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Nvidia drivers caused big chunk of Vista crashes

Nvidia drivers caused big chunk of Vista crashes

Nvidia was responsible for almost 30 percent of all recorded Windows Vista crashes in an unspecified period in 2007.

According to internal Microsoft emails uncovered during the Windows Vista Capable lawsuit, Nvidia's drivers were responsible for almost 29 percent of logged crashes over an unspecified period during 2007.

It's fair to say that Windows Vista's first year in service hasn't been the best of starts for Microsoft's latest operating system. Things got worse when the Vista Capable lawsuit rose into the limelight because all of a sudden, it looked like Microsoft had knowingly deceived its customers. This wasn't helped at all with more than a lion's share of vendors unable to deliver solid drivers in time for the operating system's late January 2007 launch.

Nvidia had a lot of problems with the transition to Windows Vista – it not only had a lot of driver work to do for its GeForce 7-series products, including the GeForce 7950 GX2 that relied on SLI technology to achieve its performance characteristics, but it also had just released its new G80 architecture.

The company delivered WHQL drivers for its GeForce 7-series products—although minus SLI support—well before launch, while the new GeForce 8800 GTS and GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards were given beta support on the day of Vista's release. It took Nvidia a long time to deliver beta drivers (with SLI support) for the GeForce 7950 GX2 and that left us with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths.

If anything, these numbers merely prove that there were some quite widespread teething problems with Nvidia drivers in Vista's early days. Things are a lot better now, but even then people are still complaining about Nvidia drivers causing crashes.

Microsoft, on the other hand, was responsible for almost 18 percent of the logged Vista crashes, while ATI caused a further 9.3 percent of crashes. What it is important to note here is that Nvidia has a much larger market share than ATI in the discrete graphics card market, so in actual fact the results may not be as bad as they appear to be. However, without additional data on how many unique systems logged Vista crashes, it's impossible to draw conclusions based on the combination of the data presented here and discrete graphics card marketshare.

Obviously, driver issues are nothing new and the advent of multi-GPU technologies exaggerates those problems because of the amount of driver development work associated with getting multiple GPUs to work together effectively and it gave Vista a bad reputation as an unstable and buggy operating system.

Given the size of Service Pack 1, there were some massive changes to the OS in order to fix some of the well-documented problems, but that doesn't account for everything – there is no doubt that driver issues were responsible for some of the poor reception that Vista received in its early days.

Did you suffer from driver problems in Vista's early days? Let us know your experiences in the forums.

31 Comments

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scarrmrcc 27th March 2008, 13:33 Quote
exactly my recent situation.
had an 8600 gt, crashed, crashed, fried.
got a free upgrade (Best buy didn't realize what they were doing, yeah for the geek squad just being kids in suits, and not actual computer people) to an 8600gts OC 512 (good card for the money) and when i ran Ntune, crashed windows all the time again (even with stock settings) took Ntune off, and now she purrs like a kitten again.

Nvidia is having vista issues, no doubt.
Millusdk 27th March 2008, 13:37 Quote
I have had minor issues with the driver (the one on the cd) for my HP network printer, I even got the infamous BSoD, but once I got the driver of the website, the problems magically went away.
Goty 27th March 2008, 13:43 Quote
NVIDIA definitely has a larger share of the discrete video card market, sure, but it's nowhere near three times as large. NVIDIA's early Vista drivers sucked, and that's that.
Orlix 27th March 2008, 13:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by scarrmrcc
exactly my recent situation.
had an 8600 gt, crashed, crashed, fried.
got a free upgrade (Best buy didn't realize what they were doing, yeah for the geek squad just being kids in suits, and not actual computer people) to an 8600gts OC 512 (good card for the money) and when i ran Ntune, crashed windows all the time again (even with stock settings) took Ntune off, and now she purrs like a kitten again.

Nvidia is having vista issues, no doubt.

Actually that is not 100% right... Ntune also gives issues in XP. That is why most if not all forums tell you to never install it i the first place. I am glad you got a free upgrade for your headaches.
Tim S 27th March 2008, 13:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goty
NVIDIA definitely has a larger share of the discrete video card market, sure, but it's nowhere near three times as large. NVIDIA's early Vista drivers sucked, and that's that.

