When you’re not able to boot into windows it can be a cause for frustration because there are literally so many different possible problems and solutions to fix it. This can be especially difficult to diagnose when you are not physically at the computer and relying on another person’s knowledge or computer skills to help the troubleshooting process.
There are potential clues to a problem depending on when in the boot process things are going wrong. For instance, if freezes or crashed are happening some time after the login and welcome screen then looking at the programs that start with windows are one of the first things to analyse. Similarly issues very early in the boot process could be hardware related, a corrupt boot loader or core system files etc. Another possible clue is if you get a black, or worse blue screen around the time of the Windows logo screen and animation.
At around this point is when most Windows drivers are loaded and obviously gives an indication that a driver could be your problem. If you can boot into Safe Mode but not in Windows, chances are 1 of the drivers might be corrupted, and a blank screen around the time of the logo screen during a normal boot could mean graphics driver issues. If you, or the computer’s user hasn’t uninstalled the video driver then it’s not that difficult to find out what the video adapter is to download a new driver.
If you aren’t at the computer or the video driver has been removed then it could be more difficult to identify which driver needs reinstalling. It’s also no fun trying to work in VGA mode with a resolution of 800×600 or 640×480 while trying to find out. Of course you can download a 3rd party utility to try and identify the video adapter or use a boot CD such as Hiren which has a number of tools that could help.
There’s another method on how you can manually detect what video card you have which doesn’t require the use of any other tools but those present in Windows. This is achieved by using the built-in Windows debug tool. There is a rather sizable disadvantage to this method, and that is it doesn’t work on 64-bit Windows versions. No 64-bit version of Windows has ever included this tool and if you try to run it, you will just get an error. There is another possible way in a 64-bit Windows but does require internet access which is discussed below.
The dubug.exe does however work on all 32-bit versions of Windows and is even still included in Windows 8 32-bit. To find your graphics adapter:
1. Open up the DOS command prompt by pressing the Win key+R, type cmd into the search box and press Enter.
2. Type debug in the command prompt and press Enter. This will start the debug prompt, indicated by a dash “-” at the beginning of each line.
3. Now type: d c000:0000 and press Enter. There are plenty of suggestions around the web for starting the search at a different address range such as c000:0040. This will most likely work just as well but starting at the beginning simply means you won’t miss any information by starting from an address too far down.
If you don’t spot anything that looks like a video adapter name, simply type d again at the prompt and press Enter to load in the next block of data. You might have to use the d command a few times but eventually the debugger should show what you can identify as the video adapter.
As you can see from the square boxes above, the video card has been identified as an Nvidia Geforce 7600GT, the arrows show the commands that were typed in. To get out of the debugger and back to an ordinary command prompt, simply type q and press enter.
This method is quite successful at getting the video adapter but is by no means foolproof. For instance several integrated graphics chipsets may only provide the motherboard vendor’s name and not the graphics chipset.
Another way to get the graphics adapter which works on all versions of Windows including 64-bit is to gather the information through the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) component. To get the name of the adapter type the following into the command prompt:
wmic PATH Win32_videocontroller GET description
This will get the name of the adapter IF there is a driver installed for it. If not, it will simply show the standard VGA adapter. To get the hardware ID for the video, type in:
wmic PATH Win32_videocontroller GET pnpdeviceid
With the ID you can then search on websites such as Devid.info or The PCI ID Repository armed with this information and should be able to get the vendor and product name. The second backslash in the ID information and data after it is not needed to perform a search. There are also other commands you can place after the GET argument such as “AdapterRAM” to get the size of the video memory in bytes, “Driverversion” will list any installed driver version, simply separate them with a comma for more than 1 argument at once. It’s worth reading the Microsoft Win32_VideoController supported arguments for a more comprehensive list.
These methods are obviously not going to be your primary way of gathering information about a graphics adapter, but is still useful to know if other options for you aren’t working.