Video card problems - help needed. AGP.

My Radeon 9800 PRO has been acting up ... sometimes pixels flicker on the screen when doing non-graphic intensive tasks (like web surfing). The real problem is, when I try to play Oblivion, the game either locks up cold (screen freeze) or I get kicked out to Windows with a "Oblivion has had a serious error and failed. Would you like to send an error report to Microsoft?" message.

Occasionally I get a similar message, except it will say something specific like "the video card has stopped responding to commands."

Anyhow, this is a home brew box that's a couple years old with an AGP port and no PCI-E ports. The Intel processor is around 2.5 GHz (Hyperthreaded for her pleasure) and I've got 2 GB of RAM. I know AGP is dead and I need a PCI-E, but I don't really want to build a new machine right now, I'd rather just get a new video card to put in this box.

So ... I was looking at this: (Newegg, not goatse. Trust me.)

Should I pull the trigger? I can buy computer hardware under $200 without permission from the account manager (my wife). I hate to spend anything if the problem is elsewhere, but it seems to be the video card to me. And is this Sapphire card garbage? Is my money better spent elsewhere?

I'm pretty upset - I was so geeked about the 9800 Pro when I got it. In retrospect, with the driver problems I've had and now an apparent hardware failure - it's not exactly going into my retired hardware Hall of Fame.

You might want to move this thread to the "Tech and Help" forum.

Nice looking video card though, wish I had the money to upgrade.

It's possible there's a failure happening in the hardware, but more likely you're having an overheating issue. Since it sounds like you built it yourself and you're comfortable mucking around inside it, you might want to try hitting a hardware store and buying one of those cans of compressed air. Disconnect your PC, take the cover off, take it outside, and blow out all the dust that's built up over the years. If it's anything like my PC's after a couple years it will be like a dust storm sweeping through your yard. Get in there especially between the heatsink fins and the blades of fans. If it's possible on your card, you could also try removing the heatsink and/or fan assembly and apply a fresh drop of thermal compound while you're in there. It's a little bit of work, but a lot cheaper than shelling out for a new card. If you're still having strange artifacts and crashes after that then you can be pretty safe in assuming the card has decided it's done drawing neat pictures for you and you won't feel so guilty about buying a new one.

I definitely think you're right about the overheating. I was thinking that I seriously overheated it and fired it, but you're right, I might just need to clean out the case. I will give it the once over before I trash the venerable 9800 Pro.

It also occurred to me that the power supply might be wonky. I swapped out my original 350 Watt Antec for this 400W Antec a few months ago, but the 400W was salvaged from a friend's system he retired so it's old and used and likely filled with dust. And it gets hot. I considering dropping the 350 back in to see if it makes a difference.

Sorry for putting this in the wrong forum. Thanks for taking a look at a coffee grinder's problem.

If you continue to consider a new card, I just bought the following:

Works great for me (in Oblivion), I got it for $179 from Tiger Direct. I don't think Sapphire is bad at all. They actually make the ATI branded cards.

That 6800 looks like a sexy deal ... now I'll have to do more research to see if I want to jump ship to NVidia. I still have to clean out my box though and see if I can fix it without spending any money.