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Mac Pro bootup issues: started with graphical artifacts, and now nothing.

Update:10-11Source: network consolidation
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My computer specs:
- Purchased August 2008
- 2x 2.8GHz Quad-Core Xeon
- 2 Apple 1GB RAM sticks
- 2 Kingston 4GB RAM sticks
- NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT 512MB
-== The Saga of Trouble, Episode 1: Into the Very Heart of Trouble ==-
Started World of WarCraft. Trying to get rare Green Proto-Drake mount. Suddenly, approx. 3 minutes after starting the game, the display goes haywire: artifacts, flickering, you name it.
Tried:
- Power-cycling display: image returned, still messed up.
- Command-Q: nothing, no response.
- Yelling at computer: nothing, no response.
- Holding in power button to shut down: system shut down.
- Rebooting: no REFit bootup (I have REFit installed), and the gray Apple logo has graphical artifacts. Eventually I'm brought to a screen that looks like something out of an NES where the cartridge hasn't been cleaned.
- Rebooting with a different monitor: same result.
-== The Saga of Trouble, Chapter 2: Love is the Key, But Only When Contextually Relevant ==-
Cursing several times, and promising the Mac Pro swift physical retribution should it refuse to work, as, in my hubris, I haven't made a Time Machine backup in a while, I unhooked all cables from the tower, set it on an appropriate work surface, and opened it.
Tried:
- Dusting the interior with compressed air: dusted without incident.
- Checking to ensure graphics card was well-seated: it was.
- Checking to ensure RAM sticks were well-seated: they were.
- Complimenting self on proper usage of past tense: false sense of satisfaction given my Mac Pro's trouble.
-== The Saga of Trouble, Third Strike: Startup on Low Forward Reduced by Two Frames ==-
Reconnected everything and attempted to boot. A fan that normally whirs on startup (I assume from the graphics card, but I didn't visually confirm in the past) is not whirring. The characteristic "Apple noise" is heard, but nothing on screen.
Tried:
- The other DVI port on the graphics card: no dice.
- Another monitor: nothing.
- Another monitor on the other DVI port on the graphics card: no luck.
-== The Saga of Trouble, Future Shock: Escaping the Saga of Trouble ==-
With two upcoming trips, all part of chasing my dreams to become an awesomely famous screenwriter and game designer, instead of just an aspiring wannabe, I cannot afford to do what I think will solve the problem, and that's purchasing a new graphics card.
Given my foolishness in not making regular Time Machine backups, reinstalling the OS is going to be a last resort. As in I'm not trying that until I've exhausted all other options (which, as taught in college and in the four years of my life I wasted as an IT guy for an ISP, is not what you should try first anyway). I'll exorcise the HDD and plug it into something else before I reinstall the OS.
Given the above two points: what's my next step? Is there something I can try before either purchasing a new graphics card or reinstalling the OS?
Many thanks in advance for any advice.

The Best Answer

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Apple firmware (or flashed card).
The ATI line of Apple cards use universal EFI (EBC) so even the new 5770/5870s work as well.
Check the test results coming out on
http://www.barefeats.com comparing cards.
I realize the hard restart may be 'necessary' but booting from DVD or running the single user mode command FSCK -fy can minimize directory repair problem if you don't have OS X on another drive.
Installing OS X is fast and easy if you can shrink 30GB off another drive that you would then be able to boot from and has just mini OS and utilities.
Cache files often are the first to become corrupt as well, or prefs, anything that was in memory and that are changed frequently and after a startup. Cache files are automatically rebuilt and no fear if you can delete those.
AppleJack and Snow Leopard Cache Cleaner can 'enhance' what diskutil fsck you can do and add some more commands.
8800GTs are harder to find, still on ebay at times.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300448795337
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