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Video card died of dirt or old age

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I have a Gateway 450 running XP.

The monitor went wild this afternoon and the vertical hold (using old school TV terms) was repeating lines with a small 2-inch square dark box in the center.

I rebooted and in about 3-4 minutes the monitor did it again.

So I swapped monitors and the same thing happened, therefore it wasn't the monitor.

I swapped the video card with a unit that I knew worked. It seems to have worked fine. An hour later and nothing is going wrong.

When I opened the unit to swap the cards, it was really dirty. The last time I tried to clean a unit, I must have statically shorted it because, even though I was careful, after the cleaning it didn't work. So I am really scared to clean anything. I did wipe the bottom of the case when I swapped cards but that was it.

Could dirt really crap out the card? Is it common for video cards to just die like that? Do those symptoms really seam like an old age thing?

I will try cleaning with an air can but that's it. I'm too afraid of crapping out this machine. I'm now backing everything up.
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