Annoying Freezes Caused by Nvidia Driver

Update: This seems to finally be fixed in Karmic. Whoohoo! 😀

This is specifically referring to Nvidia GeForce2 and GeForce2 Go cards (and GeForce 4?). From the searching I’ve done, this random freezing on Linux systems has been going on for quite a while without any obvious solution. I’ve figured out that it comes down to a bug in the driver that makes it not agree with CPU frequency scaling. However this bug is extremely odd in that it doesn’t always show up. For instance, I have found certain distros that do not have this problem. Ubuntu Dapper 6.06 did not have this problem, which was why I was still using it on my laptop until a couple of months ago when I found a workaround for this problem. Mepis 6.5 also did not have this problem (probably due to the fact it’s based on Ubuntu 6.06) and neither did PCLinuxOS.

Now for the workaround. Like I said, it basically comes down to CPU scaling. In Ubuntu, CPU scaling is controlled by the powernow daemon, known as powernowd. This needs to be disabled. Yes, this will eliminate the ability of your CPU to be scaled and it will be running at full throttle, but it will make your computer usable. There are a couple of ways to go about doing this. One way is to edit powernowd so that it doesn’t run. To do this

$ gksudo gedit /etc/init.d/powernowd

Right below the the very first line which should be #! /bin/sh add this line

exit 0

Save and either reboot or issue this command which should restart the powernow daemon

$ sudo /etc/init.d/powernowd restart

The other way is to open the Services tool in System→Administration→Services and disable powernowd from there.


If you don’t use Ubuntu you will need to find out what is responsible for CPU frequency scaling since every distro is different.


19 thoughts on “Annoying Freezes Caused by Nvidia Driver”

  1. I’ve been changing from browser to browser because this freeze usually happened when running a browser (FF, Konqueror,.. both, and even when not browsing). Your workaround is gave me some hope. I’ve done what you instructed about 15 mins ago. I’ll see if I get any more freezes. Usually, I get about one or two freezez per day, after I’ve stopped using FF.
    There’s a bug report which sounds just like what you described here.

    By the way, I use an Acer laptop with nVidia GeForce Go 7300. I use compiz-fusion (always), and freeze occurs with latest and oldest nVidia drivers.

  2. Wow.

    It worked.

    No freeze.

    The BEST test, of course, is to re-enable the powernowd and see if the freeze happens again but I ain’t gonna!

    Very good – no fear anymore! (til the next freeze…)

  3. I tried this fix, and it did not work for me.
    I have a toshiba satellite, with Geforce 4 nVidia card.
    If i visit youtube, with powernowd enabled or disabled, I have bad results. The results are different, but bad nontheless.
    I posted my exact results here:
    I hope someone fixes this soon…….
    I need to try this with Konquorer, as someone said they don’t have this problem with a non-gecko browser. However, I have tested this for my machine yet.

  4. My solution to the problem was much more simple. Basically, you’ll need to remove the CD from the drive bay in your computer. Look at the top surface of the disk. Does it say “Ubuntu?” Great! Now take a hammer to it and give it a good “whack.” Next step can, for some, be a doozy. But it’s very important. The disk you placed in the CD sleeve several months ago that says “Windows XP” on it needs to go back in the drive bay. Once inserted, say “yes” to reformat and install. This will cure the bugs…

  5. Too late for me to test this…

    I did a fresh install of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy) on a brand new harddisk in my HP Pavilion dv6361eu. This did the trick for me, my problems are gone. The Hardy cd installed driver NVidea version 169.12 just out of the box.

    Best of it is maybe that CPU scaling is installed right out the box too! So no barbecue on the cooler needed. And no hammer too ;- )

    maybee you should give it try too!

    Take a look at: for info about this bug too!

  6. It’s not powernowd. I run a dual-core Athlon64 desktop machine with GeForce 7800 GS card on Ubuntu Hardy Heron. This problem occurs completely *randomly*.

    I have since switched to the opensource ‘nv’ driver for the time being.
    The random lockup happens in the kernel and makes the system totally hang (and the flashing LEDs on the keyboard .. numlock and capslock flash.)

    Happens with both the Ubuntu-supplied nvidia-glx-new (v169.12+ and the one I downloaded and installed off Nvidia’s site (v173.14.05)

    Basically, the Nvidia proprietary driver is totally messed up!

  7. I have the same problem in Windows XP, without the nv dirver the PC works normaly , install the driver end 5 or 6 minutes after, it freezes , or when i try to run any video … prety anoyng
    CPU AMD Semprem K8 MB K8v vm ultra

  8. The numlock and caps lock flash is a symptom of “kernel panic”, which is very likely caused by power control (ACPI) issues, not CPU scaling.

    I have an old dual PIII box that I’m trying to run Untangle on, and the kernel panic problem has been mostly fixed by disabling ACPI in the BIOS and in GRUB.

    It would be bad news to go that far with a laptop, but no worse than turning your CPU scaling off completely. There may be ways to get the power control under control so you don’t have to just turn it off.

  9. I’ve been distro hopping and just went back to Ibex after numerous freezes on PCLOS 2008 Gnome (a great distro by the way).

    I have an HP 8755C with 512MB of RAM and a 128MB VERTO GeForce FX 5500 graphics card. Basically a pretty old box. I disabled the powernowd and so far so good. This system used to freeze with XP all the time too.

    So now I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If anyone knows what is causing this in PCLOS 2008 Gnome, I’m all ears.

    Thanks for the info.

  10. I have had many problems with Ubuntu in the past. Random freezes and such… So this week I have re-installed it 4 or 5 times. I just realized that everything runs smoothly for days until I install that stupid Nvidia driver. Is there another driver around that doesn’t make my CPU crap on me? Or am I going to have to run it with the default driver and look at that little icon that says “boo hoo Nvidia sux”

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