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ATI 9600 Pro problem - black screen - fixed?

3314 Views 1 Reply 2 Participants Last post by  UncleMacro
Hey everyone-
I searched around for a while and found some posts from people with similar issues but couldn't find a solution so I'm hoping someone could help. I think I may have fixed the problem but I'm not quite sure -- the last paragraph has my question and the description of the problem is before that.

My system:
DFI LanParty NFII Ultra (NForce2) Motherboard
Athlon 2500+ Barton
512MB (2x256) RAM
ATI 9600 Pro 128MB
Maxtor 120GB HD
Adequate Power Supply, Fresh Install of Win XP

I just reformatted my hard drive and reinstalled Windows XP, and was having problems with my video card. When my computer booted up the first time after installing the video drivers, right after the black Windows XP 'loading' screen (just before login screen) the screen went black. The computer did not freeze, the monitor just went black (not 'standby' mode) and stayed that way. I confirmed it was not frozen by pressing tab-tab-spacebar-spacebar (the computer shut down).

Eventually, after trying everything I could, I went into the BIOS and disabled 8x AGP and the option below it (fast write or something like that) -- there was an entry in the ATI knowledge base that suggested this. Windows booted up fine and it looks like the problem is gone, but before going any further I want to know if I am limiting the performance of my vid card by doing this since it is supposed to be a 8x AGP card. Before reformatting my hard drive I had the same hardware running Win XP Pro, and I had these BIOS settings enabled before, so I'm not sure what caused the problem this time. Should I leave it the way it is? Sorry for such a long post for such a brief question, but I can't find the answer to this anywhere. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
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Lots of people have to slow down their video cards by limiting them to AGP 4X. Usually their problems at AGP 8X aren't as severe as yours but I've seen peoples' monitors go into standby mode at AGP 8X. For most folks (including me) AGP 8X just causes the occasional crash. The actual performance loss of running at AGP 4X is at most a few percent and in most circumstances much smaller than that so don't worry about the performance.

The performance loss of disabling fast writes depends on the video card and most aren't measurably affected. I'm pretty sure that the Radeon 9600XT is one of the cards that is affected by disabling fast writes but I'm not sure about a 9600 Pro. You should leave the AGP speed at 4X but you might try to see if it runs faster with fast writes enabled. You could use 3DMark as a benchmark to see if it matters. Slowing down to AGP 4X is enough to solve most peoples' problems so disabling fast writes usually isn't necessary. But since it has a negligible effect on performance on most cards people just disable fast writes because they have a reputation for causing problems.

ATI drivers have a built in AGP tester called SMARTGART which can automatically find the fastest reliable settings for your AGP port. So even though AGP 8X and fast writes are enabled in the BIOS you can still end up only running at AGP 4X and fast writes disabled. It may have worked in the past because SMARTGART had slowed down you AGP port without you're knowing it. It's supposed to do all the testing automatically but its tests are so short that it often misses transient problems. SMARTGART's tests don't catch all problems so they allow you to manually limit your AGP port properties.
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