Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Radeon 5xxx Owners Report Grey Screens/Hangs

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 217 comments

A significant amount of ATI users have taken to the AMD user to user forums to complain about grey screens, crashes and colored-striped hangups.

(There's actually countless forums out there with threads like this – including at least 4 threads in our own forums. I'm concentrating on the AMD forums because these guys, between them, have collected nearly 40 pages of possible causes involving everything from Windows, to mobos, to RAM.)

So far it's unclear as to what is causing the problem. Users report that grey, brown or colored stripes/screen appear while playing games, watching movies and in some cases, while idle. The problems seems to be confined to the HD 5xxx series, although there are a couple of mentions of 4xxx cards

Poster Jogob9 says:

There are 3 big categories of problems:

#1 is people experiencing 2d crashes: to these people, a good fix that seems to be working very well for most is to set your idle clocks higher (most suggest 400MHz for core and 900MHz for memory, but any value between that and 725/1000 should, in theory, be fine. 

#2 is people experiencing 3d crashes: to these, it's a little bit more complicated. A lot of people had success by setting the voltage higher, or downclocking the core and memory for more stability. It certainly is a more complicated problem than the 2d crashes.

#3 is people (like me...) getting both. In this case, as far as I know, the only thing you can do is severely downclocking your core and memory in order to get more stability, but still... there are crashes (less often though...)

Several have complained to ATI and received word back from the company that the problem is a result of a Windows 7 update. Pasted below is the response one user received after filing a complaint about his HD 5870:


"Thank you for your feedback. We are aware of this issue, and it has to do with Windows 7 update. We are working on a solution for this problem.

In the mean time we recommend you do a clean install of the Graphic card driver by removing all ATI and or other Graphic card software from Windows Control Panel> Program and Features in safe mode. From feedback on our forums some people have successfully solved the issue by doing this.

In order to update this service request, please respond, leaving the service request reference intact.

Best regards,

AMD Global Customer Care"

However, posters don't seem convinced. One user (roadhead) said he first had to do a fresh install of Windows 7 x64 Ultimate to get his card's driver installer stop crashing, proving that a clean install can have the exact same issue. Further, the poster on the receiving end of the email above (Fl00D) said:

"This Win7 update thing seems rubbish to me... several people solved the issue by raising the voltage, then I think it has nothing to do with Win7 update..."

Windows Vista and XP users are also experiencing problems so writing it off as a Windows 7 issue is definitely inaccurate.

Users with AMD systems think it could be a memory addressing bug as changing the RAM from unganged to ganged mode seems to help. One poster says, "I think a lot of the problems people are having is to do with their system memory! Most people think we are crazy saying that!" While another says:

"Well that's peculiar... I have never had problems with my system memory and I have also tested it not only by memtest86+ (at least 4 passes) but by Prime95 Blend test which is a lot more demanding. My old Giga mobo could not handle the memory at 1600MHz and every time I ran Prime95 I got errors. Now with my new msi mobo even at 1600Mhz everything is absolutely prime95 stable. So no CPU rounding errors, no RAM errors. I suppose if setting the RAM to ganged mode REALLY solves the problems then there must be sg wrong with the drivers/Win updates etc etc. Maybe some sw bug which only occurs when memory is set to unganged. more demanding."

Yet more posters (including out tipster, jogob9) suggest it could be a mobo issue because although there are people using the same CPU and same card, not all of them are experiencing the problem.

Listed below are six possible causes that jogob9 gleaned from the problems he and everyone else is having:

#1 - Bad cards:

Some people who RMA their cards got new functional cards; which might mean that there is a huge amount of bad cards on the market.  --- I think it is wrong, because as I have said before, a LOT of people did not have problems one day, and next it was hell. 

#2 - Bad system alchemy:

It is very possible and has happened often in the past that simply, some parts are not meant to be together. And as you can guess, the graphics card is usually the girl: causing problems with the guy (motherboard) and his deficient brother: the PSU. --- For the same reason than with #1, I don't think it is the problem. 

