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Windows 7: The Display Driver has stopped working...

08 Aug 2010   #1

Windows 7 RTM
The Display Driver has stopped working...

I have had this error for months. I have read many posts in many forums and I have found some good and not so good information. First, let me describe my system, an Alienware Area-51 X58

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
i7 950 Processor Overlocked to 4.0 GHz, Liquid Cooled
Asus P6T Deluxe v2 Motherboard
6GB Corsair Dominator 1600 MHz Memory
2x Gigabyte GTX 260 Core 216 Super Overclock
HT Omega Striker 7.1 Sound Card
eVGA Killer Xeno Pro Network Card
Alienware 1000W Power Supply
Alienware P2 Chassis

I used the following guide when overclocking my i7

Core i7 4Ghz Club & Overclocking Guide - PureOverclock Forums

I have thrown every benchmark and stress test I could find at my system and it as passed them all with flying colors. So, why did I keep having the Black Screen of Death in games? I have tried everything to fix this problem. The latest drivers, stock settings, fresh install of windows, you name it and all to no avail. I get the BlackSOD in every game, especially WoW.

Then I found a reference this Microsoft Article

Timeout Detection and Recovery of GPUs through WDDM

in this excellent post in the nvidia forums

NVIDIA Statement on TDR Errors - NVIDIA Forums

I have seen much speculation concerning this error. Some common erroneous assumptions and speculations

1. "You have a bad overclock, stop overclocking (your CPU)."

> I have some experience with overclocking and my overclock is solid, very solid.

2. "You have a bad overclock on your video card."

> Negative, my video cards are factory overclocked and designed to run at their overclocked speed.

3. "You have bad drivers, you need to install the latest drivers."

> While it is always good to keep your video drivers up to date, the BlackSOD is not a known nvidia driver issue.

The answer to this problem is not found in lofty, unfounded speculation but in common sense. I develop Microsoft .NET software for a living and I have a degree in electrical engineering. When I read that microsoft had set an arbitrary video driver timeout of 2 seconds, I was apalled. That seems like a rather short interval for todays high-powered gaming and entertainment PCs. Microsoft actually implies that if your cpu spends longer than 2 seconds waiting for your video card that there is something seriously wrong with your system. I beg to differ Microsoft.

Lets just think about this for a few minutes. My system has a 4.0 GHz processor and 2 680 MHz GPUs. Where is the bottleneck here? Obviously, it is the video card. It is safe to assume that under certain circumstances, the 4.0 GHz CPU might be waiting for 2 seconds or more for even the fastest GPU . A very fast CPU waiting frequently for a very fast but relatively much slower GPU should not be cause for alarm. It is impossible to perfectly synchronize the CPU, memory and video card all of the time, especially in 1080p HD resolution in 32 bit color in a 3D multiplayer game. I have not even brought up the issue of net lag in multiplayer games. Some games are waiting not only for the CPU or GPU but for the network connection to respond as well.

I followed the instructions above and first set the interval of the TdrDelay to 8 seconds. Even that was too short for some games. To be honest, I think that Windows truncates that interval to some fraction of the stated value. Age of Conan ran fine on a TdrDelay of 8 seconds but StarCraft 2 did not. So I tried a TdrDelay of 20 seconds and I have not had any problems since. Why 20 seconds? 20 seconds is a good number from a user perspective. I have never seen my system timeout for that long since I set the interval at 20 seconds and my video performance in games seems to have smoothed out.

In conclusion, the fact that some of us are having BlackSOD issues with overlocked CPUs and video cards doesnt necessarily mean that our system is unstable, in fact, it may mean that the overclock is working as intended. Dont panic and follow the instructions above to set the TdrDelay to a reasonable value for your system.

My System SpecsSystem Spec


 The Display Driver has stopped working...

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