HD 5850 - Red squares on screen, display crash, BSOD


Sep 29, 2013
Hi everyone, thanks in advance for your help. I am having difficulty diagnosing a computer graphics problem. Think "House MD" - a variety of symptoms that might be due to a number of reasons.

Computer hardware:
Core i5 750
HD Radeon 5850 (visiontek)
Windows 7 x64
OCZ StealthXStream 700W PSU

Bear with me through the long story below. An internet search reveals some possible causes; please keep these in mind as you're reading through the presentation of facts below: AMD driver, PSU-to-GPU connection, GPU failure, GPU underpowered.

Events in chronological order...

I recently had my desktop computer moved from Chicago to San Francisco along with other household furniture. The computer was packed tightly with lots of cushioning. It was working without any problems before the move.

After setting everything up, I went to power on my computer. The fans sprung to life for half a second, then stopped. No boot screen, no motherboard beep, nothing. The PSU must have shut itself off. Unplug, replug, try again. Same thing. Kicked the computer (literally) and spun the GPU/CPU/PSU fans around with my finger (I know, master electrician). Voila! Everything stayed on this time.

The PC had been sitting in storage for a month, so the first order of business was to install updates (Windows, videogames, etc). While downloading updates or just browsing the web, the screen would occasionally flicker, go black for a few seconds, then come back with the notification that "display driver crashed and has been recovered". Or, it would go black and just stay that way. Other times it would display a grid of red squares over the screen, similar to this: http://img.webme.com/pic/j/justinspangler/screen-example2.jpg. Finally, it would BSOD altogether, usually after 10 minutes of use. Updated to latest Catalyst display driver with no improvement.

During troubleshooting, I noticed that the screen would flicker and/or go black if I rested my foot on the PC. Digging deeper I found that wriggling the graphics card or the PCI-E power cord would cause the same flicker (yes, very unsafe). Not sure if this is because of a loose connection somewhere, or if this just happens on every PC.

Eventually it got to a point where the PC would BSOD consistently during bootup. It would get past the Windows splash screen, and crash right before loading the login screen. Managed to take a picture of the BSOD. Some relevant tidbits: "Attempt to reset the display driver and recover from timeout failed.", "STOP: 0x00000116", and "atikmpag.sys". Other threads have identified that to be a driver problem. But if so, what about all the other symptoms?

Lastly, I booted in safe mode. Without the AMD driver loaded, everything stayed on. No crashes, no screen flicker, no red squares. The caviat is that the screen would still flicker if I tapped the PC case or touched the graphics card or PCI-E power connection.

My current crackpot theory is that momentary lapses in power, especially during heavier usage, is causing the GPU to power off completely and crashing the PC.

Thanks for listening and I appreciate any and all help!

- Phil

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