Friday, 20 June 2008

Vista x64 RTM - Stop 0x0000007e on EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Mainboard

A relatively new client of ours wanted us to figure out why their system was not able to "SLI" on a pair of EVGA 8800GTX Ultra video cards in the system. They had recently picked up a game that they wanted to run on a larger high resolution monitor. There was also a need to tune up the system after about a year of usage.

The system configuration as it came to us:
Anyone catch the reason the nVidia SLI function was not available?

In this particular case, our client had gone to one of the local computer stores in the city to get the components needed to setup a new system.

At that time, about a year ago, DDR3 memory was hard come by and extremely expensive. So, it looks as though the sales clerk had move our client into the Asus Maximus Formula for its DDR2 capability.

The sales clerk missed something very important in the process: The Asus Maximus Formula was an ATI CrossFire enabled board! With the ATI setup, the video card bridge comes with the video cards. With the nVidia setup, the bridge comes with the motherboard. ATI CrossFire and nVidia SLI motherboards are not cross compatible. That is, one cannot plug in a pair of SLI video cards into a CrossFire based motherboard and expect to get nVidia SLI to function.

Since the video cards were also made by EVGA, and we had access to the EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Mainboard, that was the direction that we recommended and our client accepted.

Once we had the EVGA motherboard and a set of 4GB DDR3 1,333MHz Kingston memory, everything went together relatively well.

One caveat we ran into was the length of the video cards versus the hard drive cage setup in the Antec 900. We needed to move the cages a step out to enable the video cards and the Raptors to work together in relatively the same space.

EVGA 8800GTX Ultra snugged up to the 150GB WD Raptor

We were fortunate in that the SATA data cable on the back of the Raptor was able to fit just so in behind the EVGA's plastic housing.

When installing Windows Vista Ultimate x64 RTM on the system, we had the full 4GB of RAM installed on the motherboard.

During the initial spool up of the Windows Vista setup routine we received a BSOD with a 0x0000007E indicator and that was it.

It has been our experience on the Intel side of things that Windows setup will fail with more than 2GB of RAM installed on the motherboard. It looks like the nForce chipset suffers the same problem.

Once we removed two of the 1GB RAM sticks to bring things down to 2GB on the motherboard, setup proceeded as expected.

The system was fast! Vista Ultimate x64 installed in no time flat.

One thing to keep in mind when setting the system up is to not plug in a network cable into either of the NIC ports. Make sure to install the EVGA nForce 790i board drivers first, then the nVidia video card drivers and the requisite reboots.

The EVGA motherboard had production BIOS P01 installed out of the box. No matter what we tried we could not get the second video card recognized without a Vista BSOD.

So, we needed to update the EVGA nForce 790i Series BIOS (EVGA support forum) to the most recent version which was P05p released the day before yesterday. P05 would not allow the second video card to be recognized either.

For the SLI or dual card setup to work properly for us:
  1. Single card to start.
  2. Update the BIOS (record those settings and restore to defaults before updating)
    • Note that any RAID configuration would not be lost when the RAID controller was disabled.
    • Make sure to enable the RAID controller and set the appropriate drives after the update.
  3. Reboot
  4. Make the requisite BIOS settings changes.
  5. Power down.
  6. Install the second SLI video card and the SLI bridge.
  7. Boot into the OS.
  8. The nVidia drivers will probably need to be reinstalled.
    • The BIOS update and second video card wiped out our nVidia driver setup.
  9. Reboot and engage SLI if required.
    • The driver will pop up the management screen after the reboot.
Once we finished getting the SLI function going, the system was pretty much good to go.

There was one more snag, but that one will go into a separate post.

There certainly is an art to overclocking systems. Looking through the forums with all of the discussions around system hardware configurations and BIOS settings for all of the different variables was mind boggling!

Here was the existing components with the components we added: Here is how the system spec'd out on the Windows Vista Experience Index:

5.9 across the board! Time to update that assessment. ;)

Neat :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

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