This is a LONG post, but please bear with me. I REALLY need help on this one, and I'm no computer noob. I've built my last three computers from scratch and I've never encountered something like this.
Ok, here's my major malfunction:
My computer runs fine under all normal conditions such as surfin the net, watching movies listening to music.... ect.
When I attempt to run ANY of my games (Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, Vampire Bloodlines, KOTR, KOTR2....) the game will play for about 30 minutes and then crash to a blank monitor. When I restart my computer, the resolution is magically changed to 800x400 which I then have to fix again every time.
Things I have tried:
I have updated all of my drivers (I use the Omega drivers with my ATI card), and I have flashed my BIOS with the new drivers for my motherboard, so I'm reasonably sure it's not a driver problem. I also have DirectX 9.0c which is more than most of the above games require.
Next, I turned fastwrite off and moved my AGP down to 4x. This will extend playing times for Vampire:Bloodlines to about 2 hours, but I still have 30 minute crashes with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and all other games crash in about 10 minutes or less. (The logic of this completely evades me: Why would turning those settings off cause some games to run better and others to run worse?)
I have changed driver brands many times ( I use a driver cleaner to completely remove the other drivers before installing another one) but this doesn't really effect anything at all.
I regularly clean the dust from my case (about once a week) so I know that there isn't any dust causing something to overheat.
Things I've noticed:
For some weird reason, the fan on my ATI radeon 9800 pro doesn't run all the time. Sometimes it runs. Sometimes it doesn't. This might be a feature of the card to save power or something, but I'm not sure. Also, if it IS a feature, then it's a pretty stupid one. I would want the fan on all the time on a card that powerful.
I sometimes get some heavy artifacting while windows is starting up on my background of all things. It may have happened all the time before this problem and I never noticed it, but now I see it a lot.
If I attempt to change ANY graphics settings in the game menu, such as turning anti-aliasing (sp?) or anistropic filtering (sp?) up, then the game time until crash is drastically reduced. In fact, most games won't last more than 2 minutes with these settings turned to only 2x respectively.
Things that I might have screwed up:
1) When I added my first 512 of extra RAM, it overloaded the weak power supply I had in there and I had to replace it. That one also proceeded to overload and I had to replace that one with a nice hefty 450 watt amp the size of a car battery. Maybe having two power supplies overload, because I'm a dummy, has caused some vital graphics hardware to malfunction.
2) Please don't laugh. When I put my third and fourth sticks of 512 RAM in my puter about a month ago, I accidentally put the last stick in upside down in my excitement to see how well Planetside would run with a full 2 gigs of ram. I smelled some smoke, turned my comp off immediately and removed the stick of RAM when I noticed my moronic mistake. At this time that stick of RAM is not in the computer since I think I might have fried it anyhow. I'm starting to thing, though, that maybe that fatal RAM mistake might have screwed up something else like the video card.
3.0-P4-478-800M INTEL, Pentium 4 3.00 GHz, Prescott Edition, 1Mb Cache, 800MHz FSB with Hyperthreading
CPUFAN-478 COOLER MASTER, Socket 478 Cooling Fan w/ Heatsink
ECS-865PE-A ECS 865PE-A P4 Motherboard (8X800DD4ALUSATA)
2ghz-PC3200 DDR-400, 512Mb PC3200 DDR, 400MHz, Non-ECC
ATI-R9800-256P ATI, Radeon 9800-PRO, 256MB, 8X AGP, Dual Head, DVI & TV-Out
80-IB-100-72-2 80 GB IBM Deskstar 120GXP Ultra100 7200rpm 2M
ONBOARD-SU ACO, 6-Channel Audio Card (Integrated)
56-SC-IDE ACO, 56x CD-ROM Drive, IDE
ONBOARD-LAN ACO, 10/100 Network Card (Integrated)
CASE-FAN COOLER MASTER, Case Fan, 2in. x 2in.
ATX-MT-300-BL ACO, Black Mid Tower, 450 Watt PS, Front USB