Nvidia drivers caused big chunk of Vista crashes

Written by Tim Smalley

March 27, 2008 // 12:19 p.m.

Tags: #7950-gx2 #ati #buggy #crash #drivers #g80 #instability #marketshare #nvidia #operating #os #sli #support #system #unstable #vista #windows

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.

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