atikmdag.exe Errors in Vista. What Is To Blame?

19 11 2008

I’ve been a happy ATi user for a while now. I gave up using nVidia after I discovered the drivers were being downgraded for Vista. Anyway, everything was peachy with our trusty 3850 until recently, the display driver would stop responding hundreds of times during games.

I know there’s something of a universal theme to this issue. I’ve seen thousands of posts with unhappy gamers ranting about this, and I must confess I always thought “Pffft… noob”.

This issue is present on both ATi and nVidia graphics cards. It shows no bias concerning motherboard platform or how many “bits” your Vista has either. In fact if you’re running Vista, you’ll probably get it at some point or other. Regardless, I’ll be talking about ATi display drivers only from this point.

I’ve seen some fantastic solutions posted, but so far none worked for me. This is what ATi say can cause it. I’ll try most things once. Let’s see if they can help me, shall we?

  • Insufficient Power
  • Bad Memory Modules
  • Over Clocking
  • Motherboard/Memory Compatibility
  • Overheating
  • Defective Motherboard
  • Power? Clearly most people getting this error have really beefy PSU. I know this isn’t faulty in my case. Fine I’ll change it. Oh look -It’s still the same!
    Bad Memory Modules? Problem persists with the best memory available. I’ve tried several and it doesn’t help me.
    Overclocking? I don’t need to overclock. Actually makes no difference if everything is under clocked.
    Compatibility? Works fine on Windows XP, Issue remains with all new hardware fitted.
    Overheating? Give me a break. I can chill drinks with my case. My temperatures are chilly to say the least.
    Defective motherboard? At what point do you stop trying new motherboards? I’ve tried a few and they all exhibit the same issue. It’s the same with other graphics card fitted too.

    Other sites have recommended single channel memory configuration, this made no difference whatsoever. So I started messing around with things (as I do). I also read that it was worth going back to the older drivers. Again no joy.

    Here’s what I’ve found helps me the most. I’ve cut down my atikmdag.exe errors from “often” to “very rarely”. I can’t offer a 100% fix, but here’s what I’ve discovered… it may not apply to anyone else, but it seems to do the trick for me.

    Having Windows Aero Interface turned on will increase the chance of error for me. If I turn it off, errors occur less.

    Windows Dreamscene causes more frequent errors. It will crash anyway. If you are getting atikmdag.exe display driver errors, it’s probably a bad idea to enable this feature.

    Ok. now for the big one. It warrants quite a big explanation, but I feel there is some great relevance with this issue. It prevents errors for me.

    I usually connect my graphics card to a 37″ TFT. It’s connected via VGA > VGA analogue cable and HDMI > HDMI. If I connect using VGA I get the option for 1366×768 which is the native resolution for the monitor at 1:1 aspect ratio. However using HDMI only gives me the option for 1360×768. Fair enough, use the VGA, right? Wrong!

    If I connect using one VGA or  one HDMI cable only, I get atikmdag.exe errors. If I connect both and perform the following -the errors rarely occur!

    The only drawback so far, I have to visit the Catalyst Control Panel every reboot. For some reason connecting via both cables kills the option for 1366×768. If I change the display in any way and apply it, windows detects new hardware. Now I have both cables connected and 1366×768 becomes available for VGA only. I don’t get atikmdag.exe errors anymore, but very, very rarely the 3D application will crash in another way. After this the desktop resolution has changed back to 1360×768 again….

    …but no more atikmdag.exe errors.

    I think that I can conclude now. My errors have been vanquished. My atikmdag.exe error isn’t caused by my memory or my PSU -but from a Catalyst/Vista bug.

    So the summarise,

    I only get the issue when only connecting one cable. Of course then Windows display properties allows me 1366×768 and it will “display driver has stopped responding”. If I use DVI, I’m missing six rows of pixels and it will “display driver has stopped responding”.

    I connect both cables. To fix the resolution inconsistency, I have to trigger it from the Catalyst Control Panel. For example, I unchecked “Use EDID” and apply changes. Then Vista detects new hardware, the display driver loads correctly and Vista’s internal display properties now support more resolutions. I can now enable “Use EDID” and it will keep the 1366×768 desktop.

    It seems to me that the Cataylst driver is not “passing on” my monitor’s attributes to Windows Vista properly. If I change Catalyst somehow- it will “nudge” my desktop back to the correct resolution. Perhaps it’s Vista not listening to Catalyst? Either way -by clicking apply I can load the driver correctly. Shame I have to do it every reboot….

    I get no atikmdag.exe errors after 1366×768 with dual cables is achieved. It’s ridiculously common with one VGA cable @ 1366×768.

    I’ve proved it’s the cause on my system. Who knows how many others have mis-loaded display drivers?

    I think that further investigation by amd would prove fruitful in the battle against atikmdag.exe errors.

    I hope this information helps someone else. It took me ages to fault-find. If it helps one person it was worth posting. It’s a seriously annoying issue.




    8 responses

    14 01 2009

    atikmag.sys bsods also happen on vista x64 with dual monitors.
    people say preventing removing ccc from startup stops the bsods but i’ve yet to test it.

    12 02 2009
    Jim Clarke

    Ok, except I was getting the NVIDIA equivalent nvlddmkm before i installed an ATI card and catalyst control centre to try resolve the display driver stopped.. blah blah blah. disabled all mobo resources, latest mobo bios, all but 1 stick of me, still the same. So what do I do now?

    17 02 2009

    Hi Guys!

    I was ripping my head off because of this problem,
    but now I have Vista 32 bit SP2 beta installed,
    and it went away COMPLETELY.

    This is the only known way to solve it as I know.

    Good luck!

    9 06 2009

    your post is very useful indeed!
    you should report this back to ATI and MS so that they can solve it for everyone!

    17 03 2010

    Thanks for the insight about the atikmdag error. I’m blogging about additional exe errors and haven’t included this one yet. Thanks!

    4 01 2011
    Hdmi Over Cat5

    Ati is not my favorite brand. I had really bad experinces with this brands cards. Nvidia always make me happy, because there is no any problem with the game and other activities. Also, ATI model cards are quick warming than nvidia.

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