(This post in a nutshell: update your BIOS. This should work not only on the Asus M50Vn, but also reportedly on many other versions, like M70Vn, N80Vn, X72VN, any M50…)
During the last month, I tried really hard to find a way to upgrade the GeForce 9650M GT drivers on my Asus M50Vn laptop. At first I tried every possible version, both under Windows and Linux, which at least gave me the occasion to post an updated version of my old Fedora Core 3 nVidia drivers installation guide. Then I gave up for a few weeks, until yet a new stable drivers version got released (version 195.62 on December 4). I tried those ones again… only to be a victim of yet the same bugs. This was too much, I had to at least notify the customer service about the apparently broken drivers.
So there I went, to nvidia.custhelp.com. Created an account, submitted a “wtf you could at least test your drivers on the supposedly supported 9650M GT” claim, and went back to my slow but (almost) stable 180.70 drivers. To my surprise (it was a Saturday), I quickly got a rather large reply, asking for more information. A few hours later I was told that:
[since I] have installed Windows XP on [my] laptop which is not shipped as OEM, […] drivers on NVIDIA website will not work because the NVIDIA graphics driver for laptops works only with preinstalled operating system with laptop
Therefore, [they] request [me] to kindly contact [my] laptop manufacturer to get the compatible and updated driver for [my] laptop graphics card.
This came a bit as a shock, since I wondered how they’d expect to see customers with OEM Linux, and also I wondered what’s the point of providing drivers if they can’t replace the traditionally totally outdated version provided by laptop manufacturers (NB: for the M50Vn laptop, Asus provide no Windows XP drivers and their Vista drivers were last updated in August 2008). But this made me go to the Asus driver download website (precisely to be able to tell NVIDIA how outdated Asus was :D). And after some browsing there, I found this:
Update VBIOS to fix VGA flicker and freeze problem.
Looks like the solution, doesn’t it? 🙂 So I updated the BIOS, reinstalled the newest drivers… and everything worked fine, finally.
Congratulations, problem solved
NB: after some research, it turned out that my model wasn’t the only one affected. For instance, in A possible solution to Nvidia 9650M GT DriverProblems and [Résolu] Karmic / Nvidia 9650M GT / Freeze de l’affichage, it’s mentioned that the same problem and fix occurs in M70Vn, N80Vn, X72VN and any M50 Asus laptops, as long as it has a GeForce 9650M GT graphics card. Just make sure that you grab the proper BIOS, from Asus Support (downloads). The version of the BIOS fixing this issue may vary depending on laptop model.
NB2: since this is a BIOS issue, this applies to any OS: the issue occurs (and the fix works) as well on Windows XP, Vista or Seven, but also on any Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora…), and I guess also on Solaris and FreeBSD.