NVidia 310.33 Beta Graphics Drivers: Caution!

I recently gave the latest NVidia beta drivers a shot and ran into a serious problem that I thought might be worth sharing just in case someone out there runs into the same.  I downloaded and installed via the “NVidia Update” facility in the control panel, as usual, and everything seemed to go ok at first.  At the end of the install, however, the overall status indicated “Failed” and the problem components seemed to be the 3D Vision controller (the little USB device) and the “NVidia Update Manager”.  Everything else indicated “OK” (PhysX, display driver, HD Audio, etc).  Concerning, but I figured it might be ok.  I launched the NVidia control panel to take a look and that’s when things got bad.  Real bad.  The system immediately locked up.

A subsequent reboot lead to an immediate lockup with what appeared to be actual video artifacting.  Like bad VRAM or BIOS flash gone wrong level artifacting.  We’re talking little text mode cubes coming up all across the screen in red and green and flickering.  The center display (card 1) would then go out and the system would lock up.  Yikes! At first I assumed it was a driver issue, but after rebooting into safe mode (which stayed up fine) and uninstalling the drivers, then cleaning with Driver Sweeper and reinstalling the old WHQL release (306), the problem still occurred.

As it turned out, I was unable to correct the articating issue, until I did a system restore two updates back.  Luckily I had fairly recently installed a minor app so it was a great snapshot to return to.  Returning to the system snapshot created when the beta drivers were installed did not work.  That part was especially strange.  With the system restored to 306.97, and its today-1 week state, everything is back to being perfectly stable.  So it really was just a bizarre condition caused by the beta drivers!  I am sure mine is an odd and isolated problem, but fair warning to proceed with caution and make sure to have  a few good system snapshots when installing beta video drivers!  With disk and video this is always a good practice since both of those subsystems have the ability to fully cripple Windows when things go south.

Borrowed from the web (this is an old 8800GTX with Win XP incident) an example of the kind of artifacting 310.33 caused for me

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