Tips on Recovering from Garbled Screen in Windows

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Saturday, October 15, 2005

My computer, running Windows 2000, was having garbled display. First the mouse droppings which the refresh wasn’t eliminating. Then slowly more and more disturbing visual elements started covering the screen - lots of lines and dots and colors. It is as-if someone decided to add tons of noise to my screen.

It progressively and rapidly worsened till it was impossible to view anything on screen. The problem started to manifest even while booting.

What could potentially be wrong? Was it Software Virus, Graphics Card, Driver or Monitor? Lets step through the possibilities to a startling solution.

First I checked the monitor. A different monitor displayed the same problem. Monitor was not the issue.

Then I tried to view the screen using VNC (Popular free remote screen capturing utility). It looked perfect.

I use AVG (Popular free anti virus software), which is updated with new virus definitions every night, along with Zone Alarm (Popular free firewall software).

Due to three factors stated above I could safely rule out virus infection. Also I haven’t heard about any new virulent boot-sector virus these days. They are rather easy to detect, even new ones, with heuristic scanning.

Obviously by this time I had gone through Microsoft troubleshooting help, which as always was totally useless drivel. And then it gives up very easily.

I thought the graphics card was the most likely problem at this point. I have integrated graphics card on a Intel chipset Motherboard.

One of my other machine was having problems too. On powering it was giving strong burning smell. On investigation we found one of the 256 MB DDRAM memory was actually burning! So I replaced it with a 256 MB DDRAM Hynix memory from my first machine.

Now something funny happened. I saw the same garbled display on this machine too. It was the memory all along!

The video card was using portion of the RAM for its display. A bad memory gave it all the troubles. All I had to do was remove the defective memory and my machine was up and running, albeit with lower memory.

I had seen defective computer memory contributing to lots of problems but never a garbled display.

Lesson learnt: Almost always first eliminate (computer) memory as a potential cause of problem.

Update: Interestingly the same defective RAM works fine on Windows XP machines and is currently being used without any problems.


November 11, 2008: 12:53 pm

windows 2000 server is showing all sub screens garbled. Replaced memory and video card and have same problem. Any suggestions?


December 22, 2006: 10:50 pm

You can also try reseating the RAM (removing it, cleaning it and then setting it again) to see if it helps.

December 22, 2006: 10:50 pm

I noticed such defective RAM doesn’t normally have any effect on Windows XP. So you might simply upgrade.

December 22, 2006: 5:13 pm

Thanks for writing this you also saved me from buying a new graphics card.
I removed 2 x kingston 258MB RAM and the garbled screen was fixed, however i have just tried a game (BF2142) and its starting to appear again but thankfully goes away whilst using windows(xp), Im thinking that maybe the motherboard is defective or my original RAM is but ive been using the ram for over a year without any problems.
At least i can search the internet now for a solution so thanks again, i was just able to make out the part about the RAM :P

October 9, 2006: 9:31 am

You cannot reset RAM on your computer. You can try cleaning it and see if that helps. Otherwise you have to simply replace it.

October 9, 2006: 3:11 am

how would you reset the ram, i am having this problem right now

Chris Reid
July 8, 2006: 3:04 am

Thank you so much for writing this article. You have saved me hours of trying to figure out this problem. I just had to reseat the ram and the problem was gone. I was actually thinking of buying a new video card but you have saved me hundreds of dollars.

Thanks again, Chris

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