. matkun Says:

    To add on the previous comment, not sure if the 7800 GT does this, but it might be the 2d/3d clocks changing code that causes this. I know ATI has a hotkey poller or some such service that detects the 2d to full screen 3d change and ramps up the clocks on my x1900 xt 256mb (yeay for value), then reverts them when I'm done. Most likely nvidia has the same thing in some other service that could cause this?

  3. asgromo Says:

    Spookily enough, I've been having the exact same problem on two very different machine- the only similarities being Windows 2000 and the relatively recent GeForces (PCI 5200 and PCI-E 6600GT). It's only started taking place in the last couple of weeks, but it's certainly the same thing you're talking about... To the letter. I'm thinking NVidia drives as well.

  4. Stark Says:

    I'd try wiping your vid drivers back to plain old VGA - nuking any and all refrences to the GeForce drivers and any files you can find. There are utilities to clean out the nasty remnants for you - this one seems to work well : http://www.drivercleaner.net/

    Install a standard VGA driver at reboot after getting all cleaned up. Try resolution changes and see what happens. If you still get issues then I think it likely that the card has gone flaky on you. If it's OK in VGA mode install the GeForce drivers again and see what happens... if problems persist rollback to VGA - clean it again - and install older Geforce drivers.... repeat ad nauseum until the problem either goes away or you come to the conclusion that you have a hardware issue ;)

  5. bartron Says:

    It would be at this point that I thank my lucky stars nothin is corrupt and spend quality time doing a backup/re-install. However I second the return-to-old-version of display drivers...what about mobo drivers? I've learnt that the phrase "but that has nothing to do with...." has no meaning when talking about mass produced electronics from some factory in insert asian country here. Anyway, I gave up on PC's and moved on....games?? Bah!

  6. gkour Says:

    Same thing happens to me but instead of rebooting I use the keyboard to switch users and I am greeted by the fully functional welcome screen. Then I choose the same active account and the desktop is back from its motionless slumber...
    A solution it ain't, but a workaround.

  7. Bedlam Says:

    I experienced the very same error last night after exiting from NWN2. (As an aside, same program defaults to 60Hz and has no way to change it amongst its voluminous settings. A quick look in ReForce somehow had it only detecting one gigantic resolution and a long list of monitors including one I last used 2 video cards ago).

    That said, I'm entirely convinced it's caused by the crappiness of nVidia drivers (91.47 on my 7800GS). Given they've only recently moved to this new UI, there are undoubtedly a myriad of new bugs that came with it. Have a look at the changelog with each new set of drivers, and your piece on polishing mud comes to mind.

    I used to use gkour's little trick back in the days of v81 when my 6800GT would blank the screen entirely after a resolution change. The combo, if anyone needs it, is WinKey, Up, Left, Enter, Enter. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    As far as a fix goes - wait breathlessly for the next driver release and pray the damn thing works. If it does, never upgrade it again.

  8. FLea Says:

    A year or two ago I had a similar problem with my Radeon card - mainly evident with RCTW:ET. My issue wasn't always after switching resolutions - sometimes it occured mid duel - but always I had mouse cursor and keyboard control, just frozen video.

    It was vid driver related and was happening to enough people it was patched. Back then, a work around that worked for me was to full-screen a text box to regain video:
    If in game, toggle console and exit to desktop when at desktop: ALT-ESC (or windows key), "R", "cmd", ENTER, ALT-ENTER

    This always brought up a visable full screen DOS box for me... typed "exit" and everything was working again. If you are ingame and have no console access to exit... good luck finding the right spots to click on!

  9. Itsacon Says:

    Yeah, it's certainly the Nvidia drivers.
    I happen two have two graphics cards (three screens), the second being a matrox. It happens pretty much always after gaming and such, but only on the two screens attached to the Geforce. I then call up display properties, move it to the third screen (using hotkeys), open the settings->advanced window, and click on the Nvidia control panel. This seems to reset the drivers, cause it redraws the screen and is back to normal.
    As bedlam said, it started happening after I upgraded to the 9x.xx series of drivers.
    I'll try the new upgrade and the driver cleaner trick though, cause I'm getting kinda tired of this, even if I don't require a complete reboot.

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