#3 - Memory problem:

A few people, including myself; have noticed improvement in system's stability by changing the "Ganged" feature on the BIOS, or by removing memory chips. It certainly is possible that the problem is memory related, but I think I can safely say that we have tried everything that possibly can be done with a memory chip , and it did not work!

#4 - OS problem:

Some think that the problem might be related to the OS used, which could make sense... But it has been tested by myself and others on: XP x86, XP x64, Vista x86, Vista x64, 7 x86 and 7 x64. Results: x86 versions seems a bit more stable in 3d, but crashes more often in 2d. XP is slightly better than Vista and 7, where I saw absolutely no difference. I tested each of these WITH windows updates done, and WITHOUT; without any change. --- In ALL case, the problem persists, so I doubt it is the OS.

#5 - Voltage problem:

As I said before, some people got their system fixed for the moment by tweaking the voltage settings. It is possible that drivers included a voltage drop setting, perhaps to consume less energy, but it turned out that it made the system unstable. I believe it is a probable cause for the issue, but I still have doubts, because It did not change a thing for a lot of people, including myself.

#6 - Sensor problem:

I have not seen anyone talking about it yet, but as you can read in the forums, I have noticed that sensors indicate that my card consumes INSANE amounts of power when loaded. Numbers that are so insane in fact that it becomes ABSOLUTELY certain that sensors are doing something wrong.

My first theory about it is that maybe sensors get insane values and try to "slow" the card, in order to get normal values. These major changes in voltage, core clock and memory clock can easily destabilize a card to a point where you get artifacting and even a lockup. This would also explain why we are experiencing so BAD performance. I have read everywhere, and I also have myself VERY BAD FPS in benchmark and games, FPS drops when playing, short freezes under windows, etc. When a graphics card downclocks itself (overclockers will know what I'm talking about) this is exactly what happens. --- What I like about this theory is that it FITS to the problem perfectly. It explains all kinds of bugs we can get! And even better, it is VERY easy to fix! If it is indeed the problem, ATI just has to check and repair sensors in the drivers, which takes very few time!

My second theory is that the card does consume a lot of energy. Of course, not 4000W, but enough to trigger the same safety protocols as in theory #1, leading to the same effect. This can be caused by a corrupt function in drivers; for example: shaders, or memory managing. The corrupt function doesn't work, so it loops and tries again, but doesn't work, and tries again, and etc... Consequently, the card would need much more energy, because the GPU would be busy trying to do this non-working thing, and there we go. --- As in theory #1, this fits very well, but it would also mean that it could take a LOT of time for guys at ATI to find what part of the drivers cause the problem...

Long story short, no one has a clue what's wrong; people are RMAing their cards and getting a second faulty card back, while others are getting replacement cards that work just fine. One poster on the X-Treme Systems forums says NewEgg had no problems giving him a new card and suggests it's because the retailer knows there is a problem with the cards.

"Just sent my second XFX 5870 back to newegg today and theyre giving me a full refund for it. i let them know that many people are having major issues with these cards and they clearly must know it too. not sure what ill do when i get my money back, either buy a gtx 295 or just keep going with my trusty 4870 lol"

We contacted AMD and received the following response on Tuesday:

"The answer I have received so far on this is that we are aware of forum posts relating to this issue.  As with any issue of this kind, we are testing to determine under what conditions the issue manifests itself, at which point we will be able to determine how to fix the problem if it is related to the graphics card or driver."

We are still awaiting further details from AMD, which we will post on Tom's Hardware as soon as we get them.

If you've read this far, congratulations! It's a long news post but we feel it's something our readers need to be aware of.

Big thanks to both Kewlguy and Jo_gobeil!

[UPDATE] So after huge amounts of forum trawling, we're seeing the following model numbers crop up again and again: 4770, 4850, 4870, 5770, 5850 and 5870. The cards seem to be coming from all different companies; the following are the ones we've seen crop up more than a few times from different users: XFX, Sapphire, Diamond, ASUS and HIS.

