AMD/ATI R9 Series Flickering Issues – Things I Tried and What Worked for Me

For about 9 months now my desktop has been experiencing flickering at the desktop with my dual R9 290X setup. I figured out what the issue is, but sadly I am going to have to part ways because it is very annoying and wastes power. At the bottom of the post, you can see the issue that is being discussed in this post.

Issue:

AMD PowerPlay is clocking the GPU at 300mhz and the RAM at 150mhz while at the desktop. This is too low for computers with 2 or more 1440p displays and it causes corruption and stability issues when at the desktop.

Troubleshooting:

I have spent close to 26 hours collectively (probably more) trying to get a permanent resolution. I have tried the following:

  • Rolling back to older drivers, 15.6 seemed promising but it still happened
  • Modifying the video card BIOS to not have profiles for the lower speed. This was the most promising, but it caused stability issues as I believe the voltage was still the lower voltage for the slower clock speed
  • Updating the BIOS to a newer revision from a similar reference board
  • Rolling back to Windows 7 (issue was present on 7, 8, 8.1, and 10)

The modified BIOS seemed to work but then the AMD software took over and started clocking the cards down again and/or crossfire stopped working. The common thing I noticed was 1 or more R9 series cards running 2 or more 1440p monitors. If you run other monitors and have the same issue try the fix anyways.

Resolution:

In the video I show the ASUS GPU Tweak II utility and clicking the “Always 3D Clocks” button fixes it. This works if you have ONE card but does not always set on boot up. Instead download the MSI Afterburner Utility and install that. The options you need to set in settings are (pictures are below as well):

  • Enable Start with Windows
  • Enable Start minimized
  • Disable ULPS
  • Unofficial overclocking mode – Select “without PowerPlay support”
  • Set your Core clock to 10mhz over stock
  • Set your Memory clock to 10mhz over stock
  • Set the fan speed curve to 100% using the user defined settings
  • Click the User Define icon for the fan speed
  • Save the settings to Profile 1
  • Check the “Apply overclocking at system startup” on the main screen

Closing:

Using these settings my system has been 100% stable. I have aftermarket coolers on my cards that are quiet so setting the fan speed to 100% is fine. Those of you with the stock reference coolers will not enjoy this but if you do not set the fan speed the card will overheat. My 2 cards are sitting at 65C(top) and 55C (bottom) at the desktop and hit about 75C and 65C under load.

While I found this fix I am not happy with wasting power and running the cards at full speed. I will be replacing these with a pair of 980 TI’s and leaving AMD for a while. I hope this helped someone out with this weird issue.

Just for reference this is my build:

  • ASUS Z97-WS
  • Intel Core i7 4790K
  • 32GB Crucial DDR3-1600
  • 500GB Samsung EVO SSD
  • 3x 3TB Western Digital Red HDD
  • HIS R9 290X Reference card with Accelero Cooler Installed (Stock BIOS)
  • Sapphire R9 290X Reference card with Accelero Cooler Installed (Stock BIOS)
  • EVGA 1000W Gold PSU
  • NZXT H630 Case
  • 3x HP Z2740W Monitors (1 via DisplayPort, 2 via Dual Link DVI)
  • Windows 10 Enterprise x64

MSI Afterburner Settings:

 

 

Video showing the display corruption:

Re-Pasting the R9 290X and Overclocking/Tuning for better khashes

I originally wanted to do 2 separate posts but due to my work schedule I ended up missing yesterdays post on the re-pasting the R9 290X. Lets get started.

Re-Pasting the R9 290X

After getting this beast of a card I came to the conclusion that all R9 290(x) owners come to, its loud and hot. Seeing as the stock thermalpaste that OEMs use is usually not the best I decided to pick up some Gelid GC-Extreme Thermal paste and take apart the card to replace the paste. This is also the same process for R9 290 owners as the PCB is very similar, if not identical.

Disassembly & Reassembly of the R9 290X

The process was relatively simple. Unscrew the 2 screws on the backplate by the DisplayPort connector. Then remove all the misc screws on the back of the card followed by removing the GPU plate (silver X thing with 4 small screws). Carefully wiggle the PCB slightly to loosen the paste, BE PATIENT! Once this is off clean the GPU with 90+% isopropyl alcohol and a q-tip. Make sure it is 100% dry and apply a small amount of the paste and re-assemble. Make sure all the thermal pads and still in place (16 ram pads, 1 large VRM strip, 1 small VRM strip. Put the card back in and power up. There are pictures at the end of this post that I took during the process.

Before and After

Before I re-pasted the GPU core it would sit at about 90C with a 75% fan speed and being fully loaded. After the re-paste at the same fan speed and load it was sitting around 78-80C. This allowed me to run the fan speed lower (less noise) for the same target temp of 90C. I would recommend that anyone who is fairly technical to do this to get better temps. Also my wattage dropped by about 15-20 watts. Be aware that this may void your warranty. However I have never had issues RMA’ing cards that I have changed cooling on, but your mileage may vary.

Tuning for better khashes

If you do not mine coins then this part can be ignored. The settings here may not give the best gaming results but for mining they yield about 930-970/khashes/s for me. I use the latest beta of the MSI Afterburner program. This works for 24/7 on my card. However when re-starting the miner it does sometimes crash, rebooting before restarting the miner fixes this.

GPU Settings

  • Fan Speed – 80%
  • GPU Core – 1000mhz
  • GPU Memory – 1500mhz
  • Power Limit – 35%+
  • ULPS Disabled
  • AMD PowerTune Disabled (keeps GPU at full speed all the time, may not be stable without this)

CGMiner Settings

  • Intensity – 20
  • Worksize – 256
  • Thread Concurrency – 32765
  • Vectors – 1
  • GPU Threads – 1

My Journey with Crypto Currency – A Short Intro

As most of you have heard BitCoin has taken off and ended up being a stable investment for a lot of people. If you are like me and did not really pay any mind to BitCoins and just kept up on the news you probably are regretting not getting into it sooner.

Unfortunately there is a little bit to learn and now BitCoins are no longer worth mining due to the power that is required and the hardware that is required to actually mine the coins. However there are plenty of other crypto currencies that are taking off. After reading up on the others that are taking off and gaining popularity I have started mining LiteCoins and FeatherCoins.

bitcoin image

There are a few things that you will need to get in order so that you can not only mine but also buy and sell your coins. Once you get started and all the framework in place to buy and sell coins then you will be able to start getting into this new market and hopefully make some money off it. At the least you’ll have some fun in the process.

  1. You will need a fairly powerful computer. This means a decent CPU and preferrably a dedicated graphics card (I am only going to cover ATI as that is what I have)
  2. You will need to join a mining pool (you can go solo but its not profitable)
  3. You will need to setup an account with MtGox – https://www.mtgox.com/
  4. You will need to setup an account with BTC-e – https://btc-e.com/
  5. Patience. Lots of patience.

Those are the basics. Stay tuned for more posts as I progress on this journey.