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Mon, Jun. 6th, 2011, 04:10 pm
Video Card Problems

For a month or two now I've been having trouble with my ATI Radeon 3650 (1Gb) video card. The video driver "Amdkmdap" has stopped working and has recovered is a message I've been getting a lot lately. It used to only occur when I was playing starcraft 2, but now it's doing it in The Sims as well. Basically, the whole computer freezes for 4-5 seconds, goes black for another 3-4 seconds, and restores itself. Starcraft 2 always recovers but others do not.

It took a lot of trying but I eventually nailed it.

First I updated to a more recent video driver(aug 2010 version to may 2011). That didn't help and perhaps made it worse.

I searched forums and all sort of things and found that the CCC driver helper could be used to set fan speeds and voltage and other similar things which can be used to help the card. It took a while to get everything(all previous drivers) uninstalled and the CCC installed and running only to find my card is so old that it doesn't support those adjustments. Had to also uninstall .NET and get it all reinstalled.

I eventually noticed in a support page that the card required a 400W power supply and I only had a 360W. Bought a better PS and installed and nothing. Still happening.

I downloaded GPU-Z to see what it would tell me about the card while playing. The card starts at about 68 Celsius and rises up and levels off at about 100 Celsius. Everytime the 'load' hits 100 the card resets back to zero for a couple seconds(which lines up with the screen thing described earlier). I figure maybe the driver is overrunning its frame or something SW/threading related. I try turning down the Starcraft graphic settings to nearly nothing to, hopefully, prevent the overrun. Nope. Didn't work.

Went to swap with my wife's card because she has the same card. I was thinking I could isolate a HW problem from a SW setup on my machine. Well, I got to do it only to find that she doesn't have the same card. Fine. I've already taken mine out so I decide to dust it off/clean it a bit before putting it away. After checked it out and using a sample toothbrush from the dentist I see the problem. A solid wall of dust bunnies has built up between the fan and the heat sink.

I clear off the dust and blowout all the trapped dust bunnies from the heat sink. Reinstall and get it all setup again. Run GPU-Z to see what change it made. Now it idles near 40 Celsius and only peaks at 62 Celsius with the top graphic settings. NO MORE crashes. Great.

I'm mostly posting this for all those other people out there who were led astray by the various 'solutions' on the various forums. I was almost on the verge of messing with the BIOS to crank the fan up to 100 all the time to try and keep things cool and all that. Glad it was just dust. Hopefully I'll remember once the dust builds up again.

I also cleaned out the inside of the case and the cabinet area where the computer sits as they were all very dusty.