I have this high-end laptop that I bought 3 years ago. It came with a Nvidia GTX 260M, and it has performed flawlessly up until now.
I've been having this weird issue with it for the past couple of the weeks. It randomly crashes with a full artifact screen when playing specific games. When it crashes, the sound stutters and I get the artifact screen. I can see the mouse pointer as a small square with a different artifact pattern, and if I move it, it changes its position abruptly after 2-3 secs. It doesn't reboot automatically so I have to do a hard reset every time.
At first, it happened when I was browsing the web in Firefox, I ignored it until it happened again 2 times. It wasn't anything specific, one time I was changing tabs, another time I was reading a web page. So I turned hardware acceleration off in Firefox and the problem was gone. I thought that was it until The Secret World Beta Weekend #3 started. The graphics card would crash in the same exact way after playing for a minute or so. I turned the settings all the way down and played for a while, so I turned them up and everything was fine apparently. The next day it crashed again while playing, so I tried playing around with the video settings and I didn't notice a change. It is very random with The Secret World, 7 out of 10 times it crashes after a minute or two, the other times it plays just fine.
I thought it was a driver issue because I had just reformatted the laptop (I reformat every 6 months or so) and had installed the newest Nvidia driver 301.42. I uninstalled it and installed the 304.48 beta driver.
I couldn't test it anymore with the game because the beta weekend had ended. So I kept playing Diablo III, WoW, Torchlight and Old Republic. Everything was fine until it randomly happened again with Diablo III, so I uninstalled that driver and went back to the old driver I had before formatting (285.62). The crash happened again with Diablo III after a few days (most of the time it doesn't crash, seems very random or very specific). It has crashed only once in WoW. No crashes at all in Old Republic or Torchlight.
Apparently the driver wasn't the issue, so I thought that it might have been overheating. I checked temperatures and I had around 60°C when idle and around 85°C when playing. I cleaned all the dust and the temperatures got a bit lower, but nothing too drastic (approximately 6°C less).
A new beta weekend came for The Secret World, so I decided to try again and it is the same situation. Most of the time it crashes, sometimes I can play a couple of hours fine. I have booted up GTA IV twice on high and it crashes after a few minutes.
I downloaded a GPU stress tester (MSI Kombustor) and tested my card. It got to 95°C but didn't crash or show artifacts at all after 4 minutes, I closed it to avoid damaging the card. My card has always had its default clocking values.
As a side note, I frequently use 3D software like 3Ds Max, Maya, xNormal, Unity, UDK and I have no problem at all with them.
Sorry for being that specific, but I have no idea what to do. Should I just resign and accept the card's imminent death?
Artifact pattern (taken with a bad iPod camera):
The pattern shows most of the time those colors, but it has appeared in blue/green and red/yellow too.