For about a month now my desktop computer has been working fine after I had dropped in the OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 solid state drive but since then I have experienced some instability when playing games on it (particularly Team Fortress 2 or TF2 for short). The system wouldn’t crash but the screen would go blank for a few seconds and then come back up with my game window totally black (I run the game in a window so I can play games while playing a video on the television at the same time). I’d also see the following error popup in a bubble above the system tray:
Display driver NVIDIA Windows Kernel Mode Driver, Version 290.36 stopped responding and has successfully recovered.
Anyway, gaming has progressively become more unstable which has the net effect of interrupting a game (sometimes at critical points) and perhaps giving others the idea that I am rage quitting or have a very short attention span. I had tried updating the video card drivers but that didn’t seem to help so I thought maybe there was a problem with heat dissipation. To see if there was a problem I used a great little utility called GPU Temp which provides a temperature readout for the GPU core and board.
Now, this readout was captured after I fixed my problem but you’ll see that the hottest temperature recorded is about 77 degrees for one of the GPU cores but beforehand I had readings approaching 90 degrees. I could get about eight minutes of gaming in before something would go wrong. I then tried rebooting my desktop and it hung on the POST (Power On Self Test) screen which, in my mind, indicated that there was definitely something temperature related going on.
Anyway, I’ll get to the bit where I fix the problem (at least it has so far).
I disconnected everything and took the box out to the garage and opened it up. There was a little dust in there but it’s often the dust you can’t see that will cause problems. I cleaned all of the exhaust vents and fans on the case as well as the CPU heatsink and fan as a matter of housekeeping. I then removed the video cards and cleaned the fan and heatsink for each one (making sure to aim into the path where air passes through the card to help dislodge and eject the dust). Once done, I reseated the video cards, closed up the case and reconnected everything.
Luckily for me, this worked a treat and as you can see I have had about half an hour of uninterrupted gameplay and a couple of hours of arena spectating while I was out of the house. I’ll keep an eye on things and let you know if I run into any problems but this look quite promising.