Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Updates, Quicktime, Nvidia Quadro and BSODs

I regularly update the software on the Quad Core machine I use for development in our lab: a Dell Precision 390 with a Nvidia Quadro FX 3450 graphics card. Recently, I began experiencing problems which seemed related to the graphics card. The display would freeze indefinitely, or change to the infamous BSOD.

Sometimes upon starting or restarting the machine, the display would be garbled, as if the VGA connector wasn't properly connected (it was). On various occasions, Windows detected a corrupt disk upon restart, but the automated chkdsk seemed to always be able to fix the problem (in 30 minutes).

Remembering that the latest Windows update included an update to the Nvidia driver, I thought I had found the culprit. I foolishly tried to roll back to Dell's driver, from Dell's website.
Note that apparently Dell also provides a vintage Quadro FX3450 BIOS (v5. from 01.12.2006) ! The old driver (v84.26 from 01.11.2007) seemed to install correctly, until it asked permission to restart the machine. Upon login after the restart, the driver installation program resumed, and managed to garble the display in ways that appear quite artistic in retrospective.

One hard reboot later, I decided to let Dell's abandon-driver to rest, and proceeded to download and install NVidia newest driver.
Alas, the bluescreen problem reappeared after only a few hours. Seriously bedazzled, I did waht I should have done first, I fired MS computer management utility, to look at error logs.
And there it was, numerous warnings about paging errors, followed by critical errors attributed either to my system drive, or to iaStor.sys This got me worried about a possible failure of the hard disk drive.

I remembered that while I was updating the system through Windows update, I had selected to install the optional Intel Matrix Storage software. But had finally not activated it since the system contains only 2 hard drives, on used for WinXP, and the other one for CentOS.

To my relief, hardware failure became less likely after a quick google search turned out many disturbing links, suggesting that Dell and iaStor are a risky combination :
see in particular:
Shortly after, I stumbled on the following link :

And then, bing (no pun intented), it hit me. I had also been asked by Apple update if I wanted a new version of iTunes and Quicktime. I decided to pass on iTunes, but said Ok to Quicktime.
Note that the post linked above concerns Vista, and I'm running XP. But the message I got is that Quicktime can induce trouble with iaStor on Dell Precision 390 systems.

Since I did not need the RAID software, I first uninstalled Intel Matrix Storage. However, this did not prevent the BSODs from returning. Which suggests that this software is not responsible for the crashes I experienced.

So, I uninstalled Quicktime, and tada, the crashes stopped. For now, I'm a happy camper (without Quicktime), and I can go back to my spherical Fourier transforms for DynamicVA.
But I really hope Apple fixes wahtever is wrong with QuickTime.

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