Display 217 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    Atranox , January 28, 2010 3:35 PM
    I recieved my Sapphire 5850 yesterday. Loaded up Company of Heroes - 30 seconds later, gray screen.

    Awesome.
  • 20 Hide
    doron , January 28, 2010 3:58 PM
    As a regular visitor in the amd forums there are dozens of problems posted every day, usually made by average people who just assumes a certain part of their computer for causing this problem without a thorough check, which sometimes proves to be incorrect.

    Consequently, I think that's something like a chicken / egg dilemma, since when people who have problems with their computer (underpowered psu, bad memory etc.) visit some forums and see huge stickies with 5xxx problems, some of them conclude that the gpu is at fault and add something of their own to the thread.

    We should put these problems in prespective - The fact that 2 million cards were sold in a relatively short time and that the **official** amd forum has only 30-40 people who are crying for help and is not flooded with hordes of people is a good sign.

    As a side note, although I do own an amd cpu + gpu, I'm not a fanboy and do not appreciate anyone who's commited to any company (i.e. fanboyism).
  • 16 Hide
    brett1042002 , January 28, 2010 3:42 PM
    Received my Asus 5870 3 days ago. Been playing Team Fortress 2 and WoW just fine. No issues at this time.
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    foody , January 28, 2010 3:25 PM
    Lucky me. My 5770 works flawlessly under Windows 7 Ultimate x86.
  • 7 Hide
    greatsaltedone , January 28, 2010 3:27 PM
    Hmm, I was chomping at the bit to get my tax refund so i could buy a 5970, but maybe now I will wait until this issue has been resolved. There is nothing more disappointing than spending that kind of money on a part that just gives you heartburn.
  • 2 Hide
    tamick88 , January 28, 2010 3:31 PM
    Huh, looks like its a good thing i decided to wait to upgrade my graphics card. Hopefully there's a fix for this soon though, its frustrating having a new graphics card that doesnt work
  • 3 Hide
    megamanx00 , January 28, 2010 3:34 PM
    Hmm... who knows. Hope they fix the issue, whatever it is soon. I'm looking forward to the 5830 after all, or at least some custom PCB 5850s.
  • 23 Hide
    Atranox , January 28, 2010 3:35 PM
    I recieved my Sapphire 5850 yesterday. Loaded up Company of Heroes - 30 seconds later, gray screen.

    Awesome.
  • 4 Hide
    deltatux , January 28, 2010 3:36 PM
    Not new news, but should have been addressed since October when these cards were released instead of stating that this problem only being acknowledged in January. AMD needs to step up their game to resolve these issues.

    Luckily, I still have a Radeon HD 4000 series but my friends are dogging me for answers since they aren't computer literate and I am but I can't help them since this is not solvable atm.
  • 14 Hide
    hot74rod2003 , January 28, 2010 3:38 PM
    boy if this was an nvidia card problem this thing would be lit up with ati guys bashing them!!!!!! this nvidia fan boy will just keep his mouth shut and give a devilish smurk :|
  • 16 Hide
    brett1042002 , January 28, 2010 3:42 PM
    Received my Asus 5870 3 days ago. Been playing Team Fortress 2 and WoW just fine. No issues at this time.
  • -5 Hide
    Miharu , January 28, 2010 3:45 PM
    Look like ATi is in trouble like nvidia with Physic.

    Let's hope they will fix that soon!

    Windows 7 x64 / ATi Sapphire HD 4770 and not trouble at all for now.
  • 2 Hide
    brisingamen , January 28, 2010 3:46 PM
    i bet its a little bit of all three problems getting clumped toghether,

    thier is always a chance any card from anywhere could be faulty, so that explains it i mean, sometimes things get bounced around to much off the assembly test line during shipping, not all silicon is created equal and some parcel packers have bad days and im sure take it out on the parcels.

    just like some cards handle much higher clocks at lower voltages than others some card due to design work better at extremely low clocks when starved for power,

    not all components play well toghether, thats just the nature of the beast,

    my 4870, and 5670 have worked flawlessy on windows 7 ultimate 64 bit edition thus far.

