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The last machine in the house  (a Gateway Pentium Dual Core x64 running Vista) not running Windows 8 was starting to act up last week (again), so I decided it was time to upgrade. As I already had some experience with the Win 8 Consumer Preview on 5 machines, and installed Win 8 Pro in two machines without any issues, I figured this wouldn’t take longer than 90 minutes from start to finish. I let Microsoft download Win 8 Pro after purchasing. Twenty minutes later I was into the upgrade process.

It looked like Win 8 was getting ready for the final steps before launching the first time, when the machine simply shut down during one of several reboots that occurs during the update. I waited several minutes and sure enough, the Gateway had powered off. Upon powering the machine back on I was greeted with a message stating that the upgrade was unsuccessful and Vista would be reinstalled. WTH. This was rather confusing, as my previous “successful” Win 8 upgrades were on much older, lower powered, machines that I had doubts about actually working. This was a 3 year old x64 machine. My 90 minute upgrade timeline was already about at that point and I was back to looking at a Vista screen. Not knowing why the upgrade failed, I proceeded to delete every third party application on the machine, especially those that Microsoft warned might have some conflict running with Win 8. Started the update a second time and finally achieved (short lived) success about an hour later. It was already after 2am, so all I wanted to do was put on a few essentials; print drivers, anti-virus, thumb drive w/backup data, and go to sleep. At some point I rebooted the machine, and after a surprisingly long pause I got a message stating that Windows 8 experienced a problem while launching and would restart after sending the details to Microsoft. This repeated several more times until I finally got to a screen offering me some options, two of which were Refresh or Reinstall. Not knowing what else to do, I chose Refresh, which retains your data and folders, but deletes any installations. Basically it resets your registry. Another 25 minute pause and I was back in Win 8, reloading print drivers, etc. At 4am I called it quits and let the machine go to sleep.

The next day when I got home from work, I wanted to spend another hour or two, cleaning up and configuring this new Win 8 machine. After about 45 minutes of installs and tinkering in File Explorer, the machine simply powered off, as if there was a power failure. Even though the machine is connected to a UPS. Upon rebooting, I was presented with the same, “Windows experienced a problem” message as before, but this time I read the 6pt text on the screen stating the error had to do with a, “video_tdr_failure”. While the Win 8 machine went through a second Refresh, I did some searching with my Surface and discovered that this was a common problem with Nvidia graphics controllers, and had something to do with a new driver (306.97) that was released for Vista, Win 7 and Win 8 64bit machines. This made sense as I had seen these drivers in the Programs section of Control Panel. And had also seen these drivers listed as one of the programs removed by the Refresh process. The suggestion was to not let these new drivers install. The other suggestion was to disable the Nvidia controller. The Gateway has a Nvidia GeForce 9200 built into the motherboard.  As soon as the machine launched Win 8 again, I immediately went to Windows Update and set everything to manual. I checked and the Nvidia drivers had not yet installed. Went to Device Manager and disabled the Nvidia, which caused Win 8 to reboot and reduce the resolution to 1024 x 768. Stable, but not really practical. After a bit more research I discovered that this issue goes back to at least March 2012, and this driver is still breaking machines. No word on when, or if, Nvidia will fix the problem.

Here are some comments from someone who knows more about this than I do, posted about two weeks ago:

hi mate
this is a hardware issue relating to your graphics card ….. and is to do with the driver for your geforce 9800gt
however its a common problem and causes the blue screen since the display driver has become corrupted and this wont allow windows to load .. thus the blue screen … and the solution is to completely remove the current driver and install a previous driver ( do not use the driver your currently using )
since you cant access windows normally you need to start the pc in safe mode ( safe mode runs windows without any device drivers ) and then remove the drivers and then restart your pc as per normal
you may notice your resolution is now lower due to no display drivers ….. now download a previous driver from http://www.geforce.co.uk/drivers
however ive just noticed your running windows 8 ( i should read all the question )… and the geforce 9800gt isn’t officially supported by windows 8 so this could be your problem … however in these situations windows would normally install a standard vga driver ……
however since you have managed to run windows 8 for 2 weeks this could be a recently installed program or extension that’s caused the problem ….
another way around this would be to download a windows 7 driver ( or even better if you have the original driver disk put this in your dvdrw drive ) … then start up in safe mode and try installing the driver directly from device manager ….. right click display driver in device manager and select update driver… then select locate the drivers myself and then direct the driver update to either downloaded driver files ( you will need to uncompress these with 7-zip or winrar since nvidia drivers come as a exe ( executable ) file and cant be seen in device manager …) or you could direct device manager to the driver disk were the core driver files will be visible and can be used
windows 8 will then use the necessary files it needs to successfully install the 9800gt drivers for windows 8 ….. however this method is touch and go and wont work all the time ( around 50% of the time normally )
the main problem with windows 8 is the way it was coded …. its completely different to both windows 7 and vista and drivers that would work with both these versions of windows wont work in windows 8… and that’s why you need to manually update the drivers in safe mode…..
all your other components including your Q6600 will work fine under windows 8… however since there are more visual aspects to windows 8 that’s why some graphic cards are experiencing problems
i hope this helps .. any questions let me know
good luck mate !

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I had to wait for stores to open on Black Friday and although Best Buy had no non-Nvidia “cheap” graphics cards, Office Max did. I picked up a Radeon HD 6450 on sale for $59 and slapped it into the Gateway. At least now I have DirectX 11 support and an HDMI port. Although there were specific instructions for using the provided disc to add drivers, Win 8 discovered and loaded the necessary drivers as soon as I booted up the machine. When I tried updating drivers from the disc, Win 8 advised that the most current drivers were already installed. Good enough for me. Btw, don’t know when it happened, but those dang Nvidia drivers did re-install on my machine, although the Nvidia controller is no longer listed in Device Manager (guess the Radeon took care of that). Been running the machine for three days now, with several reboots, power off/on, etc. and everything is working wonderfully. So I am 99.9% certain that the Nvidia driver was the cause, breaking Win 8 or shutting the machine down shortly after downloading the new driver as part of automatic update process.

My new Asus desktop has an Nvidia GeForce GT620 installed and is currently using the Nvidia 305.46 driver, although per Nvidia’s site 306.97 is compatible with my controller. As a precaution I have turned off, “Give me recommended updates the same was I receive important updates”. You might want to do the same. Just sayin.

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