It started yesterday while playing Kingdom Come. The screen suddenly went black and staid that way. After several minutes of waiting I shut down the system by force, thinking it had frozen. After rebooting everything seemed fine, although I didn't try to get back into the game at that point. I did reinstall my graphics drivers just to be sure. It asked me to reboot my system in the middle of the installation process, which I don't remember it usually doing, but otherwise everything seemed normal, so I just surfed the internet for a while, thinking it was simply a random system hickup.
About two hours later, while watching a Youtube video, the same thing happened again, the screen just went black. This time I figured out that it wasn't actually the system that had frozen, it was just that my card (a Palid GTX 970 Jetstream) had stopped sending a signal to my monitor. I was even able to perform a blind shutdown using a combination of WinKey + r and the shutdown command, so Windows 10 itself seemed to work fine. Afterwards I checked my event viewer and apparently each blackout was preceded by a quick succession of dwm.exe errors followed by a switch to Microsoft Basic Display Driver, which apparently wouldn't play along with my 970 either. This time it didn't take long 'til the next blackout. About 10 minutes into the session, a second after starting a podcast on the Pocket Casts web player, I was staring at a black screen again. After the next reboot I decided to try one last clean reinstall of my display drivers, just to be sure. Unfortunately this time the blackout happened right in the middle of the installation process. I still waited a while before shutdown, but I'm not sure it actually finished the installation.
It got worse though, this time after reboot the screen simply staid black. It wouldn't even display the BIOS splash screen, and I don't think it booted into Windows either. Thankfully I still had my trusty old GTX 560 lying around or I'd have been royally screwed (I use a Xeon E3-1230 v3 CPU, so no onboard graphics there). The 560 has been working for several hours without a hitch though, in the same slot the 970 had been plugged into, so if it's a hardware error, I suspect it lies with the card itself, not the motherboard. I did try to switch back to the 970 once again as well, and it showed some tiny signs by at last displaying the BIOS splash screen, but both times I tried it wouldn't even finish the Windows boot sequence before going black once again.
So my question is, is there any realistic chance that it isn't, in fact, a hardware error? I mean there are no outward signs or anything, no scorching, no melting, no signs of explosions, no indications of nuclear fusion ;P And when I try to boot with it, the fans are still turning, so it's not entirely dead. But then again what else could it be? The only other thing I could come up with are driver errors due to the failed second reinstall. But that shouldn't affect anything before actually booting into Windows, right? And unless I'm wrong, installing display drivers doesn't flash the card, so it couldn't actually have bricked anything there. So I'm at a loss at what else it could be. If anyone has any ideas it would be most appreciated.