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I need help troubleshooting Crossfire freeze-ups during games :(

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 6, 2011 5:03:10 AM

Hello all, and thanks in advance for your advice.

I've been experiencing crashes when running games with Crossfire enabled and I'd like help determining the cause. I believe I can narrow it down to one of the following:
a) Power supply - either insufficient or just failing
b) Overheating graphics card(s)
c) Bad graphics card

Symptoms:
The crash is not a BSOD, rather my whole system completely freezes, and the only way to fix it is to hit the reset button. The screen shows the last frame of the game that was displayed (in other words, there is no display corruption) although sometimes one of my other monitors will go completely white or black. I can't ctrl-alt-del, and letting it sit for 10+minutes does nothing. Also, there is a loud, constant buzzing from my speakers starting right when the screen freezes. It's a deep hum like if a song was stuck at a particular point and just repeats one low note forever.

Background:
I just purchased a second Radeon HD5970 and installed it in Crossfire with my original HD5970. The freeze-ups did not start until I installed the second card. My monitors are plugged into the old card, with the new one in the second slot. Both cards are identical (first one is a Gigabyte, the new one is a Diamond) with factory clock settings. The crashes only occur when Crossfire is enabled in CCC. Before I installed the second card, I completely wiped the AMD drivers off my system and ran Guru3D's Driver Sweeper to erase every last remnant of Catalyst drivers and settings. I then booted up the computer with one card installed (the old one) and installed the newest drivers and Crossfire App Profiles (version 11.11 of each.) Then I shut off the computer, installed the second card+crossfire bridge, then started up again, and enabled Crossfire. (Crossfire is already in use for a single HD5970 since it is a dual-GPU card, but when you plug a second one in, there's an option that shows up in CCC to enable or disable it. Basically it lets you choose dual- or quad-Crossfire. There's no way in the newer CCC to disable it completely for my card.)

Everything looked fine, Furmark scores jumped to about 175% of what they were before, and temps in GPU-z were hovering around 90c under full load. Then, I loaded up NFS:The Run, and I got about 5 minutes into it before the crash occured for the first time. Tried it with Mirror's Edge, Fallout: NV, MW3, and Battlefield 3, and the crash would happen between 1-10 minutes into each game. Tried it with Crysis and only made it about 10 seconds into the first level (the opening cutscene played just fine, though.) Graphics settings/AA/vsync/etc. didn't seem to affect the crashes either way. The temps in GPU-z on both cards get up in the mid 80's, and the card fans (which are set to auto in CCC) start to rev up about the time the crash happens. CPU temp stays in the mid 40's. I haven't tried manually setting the card fans higher - but I've never had a problem when my card went up above 85c before; the HD5970 has always been a miniature furnace.

I have three monitors (each 24", 1920x1200) connected. The crash occurs regardless of whether I am playing on one monitor with the others on, or with them disabled or completely unplugged from the graphics card. It also occurs when playing across all three in Eyefinity mode. So, I tried taking out the old card, plugging the monitors into the new card, thinking the new card was bad. Uninstalled and reinstalled the drivers, just to be safe. Everything seemed fine, although I'm not 100% convinced it's not the new card that's failing, just because the timing is right. But, the crashes started again when i put the old card in the second slot, the reverse of how I originally had it.

Hardware:
CPU:AMD Phenom II 940 3.0 GHz ---> I had this oc'd to 3.8 GHz stable, before i got the new card, but took the oc off before i installed the second GPU to make sure it wasn't going to overheat. I have a Thermaltake liquid cooling loop on the CPU only , not on the graphics cards.
MOBO:Foxconn A79A-S AMD790FX
RAM:4Gb OCZ RPR DDR2-1066
PSU:Corsair 850TX ---> This thing has been stable as a rock for 3 years, but I'm not ruling out the fact that it might be failing. It's got something like 70a on the 12v rail and I have a hard time believing it's not enough power for 2 HD5970s, but I guess it's possible.
HDD1:WD VelociRaptor 10kRPM 300Gb ---> Where windows is installed along with a few games
HDD2:WD Caviar Black 7200RPM 2Tb ---> Where the bulk of my other games are installed
HDD3:Seagate 7200.12 1.5Tb x2 ---> Where all my music and videos and crap live
OS:Windows 7 Ultimate 64
Case:Thermaltake SwordM LCS ---> Along with the LCS on the CPU, there are 2 front intake fans, 1 bottom intake, 1 rear exhaust, and 2 top exhaust, all 120mm. I feel like cooling should not be an issue, although Im not ruling it out.
Display:Gateway FHD2401 x3


A little more background - you can probably guess that this particular build is getting on in years, in fact it's close to three years old, and obviously the Phenom II is a bottleneck for even a single HD5970 much less two. Hence the reason I had it severely overclocked before, and also played a lot of eyefinity games at 6100x1200 where it doesn't bottleneck the GPU almost at all. I picked up the second HD5970 during newegg's black friday sale, and I'm planning on building a new rig around a i7-3820 when they come out - but I'm keeping my absurdly expensive GPU's when I do.

So, basically, I need help determining if I should try to RMA the new Diamond HD5970, or if I should focus on improving my cooling, or if my PSU is just not powerful enough. Or if it could be something I haven't thought of! That's why I need all of you super-smart Tom's readers to help me out. Let me know if I need to include more information, I feel like I've already written a short novel on here, so I'll end it there.

Thank you so much!

PS. I'm also posting this in the Homebuilt forum, so please don't yell at me for double-posting. Just want as many eyes on this as possible.
a b U Graphics card
December 8, 2011 2:57:36 PM

This sounds like an overheating problem to me. I had a similar thing happen with I moved to crossfiring some 4850s. I got some aftermarket coolers that helped a lot.

I think you're power supply should be enough.
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