Setting it Up …

We Had Issues

Our experience with the new 8.3 drivers and CrossFireX were not seamless. AMD has been working very to try and reproduce the install issues we had with no success so far. Multiple other AnandTech editors had no installation problems, but we feel that it's at least worth mentioning. We can also advise some steps to follow to avoid the issue. This may be an isolated incident, but here are some things you can do to never find out.

It does need to be noted that we only experienced major issues on the Skulltrail platform that we've been using for our graphics benchmarking lately. We've had multiple hardware and drivers installed and uninstalled over the past month or so. These factors certainly could have contributed to the problem and would also make finding the issue tough for AMD. It's always easier to start from a fresh install, but our readers (especially the ones interested in actually running CrossFireX and Skulltrail) will very likely be the ones who install and uninstall hardware and drivers most frequently. We think our usage model for this system could be fairly representative in this case.

The specific problem we ran into was a timeout during attempts to install the driver either through the Catalyst Install Manager or manually. Additionally, once we got the driver installed on one 3870X2, plugging in the second would cause a hard lock when windows tried to automatically find the driver for the second card. We suspect that this occurred because we had previously installed two 3870X2 cards and then removed one before installing the 8.3 catalyst driver. We aren't exactly sure of the cause and neither is AMD, but we can say that the fix for us was removing some non-present including display adapters (along with driver files) in safe mode. After rebooting a few times to let windows do its thing, we installed the driver and all was well.

How to Not Have Issues

To make sure this doesn't happen, when installing CrossFireX, here is what we suggest:

  1. Install Vista SP1 (this is easier/better than installing the required hotfixes)
  2. Uninstall old drivers first
  3. Reboot and let windows install a standard VGA adapter (or cancel if prompted for drivers)
  4. Power down and install the second (or additional two or three) cards
  5. Boot and let windows finish finding new hardware
  6. Reboot and let windows finish finding new hardware (if it needs to)
  7. Install Catalyst 8.3 or higher

That should keep you safe, in our experience. It's a serious headache to fix the problems once they start, as simply uninstalling doesn't fix the issue.

How to Fix It (Spring Cleaning)

Just in case, here's what you'd need to do if you find the driver times out on install. Please be cautious with this procedure and do not remove any software devices, as they can be difficult to reinstall without reinstalling the OS.

  1. Start up with only one card in the system
  2. Uninstall ATI drivers through the control panel -> add/remove programs
  3. Reboot into safe mode (press F8 at boot)
  4. Open a command window with admin privileges
  5. Run these commands from a command prompt:
    • set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1
    • start devmgmt.msc
  6. Enable show hidden devices
  7. Uninstall all display adapters listed (present or non-present/hidden - they appear slightly faded); make sure to check the box to remove driver files if possible
  8. Uninstall any non-present/hidden "PCI standard PCI-to-PCI bridge" devices from system devices. It may also help to uninstall other non-present hardware, but be careful about software and non plug-and-play devices (don't remove them).
  9. Reboot normally
  10. Let windows finish finding new hardware
  11. Power down and plug in all new hardware
  12. Boot and let windows finish finding new hardware
  13. Reboot and let windows finish finding new hardware (if it needs to)
  14. Install Catalyst 8.3 or higher

As we said, it's best to follow the first set of directions as it's quite a bit less involved. If all goes wrong, however, this lengthier repair/install process should help you get yourself out of a hole.

Index … and Tearing it Down
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  • MAIA - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    "After rebooting a few times to let windows do its thing, we installed the driver and all was well."

    This sentence is soooooo microsoft windows !!! :))

    Sorry .... had to say it.
    Reply
  • dash2k8 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    I'm just wondering: instead of piling on the number of GPU's, why hasn't a manufacturer just come out with ONE monstrous GPU that does away with the need of using multiple video cards? If someone is crazy enough to spend moola on 4 GPU's, I imagine that person would be equally willing to buy ONE card that has the same horsepower. Just saying. Reply
  • punko - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    Thanks Derek for a good review. As you indicated, this may be the future and its good to see the tech reach a point where it is ready for use and can be improved upon as all tech goes forward.

    It also sound like you had a lot of help directly from AMD on this one.

    Reply
  • gsellis - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    "but today a WHQL drier is available "

    Hey Derek, typo in the beginning. Still mirthful about this one. Water cooling and you needed it drier to work with all GPUs?
    Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Sunday, March 09, 2008 - link

    I'm just curious as to whether you've checked to see if quad channel memory has any benefit for multiple GPU situations? With 3 or 4 GPUs sucking data, I would presume the additional memory bandwidth provided by quad DDR2-800 would increase performance, especially since dual channel FB-DIMMs are not as efficient as the best dual channel DDR2 or DDR3 setups on desktop boards. It would be interesting to see the results of a 4x1GB setup on Skulltrail vs the 2x2GB setup you used. Reply
  • cerwin13 - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    Would it be wise to try this upgrade without SP1 installed with Vista 32? I am currently using 2x Radeon HD3870 x2s and would like to benchmark with these new drivers, but apparently SP1 isn't officially out yet? Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    other people had luck without SP1; it's not a requirement, but some of our editors did find that it helped with a lot of stuff ...

    you'll want to make sure you have hotfixes:

    929777-v2
    936710
    938194
    938979
    940105
    945149

    as a minimum
    Reply
  • Ananke - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    XFX has Forceware 169.32, my guess it was added after 9600GT appear. On Nvidia official download site the highest ver is 169.28 Reply
  • Ananke - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    XFX has Forceware 169.32, my guess it was added after 9600GT appear. On Nvidia official download site the highest ver is 169.28 Reply
  • Incisal flyer - Saturday, March 08, 2008 - link

    Derek, thanks for the very timely and detailed review. I'm going to be building a system for Flight Simulator X and have been trying to figure out the best graphics card(s) for that application. Have you considered benchmarking that sim? A lot of discussion right now on AVSIM etc on what to do in terms of GPUs for people building new systmes. There is a lot of back and forth on advantages and disadvantages of different configs. I realize FSX is a bit of a niche product. Would FSX use multiple GPUs like 2 3870 x2s and are the potential headaches of that configurtation worth it if you are a not a computer geek? Or am I better off just getting a couple of Nvidia 8800s in SLI or a single 3870 x2 and not hassling with the 4 GPU solution? Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for your time.

    Incisal Flyer
    Reply

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