  • 7 Hide
    jcknouse , January 28, 2010 3:49 PM
    AtranoxI recieved my Sapphire 5850 yesterday. Loaded up Company of Heroes - 30 seconds later, gray screen.Awesome.


    Weird. I have 2x Sapphire 5850s running stock in my box on a MSI 790FX-GD70 mobo and Mushkin DDR3 and an AMD Phenom II x4 B50 @ 3.675GHz.

    I've run everything from web games to Civilization III to Darkfall on it.

    Not had a video crash one, and I am runnin the 9.12 drivers under Win XP Pro x64. Not done a lot under Windows 7 x64 Pro, but what I have been in there it's never crashed either in Crossfire mode or regular.

    Hope you get yours fixed
  • 20 Hide
    doron , January 28, 2010 3:58 PM
    As a regular visitor in the amd forums there are dozens of problems posted every day, usually made by average people who just assumes a certain part of their computer for causing this problem without a thorough check, which sometimes proves to be incorrect.

    Consequently, I think that's something like a chicken / egg dilemma, since when people who have problems with their computer (underpowered psu, bad memory etc.) visit some forums and see huge stickies with 5xxx problems, some of them conclude that the gpu is at fault and add something of their own to the thread.

    We should put these problems in prespective - The fact that 2 million cards were sold in a relatively short time and that the **official** amd forum has only 30-40 people who are crying for help and is not flooded with hordes of people is a good sign.

    As a side note, although I do own an amd cpu + gpu, I'm not a fanboy and do not appreciate anyone who's commited to any company (i.e. fanboyism).
  • 3 Hide
    zorky9 , January 28, 2010 3:59 PM
    Have a Sapphire 4890 VaporX for a year now without any issues.Was looking forward to upgrading to a 58xx card soon, but now...

    Maybe will just wait for Fermi.

  • 9 Hide
    hundredislandsboy , January 28, 2010 4:01 PM
    Where's the numbers? Where's the recall? Wouldn't the e-tailers pull the cards off the shelf if they were going to lose money wih mass refunds and/or exchanges? I don't think it's as bad as the article seems to be deliberately vague.
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , January 28, 2010 4:02 PM
    Thanks Jane, for this compendium. Along with the 2D issue that THG described in a previous article, this just adds to the reasons to wait a while before upgrading. I just hope my HD4850 won't choke too badly if I go to 1920x1080, although my titles aren't too demanding.
  • 16 Hide
    ananke , January 28, 2010 4:04 PM
    There is nothing wrong with the cards. Microsoft updated all Windows systems several days ago. I have running XP 32-bit, Vista Home Premium 32-bit and Win 7 Pro - 64 bit. They all have been updated immediately after Google announce the hacker attacks through IE. My Radeon 5850 start crashing immediately after the update when in 3D game play. Before the update the card was rock solid. So, waiting for new update from Microsoft to fix the mess that they did with the previous one. This happens already several times for the last three years. MS seems never does the update at first correctly.
  • 3 Hide
    JMcEntegart , January 28, 2010 4:05 PM
    HundredIslandsBoyWhere's the numbers? Where's the recall? Wouldn't the e-tailers pull the cards off the shelf if they were going to lose money wih mass refunds and/or exchanges? I don't think it's as bad as the article seems to be deliberately vague.


    I'm not deliberately being vague. We don't know what the problem is and AMD won't tell us. You expect AMD to recall cards and retailers to pull cards of the shelves when ATI hasn't even publicly identified the problem?
  • 7 Hide
    Annisman , January 28, 2010 4:06 PM
    I feel bad for anyone with this issue, both of my 5870's work fine in Win 7 64, I hope they get it figured out.
Display more comments