They absolutely did suck, but I think you'll find that currently Nvidia has around 71 percent of the discrete market, while ATI's share makes up most of the remainder.
atanum141 27th March 2008, 14:03 Quote
Never had a driver problem. I can see early adopters would have issues but its surprising to see Nvidia messed up here.
Tomm 27th March 2008, 14:03 Quote
Wow, so almost half of all crashes were due to video drivers (ATI + Nvidia)? That's pretty shocking really.
Blademrk 27th March 2008, 14:11 Quote
Mine still crashes with nVidia drivers (BFG 6600GTOC).
chrisb2e9 27th March 2008, 14:23 Quote
Quote:
Did you suffer from driver problems in Vista's early days?
nope, xp still worked fine for me.
Redbeaver 27th March 2008, 14:37 Quote
lotsa people playing LOTRO having problems with Vista + Geforce8-series.......
Nikumba 27th March 2008, 14:45 Quote
Just wish they would hurry up and release some new Vista 64bit drivers, still on the 169 from December

Kimbie
MrMonroe 27th March 2008, 15:13 Quote
Pinning this on nVidia seems kinda unfair. Microsoft rushes Vista to the shelves and nVidia can't push out updated drivers fast enough and nVidia gets blamed? I'd also like to point out that 17.0% of crashes being caused by an "unknown" problem means you can add that number to the percentage caused by Microsoft.

Of course, I got Vista HP 64 and an 8800GT last Nov... haven't had a driver error yet. It seems to me that more driver issues occurred with people running 32-bit Vista.
Amon 27th March 2008, 15:40 Quote
I'm having enough problems with nVidia drivers in XP.
keir 27th March 2008, 15:59 Quote
Only ever had one driver issue, and that was when I was playing a game and watching TV at the same time.
phuzz 27th March 2008, 16:18 Quote
At least by moving to a new machine running vista I've been able to move away from my nForce3 mobo, becuase the nvidia drivers for that were rubbish. (eg disabling the network port in windows would cause a hard reset).
Had a few little problems in games that I'd put down to the nVidia drivers, but then I am using x64 (same setup as MrMunroe).
WhiskeyAlpha 27th March 2008, 16:32 Quote
Nvidia had plenty of time to get their drivers ready upon the release of Vista; after all, it was hardly "rushed" to market. They undoubtably, at the very minimum, had access to the same beta and RC versions that everyone else on the interwebs did. However, the fact that they were going through some pretty large architectural changes (think: G80) in the hardware department and the fact that drivers for discrete GPUs span millions upon millions of lines of code; it was never going to be a walk in the park.

IIRC, despite the fact that they really did balls up their early vista drivers, they were fairly transparent about the fact that they were having some issues but were beavering away to fix them. The Nvidia drivers since then though have been much better and in general, I think they have the edge over their ATi counterparts (who lets face it have more then their fair share of issues, with things like multi-gpu scaling and plain "weird" issues like the 3870x2 "not liking" 1680x1050).

As for the ntune quibbles, that program has always sucked. Be it XP or Vista, you'll encounter similar issues so it's kind of irrelevant here tbh.

The fact that Nvidia haven't released any WHQL drivers for the G80 line of cards since December is a little dissapointing though. We see beta releases popping up all over the place for the new G92/G94 line (174.xx) and it seems that it is where Nvidia are currently focusing their resources (makes sense, being a new release an' all). Most of these drivers can be made compatible with the G80 series via a modified .inf file, but these have given me nothing but headaches with my GTX. One notable exception (and maybe a sign of good things to come) has been the 174.70 beta drivers that I've linked to elsewhere on the forums. These have given me spot-on IQ, excellent performance and (touch wood) not one crash or other issue thus far.
Omnituens 27th March 2008, 17:28 Quote
I didnt have driver issues, just pure fustration issues.
Gunsmith 27th March 2008, 18:22 Quote
i made a quick jump to vista back in august last year and yeah they were quite bad (sli was even worse) I made the jump again recently and ive honestly not had any stability issues at all
Anakha 27th March 2008, 19:48 Quote
And of course, let's not forget, if someone overclocks their graphics card and causes a hang/crash, it will appear as a crash caused by the graphics card drivers. XP didn't have this kind of logging, so it's a little more difficult to tell just how good (Or bad) this report is.
WhiskeyAlpha 27th March 2008, 19:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anakha
And of course, let's not forget, if someone overclocks their graphics card and causes a hang/crash, it will appear as a crash caused by the graphics card drivers. XP didn't have this kind of logging, so it's a little more difficult to tell just how good (Or bad) this report is.

