Among the most frustrating things that end-users can experience when running Windows-powered systems is the infamous Blue Screen of Death. Vista had its own black screen version and, more recently, even Windows 7 gained its own
BsoD (a black one). While Microsoft is already offering a free fix
for this issue, yet another kind of Screen of Death seems to have spawned, only this time it seems that Windows is not responsible.
The most recent Screen of Death is gray in nature, though it also has brown and striped variations, and has been appearing only on systems using graphics cards form the ATI Radeon HD 5xxx series (and some 4xxx cards). This problem has started being reported earlier this week on countless forums and consumers have been going out of their way finding the cause and trying to circumvent the issue. Apparently, the crashes can occur in a variety of situations, including the computer running in idle mode, as well as when playing movies or gaming.
Among the so-called solutions suggested by the “victims” were adjustments to the idle clocks, although this only worked for 2D crashes, with 3D needing voltage tweaks. When users contacted customer service, ATI responded by saying that the issue was already being investigated and that it was related to Windows 7 Update.
"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.”
The issue being related to Windows 7 Update was disproved by users reporting the same occurrences on Windows XP and Vista. Other users started speculating that causes could include bad cards, memory problems, voltage problems, sensor problems or simply bad system alchemy. More recently, however, Tom's Hardware reports
that AMD Spokesperson Dave Erskine confirmed that the gray screen of death was software-related.
"Only a small number of ATI Radeon HD 5800 series and ATI Radeon HD 5700 series cards are exhibiting the behavior." "The team is testing a driver hotfix and initial tests indicate that it resolves the issue. We need to test it further but we expect to make the hotfix available shortly."
Consumers can only hope that the diagnostic is correct and that the GPU maker really does manage to alleviate the problem. Until this happens, however, owners of the small number of cards will have to either take out their card and use the onboard GPU, or just keep using the GSoD spawning device and do their best to refrain from smashing their PCs when the inevitable occurs.