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Ok chaps. Explaining my experience may save some of you a LOT of frustration and trouble if you are intending to buy a new high-end gamers' laptop/desktop with the latest Dx10 nvidia cards SLI enabled.
If you have problems with you graphics card "stopped responding but has now recovered" you will have to trawl through gazillions of useless fixes and advice from every Tom, Dick and Harry who thinks he has the "complete solution". After several weeks of listening and trying fixes I finally understood the problem. I am not a technically savvy PC dude, but I have friends who work in the industry and who have helped me. Here is my story.
Ok, lets begin. I bought a new M9750 alienware with Dual 512MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8700M GT SLI enabled cards. I could tell you the rest of my set-up, but the main thing is these cards and the fact that I was using 32-bit VISTA.
I played LOTRO and The Witcher. I was constantly crashing out of games with the now infamous "Display driver has stopped responding and has recovered:". Sometimes I could play for 4 hours before this happened, sometimes it happens every 10 minutes; totally random.
I tried all the fixes:
(1) Uninstalled/reinstalled drivers;
(2) Uninstalled and installed new drivers (with INF files)
(3) Turned SLI off and used single GPU and/or experimented with different settings from my nvidia control panel
(4) Totally restored my laptop to factory settings;
And I avoided some of the more radical recommended fixes on the advice of a friend (who works in the computing industry with VISTA 64-bit) who said some of these fixes could actually screw up my PC entirely and kill my warranty.
Eventually I learned the problem was to do with VISTA and high-end SLI graphic cards/drivers and that it was essentially beyond my power to fix. You can see the Microsoft summary of TDR here:
And a pasted response from nvidia here:
So basically I bought a high-end gamers' rig that cannot play games because nvidia have not or cannot support certain cards on VISTA due to problems they were made aware back in 2006. This is not good customer service.
Alienware were very helpful and told me to try many fixes, which unfortunately I had already tried. A tech support guy at Alienware said this was a common problem because nvidia haven't been able to create drivers or fixes to fully resolve the problem. He also said it was a "strange" issue as it happens to some M9750 laptops and not to others. Summarized: no-one is exaclty sure what the problem is (hence gazillions of conflicting advice from people on the net and a muted passing-the-buck response from nvidia and microsft) and yet we are sold being sold very expensive hardware and software that doesn't do what it says on the box.
Suffice to say, I have sent back my M9750 and cancelled my order.
Now the entire experience has totally put me off PC gaming. The fact that nvidia blames Microsoft, who blames nvidia and the PC manufacturers hold their hands up and say "Not us mate" etc has just exhausted all faith I have in VISTA, nvidia, alienware etc.
Sorry to say that I given up on PC gaming due to this and will stick with lowly consoles (PS3 and XBOX 360) until it is "safe" to return to PC gaming.
Just a heads-up to all you out there who are thinking of getting that "ultimate rig" for the new mmo releases of 2008.