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Incorrect colors in Mac OS X 10.3

Incorrect colors in Mac OS X 10.3

On Tuesday we published a report from a MacFixIt reader who has been experiencing strange onscreen colors and artifacts that began only after installing Mac OS X 10.3. The machine in question is a Power Mac G4 800 with a Radeon 9800 Mac. The monitors in question are: KDS Radius RAD 5c 15" LCD, Micron RMO7L11 17" CRT, Apple Multi-scan 15, another monitor of unknown brand, and even a TV (via the Radeon's S-video-out jack). All five displays exhibit the same problems, described as various colors appearing pastel or florescent, and certain screen elements exhibiting artifacts (distortion, incorrect colors, etc.). Similarly, all of the displays work fine on other computers. Dave Besade, the reader who has been providing us with information about his particular experience, notes that the Radeon 7500 card installed prior to the Radeon 9800 exhibited the same behavior.

In response to a number of messages from both MacFixIt readers and members of Apple's Discussions forums, Dave has tried several suggested remedies -- in addition to those actions we outlined the past few days -- to no avail:

"Some other readers suggested I create new profiles (color-sync) for my monitors, now that didn't seem to help, but what did is when I rebooted with only 1 monitor attached (either the LCD or the CRT) the preference panel displayed fine, until the next reboot, right now I booted with only 1 monitor attached and when I detected displays, the preference panel was fine, of course I rebooted and everything went haywire."

We've also received a good number of similar or identical reports of odd color issues with Mac OS X 10.3. Mark Tyson notes a "weird pastel pink in some of my windows (10.3, G5x2ghz, radeon 9600, 23" cinema display and 17" studio display)." Similarly, Brian Murphy writes:

"I have seen this same visual glitch (purple trash can, weird finder colors, VERY odd photoshop colors) on my system as well. Weird colors were not present until this display was introduced to this unit. I am using a KDS Rad-5c, model number: 568 I previously had a Princeton CRT plugged into this unit, with no problems. This display shows this distortion only on my Dual 500Mhz G4. Adding a second monitor (crt) into the mix shows color distortion on second display! (second display running on ATI PCI video card in second slot) Booting to a firewire drive with OS 10.3.2 loaded, shows the same effect. Distortion is not present when booted to OS9 or 10.2."

The most common factors in all of these reports seem to be Mac OS X 10.2.8 or 10.3 and one or more ATI video cards. A number of readers also report that the problem is especially severe with Hitachi and KDS displays. In each case, the display works fine when connected to another computer.

One of the things that has made it difficult to isolate the cause of this problem is that we've been getting lots of reports of minor appearance issues, some of which could be caused by file corruption, preference file issues, or a number of other factors.

Combination of hardware/software? We've received a good number of reports that seem to indicate that this issue only occurs with particular combinations of OS version, video card, and display. Mark Martin's experience with a particular LaCie DVI-to-VGA adapter is illustrative:

"[My screen] was pink. G5 2x2- LaCie 19 Blue III-Apple DVI to VGA - LaCie VGA to VGA adapter with USB (for blue eye calibrator). I shut down and disconnected the adapter, then restarted, shut down, and reconnected the adapter. Started up again, recalibrated, and it works fine. LaCie support indicates that the blue-eye software will not work with OS 10.2.3 but this work around solved it."

Along with other reports we've received, assuming Mark's problem is the same as that being covered here, this note seems to support the theory that particular hardware is indeed a contributing factor.

Problem not restricted to ATI Radeon video cards? Until yesterday, all the reports we had received pointed to ATI Radeon cards and Mac OS X 10.3. However, although the majority of reports still include ATI Radeon video cards, we've also received a few reports of similar issues with NVidia cards. MacFixIt reader Eric Ribble writes:

"I've seen this on my Dual 533 G4 as well. I was running the OEM nVidia GF2 mx (32 meg) video card with a Hitachi CM715 monitor. The CM715 is notorious for video issues. I even went as far as reinstalling of X.3, and to follow up on Dave's point, a reinstall for me didn't work. Here are some pics of my issues: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Other solutions? We previously suggested a few solutions, including creating new monitor profiles, deleting particular preference files, etc. Some users have reported success with these techniques; however, not all have. Eric Ribble was able to fix his problem via software fixes:

I eventually did track down the problem (wasn't a video problem), and it had to do with colorsync profiles, along with dock and finder caches. It was only after I trashed every colorsync profile and every dock and finder cache I could find, it cleared up. I was seeing this in any account, even newly created accounts and 'root.'"

Similarly, Chris Daily solved a similar problem via a new display calibration:

"I've seen a similar problem in one of my labs. I have a room used for video editing with Final Cut and five dual processor Quicksilvers (running Jaguar with the Titanium Geforce card). I erased one Mac's drive and installed Panther, only to find that now Panther's icons looked very odd color-wise. All the stations have cheap 19" Hitachi CRTs except for one which has a 17" Viewsonic --- oddly enough, the station with the Viewsonic was not having this issue. I use GretagMacbeth's Eye One system to calibrate my other CRT's (mostly LaCie's) that are connected to scanners and ink jet printers else where in my department (I never calibrate in this lab). I decided to see what would happen if I calibrated a monitor and had the Eye One software create a new icc profile. As soon as the new profile was loaded, the Photoshop issue vanished. Rather than calibrate the rest of the monitors, I copied the new profile to the rest of the stations, loaded it as the default display profile, and the problem went away. I was back in Jaguar when I did this but I suspect this would have solved the problem I was seeing in Panther too. I should also mention that switching to another existing profile in the Displays pane (like Adobe RGB) would do nothing to correct the problem --- only my newly created profile did the trick."

Have you experienced this issue? Have you been successful at fixing it? What's your hardware/software configuration? Drop us an email at

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