That's a very good point.
cpemma 27th March 2008, 20:39 Quote
Quote:
Nvidia's drivers were responsible for 29 percent of crashes in Vista's early days.
And they're still causing the occasional problem; with a fresh Vista install and the latest 169.25 drivers I was regularly getting the notorious "nvlddmkm.sys" BSOD at the end of boot. Bad enough for me to seriously consider a return to XP.

Removing the newer drivers and installing the older ones from the Vista disc seems to have fixed things - now happy with Vista but very wary of trying the next nVidia attempt.
wuyanxu 27th March 2008, 20:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiskeyAlpha
That's a very good point.
lol, i get you contributes to 1% of total crash?

yeah, nVidia drivers are horrible, especially the dreaded nvlddmkl.sys
Gunsmith 27th March 2008, 21:02 Quote
there are leaked betas of 174+ atm which are piles better then the ones on nvidias site.
impar 27th March 2008, 23:03 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim S
... but I think you'll find that currently Nvidia has around 71 percent of the discrete market, ...
That number is correct only for the discrete graphics market of last quarter, not the overall market. Intel continues to be the leader on graphic market.

And, the ArsTechnica article refers to systems crashes regardless of type of graphic (discrete or integrated), that makes the 28,8% an impressive figure, in a very negative way.
Tim S 28th March 2008, 00:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by impar
Greetings!That number is correct only for the discrete graphics market of last quarter, not the overall market. Intel continues to be the leader on graphic market.

And, the ArsTechnica article refers to systems crashes regardless of type of graphic (discrete or integrated), that makes the 28,8% an impressive figure, in a very negative way.

Of course it does, but in comparison to ATI, the number of Nvidia crashes is fairly proportionate to marketshare in the discrete market - that's the point I'm making. Intel caused very few crashes--especially considering overall marketshare--but that wasn't what I was extrapolating from the article.

Regardless, the problems were very real and we experienced many of the headaches ourselves in the early days. Most of our early Vista testing was done on ATI cards because the Nvidia drivers were pretty much unusable from our perspective - the lack of SLI support (or full support for the 7950 GX2... depending on which way you look at it) was just the icing on the cake.
notatoad 28th March 2008, 01:10 Quote
never had any problems with my 7600gt or 8800gts drivers on vista. 8800gts drivers on linux is another matter entirely.
Gravemind123 28th March 2008, 04:05 Quote
Had terrible luck with Vista drivers for my 7900GS, nVidia Control Panel crashed every time I tried to start, using 2 different driver versions(169.XX was the newest of the two). I had a few issues with image quality in Just Cause that I didn't get in XP along with the nVidia Vista drivers not working properly with the newest ATI Tool beta and RivaTuner at the driver level. I'm going to stick with XP until I get a DX10 card and there are enough games to be worth playing under DX10.
completemadness 28th March 2008, 05:04 Quote
Personally, driver instability has probably tainted my view of vista a bit

But overall, in the grand scheme of things, driver support is hardly 1 of the big down points of vista
HourBeforeDawn 28th March 2008, 08:46 Quote
like I always told my friend nVidia has by far the worse driver and customer support.
samkiller42 28th March 2008, 10:52 Quote
I get the Driver problem where Vista resets my screen resolution from 2560*1600 to 800*600 apon each start up (cold boot or re-boot) And yes, it is annoying. Halo 2 Vista seems to be able to make my drivers crash, which is ironic, haha.

Sam
impar 28th March 2008, 11:42 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim S
Of course it does, but in comparison to ATI, the number of Nvidia crashes is fairly proportionate to marketshare in the discrete market - that's the point I'm making.
The marketshare in the discrete graphic market is irrelevant to the discussion since the ArsTechnica article is not looking to that particular market, its looking to the total market, regardless of discrete or onboard graphics, desktop or laptop.

If keeping to graphic market (and ignoring chipsets, another cause of errors), the available numbers for marketshare, discrete and onboad, usually referenced are these:
http://www.jonpeddie.com/about/press/2008/GPU_market_Q407.shtml

As you can see, the ratio between ATi and nVidia in Q407 is roughly 1:2, while in Q406, the time of Vista introduction, the ratio was 1:1,2.
Comparing these ratios to the ArsTechnica error numbers, 9,3% and 28,8%, or a 1:3 ratio, gives an idea on how badly nVidia dropped the ball in the initial Vista support, compared to ATi.

That said, Intel did gave a lot less headaches in Vista, considering graphics and chipsets marketshare.
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